Welcome back to QCK!
I’m so excited today to share this shawarma recipe. I’ve been working on it for a loooong time to get everything just right from the marinade to the sauces and bread, and finally, I got it.
What is shawarma? Shawarma is Middle Eastern street food. It’s chicken, usually thigh, marinaded in a blend of classic Middle Eastern spices, yogurt and lemon juice, and then skewered and cooked rotisserie style. Then it’s thinly sliced and wrapped in a soft flat bread with garlic mayo, pickles and fries. Usually, it’s served with a side of fries, tzatziki and hummus or tahini.
Okay, story time. Feel free to skip ahead, but this is a blog after all and this story is all about food and travel. Plus there’s a great lesson in here about drive throughs in Doha. A must read if you’re thinking about heading to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.
I grew up eating gyros (a type of shawarma) from Holy Land on trips to Minneapolis with my dad. We would go to pick up his favorite spices, tahini, fava beans, goat and lamb, and I would stock up on mango juice and kinder chocolate. Then we would get gyros from the deli, and head home. This is one of my favorite childhood memories.
But then when I was 19, my parents moved to Doha, Qatar, and I tried real shawarma for the first time from a little hole in the wall between the university and our house, Shawarma King.
Doha is littered with these little spots, and they have the best food. You drive up, beep your horn and someone comes out with menus. When you’re ready to order, beep your horn again. The rest is self explanatory. It’s a Doha drive through. Don’t go into the restaurant unless you want to get some really funny looks. As far as shawarma goes, they all serve it, but Shawarma King is the best.
Anyways, back to the Shawarma. I ordered a spicy shawarma with fries and a hummus, and had pretty much no idea what I was ordering. It came out, spicy chicken and french fries wrapped in a flat bread with a side of pickles and hummus. It was so good. Spicy, with crispy/fluffy fries, acidic pickles and the garlic mayo. Absolutely essential. The creamy hummus to cool it down. When I tell you this is theeee best thing I ever ate, I mean it.
So I’ve tried to find a shawarma in the U.S. that can even come close to Shawarma King and I can’t. Which meant I had to learn to make it myself.
So anyways, 2 years post-Doha, and here we are, with the most authentic at-home shawarma recipe.
What’s all in it? This one might be just a touch more excessive than what you’d get at shawarma king, but everything on it is there for a reason. The flat bread is homemade, but don’t be intimidated. It’s so easy and the texture is perfect. The chicken is marinated in the classic Middle Eastern spices, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and a few others. Plus greek yogurt and lemon juice. To make it spicy I added a couple Tbsp of Sriracha and a sliced jalapeño. Then it all gets topped with tzatziki, garlic mayo, feta crumbles, cilantro, tahini, and of course, french fries! I’m missing the pickles here, but you should definitely add those too.
Substitutions and Add On’s
- For the fries I use my Extra Crispy Oven Fries recipe. You can always use store bought fries. You can certainly omit them, but what’s the fun in that?
- For the marinade, most of the spices are easy to find. If you can’t find fenugreek, omit it.
- Cilantro can be omitted or substituted for parsley.
- The wrap doesn’t have to be homemade. You can use store bought naan or a pita pocket (note it’ll be a little different) or your favorite flatbread/wrap.
- Tahini can be substituted with hummus.
- If you want a vegan shawarma, use chickpeas instead of chicken, plant based yogurt for the marinade and tzatziki, substitute avocado for mayo, and use any plant based milk for the flatbreads. Omit the feta.
- You can add any hot sauce you want for extra heat, pickled jalapeños are awesome, melted cheese, because why not. Lettuce, tomato, and red onion are all great if you want something fresh.
Tips and Tricks
- Make this recipe on a day when you have some extra time to put into dinner. Between the bread , the fries and the sauces, it takes about an hour.
- Leave plenty of time for the chicken to marinade. 4-8 hours is perfect, but you want at least one hour. I like to start the marinating in the morning so it’s perfect when I’m ready for dinner.
- You can marinade the chicken and soak the french fries at the same time so it’s less work when you’re ready to actually make dinner.
- You can also make the sauces ahead of time to make the actual dinner easier on yourself.
