My most epic sandwich moment happened near Petra in Jordan, years ago. I was determined to hike around this ancient city with my tour group in 100 degree heat. One of my friends on this trip, John, was perpetually hungry, regardless of the blistering hot weather. He saw a lonely shawarma stand off the side of the road, and made our taxi stop so he could buy a few wraps. Seeing that the stand sold 3 shawarma wraps for about 1 dinar (under 2 American dollars) I decided to buy 3 wraps as well to fuel my impending hike. The wraps were on the small side, about the circumference of a Mexican flauta. Nestled inside the soft flatbread was some spiced tender lamb, crispy cucumber yogurt salad, pickled onions, and a nutty creamy tahini sauce. I didn’t realize I was hungry until I took my first bite, and then I just couldn’t stop myself, devouring all three wraps in one swoop. Hence, my obsession with shawarma began. Even now whenever I see a shawarma stand my mind gets flooded with blissful memories of that day in Petra. Fast forward to today, and this sandwich has reached cult status in nearly every Middle Eastern country and beyond. Shawarma is timeless, globally popular, and vogue, sort of like the Madonna of wraps. I knew I had to recreate shawarma at home so I could have it anytime I wanted–with ingredients I could feel good about.
The word shawarma comes from the Arabic word “shawi” which means to grill. Usually lamb, chicken, or beef are placed on a vertical spit roaster and can be slow cooked for as long as a day. Hard working dudes shave the meat off the block, and the remainder of the meat is kept heated on the rotating pit. The plus of making shawarma yourself is you can customize how you serve the meat to your specific dietary needs. For instance, you can serve the meat on a salad for a low carb option, on a plate with rice and salad for heartier fare, or in a wrap as a fast food or picnic lunch. And for vegans out there ( I never forget you 🙂 sub out the meat all together if you’re a vegetarian, using the same marinade for tempeh, seitan, or even portabella mushrooms. You can get really creative with the wraps. Feel free to use any kind of flatbread–like pita, tortilla (flour, sprouted or low carb), Armenian lavash,or Persian Sangak bread. For roasting the chicken, I realize most people don’t have a vertical spit roaster, so you can either roast the meat in the oven–or just grill the chicken outdoors for an extra smoky flavor. The tahini sauce for the shawarma is called “tarator” sauce, which has no relation to American tartar sauce. Instead you have a tahini based sauce spiked with lemon and garlic. If you’re doing some summer entertaining, trying making a shawarma bar. Guests can assemble the meats, wraps, condiments and sauce as they wish to make a customized wrap. You can marinate the meat, marinate the onions, and make the tahini sauce the day before. All you have to do the day of your party is grill the meats and assemble the cucumber tomato salad. How easy is that? For the tutorial video check out the link below, and please subscribe if you haven’t already!
- INGREDIENTS (TECHNIQUE IN VIDEO)
- 1 lb Boneless chicken thighs or lamb
- 4 Flatbreads
- For the Marinade:
- ¼ tsp Coriander
- 1 ½ tsp Allspice
- ¼ tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Sumac
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- ⅓ Cup Olive Oil
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced
- Tarator (Tahini) Sauce
- ¼ cup tahini sauce
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Salt to taste
- Marinated onions
- ½ small red onion thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp red or rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sumac
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lemon, peeled and sliced thinly
- Pickled cucumbers or turnips
13 thoughts on “SHAWARMA!”
The camera loves you! You have a natural presence and playfulness that makes your videos fun to watch. And the food isn’t too bad, either! Ha! No, seriously, the food is terrific! I appreciate being exposed to Middle Eastern cuisine 😉
Open to a few suggestions? Generally speaking, salt is not used in marinates. Exposing meat to salt for long periods of time will cause it to dry out. That is why salt is used to cure meats. To keep that “sshhicken shawarma” as juicy as possible, marinate it in oil, spices, aromatics and freshly cracked pepper, but don’t salt the meat until you are ready to cook it.
Also, I noticed your cutting board is dry like the Arabian desert! A couple of tablespoons of butcher block oil applied regularly will keep the wood from drying out and form a protective barrier that will prevent biological matter from penetrating the wood (yuck) and make clean up a snap!
