Oven Chicken Shawarma is the easiest, no fuss shawarma you could make and it’s just packed with flavor. Juicy and delicious and so adaptable. A Middle Eastern classic made so approachable!
What is shawarma?
A very common dish in the Middle East, shawarma is thinly sliced meat that’s cooked by roasting in a turning vertical rotisserie. Shawarma is full of exotic spices, and therefore full of flavor.
It’s a really popular street food, usually sold in sandwiches that are laden with garlic sauce or tahini sauce, pickles and tomatoes. It’s very affordable, and so common. Everyone has their favorite shawarma sandwich!
What makes this shawarma so good:
It’s easy! Marinate chicken, and bake it!
It’s full of flavor from the spice mix- and on that note, it uses a homemade spice mix instead of storebought stuff.
It’s healthy, made with chicken breast. It can also be made low carb if you serve this on salad instead of with bread.
How to make shawarma at home:
Some recipes call for pan frying the meat, some recipes use an outdoor grill. I wanted to make it as easy and convenient as possible, so I decided on oven baked shawarma. No standing over frying pans or a hot grill. This works amazingly well!
To cut down on cooking time, the chicken is cut into strips before going into the oven. Before cooking, we just need a simple marinade for the chicken.
Why marinate chicken?
It adds so much flavor and juiciness to the chicken. The olive oil in this marinate is the perfect fat to get the chicken to cook through in the oven, and the mix of the spices with the oil coats the chicken to get all the warm flavor of the spices infused into the chicken.
What kind of chicken to use for shawarma:
I’m sure that most recipes online call for chicken thighs. We are a chicken breast family. Just like in these chicken tacos, I went with chicken breasts instead of thighs. Don’t let anyone tell you chicken breast won’t be fabulous in shawarma!
Plus, it’s healthier too. If you really want to, feel free to substitute chicken thigh, but if you prefer breasts but were worried about using breast for shawarma, I’m here to tell you don’t worry!
What goes in a shawarma marinade?
Spice: In the Middle East, shawarma spices are very commonly sold. You don’t need them. Make your own, probably more superior, spice mix right at home.
Lots of warming spices: cumin powder, mixed spice, turmeric garlic powder, ginger powder, paprika, salt and pepper.
If you can’t find mixed spice, you can make your own here, or just add a little cinnamon and the rest of the spices in the mix.
Garlic: a natural pairing for chicken
Olive Oil: to coat the chicken and make it juicy.
Lemon juice and white vinegar: they help tenderize the chicken and add some acidity.
Yogurt: Adds so much moistness and tang to the chicken
How to cook oven chicken shawarma at home:
The best thing about this oven chicken shawarma is that it’s baked in the oven instead of messier methods.
After the chicken marinates, place it in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. You want it to be spread out so that the chicken isn’t on top of each other in the oven, resulting in soggy chicken instead of crisp.
You need to make sure your oven is hot before the chicken goes in. It only needs 20 minutes or so to cook through.
My tip to get that golden brown crispy texture on some bits of shawarma: once chicken cooks through, drizzle with a little olive oil, then put it back in the oven on the broil function for 2- 3 minutes. It’ll get a beautiful color and texture!
My photos were actually taken before the broiling happened, because I prepped the chicken in advance, took photos, and broiled it right before eating to reheat.
What to serve shawarma with?
Easy homemade shawarma sauce, two ways, like in this post!
This shawarma tray is perfect for serving with pita bread and an assortment of toppings.
The idea is to have everyone assemble their own shawarma sandwich the way they like, much like my popular chicken and beef tacos recipe.
We like to mix together tomato, parsley and red onions that we dress with a little olive oil and salt. It makes the perfect salad to top the shawarma with once you put it in bread.
Shawarma is definitely best served with pickles! If you want a great side dish, try these air fryer sweet potato fries.
How to make shawarma sauce:
Shawarma is traditionally served with one of two types of sauces, either a garlic sauce (usually for chicken shawarma) or a tahini sauce (usually for beef shawarma).
I actually did a version of both sauces for these, but I included the recipe for the yogurt garlic sauce because that was the perfect pairing.
Making a yogurt garlic shawarma sauce is as easy as mixing together yogurt and labneh (if you can’t find labneh, replace the yogurt and labneh mix with just Greek yogurt). Add a squeeze of lemon juice, crushed garlic to taste, and a tiny bit of white vinegar for some tang.
Oven Chicken Shawarma
- 1 kg chicken breasts 2.5 pounds, or 6 chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon mixed spices (seven spices)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika powder
- 1 small container yogurt 170g (8 oz)
Yogurt Garlic Sauce for serving:
- small container plain yogurt 170g (8 oz)
- 2 tablespoon labneh Or, replace plain yogurt with Greek yogurt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- squeeze lemon juice
- Cut chicken into strips, and clean of any fatty bits. Place in a large bowl. (You can also get your butcher to cut it for you)
- Pour olive oil over the chicken, then add all the minced garlic and all the spices. Toss very well to combine, might be easier to do this with a gloved hand. Add the yogurt and toss to combine thoroughly.
- Place chicken in fridge for 3 hours or overnight to marinate. If you have to cut down on marination time, that's fine, just marinate for however long you can.
- Once the chicken has finished marinating, heat the oven to 220 C (425F). Place chicken strips on baking sheet (we lined ours with parchment paper)and make sure you spread them out so they are all in a single layer.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until cooked through. Halfway through, use a metal spatula or tongs to move the strips around and separate any that have clumped together.
- Optional, but recommended. After the chicken has cooked through, drizzle with some olive oil and put back into the oven, this time on broil function. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until the top is browned in places. I took my photographs before broiling, in case you were wondering about the color of my chicken.
To make the garlic yogurt sauce:
- Mix together the yogurt and labneh, or just greek yogurt, crushed garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. You can whisk, or use a little blender. Refrigerate until ready to use.
If you liked this recipe, you might like: