This Lebanese Shawarma recipe is the best recipe for homemade chicken shawarma ever! Authentic chicken shawarma is made with the most amazing mixture of Arabic spices on meat, then the meat is stacked together and grilled or placed in a rotisserie until perfection is made. Eating a Shawarma Wrap is delightful, healthy and super tasty!Jump to Recipe
What is Shawarma
Shawarma is an amazing Middle Eastern or Lebanese dish of seasoned, marinated meat that is grilled on a grill or on a type or rotisserie. There are different types of shawarma that are made of different kinds of meats like lamb, chicken, goat, or beef and is not limited to just one.
In any authentic shawarma recipe, the meat is cut thin, then seasoned and then stacked together tightly. The shawarma meat is then placed in a spit or rotisserie. When the meat is cooked through it is cut into thin slices and served over fresh warm pita and topped with shawarma sauce and veggies like cucumbers, pickles, onions and tomatoes.
Shawarma is a typical street food. As the meat cooks on the rotisserie, it is meat is sliced off as it cooks and then served. The rest of the stacked meat will continue to cook as it rotates.
If you are looking to try something new, or if you want to do something different with chicken, this Arabic chicken shawarma is such a great and versatile recipe.
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Meaning of Shawarma
What does shawarma mean? Shawarma is an Arabic word which infers the idea of turning, which can be related to a spit or rotisserie on which the meat it roasted. It refers to a pita sandwich of seasoned, roasted meat and toppings.
If you are wondering where did shawarma come from, it is a wonderful dish originating in Lebanon! This authentic Lebanese street food can also be found in other Middle Eastern countries. It also goes by the name of chawarma, shwarma, shuarma, and showarma.
Shawarma vs Gyro
The difference between gyro and shawarma is typically in the meat and country of origin. Though gyros and shawarma wraps have much in common, they differ in the meat that is used. Gyros are typically a Greek national food that is made up of ground seasoned lamb and cooked on a rotisserie. The sauce also differs, since Greek Tzatziki sauce is used on top.
However, authentic shawarma, can be made with different kinds of meat like lamb, chicken, beef or goat and typically it is not ground, but rather just cut up into thin pieces after it is roasted.
Another difference is in the sauce put into a shawarma pita wrap. Some places use Lebanese Toum Sauce (garlic sauce), and it is also very common to use a yogurt mint sauce or even tahini sauce in a shawarma sandwich. (recipes in those links).
My personal preference is to eat it topped with the yogurt mint sauce! Seriously, it’s amazing!
How to Make Lebanese Chicken Shawarma
The ingredients for Lebanese chicken shawarma are not difficult to find and you may already have all of the ingredients at home. You just need to make sure to have some fresh ingredients, like yogurt, lemons, garlic cloves, onions and boneless skinless chicken thighs when you go to make this recipe.
For Authentic Shawarma seasoning:
For the chicken shawarma marinade, mix together the whole milk yogurt, lemon juice, salt, Lebanese Seven Spices (you can substitute this with cardamom, black pepper, ground cloves and a bit more cinnamon if you don’t have this spice blend), turmeric, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne pepper powder and minced garlic.
What is Lebanese 7 spice (aka Baharat seasoning)?
Lebanese 7 spice is a Lebanese spice mix that is also referred to as Baharat spice. It is a unique Arabic spice blend of:
- ground black pepper
Baharat seasoning is what gives Lebanese dishes a very warm and unique flavor. You can find Lebanese 7 spice at your local Mediterranean store, or The Spice House has an amazing blend of Baharat seasoning. Check it out on their site:
Preparing the chicken for shawarma and getting it on the skewers
Now that you have your marinade for the Lebanese shawarma, take the chicken and mix it together in a large mixing bowl with the shawarma marinade. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably even overnight.
After the chicken has marinated for some time, you can assemble the shawarma skewers. I used 2 skewers to hold the chicken together and it worked great.
Slice up the onions into medium sized pieces (about 1 inch square pieces). Roll one boneless skinless chicken thigh up tightly and place the skewers parallel through it. Layer an onion on each skewer and repeat the process of rolling the chicken, skewering it and layering onions.
On a preheated grill on medium heat, grill the chicken shawarma skewers for about 30 minutes, rotating it often to make sure that it is cooked through on all sides and through the center.
When the chicken is cooked, remove it and let it sit for 5 minutes under foil before slicing it. With a sharp knife, thinly slice the chicken to prepare it for serving.
Video of preparing recipe for shawarma chicken
How to make a Lebanese chicken shawarma wrap with pita
There are many ways to eat authentic chicken shawarma, but my favorite way is to eat it in homemade pita bread. Homemade pita bread is the perfect shawarma wrap bread, and you can check out my recipe on that link. However, if you don’t have time for all of that, store bought pita bread of your choice is just fine.
Stuff the pita bread with the chicken shawarma and use the toppings of your choice. ENJOY!!
If you need to know what to serve with chicken shawarma, I HIGHLY recommend topping it with the following:
- Shawarma sauce (click for recipe)
- raw onions
- tomato slices
- taboulleh (click for recipe)
FAQ’s for Lebanese Chicken Shawarma
Can I make chicken shawarma in the oven and not on the grill?
Of course, bake the chicken on 350 until it is cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before slicing it. You will miss out on some of the grill flavor if you decide to bake shawarma in the oven, but it will still be delish.
Can I make shawarma at home without an oven?
Yes! I use a grill or some people prefer to use a shawarma spit or a shawarma rotisserie.
If you are wanting to use a rotisserie, there are several popular kinds. Amazon has a countertop shawarma rotisserie. It has some really great reviews on it. It does seem, from the reviews, that people have a hard time securing the meat in there and that it doesn’t last forever. If you get one of these, let me know your thoughts! I would love to hear your experience.
There is also a more heavy duty shawarma spit as well. It seems that this one is larger. They are both reasonably priced.
What cut of chicken should I use for shawarma?
Boneless skinless chicken thighs are the preferable cut of chicken to use for shawarma because of it’s tenderness and higher fat content.
The chicken thighs are the best to use, because they will stay tender and juicy without drying out. You can use chicken breasts, but I would recommend making sure they are cut thin and maybe use thighs as well with it so it doesn’t dry out.
Shawarma vs Kebab
What is the difference between shawarma and kebab? It’s mainly in the mode of preparation. Shawarma is usually roasted on a spit vertically, and a kebab is assembled in pieces on the skewer and grilled. Kebabs can also be grilled with vegetables between the meat. Shawarma tends to have warmer spices like cinnamon and Baharat blend.
Is chicken shawarma healthy?
Yes, chicken shawarma is very healthy. the spices and yogurt are all very good for health and it does not have any harmful oils or preservatives when making shawarma at home.
Can I freeze the chicken after it’s cooked?
Yes, you can freeze chicken shawarma after it is fully cooked. Make sure to thaw it out in the fridge completely. Heat it up in a cast iron skillet over the stove before serving over a salad or in a buddha bowl or as another chicken shawarma sandwich.
Lebanese Chicken shawarma what to serve with it
If you are looking for other authentic Lebanese recipes that go well with this authentic chicken shawarma recipe, check these out:
- Lebanese Vermicelli Rice
- Lebanese Fattoush Salad
- Authentic Lebanese Hummus
- Lebanese Cucumber yogurt salad
- Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad
Happy shawarma making!
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Lebanese Chicken Shawarma
- 3-4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 onion
- ⅓ cup plain whole milk yogurt
- 1 lemon juiced (¼ cup lemon juice)
- 2 ½ teas salt
- 2 teas Lebanese 7 spice (Baharat seasoning) substitute ½ teas cinnamon, ½ teas black pepper, ½ teas cardamom, ½ teas cloves
- 2 teas turmeric
- 2 teas cumin
- 2 teas paprika
- 1 teas cinnamon
- 2 teas coriander powder
- ½ teas cayenne pepper powder more if you like spicy shawarma
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- Mix together the yogurt, lemon juice and all of the ground spices and garlic together in a large mixing bowl⅓ cup plain whole milk yogurt, 1 lemon, 2 ½ teas salt, 2 teas Lebanese 7 spice (Baharat seasoning), 2 teas turmeric, 2 teas cumin, 2 teas paprika, 1 teas cinnamon, 2 teas coriander powder, ½ teas cayenne pepper powder, 6 cloves garlic
- Add the boneless skinless chicken thighs to the bowl and coat them in the marinade3-4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- Marinate the chicken for minimum of 30 minutes or up to 24 hours
- Roll each piece of chicken up tightly and skewer it with 2 skewers (see video)
- Layer onion pieces between chicken either on the 2 skewers or with a 3rd skewer, whichever is easiest1 onion
- Grill on medium to high heat for 30 minutes, turning periodically, until the chicken is cooked through
- Cut the chicken into thin slices and serve on warm pita bread with shawarma sauce and desired toppings.