Keep the recipes and videos coming! You should have your own television show!
Thank you for your kind e-mail Stefano! Yes I should have mentioned that about the salt, as I too leave salt as the very last seasoning. I will make sure I mention that detail next time instead of cramming everything into a short video 🙂 Now, the “cutting board is dry like the Arabian desert” had me dying of laughter! I will take your advice…now being Middle Eastern myself, can I use olive oil?
Bianca (Blanche) 😀
Il piacere e tutto mio, Bianca! 🙂
I decided to make your shawarma for last night’s supper… and it was SUPERB! Seriously! After her first bite, my wife rolled her eyes, looked at me and said, “Oh! You are SOOOO making this again!!” Ha!!
I varied it slightly from yours in the following ways:
I started with a package of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts I had in the freezer and defrosted in the sink (or “zink” as my family likes to say!)
For the marinate, I combined coriander, allspice, cumin, freshly minced garlic, freshly cracked black pepper and olive oil. But I substituted the juice from half a lemon in place of the sumac. I also added some minced onion and then a dash of red pepper flakes to bring a little more heat to the dish.
I cooked them slightly differently, too. After salting the chicken breasts and sprinkling them with a little more cracked black pepper, I dropped them skin side down into a heated and oiled cast iron grilling pan on the stove top where I seared them for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat.
Then I flipped the breasts over and transferred the pan into a pre-heated 400 degree oven and finished cooking them, uncovered, for another 10-12 minutes or so.
Then I removed the pan from the oven, covered it with foil and let the meat “rest” and finish cooking for another 6-8 minutes. The breast were perfectly cooked, juicy and tender, with exceptional flavor.
Also, I didn’t have any Tahini sauce on hand, so while the chicken breasts were marinating, I prepared (what else?!?!) some of your “ranch dressing of the Middle East!”, aka Tzatziki sauce, paired with a thinly sliced Vidalia onion marinated in a smidgen of Dry Vermouth and red wine vinegar.
Along side the shawarma, I served a Greek cucumber salad made with crumbled feta, cherry tomatoes, freshly minced basil and oregano, pine nuts, dried dates and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. For the dressing, I used a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Thanks again for the inspiration!
Your shawarma ROCKED!
PS I wouldn’t recommend using olive oil for your wooden cutting board. Butcher block “oil” is typically made with a combination of mineral oil, bees wax and carnauba wax. The oil penetrates and lubricates the wood to keep it from drying out and splitting, while the wax provides a protective barrier and produces a natural, non-stick surface. Butcher block oil is inexpensive and can be found at any kitchen supply store or, of course, that Great Shopping Mart in the Sky… Amazon 😉
Your message had me crying with happiness! Subbing lemon for the sumac, and cucumber yogurt for tahini are perfect! Your cooking method for the chicken was superb–what a lucky wife you have!!! Thank you so much for your feedback, glad you are enjoying the recipes and adding your own creative twists cause that is what cooking is all about. I am now on Amazon– to buy butcher block oil! 😀 Grazie!
Thank for a wonderful “keeper” recipe! My husband wants it again next week. I love full flavored dishes and this is perfect. Please continue sharing your recipes and passion for cooking.
Thank you so much for your kind words, so glad your family enjoys the recipes! I will be out with a video next week, if you are subscribed to my blog and youtube channel you will get them as soon as I publish them 🙂
I along with my whole family , specially my siblings are huuuuuggge fan of shawarma sandwich . among the number of middle Easter dishes that I loooove I hjust can’t get enough of shawarma. After trying a number of recipes your recipe was just perfect. Easy , simple yet delicious . I felt I at last got the recipe I seached over Internet for years.
Wow you just made my day thank you so much! I had a lot of trial and error with this recipe before I was happy with the results. Hope you subscribe to my youtube channel so you can get my latest recipes as I upload them, and happy feasting! 😉 s://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv
Unless I missed it I didn’t hear you mention what temperature to cook the chicken nor gave a serving size?
Hi Nora, tempurature 400 degrees, serves 4 people. 😉
Haha love it!
Appreciate the useful info