Shwarma, shawarma, donair, döner, or kebap, is a Middle Eastern preparation of spiced and marinated meat that is slowly roasted upright, on a spit. No matter what you call it, it’s delicious and one of my all time favourite foods. It can be made with chicken, beef, lamb or any combination. You can find it served in a pita, on a laffa, or any other type of local flat bread. It is also commonly eaten as part of an entrée with salad, rice and/or potatoes. If you venture to central Mexico you will find a very similar dish, typically made using pork, called ‘al pastor’ (shepherd style), which likely arrived with Lebanese immigrants. If you ask me, the Mexicans do it best by serving their version on a tortilla! What can I say? I’m partial to tacos!
Shwarma typically takes at least two days to prepare. The meat needs to be marinated for at least 24 hours before it is arranged on a very large metal spit and slowly roasted for hours. Before serving, the meat is sliced (either by hand or with an electric meat shaver) and usually crisped over a griddle top. The whole process is time-consuming and requires specialty kitchen equipment, which makes it particularly difficult for home cooks who want to enjoy some freshly-made shwarma at home. Sure, you can order some take-out if you want, but I think shwarma needs to be eaten fresh and on the spot. The meat needs to be juicy and crispy and the only way to get that magical combination of textures is to devour it immediately.
For the past year or so I’ve been tinkering with this recipe. I’ve worked diligently to figure out a way to not only recreate the flavours and textures I love so much, but also to do it without any of the kitchen gadgets I lack. Yes, I could have purchased this Shwarma Grill on Amazon for a hundred bucks, but I have this odd feeling that I would use it only once before it got stashed away, never to see the light of day again.
I also wanted to see if I could cut the prep time. There is a time and place for marinating meat and yes, this chicken does taste better when left to soak in all of those beautiful spices overnight. However, it tastes very, very good without any of the marinating time. As with my Emergency Roast Chicken recipe, you can make the decision to marinate or not.
I’m very happy to say that at long last, I think I’ve finally done it! At least, I’m as close as I’m going to get to delicious homemade shwarma without taking a trip to the Middle East and begging vendors to share their secrets with me. If I’m being honest, I knew for a long time that the secret to this dish was cooking the meat in a cast-iron skillet.
What took me forever to figure out was the spice-mixture. I tried countless combinations but nothing really brought me back to my memories of eating shwarma in Israel or my favourite spots in Toronto. Speaking of, you’ll notice that there are quite a few spices used in this recipe. Each is as important as the next, no matter how small the measurement. I, therefore, encourage you to use all of the spices and if you don’t have them, seek them out! A Middle Eastern grocery store is probably your best best. Otherwise, you may have to order online if that is an option.
Given the fact that this recipe takes less than 20 minutes to prepare, start to finish, I have to go on record in saying that I hesitate to call it proper shwarma. Instead, I would call it a bootleg version since I skip all of the marinade time and don’t use a spit. Having said that, I would put this up against the top spots in my city and think you will love it. Oh, it just so happens to be Whole30 compliant as well!
Whole30 Chicken Shwarma
For Chicken Shwarma
- 2 Lbs Boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
- 1 Tsp onion powder
- 1 Tsp Cumin powder
- 1/2 Tsp turmeric
- 1/2 Tsp Cayenne pepper
- 1/2 Tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 Tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 Tsp Cardamom powder
- 1 Tsp kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp avocado oil
- sumac powder for garnish
For Garlic Sauce
- 1/2 Cup Whole30/Paleo compliant Mayonaise
- 1-2 Cloves Raw garlic Finely grated
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
For Garlic Sauce
- Add mayo, garlic and lemon juice to a small mixing bowl. Stir until fully combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For Chicken Shwarma
- Rinse and pat chicken dry with paper towel. Slice into thin strips, width-wise, and transfer to mixing bowl along with all of the spices and 2 tbsp avocado oil.
- Preheat cast-iron skillet over med-high heat. Add 1 tbsp of avocado oil and the chicken. Spread meat evenly across the pan and cook undisturbed until browned (approx. 6-8min). Note: you may have to cook in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Flip chicken and cook additional 4-5 minutes or until fully cooked through and crispy.
