The Best Homemade Chicken Shawarma
This chicken shawarma fascination might have started with my first dreamy bite at our local Middle Eastern restaurant. That adoration was further was cemented with the amazing Mediterranean street food I sunk deeply into while eating my way through NYC.
Chicken Shawarma became an irrevocable obsession with the realization that I could recreate similar flavors at home. With only the ingredients we love and want; nothing else. And it wasn’t even hard.
I’m not sure how it started precisely, but it’s here to stay: my undeniable infatuation with healthy, tender, ultra flavorful chicken shawarma.
This is a contagious kind of shawarma fondness, as the rest of my family and food-loving friends can’t seem to get enough, either…
How to make irresistible chicken shawarma
Chicken Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish that’s loaded with aromatic spices that make your mouth water. Traditionally, shawarma consists of paper-thin slices of meat from a vertical rotating slow-roaster. The result is a deliciously tender, flavorful plate of chicken, beef, or other protein.
Wild guess: most of us don’t own a monster-sized rotating spit at home. Despite that tidbit, you can absolutely make tantalizing homemade chicken shawarma. All you need is a great dry rub for your chicken to marinade in, an oven that reaches 400F and doubles as a broiler for the great finish.
- Chicken thighs are essential here; boneless, skinless thighs are your friend when it comes to tender and flavorful shawarma
- Extra-virgin olive oil is used to bind seasonings to the chicken. You can opt to use a bit more oil if needed, but don’t omit it
- Dry rub seasonings are what makes all the difference in this chicken shawarma’s big bold flavors. As always, use the freshest seasonings/spices because you probably already know that the older those pantry spices are, they less flavor they hold.
- Smoked paprika, cumin, allspice, cayenne, garlic and onion powders, ground tumeric, and cinnamon are all included in this powerhouse dry rub mixture. Skip nothing, if at all possible, as each spice adds its own unique flavor profile to the finished dish.
Pro Tips for the best chicken shawarma
Giant cone-shaped spit aside, we home cooks can still make some outrageously rockin’ chicken shawarma at home.
- Even if you’re normally a die-hard white meat cooker, go with chicken thighs here. Skinless, boneless chicken thighs are actually quite lean and turn out so much more tender (translation: they’re harder to mess up.)
- Rest the chicken in an aromatic dry rub marinade at least 3-4 hours, preferably overnight in fridge.
- Speaking of which, double check that all your spices/seasonings are fresh and haven’t lost their zing.
- Be sure the oven is well preheated to 400F when ready to cook. Use the preheat time to let your chicken come close to room temperature. Better results will happen if your chicken isn’t super cold. Roast the chicken in a single layer for even browning.
- Slice just-cooked chicken as thinly as you can, arrange slices in a single layer on sheet pan, and broil to perfection.
Note: Using the grill or skillet for cooking chicken is always an option, but oven-roasting is by far the easiest.
Commonly Asked Questions
Chicken Shawarma is a Levantine Arab method of cooking meat. Thin shavings are cut off a large block of meat. Because most home cooks don’t have access to machinery used by restaurants, we achieve a similar effect by thinly slicing with an ultra sharp knife.
We definitely include chicken shawarma as part of a healthy diet. Lean, skinless chicken, olive oil, and plenty of fresh spices means this dish is both nutritious and delicious.
Absolutely. Chicken Shawarma is excellent for meal prepping, as it keeps well in the fridge, and can be served up multiple ways throughout the week. Try it with rice, salad, or pita.
More to Cook and Eat
Chicken Shawarma (Easy & Healthy)
This Easy, Healthy Chicken Shawarma is waist-friendly and incredibly scrumptious! It’s a hit every time we serve up this flavorful dish. (Bonus: It’s great for Whole30)
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Total Time: 35 mins
For the Dry Rub:
- 2 tsp paprika or smoked paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground tumeric
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
For the Chicken:
- 3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs*
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- Combine Spices: In a large bowl, whisk together all the spices to combine well. Add 2 TB olive oil and mix into a paste. Set aside.
- Dry and Marinade Chicken: Thoroughly towel-dry the boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Slice each thigh into quarters, and coat with 1 TB olive oil. Add chicken into the bowl with marinade. Use tongs or clean hands to thoroughly coat all pieces of chicken evenly, on all sides. Cover tightly with cling wrap and chill overnight (at least 3-4 hours.)
- Preheat Oven: Let chicken come to room temp as you preheat oven to 400F, with rack on upper middle position.
- Cook Chicken: Place chicken pieces in a single layer on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Take care not to overlap or overcrowd the pieces. Roast 15 min or until just cooked.
- Slice and Broil: Let chicken cool enough to handle. Slice all chicken into thin slices. Place back onto the baking sheet in an even layer. Broil on high for 7-10 minutes or until edges are nicely browned. Serve immediately with pita bread, basmati rice, or hummus.
Chicken thighs are highly recommended in this recipe, as it’s much more forgiving and stays tender even if slightly over-cooked. If you prefer to use chicken breasts, you may need to cook a bit less time to avoid the meat becoming dry.
Chicken Shawarma can be served bowl-style with basmati rice and your choice of toppings, or wrapped in a pita with toppings. It’s delicious with garlic hummus and any Mediterranean style salad. Garnish ideas include cilantro, red onions, or pickles.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating 🙂
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 257
- Sugar: 0.2 g
- Sodium: 294.3 mg
- Fat: 7.6 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.2 g
- Fiber: 0.8 g
- Protein: 42.9 g
- Cholesterol: 137.9 mg
Keywords: Chicken Shawarma