Lamb Shawarma

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When it comes to Middle Eastern street food, lamb shawarma is definitely a favorite. What’s not to love? Thinly sliced seared lamb meat, that tangy white sauce that cuts right through the richness of the meat, and the yummy fixings. My recipe will show you how easy it is to make lamb shawarma at home.


easy authentic seared lamb shawarma served on a platter with shawarma sauce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, and red onions


 

Seared lamb shawarma is probably the closest in flavor and texture to the authentic street food wrap. It’ll have similar crispy edges texture that’s still easy to chew and packed with all the shawarma spices. A few other street foods that have soared in global popularity include Greek Chicken Gyro , Kumpir (Turkish Stuffed Baked Potatoes), Balik Ekmek Fish Sandwich (Turkish Street Food), Doner and of course, Beef Shawarma.

Recipe Highlights: Seared Lamb Shawarma

Cultural Influence: Classic Middle Eastern Dish

Primary Cooking Technique: Marinated and Seared

Suitable for: Wraps, Plates, or Bowls

Dominant Flavor Profile: Spiced, Tangy, and Savory

Skill Level Required: Intermediate-Friendly


lamb shawarma served in a pita wrap with fixings

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This seared lamb shawarma is a favorite in my kitchen because it’s packed with flavor and is so versatile. While classic shawarma is made using a vertical spit, this version uses thinly sliced lamb which results in a similar texture.

The shawarma spice blend gives the lamb a wonderful depth of flavor, and the Greek yogurt tenderizes the meat perfectly.

Plus, you can customize your wraps with all your favorite fixings. This is great for feeding larger groups and is family-friendly. Kids can choose what they like to include in their own wrap.

Whether you’re serving it in a wrap or over rice, this dish brings the taste of the Middle East right to your table.


lamb shawarma

What You Need to Make Lamb Shawarma

ingredients for seared lamb shawarma
  • Boneless leg of lamb: Thinly sliced for quick and even cooking. Lamb brings a rich, hearty flavor to the shawarma.
  • Shawarma spice blend: A mix of cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, cardamom, allspice, and garlic powder. This blend is key to achieving the authentic shawarma taste. You can use homemade shawarma spice blend or store-bought.
  • Greek yogurt: Helps tenderize the lamb, making it juicy and flavorful.
  • Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a zesty brightness and helps tenderize the meat.
  • Garlic: Adds a robust, aromatic flavor to the marinade.
  • Olive oil: Used for marinating the lamb and searing it to perfection.

Ingredient Spotlight: Lamb

Boneless lamb meat is the star of this seared lamb shawarma recipe, bringing a rich and juicy flavor that makes this dish truly special.

Sourced from the leg or shoulder, boneless lamb is ideal for shawarma because of its tender texture and the perfect amount of fat that enhances the overall taste.

When marinated with shawarma spices, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and garlic, the lamb absorbs all the wonderful flavors, becoming even juicier and aromatic.

A key tip for working with boneless lamb is to slice it thinly. This not only ensures that the meat cooks quickly and evenly but also allows the marinade to penetrate deeply, infusing each slice with intense flavor.

If you’re slicing the lamb yourself, make sure the meat is cold and use a very sharp knife for the best results. Alternatively, ask your butcher to slice it for you, or look for pre-sliced options at your local meat market.

The rich flavor of lamb pairs perfectly with the bold spices in this recipe, making each bite a burst of deliciousness. For the best results, choose a high-quality cut and take the time to marinate it properly.


easy authentic seared lamb shawarma served on a platter with shawarma sauce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, and red onions

The Rich Tradition of Middle Eastern Shawarma

Shawarma is a beloved street food originating from the Middle East, known for its irresistible layers of marinated meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. This method ensures that the meat is tender and flavorful, with crispy edges and a juicy interior. But with my seared lamb shawarma recipe, you’ll find that it’s just as tasty.

Originally, shawarma was served with lamb or mutton, but over time, variations with beef, chicken, and even turkey have become popular.

Each type of meat brings its own unique flavor profile: lamb shawarma is rich and succulent, beef shawarma is hearty and robust, while chicken shawarma is lighter and often more mildly spiced.

In the Middle East, shawarma is typically served in a flatbread, such as pita or lavash, and accompanied by an array of fresh and pickled vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and pickles.

It’s also common to add a creamy sauce, such as tahini, garlic sauce, or yogurt-based sauces, which enhances the flavors and adds a great texture to the wrap. Shawarma is not only a quick and satisfying meal but also a cultural experience, often enjoyed on the go from street vendors.

What makes shawarma particularly special is there’s so much flavor packed in one sandwich. It’s great for eating on the go, it’s inexpensive, and so fulfilling.