- Don’t mess with the garlic mayo! Somethings are just meant to be simple and this is one of them. Don’t underestimate it or try to shmooze it up. This is exactly how they do it in the Middle East and it’s perfect.
- There’s quite a few different recipes that go into making this one wrap, which might make the directions a bit confusing, so here’s a timeline/breakdown of the most efficient way to go about this. Of course always remember to work at your own pace and trust your instincts when it comes to cooking.
- 4-8 hrs ahead of time: Marinate the chicken, cut and soak the fries, and make the garlic mayo and tzatziki. Everything can hang out in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
- When it’s time to cook: First bake the chicken. While the chicken is in the oven, make the bread dough and let it rest in a warm place, I use the microwave.
- When the chicken is finished, move it to a plate and let it hang out in a warm place until everything else is ready to go.
- Start cooking the fries. While the fries are cooking, finish up with the bread. Take all your sauces out of the fridge and get all toppings ready.
- Once the fries are done, slice the chicken and start putting everything together how you want it.
|Prep: 45 Mins||Cook: 1 Hr||Active Time: 1 Hr 45 Min||Down Time: 4-8 Hrs||Servings: 2|
For the Chicken
- 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (or 2 breasts)
- 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice, about half a lemon
- 1/2 C Plain Greek Yogurt
- 3 Cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tsp Ground Cumin
- 2 tsp Ground Turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Ground Fenugreek
- 3/4 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne
- 2 Tbsp Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce), optional
- 1 Jalapeño, seeds removed and cut in half, optional
For the Bread
- 1 C All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 C Milk (fat content doesn’t matter, just use what you’ve got.)
- 1 tsp Dry Yeast
For the Garlic Mayo
- 1 Clove Garlic
- 1/4 C Mayo
- 1/4 tsp Salt
For the Tzatziki
- 1/2 C Greek Yogurt
- 1/4 C Cucumber, grated
- 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- Squeeze of Lemon Juice
- 1 recipe of Crispiest Oven Fries
- Feta Cheese Crumbles
- Pickle Slices
- Chopped Cilantro
- 4-8 hours ahead of time, start marinating the chicken. In a medium bowl add olive oil, all spices, greek yogurt, lemon juice, hot sauce, jalapeños, and garlic. Taste to make sure everything is to your liking (salt/heat/acid) then add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate 4-8 hours.
- If you’re making fries by hand, this is a good time to start those as well.
- Make the tzatziki sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.
- Make the garlic mayo by adding one clove of either microplaned or finely minced garlic to 1/4 C of mayo. Season with salt to taste. It should be a little spicy.
- When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place the chicken on a parchment lined sheet tray. Be sure to spoon any extra marinade onto the chicken before cooking and place the garlic cloves and jalapeño on the tray as well.
- Bake 25-30 minutes, or until completely cooked all the way through. Flip the chicken over after 10 minutes.
- In the mean time, start making the bread. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, heat the milk until it’s just above room temperature. Whisk in the yeast and let it sit until the top is foamy.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Mix well.
- Add the milk/yeast to the flour mixture and stir until a ball forms. Remove from the bowl and on a lightly floured surface, knead into a smooth ball. Cut the ball in two equal halves and roll both into balls.
- Place each half in its own small, greased bowl. Cover with plastic and rest in a warm place until it’s doubled in size, 20-30 minutes.
- Once the chicken is done, move it to a plate to rest before cutting into it. Start cooking the fries according to your recipe or the package instructions.
- Once the bread is risen, (the chicken should be done and the fries should be almost finished cooking) roll each piece out into a thin, circular wrap. About 1/8 inch thick.
- In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, bring 1 tsp of vegetable oil up in temperature, then add the rolled out bread to the pan making sure it’s totally flat and unfolded.
- Once the bread starts to puff up and get air bubbles, it’s ready to flip. 2-3 minutes.
- Cook the bread all the way through on both sides, 4-5 minutes.
- Once everything is fully cooked, slice the chicken and place it in the middle of the wrap, add the fries, tzatziki, garlic mayo, tahini, pickles, cilantro and feta or any other toppings you want.
As always, I hope you enjoyed this recipe! If you tried it out let me know in the comments. For more recipes check out my homepage and follow along on Instagram. Don’t forget to like, follow, comment and share. Thanks for reading!