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)

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

PrintPrep15 minutes Cook Time50 minutes


  • 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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