As a teenager growing up in Brussels, Belgium, with its large North African and Middle Eastern population, shawarma (a.k.a. shwarma, gyro, or doner kebab) was my favorite fast food. During a year spent on an Israeli kibbutz, it became an obsession!
If you enjoy it as much as I do, you’ll love these shawarma plates! Not only do they taste a lot like the real thing, but they’re super simple — and quick — to prepare (and you don’t need to own a mechanized meat-roasting spit!).
Shawarma is a popular Middle Eastern street food that is made by roasting seasoned meat on a vertical spit, typically using a mixture of lamb, beef, goat, turkey, chicken, or a combination of these meats. Traditionally, shawarma meat is marinated with a blend of spices and herbs such as garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and others. The marinated meat is then stacked onto the spit, and as it rotates, the outer layers get crispy and flavorful while the inside remains tender and juicy.
To serve shawarma, thin slices of the cooked meat are shaved off the spit and typically stuffed into pita bread or wrapped in flatbread, along with a variety of accompaniments. These may include diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, pickles, sliced cabbage, tahini sauce, garlic mayonnaise, hummus, and sometimes french fries. The combination of tender, juicy, seasoned meat, aromatic spices, and fresh, crunchy toppings creates a veritable flavor & texture explosion for your tastebuds.
The one thing I don’t love about shawarma sandwiches is that they tend to disintegrate while you eat them (esp. when well-stuffed!), causing a mess and forcing you to snarf them down quickly. Since I like to take my time eating — especially when it’s a meal I love! — I decided to do away with the pita pocket (which doesn’t;t add much flavor or nutrition anyway) and spread the other shawarma components out on a plate.
I create a base layer of hummus (store-bout or homemade — recipe here) onto which I then pile the hot meat, chopped vegetables (confetti/Israeli salad recipe here), olive, feta crumbs, black cumin seeds, and whatever else I’m using, and finish the plate with a drizzle of tahini sauce (recipe here) and a sprinkling of fresh herbs — mint, cilantro, parsley, or whatever I have in my fridge. All this can be done in a jiffy.
The only thing that requires a little time and planning is marinating the meat; overnight is best, but even an hour’s imagination goes a long way. Prepping a jar of ready-to-use shawarma seasoning will save a lot of time. And if you marinate a large batch and freeze some for future shawarma meals, you can save even more!
Shawarma Chicken Plates
Shawarma seasoning blend
- 4 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground allspice
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika powder
- ½ tbsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp Shawarma seasoning blend
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced about 4-5 cloves' worth
- 1½ lbs chicken thigh meat skinless, boneless; cut into ½-inch pieces
To cook & serve
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup hummus recipe here, or use high-quality store-bought hummus (make sure the ingredients include olive oil, not canola or soybean oil)
- 1½ cups confetti salad recipe here
- 2 oz crumbled feta cheese (optional)
- 2 warmed pita breads each cut into 6-8 triangles (optional)
- 4 tbsp tahini sauce recipe here
Shawarma seasoning blend
- Shawarma seasoning blend: Combine all the ingredients in a dry, clean jar, seal the lid, and shake to combine. Store in a cool, dark place; shake before using.
Chicken, salad & hummus
- 1 to 12 hours before you plan to cook this, combine 2 tbsp of the shawarma seasoning blend, the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and black pepper in a bowl and stir with a wire whisk to form a fragrant paste. Add the chicken and coat it with marinade on all sides. Transfer to a Ziploc bag or tightly sealed container and refrigerate until using.
- If you don't have ready-prepped confetti salad in your fridge, prepare it now -- it should take no more than 10 minutes and will last for several days in the fridge (well worth having as it makes a great "sprinkle" for eggs, soups, stews, quesadillas, etc.).
- When you are getting ready to eat, warm 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the marinated chicken and saute for 4 minutes, then turn with tongs and saute another 4-5 minutes until cooked through, golden brown, and slightly crisp around the edges. Remove from heat.
- While the chicken is cooking, prepare the plates: Spread ¼ cup of hummus in a thin layer over each plate, leveling it with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Scatter confetti salad over the hummus (about ½ cup per plate).
- Spoon ¼ of the hot chicken (3-4 oz per plate) and its cooking juices over the hummus & confetti salad on each plate. Sprinkle with olives and feta crumbs (if using).
- Drizzle with tahini sauce and garnish with coarsely chopped fresh herbs.
- Serve immediately, accompanied by warm pita triangles.