This recipe for Chicken Shawarma is so easy and so delicious!
A simple blend of dry spices makes a tasty marinade that coats the chicken with Middle Eastern flavors so that you can enjoy this street food favorite whenever you like!
It smells so amazing, and tastes even better!
What is Chicken Shawarma?
Chicken Shawarma is a popular dish in the Middle East, typically offered as street food from carts or small shops. Shawarma is normally made on a rotisserie that rotates vertically, and then slices of deliciously spiced meat are shaved off to order, to create wraps or platters with fresh sides like lettuce, tomato, and onion.
In this recipe, we don’t need to feed the whole neighborhood, so we will bake Chicken Shawarma in the oven instead. You can also cook this shawarma recipe on the grill if you like.
While shawarma can be made with any kind of meat, chicken is always my favorite. Middle East shawarma often adds these flavors to lamb, mutton, or beef as well!
Marinating chicken to tenderize it is a popular method in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. For more examples of this method, try my easy Yogurt Marinated Chicken with lemon and garlic, or one of my personal favorites, this Lebanese Shish Tawook, also marinated with yogurt and warm spices.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Simple Spices – While I do have an amazing recipe for a very authentic middle eastern shawarma seasoning, for this recipe I’m giving you a simplified version. The seasoning blend here is made from spices you probably already have in your cupboard!
- A Versatile Dish – From street vendors, Arabic shawarma is often served as a wrap with pita, but it’s also commonly served with veggies as a salad, or with potatoes or fries as a dinner platter. I’ll show you how I like to assemble chicken shawarma pita wraps, but feel free to enjoy it however you like!
- Easy to Make Ahead – Marinated meat recipes like this one actually require you to think a little bit ahead of time. This chicken is best if you allow it to marinate for up to a whole day, so mix it up now, and get ready to cook it for dinner tomorrow.
Want to use your Instant Pot Today? Try my Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma Recipe instead!
Chicken Shawarma Ingredients
Here’s what you need to make this deliciously spiced chicken:
- Boneless Chicken: Here I’m using chicken breast, but it works perfectly with boneless, skinless chicken thighs as well.
- Olive Oil and Lemon Juice: These ingredients add moisture to the marinade, and tenderize the meat.
- Garlic: Fresh minced garlic adds a rich, savory flavor. Use 6 whole cloves in this shawarma marinade – I promise it’s not too much garlic!
- Spices: Salt, ground cumin, your favorite paprika, freshly ground black pepper, ground cardamom, and ground cinnamon will do the trick to season your homemade shawarma.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
How To Make Shawarma at Home
- Marinate the Chicken: In a large mixing bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, ground cumin, smoked paprika, freshly ground black pepper, ground cardamom, and ground cinnamon. Whisk well to combine, then add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to 24 hours.
- Get Ready to Cook: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Arrange the marinated chicken pieces on the pan, making sure that they are spaced out and not touching.
- Bake: Cook the chicken in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). This usually takes about 30 minutes, flipping the chicken over halfway through. The time will vary based on the size of your chicken pieces.
- Rest and Slice: Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then slice the chicken into thin pieces.
- Crisp it Up! This step is optional, but if you want a crispier texture, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced chicken and sauté for about 5 minutes until the edges are slightly crispy.
- Serve: Serve sliced chicken shawarma in pita bread, garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and a drizzle of garlic yogurt sauce or tahini sauce. Yum!
Be sure to use quality, fresh ingredients for the marinade! If your spices are old, pick up some new ones, and definitely use freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Grab my recipe for Toum Garlic Sauce, it’s perfect on chicken shawarma wraps and simple to make from scratch with just four ingredients!
- You can also make a similar but less complicated yogurt sauce for shawarma by mixing a cup of plain Greek yogurt with 1 clove of finely minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a bit of salt and pepper.
