homemade chicken shawarma
Main Dish

Homemade Chicken Shawarma

After moving away from our favorite, authentic chicken shawarma shop, we have yet to find a new local replacement. So I decided to try making it myself. This homemade chicken shawarma recipe is the result!

Chicken Shawarma is a flavorful Middle Eastern dish. The marinated chicken is stacked in an inverted cone and roasted on a vertical rotisserie. While continuously rotating, the cooked meat is thinly shaved off and served with a number of garnish and sauce options.

Authentic chicken shawarma is definitely best whenever you have the opportunity. This recipe however is a decent adaptation for the average home kitchen and cook.

Jump to:

Getting Started

Since the chicken and white sauce need to marinate, midday or lunch is a great time to start this dish for dinner. 

Wash and dry the lemon, slice in half and juice. Continue to prep the marinade and coat the chicken following the recipe instructions. Then prepare the white sauce.

Wash, dry and zest the lemon. Combine the ingredients and refrigerate. Sometimes it works out that the white sauce can be prepared right in the yogurt container!

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven preheats, wash and slice the red pepper. Peel and quarter the red onion. Continue with the recipe instructions.

Ingredient Recommendations

Fresh produce is recommended whenever possible. With a long list of ingredients though it can be easy for something to be left off the shopping list. Alternatives are listed if you get in a pinch. For example, bottled lemon juice can be used in place of a freshly squeezed lemon. 

For the garlic, you can’t go wrong with freshly minced garlic cloves. However, prepared minced garlic works just as well. For quick reference, a ½ tsp of minced garlic is equivalent to one clove of garlic. 

Ingredient Alternatives


The only two items in this recipe that have gluten are the naan or pita bread and the rice pilaf. There are quick and easy alternatives to accommodate gluten-free needs.

For gluten sensitivity, here are a few options:

  • Naan or Pita Bread
    • only some of the servings need to be gluten-free, handle and serve the naan, pita bread or pita chips completely separate from the rest of the dish
    • omit altogether
    • make homemade gluten-free naan or pita bread
  • Rice
    • Basmati, jasmine or long grain rice are great alternatives

Finishing Touches

If serving with pita or naan bread, first warm the bread briefly in a skillet on the stovetop. Then either slice the pita bread in half to fill and use as a pita pocket. Or tear the bread roughly into quarters and use it to scoop and enjoy!


This recipe outlines our homemade chicken shawarma foundation. From here, if we remember to grab or have any of these additional recommendations on hand we will pair them.

Chicken shawarma is traditionally garnished with pickled and raw vegetables. Think cucumbers, cornichons, olives (we recommend kalamata!), banana peppers, celery, peppers, sun dried tomatoes, pickled turnips, shredded lettuce, fresh herbs, tomatoes, onions and more.

Hummus with pita bread or pita chips make a great accompaniment also.


This recipe makes 4-6 portions and makes great leftovers. The chicken, white sauce and rice all keep and reheat well.

Homemade Chicken Shawarma

Prep Time4 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Dinner, Entree, Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 6


Chicken Shawarma

  • 2 lemons, juiced OR 4-6 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley OR 2 tsp dried parsley
  • naan or pita bread

White Sauce

  • 16 oz greek whole milk plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced OR 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • lemon zest
  • basil, fresh or dried, to taste
  • parsley, fresh, or dried, to taste
  • minced garlic, to taste

Rice Pilaf

  • 2 boxes Near East rice pilaf
  • 3.5 c water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter


  • Prepare marinade for the chicken. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes in a large bowl, then whisk to combine. Add the chicken and toss well to coat. Cover and store in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
  • Prepare the white sauce. Combine the yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, lemon zest, basil, parsley, and garlic. Chill 4-5 hours.
  • When ready to cook, heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with a non-stick baking mat or line with foil and a tablespoon of olive oil or non-stick cooking spray. Add the quartered onion and sliced red pepper to the chicken and marinade, and toss once to combine. Remove the chicken, onion and red pepper from marinade, and place on the pan, spreading everything evenly across it.
  • Put the chicken in the oven and roast until it is browned, crisp at the edges and cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • While the chicken cooks, prepared the rice pilaf according to package instructions. Keep rice covered until chicken is ready. Then fluff with a fork and serve.
  • When cooked through, remove the chicken from the oven, allow to rest 2 minutes, then slice into bite-size pieces. Serve the chicken, onion and pepper over rice pilaf, topped with white sauce and naan or pita bread on the side.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating