Chicken Shawarma Style ⁑

Shawarma is a middle east meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, buffalo meat, or mixed meats are placed on a rotating spit and grilled perhaps as long as a day. Shavings are cut off for serving on a plate or as a sandwich or wrap. Accompaniments may include tabbouleh, fattoush, taboon bread, tomato, and cucumber. Toppings include tahini, hummus, and pickled turnips.

I don’t have a spit in my kitchen range, and the outdoor barbecue is too inconvenient to use, especially in winter. A true shawarma turns and cooks at length, basting in the exuding fats from the meats—and fat over an open flame brings flavor. Clearly, emulating a true shawarma in the low-fat kitchen is going to be a challenge! So, the best I can do in this orientation is a shawarma style dish—here, chicken with tahini sauce and tomato-cucumber relish. I’m no shawarma expert, but I think the recipe below is delicious, whether it would be acclaimed so by experts, or not.

Above all, do not replace the chicken thighs with breast meat! This dish really needs dark meat to make it taste great.

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1 tbsp shawarma spice mix
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Shawarma Spice Mix
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

Place the chicken and marinating condiments above into a plastic bag, seal, knead, and evenly coat all the chicken pieces well. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a flat pan with non-stick foil and spray with olive oil.

Lay the chicken out evenly on the pan and reserve the marinade. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn and roast another 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Slice the chicken thinly. Put the reserved marinade in a sauté pan and bring to a medium-hot setting. When the juices have boiled away, add the chicken slices and sauté for 3–4 minutes until brown and crispish. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Tahini cup sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tahini paste
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • ¼ lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp <salt>
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley (optional)

Place all ingredients except the last into the bowl of a food processor or blender and buzz at a medium speed until the sauce is creamy. If using a blender, you may need to stop and use a long-handled spoon to break up any clumps under the blades. If the sauce is too thick, slowly add more water or lemon juice until it reaches the preferred taste and consistency (thicker is better).

Transfer to a serving bowl and add the parsley.

Tomato cucumber relish
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried leaf oregano
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, in ¼” dice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ small red onion, diced
  • <salt> and pepper, to taste

When the above are completed, fill a low-carb flour tortilla with the meat and serve with the tahini sauce and relish.

Traditional accompaniments include tzatziki, hummus, and beet salad.

Serves 4.