Chicken Shawarma
Chicken Shawarma is a Middle Eastern chicken recipe that is healthy, juicy and bursting with exotic flavors that will have you drooling. The tenderizing lemon juice, a plethora of hand-picked spices and my secret ingredient all work together to create the most dynamic chicken you ever tasted. Chicken Shawarma is usually cooked on a rotating spit but we achieve the irresistible charred effect by grilling the chicken instead – but I’ve also included instructions on how to bake the chicken as well – whatever is easiest for you! My step-by-step tutorial and video (below) show you exactly how to make the chicken marinade and how to turn it into Chicken Shawarma Wraps or Bowls with roasted vegetables – all complete with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce OR Green Tahini! This Chicken Shawarma recipe is excellent for meal prep, make ahead lunch/dinners, entertaining and leftovers – all instructions included.
Servings
6-8 wraps
Servings
6-8 wraps
Chicken Shawarma
Ingredients
CHICKEN MARINADE
  • 2pounds boneless skinless chicken thighspounded to an even thickness
  • 1/4cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1TBS EACH ground cumin, ground coriander
  • 2tsp EACH smoked paprika, ground cardamom, salt
  • 1tsp EACH garlic powder, onion powder, ground turmeric
  • 1/2tsp EACH cayenne pepper, allspice, pepper
CILANTRO YOGURT SAUCE
  • 1cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/3cup packed cilantro
  • 1/3cup packed parsley
  • 2cloves garlic
  • 2tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2tsp EACH ground cumin, salt
  • 1/4teaspoon pepper
FOR WRAPS
  • 6-8 pitas
  • romaine lettucechopped
  • Roma tomatoessliced
  • cucumbersthinly sliced
  • red onionsthinly sliced
  • hummusoptional
  • ambaoptitonal
  • pickled turnipisoptitonal
Instructions
MARINATE CHICKEN
  1. Whisk all of the Marinade ingredients together in a large bowl or freezer size plastic bag. Add chicken and turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator 8 to 24 hours. Let chicken sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before cooking.
YOGURT SAUCE
  1. Make the yogurt sauce and prep your toppings while the chicken is marinating. Add all of the Sauce Ingredients to a blender and blend until the herbs are chopped, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. If you would like a thicker sauce stir (don’t blend) in additional yogurt. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
HOW TO COOK CHICKEN ON THE STOVE
  1. Heat one tablespoon vegetable oil a large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. Working in batches, add chicken in a single layer and cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook approximately 3-5 additional minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
HOW TO COOK CHICKEN ON THE GRILL
  1. Grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F. Grill chicken, covered for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through and an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
HOW TO COOK CHICKEN IN THE OVEN
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken to baking sheet in a single layer so they aren’t touching. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
ASSEMBLE WRAPS
  1. Top warmed pitas with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, chicken and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce.
Recipe Notes

HOW TO MAKE BOWLS

You’ll start the bowls the same way as the wraps by marinating the chicken, making the sauce and chopping the below veggies. Just before you cook the chicken, start baking the veggies.

INGREDIENTS FOR BOWLS

  • rice or lentils
  • chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 head cauliflower chopped into florets
  • 2 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow) sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • curry powder
  • salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large jelly roll pan (15 x 21) with foil and spray with cooking spray. Add cauliflower and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.   Roast for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and push cauliflower to one side of the pan.  To the other side, add bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat.
  • Spread vegetables into a single layer.  Return to the oven and bake an addition 10-15 minutes depending on how crisp tender you like the vegetables.
  • Layer the bowls with cooked rice or lentils, lettuce, roasted vegetables, chicken and drizzle with yogurt sauce.  The bowls are also amazing with feta, sliced almonds and avocados.

GREEN TAHINI SAUCE

If you would to make tahini sauce, then substitute 1/4 cup tahini in place of 1/4 cup yogurt in the sauce recipe.  You can also omit the yogurt and add 1/4 cup tahini and about 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup water, more or less to reach desired consistency.

TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Pound Chicken. Whether you use chicken breasts or chicken thighs for this Chicken Shawarma recipe, you will want to pound the chicken to an even thickness.  Pounding chicken to an even thickens not only helps tenderize the chicken but ensures the chicken cooks evenly. Even cooking eliminates dryness caused from overcooking the chicken in order to make sure the thickest part is cooked at the peril of the thinnest.
  • Use chicken thighs.  For the juiciest, most flavorful chicken with greater caramelization, use chicken thighs.
  • Marinate chicken.  The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become but don’t marinate longer than 24 hours.
  • Use a meat thermometer.  Always use a meat thermometer so you don’t undercook, OR overcook the chicken.
  • Let chicken rest.  After chicken is finished cooking, transfer it to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing so it has time to reabsorb the juices that have pushed towards the outside of the chicken. If you cut into the chicken immediately after cooking, valuable, moisture-giving juices will run out.
  • Prep the sauce with the chicken. The Yogurt Sauce is very best after being refrigerated for at least one hour so the flavors have time to meld; so, make the sauce right after you add the chicken to the marinade if possible.
  • Don’t skip the sauce!  The yogurt sauce is a key component in this Chicken Shawarma recipe.  Its creamy consistency is needed to marry all of the ingredients together and its refreshing tanginess cuts through the earthy flavors of the chicken.  If you don’t want to make the sauce, you can use Greek yogurt instead, it just won’t be quite as good.
  • Customize Chicken Shawarma ingredients.  The topping ingredients are simply suggestions- you can use add/swap any ingredients for your favs such as bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.
  • Use warm pitas.  Use pita flatbread and not pita pockets. Warm pitas are softer and roll easier without tearing.
  • You don’t have to make a wrap!  Turn this Chicken Shawarma recipe into anything you want – grain bowls, salad, pasta salad, sandwiches, even pizza!

STORAGE & HOW TO REHEAT

The marinated, cooked chicken can stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days and is ready to use when needed!  The fresh components should be stored separately so the tomatoes don’t make the other ingredients soggy and stay as fresh as possible. To reheat:

  • From frozen:  thaw cooked Chicken Shawarma in the refrigerator overnight.  You can also defrost in the microwave but take care to defrost slowly so your chicken doesn’t become rubbery.  Use any of the below methods to reheat.
  • Skillet:  reheat in a skillet over medium low heat until warmed through, adding a splash of water for added moisture.
  • Microwave:  reheat in the microwave at 30 second intervals, taking care not to overcook.
  • Oven:  reheat in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F or just until warmed through.

PREP AHEAD

Chicken Shawarma and Chicken Shawarma Wraps make excellent meal prep.  If you are meal prepping for at home, then you can easily store all of the ingredients in separate containers in the refrigerator. If you are meal prepping for on the go lunches, I consolidate the ingredients. I prefer warm Chicken Shawarma, so I divide the chicken from the fresh ingredients. Here’s how:

  1. Divide chicken between desired number of containers. Don’t close containers until chicken has cooled.
  2. Combine lettuce, and red onions in bag and combine tomatoes, and cucumbers in their own separate plastic bags (so they don’t make other ingredients soggy) and place bags on top of chicken.  Store yogurt sauce in a bag or small container.
  3. When ready to serve, warm chicken in the microwave and then assemble the wraps.

HOW TO FREEZE 

Yes!  You can freeze the uncooked marinating chicken or cooked chicken.

  • Freeze chicken in marinade.  Add the chicken to the marinade ingredients and freeze.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  When you’re ready to use, the chicken will marinate as you defrost the chicken in the refrigerator.
  • Freeze chicken.  You can also freeze cooked Chicken Shawarma for easy meal prep or use-as-you-go individual wraps. After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.