Chicken Shawarma – Air Fryer/ Instant Pot/ Oven

May 22, 2020 By Aneesha |

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This easy Chicken Shawarma is bursting with rich flavors of garlic, paprika and cumin that highlight tender and juicy chicken. It’s a popular street-food classic made-at-home in the Air Fryer, Oven or Instant Pot. Pile it high in fresh pita with yogurt sauce and salad for a spectacular Middle Eastern meal.

chicken shawarma with lettuce, tomato and tzatziki in wrap

Juicy & Tender Chicken Shawarma Recipe

Is there anything more showstopping than chicken shawarma?

It features heavily spiced, juicy pieces of meat that are piled high on a giant spit and slow-roasted until tender. At restaurants, the succulent meat is carved directly off the rotisserie grill.

I like to think of it as a street-side flavor bomb.

Intimidating? Yes. Possible to recreate at home? Yes!

This delicious Mediterranean recipe is a breeze to put together and very family-friendly. A flavorful, juicy and tender chicken shawarma recipe can easily be prepared in one of three ways – the Air Fryer, Oven and Instant Pot!

Whatever method you choose, you’ll definitely be amazed.

chicken shawarma with lettuce, tomato and tzatziki in wrap

How Is Shawarma Prepared?

Shawarma is a popular street-food in Middle Eastern cuisine featuring thin pieces of meat stacked high in a cone-like shape and roasted on a slow-turning vertical rotisserie or spit.

The original meat was lamb or mutton, but more modern versions include chicken, turkey, beef or veal. Lamb fat may be added to provide extra fat for juiciness and flavor.

The spit continuously rotates as thin slices of meat are shaved off the cooked surface. It is the most popular filling for gyros and wraps, especially from street-food vendors.

Chicken Shawarma- A Much Easier Variation

Chicken shawarma is made by layering thinly-sliced grilled pieces of chicken with yogurt sauce and veggies wrapped in pita bread.

It is a widely popular on-the-go meal. And one my family enjoys on the regular! The best part is that it comes together with very little effort and tastes as good (if not better) than the street-version.

Ingredients

The ingredients to make this homemade chicken shawarma include boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see Shawarma Meat), garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and homemade gyro spice mix (see Homemade Shawarma Seasoning).

spices in small bowls, olive oil in glass bottle, chicken in ziplock bag

Once ready to assemble the shawarma rolls, gather together pitas pockets (or wraps), tzatziki, hummus, lettuce, tomato, olives and chili garlic sauce.

Keep in mind – if you decide to make chicken shawarma in the Instant Pot, you will also need 4 bamboo skewers and a large red onion. This helps form a stable stack of chicken.

Shawarma Spices

I make my own combination of the shawarma seasoning. I use the same spice mix for lamb shawarmas, beef shawarmas and even for rice and couscous. All you have to do is combine:

tender middle eastern chicken thighs on black plate

Shawarma Meat – Thighs vs Breasts

I prefer the darker, richer meat of chicken thighs. They have more flavor, plus, it’s much more difficult for chicken thighs to dry out as compared to chicken breasts. All I have to do is trim off the excess fat.

If you do use chicken breasts, make sure to marinate for at least 2 hours to keep it moist during and after cooking. Chicken thighs only need a quick 20-minute marination time.

On the occasion I do use chicken breasts, I half each breast in two and then cut it half length-wise.

How to Make Chicken Shawarma at Home

I used to solely rely on the oven broiler for homemade chicken shawarma, until I discovered three more cooking methods that work just as well – the Air Fryer, Oven or Instant Pot! Follow the same procedure for marinating the chicken, then choose one of three methods below.

My preferred method depends on the quantity that I’m making. If it’s just the two of us, then the airfryer it is. But If I am making it for all four, or doubling up the recipe (which is what I do mostly), then oven broiler gets the job done in one go!