- Serve shwarma with a side salad, potatoes and/or cauliflower rice. Drizzle garlic sauce overtop and season everything with a dash or two of sumac.
56 replies on “Whole30 Chicken Shwarma”
This was so good!!! My husband ate it up and so did my kids (well, the chicken and potatoes at least 🙂 ). The key is to really let the chicken thighs chill in the skillet- the crispy crunch that they get is amazing. And the garlic mayo?!….OMG!
Amazing! So glad you guys enjoyed!
This was amazing! The best recipe we have ever had on Whole30. The garlic sauce and the chicken were fantastic! Thank you!
Amazing! Very happy to hear it!
Anyone made this with Chicken Breast? Ive got some dark meat haters in the fam…
If using chicken breast, I suggest using the spice rub but pan-roasting the breast whole (don’t slice it thin first). My fear is that it will overcook and dry out before the outside can develop a crust, which is key!
I’m on day 6 of Whole30, and I am not kidding when I say this recipe is life-changingly delicious. My roommate (who is also on day 6 of Whole30) and I love our local greek restaurant and find ourselves going there waaaay too often. I expected this recipe to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be better-than-our-favorite-restaurant-good. Thanks so much for this!
You’ve made me a very happy food blogger! Thrilled that you guys enjoy the recipe!
Made this last night… WOW. amazing. We cheated and served them in pita wraps with cucs, tomatoes, onion, and the magic gaahhlic sauce. bomb. Also roasted some fingerlings on the side. The thighs were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. My S.O. doesn’t love dark meat so I will try to rub the spices on a breast and grill her up.
Fantastic! Very happy to hear you enjoyed!
This recipe is awesome!! Thanks for doing the spice research, the taste is indistinguishable from what we order at our Greek place – I’ve tried half a dozen different recipes and this is by far the best and most authentic. You absolutely nailed it my man, great job!
Very happy to hear you enjoyed! It was a labour of love to play with all the spices!
Made this recipe last night and it was amazing! Even the fam not doing Whole30 loved it.
So happy to hear you guys enjoyed!
I happened upon this recipe today and since I had boneless skinless chicken thighs to use up and needed something different, I tried mixing together that amazing combination of spices in your recipe, rubbing it onto the chicken and then just cooking it all up whole in a cast iron pan. My husband is NOT an adventurous eater, but after a little encouragement, he tried it and liked it. The rest of us were sure it would be good just smelling the aroma of spices coming from the pan. Thanks so much!!! This is making it into my cooking rotation and I look forward to putting together the full recipe when I get a chance.
🙂 So glad you enjoyed!
I love this recipe! I’ve made it at least four times and its becoming a staple in my household – especially during a round of Whole30. Thank you!
🙂 So glad you enjoyed!
So good! My bf absolutely loved it!
🙂 So glad you enjoyed!
Trying to make this tomorrow and we are so excited(we spent a few years in Germany and and ate döner weekly) we are legit following your blog for dinners religiously!
Just Wanted to know if you had some ideas of what to get for the side salad to keep it feeling as authentic as possible. I see it in the picture but didn’t see the ingredients listed. Thanks so much, keep up the awesome recipes!
So glad you enjoy the recipes! For the salad, I like crisp, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. You can also add things like pickled spicy peppers and pickled turnips. I often use the Bootleg Mayo as the salad dressing but a simple oil and vinegar combination with a sprinkling of dried mint overtop is very good!
Don’t often comment on recipes but this one is SO freaking good that I just had to! Thank you for putting these flavors together, such a treat that I want to break into the leftovers and we just finished dinner an hour ago. Highly recommend!
So happy to hear you enjoyed! Thank you for your message!