In recent years, shawarma has gained immense popularity in the US, becoming a favorite in food trucks and Middle Eastern restaurants. This global spread highlights its universal appeal and the delicious fusion of flavors that shawarma offers.

I remember the first time I made it at home. I was shocked that I could get it so authentically close in flavor. Since then, it’s a family-favorite and I love it because it really is easy to make. I’ll share some of my tips and favorite ways of serving it up below.


How to Make Lamb Shawarma

Step 1

Thinly slice it and add the shawarma spice blend followed by the olive oil, garlic, Greek yogurt, and salt to taste. Mix until the meat is well-coated.

Marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight if possible.

Step 2

Heat the pan well for searing. Then, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Start searing the marinated lamb meat in one layer in the pan.

Don’t overcrowd otherwise they’ll steam instead of sear. Sear until completely cooked through. Cook the meat in batches if necessary.

The meat will need about 8-10 minutes because it is thinly sliced.

Step 3

Put your bread of choice on a large cutting or prep board. Place all your fixings nearby and begin assembling your wrap. Add the meat, sauce, and fixings of your choice.

begin assembling shawarma wrap

Final Step

Fold your wrap over and tightly roll. You can slice down the middle to reveal the yumminess inside.

shawarma wrap

Alternative Cooking Methods

  • Vertical Spit: The traditional method for cooking shawarma is on a vertical spit. The lamb is stacked on the spit and slowly cooked as it rotates. This method allows the outer layer to become crispy while keeping the inside juicy and tender. Although this method is often used in restaurants, you can achieve a similar effect with a home rotisserie. If planning to use a vertical spit, don’t slice the lamb into small pieces. Keep in mind that the cooking time will be different.
  • Grilling: Instead of searing in a pan, you can grill the marinated lamb slices on a high-heat grill for a smoky flavor. Cook the lamb over medium-high heat on a grilled or in a cast iron skillet in batches to ensure even cooking and a nice char.
  • Griddle: You can also use a griddle for cooking the lamb. Heat the griddle over medium-high heat and cook the lamb in batches. This method is excellent for getting a good sear and evenly cooked slices.
  • Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 425°F and place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Carefully add the marinated lamb slices to the hot baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, depending on thickness. For additional crispiness, broil the lamb for the last 2 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

Now to my favorite part! One of the best things about shawarma is all the sides that can be served with and all the ways it can be served.

The versatility of shawarma comes after you’ve made it. Whether you’re looking for a hearty dinner or light lunch, shawarma can meet the need.

Bread (for Shawarma Wraps/Sandwiches):

Sauces and Dips Served with Shawarma (plate or wrap):

Fixings Served with Shawarma (plate or wrap):


seared lamb shawarma on a plate with fixings

Recipe Notes

  • Marinate Overnight for Maximum Flavor: Letting the lamb marinate overnight allows the spices, yogurt, and lemon juice to fully penetrate the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and tender shawarma. If you’re short on time, aim for at least 2 hours.
  • Slice Meat Thinly: Thin slices ensure quick and even cooking. If slicing the lamb yourself, keep the meat cold and use a sharp knife. For convenience, ask your butcher to slice it thinly or purchase pre-sliced lamb.
  • Don’t Overcrowd the Pan: When searing the lamb, make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cooking the meat in a single layer allows it to sear properly, developing a beautiful crust. If necessary, cook in batches.
  • Use a Hot Pan: Preheat your pan until it’s very hot before adding the lamb. This high heat is essential for searing the meat and locking in the juices, giving you tender and flavorful shawarma.
  • Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice: Use freshly squeezed lemon juice for the marinade. It adds a bright, tangy flavor that enhances the overall taste of the shawarma.
  • Add a Spicy Kick: If you like your shawarma with a bit of heat, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the marinade. This will give your lamb shawarma a subtle, spicy kick.
  • Brush Bread with Sauce: For extra flavor, brush (or as Middle East vendors do- dunk) your bread with some shawarma sauce, toum, or olive oil mixed with a bit of the shawarma spice blend before adding the lamb and other fillings. This adds an additional layer of deliciousness to your wraps.
  • Sauce it Up: Put a variety of your favorite sauces like the shawarma sauce, garlic sauce, tahini sauce, or even hummus or plain yogurt in mini-bowls to dunk your wraps in with each bite.
  • Keep the Lamb Warm: If cooking in batches, keep the seared lamb warm in a low oven (around 200°F) while you finish cooking the rest. This ensures all the meat is hot and ready to serve simultaneously.

lamb shawarma served in a pita wrap with fixings

Variations and Substitutes

1. Yogurt Alternatives:

  • Dairy-Free Yogurt: Substitute Greek yogurt with a dairy-free yogurt alternative such as coconut or almond yogurt for a lactose-free version.
  • Sour Cream: Use sour cream in place of yogurt for a slightly different tang and creaminess.

