Grilled Chicken Shawarma
This Chicken Shawarma recipe has a burst of flavor in every bite. It’s fast to put together thanks to a marinade and a sauce that you can stir together at the same time.
This Shawarma Chicken is a Detroit classic!
I’ve introduced you to many classic Detroit foods, including Detroit style pizza and corned beef egg rolls. And thanks to a large Middle Eastern population, Detroit is also famous for our chicken shawarma!
It’s sold everywhere from ballparks to gas stations, with my favorite being from a restaurant called Bucharest Grill. Today, I am sharing my homemade version of this irresistible wrap sandwich.
While it may look like a long list of ingredients, it’s very fast to put together. In fact, you can make the chicken shawarma marinade and the sauce for the wraps at the same time. I’ll also offer shortcut ideas to make it even easier for a busy weeknight.
Why you will love this Chicken Shawarma Recipe
- A burst of flavor in every bite. The spiced chicken, creamy sauce and tangy pickles come together to make magic.
- Great as a meal prep recipe. The chicken can be cooked and the sauce can be made in advance, then just assemble the wraps when you’re ready to eat.
- Made with lots of gut-healthy Greek yogurt. Get those probiotics in in the tastiest way possible!
Chicken Shawarma ingredients
- chicken thighs – dark meat chicken lends the most flavor to grilled chicken shawarma. You can make this with chicken breast, but it won’t be quite as juicy and flavorful.
- Greek yogurt – acts as a tenderizer in the chicken marinade, and is also the base of the creamy sauce.
- garlic – another ingredient that appears in both the chicken shawarma marinade and the sauce to add that pungent garlic flavor that shawarma is known for.
- lemon juice – acts as a tenderizer in the chicken marinade and adds tangy flavor to the sauce as well.
- spices – a combination of salt, cumin, coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, paprika and turmeric are used in the marinade to season the chicken. See the FAQ below if you’re worried about not having all of these spices.
- pita – wheat pitas or wraps provide a soft yet sturdy base for wrapping around the chicken. Information about toppings below!
How to make Chicken Shawarma Marinade and sauce at the same time
Because there are so many common ingredients in the marinade and the sauce, it’s easiest to measure for them and put them together at the same time.
- Place a large bowl and medium bowl on your work surface.
- Add 3/4 cup Greek yogurt to each bowl.
- Mince 6 garlic cloves and add half of it to the large bowl and half to the medium bowl.
- Juice 1-2 lemons and add 3 tablespoons lemon juice to the large bowl and 1-1/2 tablespoons to the medium bowl.
- Add 1-1/2 teaspoons salt the large bowl and 1/2 teaspoon to the medium bowl.
- Add the remaining spices (coriander, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, paprika, turmeric) to the large bowl.
- Whisk each bowl separately.
How to cook shawarma chicken
Preheat an outdoor grill or a grill pan or cast iron skillet on the stove, to medium-high heat.
Put the chicken on the grill or in the pan and cook until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F (should be about 12 to 14 minutes on an outdoor grill, but will depend on the size of your chicken thighs).
Let the shawarma chicken rest for 5 minutes before you slice it up.
How to serve Grilled Chicken Shawarma
You can fully dress your chicken shawarma wraps or keep them very simple with just the chicken and sauce, but here’s how it’s done around here:
- pickles – dill pickle spears are a classic element in a good Detroit shawarma!
- tomato – thinly sliced Roma tomato adds a refreshing and juicy element that balances the richness of the chicken.
- lettuce – adds a fresh element and gives the sauce something to cling to.
- red onion – adds that pungent bite that only raw onion can.
What pairs best with a chicken shawarma wrap
If it’s summer, feta mint watermelon salad would be a great side dish.
Shawarma Chicken Home Chef Tips
- Sometimes it’s hard to find good, soft pita bread at the store. If you have a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean restaurant near you, sometimes it’s best to just buy fresh pita bread from them!
- The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will be. If possible, put it in the marinade in the morning, and cook the chicken at dinner time.
Storing Shawarma Chicken
To store leftovers or use this recipe as a meal prep idea, allow cooked shawarma chicken to cool completely.
Place it in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days. Place sauce and any toppings in separate airtight containers and refrigerate as well.
To reheat chicken, heat in the microwave or a 350 degree F oven until warmed through before assembling chicken shawarma wraps with sauce and toppings.
Chicken Shawarma Recipe FAQs
Yes! You can cook the chicken in a 400 degree oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. This could take anywhere from 18 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken thighs.
Yes! While I love garlicky yogurt sauce when I make chicken shawarma at home, most Detroit restaurants serve their shawarmas with Lebanese garlic sauce (toum). I’ve found that the Toom brand of store-bought garlic sauce is very good.
Other options are tahini, hummus or my feta dressing.
I know, it is a pretty long list of spices. The good news is that if you’re missing one or two, it’s really not a deal breaker. Just go ahead and use what you do have. If you have any questions about substitutions, please ask in the comments below.
Or, if you can find a pre-made shawarma spice blend at your store, that will work, too! McCormick makes a shawarma seasoning, and Penzey’s sells a Turkish seasoning blend that will work well for this chicken shawarma recipe.
Chicken shawarma’s distinctive taste comes from its blend of spices. The meat is heavily spiced and flavorful, but not spicy as in hot. The chicken is also very tender and juicy thanks to its marinade, with a smoky charred flavor added when you grill the meat.
Gyro and shawarma are both mouthwatering meat dishes often served in pita or flatbread, but there are key differences. Gyro is of Greek origin, while shawarma has Middle Eastern roots (particularly Turkey and Lebanon).
Gyro is typically made from ground meat, while shawarma is usually made from various meats like chicken, lamb or beef (but not ground). The spice blends and toppings and sauces also vary a bit between the two dishes.
For the Chicken:
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
For the Sauce:
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 wheat pitas or wraps
- 4 dill pickle spears, halved lengthwise
- 1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
- 2 cups shredded green leaf lettuce
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- NOTE: It's easiest to measure and prep ingredients for Step #1 and Step #2 at the same time, in separate bowls, since the marinade and the sauce have many common ingredients. Marinate the Chicken: In large bowl, whisk garlic, yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, salt, coriander, black pepper, cayenne cinnamon, paprika and turmeric until smooth. Add chicken and toss until chicken is throughly coated in marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
- Meanwhile, make the Sauce: In medium bowl, stir garlic, yogurt, lemon juice and salt until smooth. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- Preheat outdoor grill, grill pan or cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Transfer chicken to grill and cook 12 to 14 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees F, turning once halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to cutting board; let rest 5 minutes, then thinly slice chicken.
- To assemble, warm pita bread. You can do this on the still warm grill, or over an open flame on a gas stove. About 30 seconds or so should do it, turning frequently.
- Spread pitas with sauce, then divide sliced chicken over pitas. Top with pickles, tomato, lettuce and onion. Roll up and wrap in paper or foil to make it easier to eat, if desired.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 586Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 212mgSodium: 1673mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 6gSugar: 7gProtein: 59g
This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. Nutrition information does not include any optional ingredients or toppings. You should calculate the nutrition information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.