Chicken Shawarma is a traditional Middle Eastern favorite consisting of thinly sliced spiced lamb that has been marinated. It is cooked on a rotating spit, then served on pita bread with tomatoes and onions.This is a good time to tell you that I will not be preparing my Shawarma on a rotating spit. I don’t have one! I guess the most logical alternative is grilling. However, I happen to be posting this recipe in January, and I live in the northeastern US. That said, a pile of snow prevents me from reaching my grill, I will be cooking my Shawarma indoors on a cast iron skillet.
I like to add chopped parsley to my chicken shawarma for a splash of color and a hint of bitterness. I supposed this is a good time to clarify that Shawarma is NOT a gyro! A cousin? Maybe, why not? Shawarma is simple fare, street food; however, its taste is anything but simple. Shawarma is a dish native to the Levant, a geographical area that covers Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, the Sinai, Egypt, Cyprus and Palestine. It’s an area of the world with a rich culinary heritage.
One of the key points of achieving a great Shawarma is the marinating process. The meat should be allowed to “soak in” the flavors of the marinade for a least 4-6 hours; overnight is even better. The spices used in the marinade are: cumin, salt, curry, allspice and pepper. This rich combination of spices infuse the meat with a complex and aromatic flavor.
Although Shawarma is traditionally made with lamb, you can use beef or also chicken (I do this often). Although most people recommend the dark meat since it is more flavorful, I prefer to use chicken breasts. In my opinion the intensity of the taste will have more to do with the combination of spices, than the choice of meat.
Shawarma is traditionally served with a yogurt/tahini* sauce on the side. I like to accent mine with garlic and parsley, for a little color. For the pita bread, I tend to prefer a pita bread that is not too thick so it is easier to fold. In a pinch I have used flour tortilla shells, and found that they work well also. In my opinion Shawarma is an interesting dish to add to your recipe box. You can also serve Shawarma with a side of tabbouleh, or even French Fries ( I actually saw this at a local Middle Eastern restaurant)! Mind you, you can also enjoy it by itself too.
*Tahini is a sesame seed paste typical in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Chicken Shawarma on Pita
Here is a super easy and exotic chicken recipe for a fast weeknight meal. You can wrap this up in a pita too! Place chicken in a glass dish. In a small bowl mix together olive oil, Kosher salt, cumin, curry, allspice, oregano and paprika. Pour over chicken; mix well and refrigerate for about 4-6 hours. You will love the flavors in this dish!
- 2 lbs chicken breast sliced thin
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp Kosher salt paleo diet: sea salt
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp curry
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup parsley chopped
- 8 oz. plain yogurt paleo diet: coconut milk yogurt
- 2 Tbsp Tahini
- 1 onion medium, sliced thin
- 2 Roma tomatoes sliced
- 1 tsp zatar
- 4-6 pita rounds paleo diet: any paleo bread
- Cut chicken breast into thin slices. If the breasts are partially frozen, the cutting process is easier.
- Place chicken in a glass dish. In a small bowl mix together olive oil, Kosher salt, cumin, curry, allspice, oregano and paprika. Pour over chicken; mix well and refrigerate for about 4-6 hours.
- In a bowl mix together yogurt and tahini. Place in the fridge.
- In a pan quickly stir fry the chicken until golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley.
- In a separate pan fry the onions until they are golden.
- Cut the tomato slices in half, and sprinkle with zatar.
- Serve the chicken shawarma with the onions, tomato and yogurt sauce with pita rounds.