Juicy, tender and flavor packed Low Carb Chicken Shawarma with Tzatziki sauce is on my family menu a few times a month. This delicious low-carb recipe is a breeze to put together and very family friendly. I marinate the chicken in simple blend of lemon and a handful of spices. T hen, I pressure cook it in my Instant Pot or grill it in the oven, under the broiler.
I stuff the sliced shawarma meat in a pita pocket, combine it with a tangy yogurt sauce called Tzatziki, and my kids love it for dinner, and even school lunches. My husband and I eat a low-carb diet and enjoy it with a side of Greek salad. Chicken Shawarma goes well with a variety of condiments like Hummus, Garlic Chili sauce, Greek salad, Tabouleh salad etc. The condiments add a ton of flavor and complete this healthy meal.
Shawarma spice mix:
I make my own combination of the Shawarma spice mix. I use the same spice mix for lamb, beef, fish and even flavoring rice or couscous. This middle eastern gem is a super hit with my family and friends too! I start by putting together the spice mix and then marinating the chicken. If I’m using chicken thighs, I trim off the excess fat. If I’m using chicken breasts, I half them each breast in two and then cut it half, length-wise. I marinate the chicken for 20 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how much time I have. But this spice mix is so flavorful that even with a 20 minute marinade, the chicken comes out juicy and delicious.
Typically, I make Chicken Shawarma in the oven, under the broiler. I 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 and bake for 8 minutes on the first side, flip it, and 6 minutes on the second side. This timing may wary a bit, depending on the size of the chicken and your oven intensity. Cool the chicken for 10 minutes and then slice it thin, on an angle.
Oven vs. Instant Pot:
Ever since I got my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot, I have been wanting to try this recipe. And when I did, the result was amazing. If I compared it to the oven method, there was a texture difference, but both methods had their merits that contribute to the flavor of this dish. The chicken turned out super moist in the Instant Pot, since we steam cooked it. Broiling it in the oven, gave it that crispy crust on the chicken that you see commonly when you go to a mediterranean restaurant. So, you will get a flavorful Chicken Shawarma either way. To learn more about the instant pot, check out my Instant Pot FAQ and Accessories blog.
Chicken Shawarma in an Instant Pot
I try to imitate the Shawarma/Gyro spinners in my Instant Pot. I used half an onion as a base. Then, I inserted 4 bamboo skewers as 4 pillars on which the meat is stacked.
Then, I thread the meat pieces though those 4 skewers, one by one, forming a stable stack of chicken. This allows the chicken to stay super moist and looks fancy too. But, if you don’t feel like going the extra mile, just stack the chicken on top of each other and you’ll have the same delicious flavor within minutes!
Chicken Shawarma goes really well with Tzatziki sauce. It adds a creamy contrast to the spicy and lemony chicken. It’s real simple to make as well. Simply combine plain greek yogurt with lemon, cumin, paprika, salt, mint and grated cucumber and you have yourself one of the simplest dips ever! You can also add half a clove of grated garlic in it too, but my family prefers our Tzatziki sauce without it. Check out the recipe for Tzatziki sauce.
Recipes that compliment Shawarma: Saffron Rice
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This simple recipe starts with marinating the chicken in simple blend of lemon and a handful of spices and pressure cooking it in the instant pot. Pairs great with the Tzatziki sauce and saffron rice.
- 1 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trim excess fat and cut into 3 inch pieces
- 1 large red onion cut into half, horizontally (along with the rings)
- 4 6-inch Bamboo Skewers soaked if using oven method
- 1/2 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper reduce to 1/2 teaspoon for mild heat
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
- Pita Wraps of your choice
- Greek Salad
- Pitted Baby Kalamatas Olives
Make the marinade by mixing together everything listed under "marinade". If using chicken thighs, trim off the excess fat. If using chicken breast, slice each chicken breast into two halves and then cut in half, length wise. Marinate chicken for 20 minutes to 4 hours. Make Tzatziki sauce: Mix all ingredients listed under "Tzatziki sauce". Mix well and keep aside.
For Chicken Shawarma skewers, I use half an onion as a base. Then, I 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.
Place the trivet in the Instant Pot inner pot. Put 1 cup water in the pot. Place the chicken shawarma skewer stack on the trivet. Close the lid. Vent set to SEALING. Cook on MANUAL/Pressure Cook, for 7-8 minutes. Open the lid after naturally releasing pressure for 10 minutes (NPR 10).
Lay the skewers flat on a cutting board and slice the chicken length wise. You can keep removing the skewers as you cut the meat. Watch the video for clarity. 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.