Shawarma Chicken Wraps are flavorful and fun to eat. This recipe makes it possible to recreate a popular street food in your home kitchen. I’ve been making these Shawarma Chicken Wraps for the past eight years, and my kids love them. They’re packed with flavor (the garlic mayonnaise compliments the spiced chicken perfectly), and look like a burrito or taco so it’s a great way to introduce something new to your family.
Have you ever heard of Shawarma chicken? I started exploring Middle Eastern cooking in 2012 when I discovered Faith Gorsky’s cookbook, An Edible Mosaic. The first recipes I tried were Shawarma chicken and her Zucchini Fritters). Faith’s cookbook provides so many little tips and tricks that are incredibly helpful, including how to duplicate the crispy pieces of Chicken Shawarma that you might get at one of the little shops in the Middle East that specialize in this sandwich.
I watched a few videos and read several blog posts about Shawarma and it seems there is almost a cult-like following. In fact, people seek out the very best Shawarma shops and do their own taste testing. Faith says that in populated areas you might see half a dozen Shawarma vendors within a few blocks.
The spices in Shawarma are almost curry-like, comprised of a laundry list of aromatic spices – cumin, coriander, cardamon, ginger, allspice, fenugreek, cloves, paprika, turmeric, cayenne and black pepper. I actually had all these spices (you should see my spice drawer!) in either whole or ground form, so I was able to recreate the recipe from An Edible Mosaic exactly as written.
Shawarma is eaten in Arab countries, Israel, Mexico (introduced by Middle-Eastern immigrants), Pakistan, South Africa and the United Kingdom, and the meats, toppings and sauce vary depending on the country. Traditionally, Shawarma is made with chicken, lamb, beef, or goat that has been marinated, and is wrapped and cooked on a vertical rotisserie (similar to Greek gyro meat). When an order is placed, meat is shaved off and served as a wrapped sandwich (using pita bread or Lavash flatbread) with fresh vegetables (cucumbers, tomato, lettuce, onions), pickles and a sauce or two (a garlic sauce called Toumieh and sometimes Sesame Sauce).
I wanted to make a Chicken Shawarma as authentic as possible, so I made the Cucumber Pickles a week ago, marinated the chicken overnight, and made a batch of Garlic Mayonnaise (highly recommended by Faith) as well as Sesame Sauce.
Finding the proper bread proved to be easier than I thought – our local Greek store had whole wheat pocketless pita and I found oat bran/whole wheat lavash flatbread in the deli section of a supermarket.
Although this sandwich is considered fast food in the Middle East, it does require some preparation of all the different components, but it is well worth the effort. Faith uses a clever trick to replicate the crispy chicken pieces of an authentic Shawarma.
After marinating the chicken overnight in lots of spices and yogurt, the chicken is cooked twice – first baked, then sauteed. This extra step makes the chicken chewier and crispy, and results in authentic-tasting shawarma according to Faith.
I actually used four different wrappers for my Shawarma – Lavash Flatbread made with Whole Wheat and Oatbran (which was the easiest to roll up), Whole Wheat Pocketless Pita Bread (I found this at our local Greek market), Corn Tortillas (for a gluten-free version), and Collard Wraps (I got collards in my CSA Box and have been wanting to try them as a wrapper). For toppings, I chose fresh tomato, lettuce, onions and Cucumber Pickles.
The boys really loved these Shawarma Wraps – and Faith was right, the Garlic Mayonnaise definitely made the sandwich. Personally, I liked the garlicky Sesame Sauce and have been slathering it on just about anything I can think of. I’m starting to wonder if I smell like garlic everywhere I go.
These Shawarma Wraps were so good, I wish our fast food joints sold something this tasty.
I highly recommend doubling the recipe for this Shawarma Chicken and using it for your weekly meal prep – delicious! I included a small container of the garlic mayonnaise (cheat: mash garlic with salt and mix with mayonnaise), and included a simple cucumber tomato salad with crumbled feta, and pita bread).
Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps (SHAWARMA DAJAJ)
- 1 batch Shawarma Spice Mix
- ½ cup 125 ml plain yogurt
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 large cloves garlic crushed
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 lb 1 kg boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for sautéing
- 16 ﬂatbreads
Shawarma Spice Mix
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¹/8 teaspoon ground red pepper cayenne (optional)
- 1 cup 250 ml hot water
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar 7-10 Persian or Japanese cucumbers washed and ends slightly trimmed
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- Puriﬁed water to cover the cucumber
- ½ teaspoon oil
- 2 cloves garlic crushed in a mortar and pestle with ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg whites or 1 large egg
- 1 cup 250 ml oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cold water
Prepare the Shawarma Spice Mix.
Combine the spice mix with the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F and spread 1 tablespoon of oil on the inside of a large baking dish.
Scrape off any excess marinade from the chicken with your hands. Starting in the center of the oiled dish, arrange the chicken so that it overlaps, and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on top. Bake (uncovered) 1 hour, or until the chicken is fully cooked; cool. (It’s done when you cut into the center and there is no pink.)
Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer it to a large cutting board; slice it very thinly across the grain, then transfer it back into the pan it was cooked in to soak up the juices (the chicken can be refrigerated this way for up to 3 days before continuing with the rest of the recipe, or you can continue after 10 minutes).
Coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat with oil. Once hot, add the sliced chicken and sauté until crispy and golden brown (you may need to sauté the chicken in two or three batches so the pan isn’t overcrowded).
Spread some Garlic Mayonnaise in the center of each piece of bread; add some chicken and pickles (and any other vegetables you like) and roll it up.
Toast the sandwiches on a dry griddle or a ﬂat sandwich press so that the bread gets golden brown and slightly crispy.
Serve as is, or cut into small rounds; serve with additional Garlic Mayonnaise for dipping.
Combine the 1 cup (250 ml) hot water, salt, and sugar in a large measuring cup with a pour spout; stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved and then cool to room temperature.
Sterilize a 1-liter (1.06 qt) canning jar.
Cut the cucumbers into spears by cutting them in half lengthwise, and then cutting each half lengthwise into 3 equal pieces.
Put 1 clove of garlic in the bottom of the jar, add the cucumber spears, and then add the other clove of garlic on top.
Pour in the water/salt/sugar mixture, then add enough puriﬁed water so that the cucumbers are completely covered, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of free space at the top.
Let the jar sit at room temperature to form pickles. The pickles are ready to eat when the cucumber turns khaki green in color, and they smell faintly of vinegar. This will take about 5 to 7 days in hot weather and 15 to 20 days in colder weather.
Once the pickles are ready to eat, drizzle in the oil and store refrigerated.
Crush the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle until it forms a smooth paste.
Whisk together the garlic paste and egg until well blended.
Add the oil, drop-by-drop, while whisking (after you’ve added 1 tablespoon of oil drop-by-drop, you can add the oil a little faster). Make sure the oil you add is fully incorporated before adding any more.
Once you’ve added ½ cup (125 ml) oil, alternate between gradually adding the oil and lemon juice and continue mixing until fully incorporated.
Add the cold water and mix until smooth and creamy.
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.