Ummm! Hello! No video or music? OK fine. I made it anyway (FYI: I selected a Spotify Daily Mix because I wasn’t sure what you would choose;-). This is seriously OUTSTANDING and so easy! I sent the recipe to my daughter right away who is a shwarma-aholic. Served with baby potatoes (because I’m a copy-cat) and mixed roasted veggies (to clean the fridge out). Ronny’s tip to heat up pan, batches if necessary and not turning chicken for 7 or so minutes is key. For me, chicken thighs is a must in this recipe. So moist. Thank you for this and the other recipes I’ve tried…..not to mention your IG videos. Love them all! 🙂
🙂 So happy to hear you enjoyed! Thank you for letting me know!
Amateur over here. Would i be wise to let the chicken set in this marinade overnight? Or am i being an overachiever?
You can definitely let the chicken sit in the spices overnight if desired!
Made this for dinner last night along with @thedefineddish Greek potatoes and Ina Garten’s greek salad (minus the feta) and it was A-MAZING! My husband loved it, he actually laughed when I told him it was all Whole30! Job VERY well done, Ronny! Cant wait to eat the leftovers for lunch today. 😀
So glad that you both enjoyed! Thank you for letting me know!
Hi, excited to try this out!
I own a few different types of cinnamon and was wondering which one you recommend I use for this recipe? I have Ceylon, Korintje, and Vietnamese.
I’ve never tried Korintje or Vietnamese cinnamon. The recipe calls for very little so my guess is any of them would work.
Does the spice blend call for 1/2t cardamom or 1/2Tbsp? it says ‘Ttsp’ and didn’t know if typo for tsp or tbsp…! Making the shwarma thighs you posted on instastories, and just wanted to clarify 🙂 Thanks!! Super excited to make!!!
Sorry about that! It’s a 1/2 teaspoon. I’ve edited the typo – thank you for spotting it.
Love this recipe! My husband doesn’t usually like chicken thigh but with as thinly as this is sliced and the crispy outside that it gets, he didn’t even realize it was the thigh! The flavor is outstanding and it is a super quick meal for when you just have a few minutes to throw a quick dinner together.
So happy to hear you both enjoyed!
Amazing, had this restaurant pinned for awhile now. So glad I had the time to try it.
So glad you enjoyed!
This is the best homemade shawarma recipe, period! We have tried other paleo recipes (and non-paleo recipes) and this one blows them out of the water!
This is just sooo good!! It’s a family favorite.
Best whole 30 recipe I made on my whole 30! Still make it like once a week!
We have made this at least 10-12 times and it will be a recipe we go back to again and again. Incredible flavor!
I made this for dinner – fantastic! I made a couple of minor modifications: I used a mix of chicken breast and thigh and added a bit of garlic powder (along with other seasonings) to the chicken. Served as suggested with garlic mayo, roasted potatos and salad. Will make again!
The flavors in this are unreal. Such a great recipe!!!
I made this and shared it with my sister and her familyy and she asked for the recipe. I’d say that’s a winner!!
Made this tonight, absolutely delicious! Going on the dinner rotation. Thank you for the great recipe.
made this dish for dinner and it was delicious! My only thought is that next time I might saute the minced garlic for the sauce, as it was quite sharp and left a bit of an after taste. I also substituted jalapeno pepper for the green pepper in the salad, which gave the salad a nice kick. I will definitely be making this again and would highly recommend.
This was incredible! I couldn’t find cardamom anywhere but I still think it’s awesome. I will be making this regularly
Ronnie, this recipe is amazing. I saw your stories the other day making your shawarma dinner and I knew I had to make it ASAP. So good, didn’t change a thing except I couldn’t get cardamom in my grocery order. Made the salad that you showed in your stories, subbing the mint for fresh parsley. One of the best meals I’ve made (and definitely the tastiest chicken I’ve ever cooked). Thank you so much!
WOW. Delicious and filling while still being light! We are stuffed over here
WOW!!! One of my favorite restaurants is a Lebanese place that makes amazing chicken shawarma. I think this recipe may top it, which is saying a lot. So so so good!
Absolutely delicious! This is a complete fail safe recipe! For the tastiest and healthiest fake-away ever! I’ve made it at least four times and every time is as good as the first! Make sure you let the chicken crisp up undisturbed for those 6-8 minutes. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing recipes.
How would this work using tofu instead of chicken??
I’ve never tried it so I can’t say.