This chicken shwarma recipe has quickly become a weeknight favorite in my house. It is one of the most famous street foods of the Middle East.
Flavored with lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and other Mediterranean spices, this easy chicken shwarma recipe can be made entirely in your home oven. Or you can make it even more quickly using a combination of your Instant Pot and oven.
What is shwarma?
Shwarma is a middle eastern meat dish. Traditionally, shwarma is made by marinating thin slices of meat and then stacking them on a vertical rotisserie that turns slowly as the meat is roasted. My husband calls it a “giant meat carrot,” because the rotating stack of meat is shaped somewhat like a carrot. lol.
Once the outer layer of meat is cooked, it is shaved off with a sharp knife. The remaining meat continues to cook and is shaved off in successive layers.
This easy shwarma recipe has been simplified for making at home. It starts with marinated chicken flavored with a traditional seasoning mixture. It can be either oven-roasted or cooked in an Instant Pot. Finally it is broiled to crisp up the edges, giving it that authentic spit-roasted shwarma flavor.
What ingredients do you need?
The unique mixture of lemon juice and Middle Eastern spices is what makes shwarma so special. Here are the ingredients you need to make homemade chicken shwarma:
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Plain yogurt (you can use Greek yogurt or a European-style yogurt)
- Ground cumin
- Ground cumin
- Ground coriander
- Ground turmeric
- Ground cinnamon
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Do you need to use chicken thighs or will breasts work?
Normally, I think chicken breast and thighs are somewhat interchangeable, but in this case I highly recommend sticking to thighs. Because the chicken is cooked and then broiled, I fear that lean breast meat would just become too dry.
Dark thigh meat has more fat, which keeps it moist and tender even after broiling.
How to make homemade chicken shwarma in the oven or Instant Pot
This recipe is super easy!
- Stir together the lemon juice, olive oil, yogurt, garlic, and spices. Add the chicken and onion, turn to coat, and marinate for 20 minutes or so.
- To cook it in the Instant Pot, place the chicken and onions in the pot, cover and seal it, and set it to pressure cook on high for 12 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally and then transfer the chicken and onions, using a slotted spoon, to a sheet pan, breaking up the chicken pieces.
- Or cook to cook it in the oven, arrange it in a single layer on a baking sheet pan in a 425ºF oven for 35 to 45 minutes, then break the chicken thighs into smaller pieces and spread them out on the sheet pan.
- Put the sheet pan with the shredded chicken under the broiler and broil until it begins to blacken and char in spots.
- Serve immediately.
Can you make it in advance?
Yes! You can make chicken shwarma and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat it, put it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, or wrap it in foil and heat it in a 350ºF oven for about 15 minutes.
How do you serve it?
In my house, we like to turn it into a chicken shwarma wrap. We wrap the meat in Middle Eastern flatbread or pita bread along with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, and sauces like tzatziki, harissa paste, tahini sauce, or the Lebanese garlic sauce called toum.
But this chicken is flavorful enough to serve with a simple rice or rice pilaf and a salad with tart, lemony vinaigrette.
For more ideas, check out my other Jewish Recipes!
More chicken recipes you’ll love
- Instant Pot Thai Chicken Curry
- Homemade Chicken Enchiladas
- Thai Chicken Satay
- Tandoori Chicken
- Korean Spicy Chicken with Gochujang
- Baked Chicken with Lemon Marmalade
- Juice of 2 lemons
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons yogurt
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- Stir together the lemon juice, olive oil, yogurt, garlic, cumin, paprika, coriander, salt, pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon.
- Add the chicken and onion and turn to coat well.
- Marinate the chicken for anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours (if you plan to marinate it for longer, I recommend leaving out the yogurt until just before you are going to cook the chicken.)
- To cook it in the Instant Pot, place the chicken and onions in the pot, cover and seal it, and set it to pressure cook on high for 12 minutes. Once the cooking time is up, let the pressure release naturally. Once the pressure valve has dropped, open the pot and remove the chicken and
onion with a slotted spoon, and transfer them to a foil-lined sheet pan. Use the spoon or a fork to shred the chicken into smaller pieces and arrange it in a single layer on the pan. Skip to step 6.
- To cook it in the oven, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Arrange the chicken and onions in a single layer on a foil-lined sheet pan. Roast in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through. Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for a few minutes. Use two forks or your hands (if the chicken is cool enough to handle) to break the chicken into smaller pieces. Spread the pieces out in a single layer on the sheet pan. Continue to step 6.
- Put the sheet pan with the shredded chicken
under the broiler and broil for 8 to 15 minutes, checking frequently, until it begins to blacken and char in spots.
- Serve hot.
1. The chicken can be marinated for up to 24 hours, but if you are planning to marinate it longer than about 2 hours, omit the yogurt from the marinade. Stir the yogurt into the chicken a few minutes before cooking.
2. You can make shwarma in advance. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Heat it in the microwave or wrap it in foil and heat it in a 350ºF oven for about 15 minutes.
Amount Per Serving Calories 573Total Fat 32gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 24gCholesterol 277mgSodium 1507mgCarbohydrates 4.4gFiber 3gSugar 10gProtein 57g
Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.