You don’t need a vertical spit to make your own homemade Lebanese chicken shawarma wraps and bowls. This recipe is straightforward and uses your oven. It’s a perfect weeknight meal and comes together in very little time.
Shawarma is a popular Middle Eastern street food that has a long and diverse history. The origins of shawarma can be traced back to the Eastern Mediterranean (The Levant, modern-day Lebanon, Palestine, Syria), with various countries and cultures contributing to its development. The dish has evolved over centuries, influenced by different culinary traditions and migration patterns.
The Ottoman Empire played a significant role in shaping the culinary landscape of the Middle East. The method of cooking meat on a vertical rotisserie continued to be refined during the Ottoman period. It is believed that the name "shawarma" itself is derived from the Turkish word "çevirme," which means "turning." It is an important part of Levantine Cuisine today.
This authentic chicken shawarma recipe is quite straightforward. Here is everything you need:
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Chicken: I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe. They stay juicy when cooked. They are also more affordable than chicken breast. Feel free to use breast as well, but you’ll need to adjust the cook time or slice the breast into a thickness similar to thighs.
- Spices: This classic recipe uses standard pantry spices: Cumin, Coriander, Garlic powder, Paprika, Turmeric and cinnamon. If you have already made my Shawarma Spice Blend, you can use that too.
For a full list of sides and toppings, see further down the post. I’ve included links. See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make This Lebanese Chicken Shawarma Recipe
This recipe comes together quickly and without too much effort, making it a great weeknight or meal prep meal.
Step 1. Mix. To a large bowl, add the chicken thighs, spices, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Step 2. Marinate. Let your chicken thighs marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. You can do overnight too.
Step 3. Transfer to baking tray. Preheat your oven to 425F/220C. Transfer your chicken thighs to a parchment paper lined baking tray. Make sure the chicken is not overlapping and is in a single layer.
Step 4. Bake. Bake the chicken thighs for 25-30 minutes. They will be ready when they reach an internal temperature of 170F.
Step 5. Broil. To get a nice charred crust as you would have in a traditional chicken shawarma, broil the pan on high for 7-10 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven, you don’t want to burn the chicken.
Step 6. Rest and Chop. Rest the chicken for a few minutes then chop into thin slices and transfer to a bowl. Don’t throw away the pan juices, you can drizzle them over the chicken.
How to Serve Lebanese Shawarma
There are a couple of ways you can enjoy Lebanese shawarma.
Serve it as a Chicken Shawarma Platter
I like to set everything out on a tray making a chicken shawarma platter, including all the toppings, sides and garnishes. This way, you can DIY your own chicken shawarma plate or wrap.
Serve it as a Shawarma Wrap
Wraps the traditional way of having shawarma throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. Start with a fresh pita and slather on some toum (garlic sauce). Add some cooked meat, lettuce, tomato slices, pickled turnips, and cucumber pickles. Drizzle with lemon tahini sauce.
Carefully wrap the pita in some parchment paper for that authentic look.
Serve it as a Bowl
When serving homemade chicken shawarma in a bowl, start with a bed of Vermicelli rice and top with chicken pieces. You can also use cauliflower rice. Make sure to include some fresh shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes and herbs of your choice. Sumac marinated onions, pickled turnips and pickled cucumbers are also traditional toppings.
As for a sauce, you can add a dollop of Toum (garlic sauce), homemade hummus, shatta (middle eastern chili paste), and/or tahini sauce. Sprinkle on some sumac and you’re all set. Serve with a side of Lebanese pita bread or Greek pita bread and French fries or Batata Harra (spicy Lebanese potatoes).
Another option is to simply make my Authentic Fattoush salad and add the juicy chicken pieces to it.
- Fry it instead of baking it. Yes, the chicken thighs can be pan-fried in a large skillet or cast iron pan instead of baking. Feel free to do that if you prefer, it might even save you some time.
- Grill it! The marinated meat is perfect for the grill. If you have access to an outdoor gas or charcoal grill, go for it! You can also use an indoor grill pan on the stove.
- Air Fry: Use your air fryer! Adjust the cooking time and temperature accordingly.
- Fresh is best. When buying pita in bags, make sure they are fresh and pliable. Stale pita bread will be brittle and will break if you try to use it in a wrap.
Yes, it is possible to prepare and cook your chicken in advance and reheat it when needed. This recipe is a perfect meal prep recipe because the chicken thighs won’t dry up as quickly as the breast. You can make this recipe up to 3 days in advance.
Cooked chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container. If you have made shawarma wraps, they will store quite poorly and get soggy. This is why I recommend you let your family or guests make their own wraps, or only as many as you need.
Yes, there are many recipes out there. Mine uses cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, garlic, turmeric, cloves and black pepper. You can easily combine shawarma spice mix with olive oil and lemon juice to make a chicken shawarma marinade.
Shawarma, gyro, and doner share a common ancestry rooted in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean tradition of cooking seasoned meat on a vertical rotisserie. Shawarma, originating in the Levant, features meats like lamb, chicken, or beef slowly cooked on a rotating spit.
Gyro, with Greek origins, employs a similar technique, with "gyros" meaning "turn" in Greek. Doner kebab, hailing from Turkey, involves stacking and slow-cooking meat, and "doner" comes from the Turkish word "dönmek," meaning "to turn."
While these dishes have regional variations, they all embrace the fundamental concept of thinly sliced, seasoned meat served in wraps or pitas, showcasing the interconnectedness of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culinary traditions.
If you make this Homemade Lebanese Chicken Shawarma Recipe or any other Main Dish on Urban Farm and Kitchen, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe.
Homemade Lebanese Chicken Shawarma Recipe (Wrap or Bowl)
- 1 ½ lbs Chicken thighs - Skinless, boneless
- 1 teaspoon Ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- ½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoon Lemon juice - Juice of one lemon
- 3 tablespoon Olive oil
- Mix. To a large bowl, add the chicken thighs, spices, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap.
- Marinate. Let your chicken thighs marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. You can do overnight too.
- Transfer to baking tray. Preheat your oven to 425F/220C. Transfer your chicken thighs to a parchment paper lined baking tray. Make sure the chicken is not overlapping and is in a single layer.
- Bake. Bake the chicken thighs for 25-30 minutes. They will be ready when they reach an internal temperature of 170F.
- Broil. To get a nice charred crust as you would have in a traditional chicken shawarma, broil the pan on high for 7-10 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven, you don’t want to burn the chicken.
- Rest and Chop. Rest the chicken for a few minutes then chop into thin strips and transfer to a bowl. Don’t throw away the pan juices, you can drizzle them over the chicken.
- Chicken: I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe. They stay juicy when cooked.
- Spices: This classic recipe uses standard pantry spices: Cumin, Coriander, Garlic powder, Paprika, Turmeric and cinnamon. If you have already made my Shawarma Spice Mix, you can use that too.