Test Kitchen Recipe: Chicken Shawarma

Chicken Shawarma is a popular Middle Eastern with grilled marinaded chicken snuggled in a pita.

The garlicky and lemony marinade lends tons of flavor and helps tenderize the chicken. Tahini or garlic sauce on top of the chicken adds another huge layer of flavor. I am a sucker for the creamy garlic sauce. See the cook’s note for how to make it. Or you can buy it in the ethnic aisle of many grocery stores or Middle Eastern specialty stores. One local brand of garlic sauce is from Teta Foods based in Clinton Township.


Serves: 8

Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus marinating time)

Total time: 35 minutes


1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground oregano or thyme

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

4 tablespoons plain yogurt

3 tablespoons white vinegar

4 crushed garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt


2 pounds of thin boneless, skinless chicken breast


Tahini sauce or garlic sauce

Pita bread

Cucumber slices

Sliced tomatoes


In a large bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 6 to 8 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Grill the chicken pieces until cooked through, about 12 minutes, depending on thickness. You also can use a grill pan, tabletop grill or panini press to cook the chicken. Once cooked, remove the chicken (leave the grill on) and shred the chicken.

To assemble the shawarma sandwich, spread the tahini or garlic sauce on a pita bread, add the shredded chicken, cucumber slices and sliced tomatoes. Roll up the sandwich and grill again slightly just to warm the pita.

Cook’s note: To make the tahini sauce, combine 5 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup water, 2 garlic cloves pressed through a garlic press and 5 tablespoons lemon juice. To make the garlic sauce, purée 1 peeled bulb of garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Slowly add olive oil 1 tablespoon at time until the mixture becomes white and very creamy. This may take several minutes. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons plain yogurt. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Analysis with Tahini sauce: 489 calories (28% from fat), 15 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 42 grams carbohydrates, 46 grams protein, 623 mg sodium, 104 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.