Marinate Chicken

  • Trim excess fat from chicken thighs and pat dry using paper towels. Add the chicken to a large mixing bowl, or like in this case, a gallon size ziplock bag (easy clean-up).
  • Add minced garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to the chicken, seal the bag tightly and toss to coat the chicken (Pic 1).
  • In a small bowl, mix all the spices – salt, paprika (smoked and regular), red pepper flakes, coriander, cumin, cinnamon (Pic 2).
  • Add spices to the chicken, seal the bag tightly and toss to coat the chicken with the spices evenly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes – 2 hours (Pics 3 & 4).
chicken in ziplock bag with spices in bowls, two hands marinating chicken

Chicken Shawarma in Air Fryer

  • Place the chicken in the air fryer basket in a single layer and cook at 360°F for 12-14 minutes.
  • Since air fryer times vary, check at 12 minutes. If the chicken looks crisp on the outside and reads an internal temperature of 165°F or higher, the chicken is cooked.
spiced chicken thighs with fork in air fryer

Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Spread the chicken flat, giving enough room for the chicken (don’t crowd the baking sheet). 
  • Then turn on BROIL and put the chicken in about 2-3 inches away from the broiler. Bake for 8 minutes on the first side. Flip it and bake for 6 minutes on the second side.
spiced grilled chicken with cilantro and lemon wedges

Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma

  • Assemble the skewer stand for Chicken Shawarma. Take half an onion as a base. Then insert 4 bamboo skewers as 4 pillars on which the chicken will be stacked. Then, thread the meat pieces through those 4 skewers, one by one, forming a stable stack of chicken (Pics 1 & 2).
  • Pressure Cook: Place the trivet in the pressure cooker’s inner pot. Put 1 cup (2 cups for 8 qt) water in the pot. Place the chicken shawarma skewer stack on the trivet. Close the lid. Cook on MANUAL/Pressure Cook for 8 minutes (sealing mode). Release pressure naturally for 10 minutes, after which follow quick release method (Pics 3 & 4).
  • Cut Chicken: Remove the skewers and stand it straight (Pic 5), or lay them flat on a cutting board (pic 6) and slice the chicken lengthwise. You can keep removing the skewers as you cut the meat. As an optional step, you can place the chicken shawarma pieces on a lined baking tray and place it under the broiler for 2 minutes. This crisps up the edges and adds a grilled flavor to the shawarma.
Skewers in red onion, chicken on top and cooked in Instant Pot

Assemble a Chicken Shawarma Wrap

Go the street-food route and serve the thinly sliced meat in a store-bought pita or wrap with an array of toppings! Simply:

chicken on cutting board, tzatziki on wrap with lettuce, tomato, sliced chicken, two hands folding chicken wrap
  1. Cool the chicken for 10 minutes, then slice it thin into strips (Pic 1).
  2. Spread a couple of tablespoons of tzatziki or hummus on the wraps. Add lettuce or spinach leaves on top, followed by slices of tomato. Place the sliced chicken on that. Spoon some more tzatziki on top and fold the wrap (Pics 2-6).
  3. For an extra kick, add a teaspoon of chili garlic sauce after tzatziki. Wrap it in foil or parchment paper to enjoy as an on-the-go meal (Pics 7 & 8).

Chicken Pita Pockets

If you’re looking for a more authentic gyro with an easy-to-assemble method, go for a pita pocket. All you have to do is:

tzatziki spooned over a pita sandwich
  • Spread a couple of tablespoons of tzatziki or hummus on the pita pocket. Add lettuce or spinach leaves on top, followed by slices of tomato. Place the sliced chicken on that. Spoon some more tzatziki on top and fold the pita pocket. Enjoy! 🙂

How To Serve – Create a Middle Eastern Meal

Chicken Shawarma goes well with a variety of condiments that add a ton of flavor. Spoon a generous amount of tzatziki or hummus on top to balance the Middle Eastern spices.

For those nights when you want to transform this chicken shawarma recipe into a beautiful Middle Eastern meal, slice it at the table and serve it alongside:

middle eastern chicken with lettuce, tomato and tzatziki in wrap

Low-Carb Chicken Shawarma Bowl

My hubby and I love to pair this chicken shawarma with a giant bowl of Greek salad for a flavor-packed lunch or dinner.

