Slice the shawarma into chunks and place in a pita along with hummus, tomato and whatever else you'd like in there. (Photo: Zach Pontz/Unpacked)

Easy chicken shawarma

You can make this delightful street food at home in no time at all.

One of the true culinary pleasures of Israel is the shawarma. The chicken, lamb or, increasingly, turkey, is placed on a vertical spit and roasted. It’s then carved into little chunks of meat and served alongside an assortment of vegetables, or in a pita or flatbread called a laffa.

Unfortunately when I’m back in the United States, it’s hard to come by shawarma of any kind. While falafel has become a popular street food, shawarma has not totally caught on. Thus my craving for the stuff goes unrequited.

And so recently back from Israel and desperate as I was, I decided it was time to create my own shawarma recipe, one whose flavors were culled from my memories – and from a few recipes I’ve come across.

Easy chicken shawarma

Prep15 mins
Cook Time50 mins


  • 2 lbs chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 red onion


  • Mix the spices, olive oil, lemon and garlic together in a bowl and then add the chicken thighs and toss by hand. Let marinate in the fridge for a few hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°. Add the red onion (bell peppers also work) to the container of chicken thighs, toss, and then place in a pan. Cook the chicken thighs for 50 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken thighs from the oven and slice the meat into small chunks. If you want the shawarma a little crispy, like it would be when it comes off the spit, throw it in a pan with a thin layer of oil and cook until it coils.
  • Serve the shawarma as is or in a pita. You can add hummus, tomato, cucumber – whatever you'd like, really.

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