- Try my other Shawarma Seasoning. It’s a fully authentic middle eastern spice blend made with ten different spices that are all ground fresh! If you make it, use 2 ½ tablespoons of it in place of the seasonings listed in the recipe.
- Marinate as long as possible. One hour of marinating time is barely enough to really get the flavors into the chicken. I suggest stretching that time to 3-4 hours, or even longer.
- Use the grill. Instead of baking the chicken, cook it over medium heat on your outdoor or indoor grill.
- Use a thermometer. The exact amount of time that it takes to fully cook the chicken will depend on how large your pieces are. An instant-read thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the chicken should read 165°F (74°C) when chicken shawarma is done.
- Skip the slicing if you want to serve the chicken as a traditional main dish.
Cooked chicken shawarma can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Leftovers make wonderful lunches, and are great for meal prepping!
How to Serve Chicken Shawarma
There are two main ways to enjoy this middle eastern shawarma.
As a Wrap: As you see here, sliced chicken shawarma makes a delicious wrap. I love mine with pickles and sliced onion! You can set out all of the toppings and let your family make their own.
As a Plate or Platter: Arrange the chicken with middle eastern salads and side dishes, with a pita or flatbread on the side.
Other Middle Eastern dishes that pair really well with chicken shawarma include hummus, falafel, tabbouleh salad, pearl couscous salad, or mujadara, which is a delicious traditional spiced rice and lentil dish.
This recipe makes enough chicken shawarma to serve 4 people, but you can stretch the chicken to serve up to six, especially if you’re making wraps.
Boneless chicken is ideal for shawarma since it’s easily sliced. However, you can use this marinate on bone-in thighs, drumsticks, or chicken quarters. Simply shred the meat off of the bones after cooking it, or serve the pieces as-is.
The maximum amount of time that I recommend marinating chicken is 24 hours. Past that point, the acidity in the marinade will start to break down the proteins of the chicken and make it soft and mushy.
While both dishes are sliced, grilled meat, generally served in a flatbread wrap, the flavors are quite different. Gyros are Greek, and generally have a fresh, herby flavor, where Middle Eastern shawarma is more complex, with more spices.
Using this recipe for Chicken Shawarma is the easiest way to enjoy this tasty street food at home! Pin the recipe to save it for later, or make this right now!
- 2 pounds (1 kg) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, or a mix of the two
- ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
- (50 ml) Juice of 1 lemon
- 6 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika smoked or sweet
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- In a large mixing bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, ground cumin, smoked paprika, freshly ground black pepper, ground cardamom, and ground cinnamon. Whisk well to combine.
- Add the chicken to the bowl or a zip-top bag, ensuring it's well coated with the marinade. Seal and shake well or stir to coat the chicken evenly.
- Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight, and up to 24 hours for the flavors to develop.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). If you’re using an outdoor grill or a grill pan, preheat it over medium heat.
- Arrange the marinated chicken pieces on a baking tray lined with foil or parchment paper, ensuring they are spaced out and not touching each other.
- Cook the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). In an oven, this usually takes about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. On a grill or grill pan, the time can vary—turn the chicken occasionally to prevent burning and ensure even cooking.
- Remove the chicken from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Optional: For a crispier texture, heat 1 tablespoon (or 15 ml) of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced chicken and sauté for about 5 minutes until the edges are slightly crispy.
- Serve in pita bread, garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and a drizzle of garlic yogurt sauce or tahini sauce.
- Note: this is an easy version of the seasoning, something you can make quickly. If you want one that’s closer to the authentic shawarma flavor, make this shawarma seasoning instead and use 2 ½ tablespoons of it
- This recipe makes enough chicken shawarma to serve 4 people, but you can stretch the chicken to serve up to six, especially if you’re making wraps.
- Ideally, you’ll marinate the chicken for 8 hours. If you’re short on time, give it at least 1 hour. The chicken can stay in the marinade for up to 24 hours.
- To Store: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
© Little Sunny Kitchen