It’s a wonderfully healthy, low-carb option for those days when you want something lighter but full of flavor!

sliced chicken over greek salad in white bowl

Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions

If you’re not short on time, feel free to marinate the chicken one day in advance. The chicken gets more flavorful as it sits in the marinade and spices, so I love to prep it the night before.

Once baked, the chicken shawarma can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Whenever the craving strikes, I pop out a few slices and assemble the meat into a gyro or on top of a greek salad for a complete meal.

Recipe Tips:

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs give the best results. If you wish, you can use chicken breast, but make sure to marinate it for at least 2 hours so the chicken stays moist.
  • Toss the chicken in the marinade before the spices. Coating the chicken with oil, garlic and lemon juice first and then the spice mix allows for the chicken to be evenly seasoned, leading to better flavors.
  • Use a combination of smoked and regular paprika to give a combination of smoky and sweet flavors. Alternatively, to skip the smoky flavors, you can use 2 teaspoons of regular paprika instead.
  • Make it a Low Carb Meal! Skip the pita or wrap and enjoy chicken shawarma with a side or bowl of Greek Salad instead.
  • If using the Instant Pot method, crisp up the chicken. Once the chicken is fully cooked, place the chicken shawarma pieces on a lined baking tray and place it under the broiler for 2 minutes. This crisps up the edges and adds a grilled flavor to the shawarma.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. To crisp up leftover sliced chicken, saute in a large skillet over high heat with one tablespoon olive oil until the edges just begin to curl.

More Spiced Chicken Recipes From My Kitchen

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chicken shawarma with lettuce, tomato and tzatziki in wrap

Chicken Shawarma – Airfryer/ Instant Pot/ Oven

This Chicken Shawarma recipe is bursting with rich flavors of garlic and Middle Eastern spices for a tender, juicy meal piled high on a pita, wrap or salad.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marination: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 185kcal

Ingredients

Shawarma Spices

Ingredients to Make Shawarma Roll

  • pita pockets or wraps of your choice
  • tzatziki homemade or store-bought
  • hummus roasted red pepper hummus goes really well
  • lettuce (or spinach) and tomato
  • pitted baby Kalamata olives (optional)
  • Sambal Oelek or chili garlic sauce (optional)

Additional Ingredients/Tools if using the Instant Pot Method

  • 4 6-inch bamboo skewers soaked if using oven method
  • 1 large red onion cut into half, horizontally (along with the rings)

Instructions

Marinate Chicken

  • Trim excess fat from chicken thighs and pat dry using paper towels. Add chicken to a large mixing bowl, or like in this case, a gallon size ziplock bag (easy clean-up).
  • Add minced garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to the chicken, seal the bag tightly and toss to coat the chicken.
  • In a small bowl, mix all the spices – salt, paprika (smoked and regular), red pepper flakes, coriander, cumin, cinnamon.
  • Add spices to the chicken, seal the bag tightly and toss to coat the chicken with the spices evenly. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Cook Chicken using ONE of the following methods – Air Fryer, Oven or Instant Pot

    Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma

    • Place the chicken in the air fryer basket in a single layer and cook at 360°F for 12-14 minutes. Since air fryer times vary, check at 12 minutes. If the chicken looks crisp on the outside and reads an internal temperature of 165°F or higher, chicken is cooked.

    Oven Grilled Shawarma

    • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Spread the chicken flat, giving enough room for the chicken (don’t crowd the baking sheet). 
    • Then turn on BROIL and put the chicken in about 2-3 inches away from the broiler. Bake for 8 minutes on the first side. Flip it and bake for 6 minutes on the second side.

    Instant Pot Method

    • Assemble the skewer stand for Chicken Shawarma. Take half an onion as a base. Then insert 4 bamboo skewers as 4 pillars on which the chicken will be stacked. Then, thread the meat pieces though those 4 skewers, one by one, forming a stable stack of chicken.
    • Pressure Cook: Place the trivet in the pressure cooker's inner pot. Put 1 cup (2 cups for 8 qt) water in the pot. Place the chicken shawarma skewer stack on the trivet. Close the lid. Cook on MANUAL/Pressure Cook for 8 minutes (sealing mode). Release pressure naturally for 10 minutes, after which follow quick release method.
    • Cut Chicken: Remove the skewers and lay them flat on a cutting board and slice the chicken length wise. You can keep removing the skewers as you cut the meat. As an optional step, you can place the chicken shawarma pieces on a lined baking tray and place it under the broiler for 2 minutes. This crisps up the edges and adds a grilled flavor to the shawarma.

    Assemble Chicken Shawarma Wrap

    • Cool the chicken for 10 minutes, then slice it thin into strips.
    • Spread a couple tablespoons of tzatziki or hummus on the pita pockets or wraps. Add lettuce or spinach leaves on top, followed by slices of tomato. Place the sliced chicken on that. Spoon some more tzatziki on top and fold the wrap.
    • For an extra kick, add olives and a teaspoon of chili garlic sauce after tzatziki. Wrap it in foil or parchment paper to enjoy as an on-the-go meal! Enjoy!

    Video

    Notes & Recipe Tips

    • Boneless skinless chicken thighs give the best results. If you wish, you can use chicken breast, but make sure to marinate it for at least 2 hours so the chicken stays moist.
    • Toss the chicken in the marinade before the spices. Coating the chicken with oil, garlic and lemon juice first and then the spice mix allows for the chicken to be evenly seasoned, leading to better flavors.
    • Use a combination of smoked and regular paprika to give a combination of smoky and sweet flavors. Alternatively, to skip the smoky flavors, you can use 2 teaspoons of regular paprika instead.
    • Make it a Low Carb Meal! Skip the pita or wrap and enjoy chicken shawarma with a side or bowl of Greek Salad instead.
    • If using the Instant Pot method, crisp up the chicken. Once the chicken is fully cooked, place the chicken shawarma pieces on a lined baking tray and place it under the broiler for 2 minutes. This crisps up the edges and adds a grilled flavor to the shawarma.
    • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. To crisp up leftover sliced chicken, saute in a large skillet over high heat with one tablespoon olive oil until the edges just begin to curl.
     
    This recipe was simplified and updated in 2020.  The previous version called for greek yogurt in the marinade. After testing several batches, I achieved the same result by increasing the quantity of lemon juice (one less ingredient). However, if you like the earlier version, simply add 2 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt to the shawarma spice mix and marinade the chicken in that. Either way, you’ll end up with juicy and flavorful chicken. Enjoy!
     
    Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates and do not include pita or condiments.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 185kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 497mg | Potassium: 332mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 482IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Mediterranean
    Keyword: airfryer chicken shawarma, chicken shawarma recipe, chicken shawarma wrap, instant pot chicken shawarma
    Did you try this recipe?Mention @SpiceCravings or tag #spicecravings!

    This recipe was was updated in 2020 with new photos, helpful information, tips, and step-by-step photos.

    HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

    Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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    4 Comments

  • Reply
    Farah
    June 5, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    5 stars
    WOWWW It is delicious .I love it.

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      June 6, 2020 at 11:36 am

      Thank you Farah! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Scott C
    May 24, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Ok, I was here about 2 weeks ago and made this recipe, and it was delicious. I had it book marked and now it has changed. Does anyone have the Shawarma Spices that used to call for Greek Yogurt , I don’t see that anymore. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      May 24, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Scott, sorry for the confusion. I am glad you enjoy this recipe. I recently simplified it, and published it with multiple cooking options. Also, after testing several batches, I achieved the same result by increasing the quantity of lemon juice instead of using greek yogurt (one less ingredient and made it dairy-free). However, if you like the earlier version, simply add 2 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt to the shawarma spice mix and marinade the chicken in that. Either way, you’ll end up with juicy and flavorful chicken. Enjoy!

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