This Chicken Shawarma recipe is bursting with rich flavors of middle eastern spices for a tender, juicy meal. Enjoy it over a greek salad or pile it high on pita for a street-style chicken shawarma wrap.
Trim excess fat from chicken thighs and add chicken to a large mixing bowl, or 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!
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. 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.