2. Spice Adjustments:

  • Spicy Shawarma: Add cayenne pepper or chili flakes to the shawarma spice blend to give your shawarma a spicy kick.
  • Mild Shawarma: If you prefer a milder flavor, reduce the amount of garlic and omit any hot spices.

easy authentic seared lamb shawarma served on a platter with shawarma sauce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, and red onions

How to Store

Storing Cooked Lamb Shawarma:

  • Refrigeration: Once the lamb shawarma has cooled completely, transfer it to an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, place the cooled lamb in a freezer-safe container or heavy-duty freezer bag. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. To prevent freezer burn, make sure to remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing.

Reheating:

  • Microwave: Reheat in the microwave in short intervals, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Be careful not to overcook, as this can make the lamb tough.
  • Stovetop: Reheat in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. This method helps maintain the texture and flavor.
  • Oven: For larger portions, reheat in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

seared lamb shawarma bowl with rice and fixings

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I grill the lamb instead of searing it in a pan?

Yes, grilling is a great alternative. Preheat your grill to high heat and cook the lamb slices for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until fully cooked.

How do I prevent the lamb from sticking to the pan?

Ensure your pan is very hot before adding the lamb, and don’t overcrowd it. Also, avoid moving the lamb too soon; let it sear properly before flipping.

What is the best bread to use for shawarma wraps?

Traditional options include lavash or pita bread. You can also use other flatbreads or even tortillas if you’re in a pinch.

Can I use yogurt substitutes?

Yes, if you prefer, you can use sour cream or a dairy-free yogurt alternative to marinate the lamb.

How long should I marinate the lamb?

Marinate the lamb for at least 2 hours. For best results, if possible, marinate it overnight to allow the flavors to fully develop.


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seared lamb shawarma on a plate with fixings
5 from 5 votes

Lamb Shawarma

An easy take on an authentic lamb shawarma that you can serve as a wrap or in a bowl.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 6
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Ingredients 

  • 2 lb Boneless leg of lamb   , thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp Shawarma spice blend
  • 3 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 3 tbsp Olive oil

To Serve

Instructions 

  • Place your thinly sliced lamb in a bowl. Then, add the shawarma spice blend, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and minced garlic.
  • Give the meat a good stir making sure it’s all coated. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight for best results.
  • Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Once it's shimmery, Arrange the marinated lamb in one layer. You might need to cook in batches, please make sure the pan is not over crowded.
  • Cook the meat about 8-10 minutes until it's tender and fully cooked.
  • To assemble, place the pita/Arabic bread on a plate and top with some shawarma sauce, seared lamb shawarma, sumac onion, tomatoes, pickles and wrap tightly.

Video

Notes

Marinate Overnight for Maximum Flavor: Letting the lamb marinate overnight allows the spices, yogurt, and lemon juice to fully penetrate the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and tender shawarma. If you’re short on time, aim for at least 2 hours.
Slice Meat Thinly: Thin slices ensure quick and even cooking. If slicing the lamb yourself, keep the meat cold and use a sharp knife. For convenience, ask your butcher to slice it thinly or purchase pre-sliced lamb.
Don’t Overcrowd the Pan: When searing the lamb, make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cooking the meat in a single layer allows it to sear properly, developing a beautiful crust. If necessary, cook in batches.
Use a Hot Pan: Preheat your pan until it’s very hot before adding the lamb. This high heat is essential for searing the meat and locking in the juices, giving you tender and flavorful shawarma.
Keep the Lamb Warm: If cooking in batches, keep the seared lamb warm in a low oven (around 200°F) while you finish cooking the rest. This ensures all the meat is hot and ready to serve simultaneously.

Nutrition

Calories: 431kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 402mg | Potassium: 538mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Shadi HasanzadeNemati

I'm here to show you how to make delicious Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food at home. My easy to follow recipes will bring exciting new flavors to your table!

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Recipe Rating




5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks for the great tip to let this marinate overnight if possible, for big flavor. Such simple ingredients that add up to so much YUM! Great for a rice bowl with lots of veggies (I especially like anything pickled) and mmmmmm that sauce!

  2. 5 stars
    I love this recipe – it tastes just like the lamb shawarma that my local middle eastern restaurant has! Now I can make it at home for my family instead of going out!

  3. 5 stars
    I love shawarma and the yogurt marinade is delicious too. Beautiful meal and perfect for a variety of different meats too!

  4. 5 stars
    Love this lamb shawarma recipe, full of flavor and easy to make. I liken it can be served in different ways. Thanks for sharing 🙂