This homemade chicken shawarma recipe is always in the list of my signature recipes. It’s super aromatic, full of exotic spices, and when wrapped in pita bread, it’s simply perfect.
What is Shawarma?
Shawarma is a common name for dishes that have thin slices of shaved meat, such as beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, or veal.
It’s often served with pita bread, lots of vegetables, and a sauce of choice.
I guess it became famous thanks to the cool spinning griller, where layers of meat are grilled slowly and evenly.
The meat we use in today’s recipe is chicken. Either chicken breasts or thighs are fine, but thighs are juicier and that’s what we’re going with.
It’s a shame that we don’t own a revolving spit, so we couldn’t do it the traditional way. But on the bright side, we can bake them in the oven and we think that’s more convenient for you!
Is Chicken Shawarma Healthy?
This chicken shawarma recipe corresponds to our healthy eating guidelines, based on the USDA’s guidelines and approved by prestigious nutritionists.
First, it yields around 500 calories, about 60% of which comes from chicken meat and healthy fats.
Also, the amount of saturated fat is moderate— 5 grams, less than 22% of what’s recommended every day. Its effects on our body is yet to be confirmed, so meanwhile, we’re keeping an eye on it.
And since overconsumption of sodium is linked to high blood pressure, we don’t add lots of salt to the seasoning mix. The sodium is thus, kept at around 600 milligrams per serving.
Besides, our chicken shawarma offers a vast amount of vitamins Bs, C, A, and minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, etc.
Let’s have a look at what our chicken shawarma recipe calls for.
The only cut we find appropriate is the thigh. It’s juicier, more tender than the breast, and definitely more convenient than the leg and wing.
If you decide to use chicken breast because it’s more packed with protein, do expect drier meat. Chicken thigh may have less protein, but it’s not too little, yet gives amazing flavor.
With that said, we recommend this healthy baked chicken breast recipe if you want to have chicken breast for dinner.
2. Shawarma Seasoning
The soul of authentic homemade chicken shawarma lies in the spices. The basic shawarma marinade includes cumin, turmeric powder, ground coriander, garlic, and paprika.
In this chicken shawarma recipe, we also add a dash of lemon juice to make the meat more tender and aromatic.
3. Pita Bread
This yeast-leavened, round, flatbread is an exclusive source of carb in the Middle Eastern cuisine. Needless to say, it is a must for chicken shawarma.
You can either get store-bought or make the bread yourself, depending on your preference. We prefer homemade foods, but to skip the hassle, we chose to buy pita bread online.
There are lots of brands and many of them are full of sodium, which we try to regulate. After lots of scrolling, we picked out a less-sodium option, mentioned in the recipe card.
If you can’t get the one we recommend, you can try using less salt to season the chicken.
Crisp cucumber, fresh lettuce, and tomatoes add both freshness and plenty of nutrients to this protein-dense meal.
To serve, treat them as to how you would in tacos: chop them into bite-sized pieces. We chopped the lettuce finely, sliced the cucumber thinly, and quartered the cherry tomatoes.
To add a creamy twist, we also use avocado in this recipe. It mellows out the intense flavor of the seasonings and most importantly, gives us lots of healthy fats.
Chicken Shawarma Sauce
As juicy as the chicken is, the shawarma wrap will turn out tastier with a complementing sauce.
1. Tahini Sauce
Tahini is a condiment made of toasted sesame seeds, finely blended with oil until becoming a thick paste. It is seen as a unique part of Middle Eastern cuisine, included in many dishes.
To prepare the sauce, simply add lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to the paste and stir. If it’s too thick, continue to add lemon juice until it reaches a sauce-like consistency.
You should end up with a tangy, creamy, fragrant sauce.
2. Garlic Sauce
Also a staple of the cuisine, garlic sauce is really straightforward— a blend of garlic, salt, lemon juice, and oil. It’s recommended that you should use a neutral oil, so the flavor of the sauce won’t be too intense.
The sauce begins with blending garlic finely using a strong food processor. Then, add half of the oil in slowly (like how you would in making mayonnaise) to gradually emulsify the sauce.
Finally, add lemon juice in (slowly) along with the rest of the oil, and season to taste.
3. White Sauce
Not to be confused with the Italian Béchamel sauce, this white sauce includes Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and seasonings. We used this in our recipe because it’s easy to make and requires simple ingredients.
To make the white sauce, chop the garlic finely and mix it with other ingredients.
