Middle Eastern Chicken Shawarma

Simple chicken shawarma recipe

The Spruce

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 55 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Middle Eastern chicken shawarma is a delicious pita sandwich recipe made with thinly sliced seasoned chicken, veggies, and sauce wrapped in a pita bread.

Shawarma is the ultimate on-the-go meal. If you've never had shawarma, you are truly missing out on a delightful quick meal. Like a fast-food burger with its ketchup and mustard, shawarma is not complete unless it has a sauce to go with it. Before attempting a recipe, please read all about shawarma pita.


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  • For the Marinade
  • 1 cup yogurt (plain)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon
  • For the Chicken
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts (boneless, skinless, thinly cut)
  • For the Sauce
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt
  • For the Sandwich
  • 1 onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 to 2 tomatoes (thinly sliced)
  • 1 cucumber (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)
  • Optional: pickle slices
  • 8 small pita breads (4 large pita breads)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this chicken shawarma dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Marinade

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for marinade
    The Spruce
  2. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, vinegar, crushed garlic, pepper, salt, cardamom, allspice, and juice of 1 lemon, until well mixed. 

    Combine yogurt and spices in a bowl
    The Spruce
  3. Add chicken, coating well with marinade. If mixture seems too dry, add olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you've achieved the right consistency. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Cook the Chicken

  1. In a stockpot or large saucepan, cook chicken over medium heat for 20 minutes or until done. Be sure not to overcook!

    Cook chicken
    The Spruce 
  2. If chicken becomes a little dry, add a few tablespoons of water.

  3. When the chicken is done, you can shred it or leave it in larger slices.

Prepare the Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for sauce
    The Spruce 
  2. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, mix together tahini, crushed garlic, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons yogurt, mixing well. Set aside.

Assemble the Sandwich

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for sandwich
    The Spruce 
  2. To a large bowl, add onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and sprinkle with sumac. Add the parsley and optional pickle slices and mix well. Set aside.

    Vegetables in a bowl
    The Spruce
  3. Place enough chicken on each pita so that it covers 1/4 of the bread. Add veggies and pour some sauce over all. Roll like a burrito and you have shawarma! You also can slit the pita open to form a pocket and stuff it.

    Chicken shawarma sandwich
    The Spruce
  4. You can serve shawarma with fries, falafelhummus, or with a Middle Eastern salad like tabouleh.


  • The chicken will need to marinate for 8 hours or overnight, so plan accordingly.

Optional Sauces for Shawarma

There are several sauces that go well with shawarma. You can squeeze the sauce on like ketchup with a condiment dispenser or dip each bite of sandwich in it. Here are some popular shawarma sauces:

  • Tahini Sauce: This sesame-based sauce is a staple in Middle Eastern cooking. It is commonly served with shawarma.

  • Falafel Hot Sauce: Yes, it says falafel, but it is great on shawarma. Be careful, it is definitely spicy.

  • Tarator Sauce: This is the secret sauce that Middle Eastern restaurants won't tell you about. Well, the secret is out and this sauce is just as easy to make as it is delicious! Tarator combines tahini with garlic to make a fantastic sauce.