How to Make Chicken Shawarma
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Step 1: Marinate the chicken
Marinate the chicken with 5 tsp garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, onion, 2 tbsp lemon juice, and the rest of the spices for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Prepare the sauce
Make the sauce by mixing Greek yogurt, 1.5 tbsp olive oil, 3 tsp garlic, 1 tsp lemon juice, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Step 3: Prep the vegetables
Chop lettuce finely. Slice cucumbers thinly and then into halves. Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters.
Step 3: Sear the chicken
In a preheated cast-iron skillet, sear the marinated chicken over medium heat, 2.5 minutes on each side. Mix onion in with the rest of the marinade.
Step 4: Cook the onion
Turn off the stove, take the chicken out and cook the onions using only the residual heat in the pan, about 1 minute.
Step 5: Finish cooking in the oven
Place the chicken back on top of the onions and bake for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Serve
Cut the chicken up and assemble your wrap to serve.
Tips for Making Juicy, Tender Meat
If not handled properly, chicken meat can turn dry, tough instead of heavenly tender.
The secret is lemon. By marinating the chicken with lemon juice, acid in lemon juice tenderizes the meat and also, makes it juicier.
And, never cut the meat before cooking. They may absorb flavor faster, cook faster, but the meat juice will evaporate as well, leaving you with dry chicken.
How Many Calories in Chicken Shawarma
As mentioned before, our chicken shawarma recipe yields 500 calories per serving. Since most of the calories is from proteins and healthy fats, we want a side filled with healthy carbs.
To turn it to a 750-calorie meal and meet the criteria, we chose hummus. It’s a creamy, aromatic dipping made of chickpea, garlic, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings.
What to Serve with Chicken Shawarma
As a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, chicken shawarma should always be accompanied by a side of hummus. It’s traditional to put hummus inside pita bread and put the chickens in.
But since there’s yogurt sauce for that, we cut up some celery and carrot sticks and served it with hummus.
Healthy Chicken Shawarma Recipe
- 12 oz skinless boneless chicken thigh
- 10 oz onion sliced
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
- 7 tsp lemon juice divided into 6 and 1
- 3.5 tbsp olive oil divided into 1, 1 and 1.5
- 8 tsp garlic minced (divided into 5 and 3)
- 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 3.5 oz Romaine lettuce sliced
- 3.5 oz cherry tomato quartered
- 3.5 oz avocado sliced
- 4 oz cucumber chopped
- 4 pita breads
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- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Make the sauce by mixing Greek yogurt, 1.5 tbsp olive oil, 3 tsp garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Prep the veg.
- Marinate the chicken with 5 tsp garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, onion, lemon juice, and the rest of the spices for 30 minutes.
- In a preheated cast-iron skillet, sear the marinated chicken over medium heat, 2.5 minutes on each side. Mix onion in with the rest of the marinade.
- Turn off the stove, take the chicken out and cook the onions using only the residual heat in the pan, about 1 minute. Then, place the chicken back on top of the onions and bake for 15 minutes.
- When it’s done, cut the chicken up and assemble to serve.
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FAQ about Chicken Shawarma
1. What Is the Difference between a Gyro and Shawarma?
To any of you who have tried a chicken gyro and shawarma, it is easy to spot similarities. Mistaking the two is common if you don’t pay close attention.
Both are a type of doner kebab— serving shaved meat, from a large turning meat cone, in pocket bread.
The difference is in the topping choices.
Traditionally, gyros are more commonly made of pork rather than chicken, lamb or beef. It’s wrapped in pita bread and has tzatziki sauce drizzled in.
Meanwhile, shawarma can be made of all sorts of meat, and calls for a whole range of toppings.
2. How Long Does Chicken Shawarma Last?
Cooked chicken shawarma can be stored in the fridge for about one or two days.
Of course, keeping the thighs whole before sliding them into the fridge allows them to retain more moisture.
Also, you may want to refrigerate the vegetables and sauce in separate containers. If you cut up the avocados, use them straight away because they will turn brown after several hours.
3. Can You Freeze Chicken Shawarma?
Although reheated chicken isn’t as juicy as freshly-cooked, you can place them in Ziploc bags and freeze for longer use.
Instead of freezing cooked chicken, you can marinate a big batch, freeze half of it and use half of it. The longer it sits, the more flavor it has, so it’s a win-win situation.