• July 17, 2022

Chicken Shawarma

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Let’s be honest – anything wrapped in a warm flatbread is going to be DELICIOUS. Here is my super easy and incredibly flavorful recipe for Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma (oven and air fryer method). Chicken thighs bathed in Middle Eastern Spices are marinated and then cooked to juicy perfection with yummy crisp edges in the Air Fryer. Sliced thin, topped with Homemade Dill Tzatziki Sauce, lettuce, tomato, and onion – there’s nothing better!

Assembled chicken shawarma rolls served on a black platter

This is the ultimate wrap – every element of texture and temperature has its match which makes biting into one of these so satisfying. The sizzling, juicy chicken needs the fresh, crisp lettuce and tomato, just as the mixture of spices needs the refreshing yogurt dill sauce – cooling the palate like a splash of cold water on a hot day. 

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close up photo of chicken shawarma rolls with lettuce, tomatoes and tzatziki

What is Chicken Shawarma

Shawarma, a classic Middle Eastern street food, is typically made by layering marinated meat onto a spit in a sort of cone-shaped mound. As the meat is rotated and cooked on the spit, the meat bathes in its own dripping juices, and slices are shaved off to order. By using boneless skinless chicken thighs, and thoroughly marinating them, we ensure the meat stays juicy through the cooking process.

Inspiration

I first tasted Chicken Shawarma at Mammouns – an NYC spot famous for late-night eats. I instantly fell in love with the big flavors! Years later I decided to try making it at home, even though I never thought of Shawarma as something homemade. The best part about my recipe is how easy it is to put together. It’s also the perfect make-ahead meal. Simply marinate the chicken overnight and then just 12 minutes in the Air Fryer!

chicken served wrapped in parchment paper served along side grilled chicken and tzatziki

Shawarma Spices

My recipe uses spices that I already have in my kitchen (garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander) If you don’t have some of the other spices like (cloves or cardamom) you can skip them! I promise the Shawarma will still be excellent. 

The combination of spices is essential in laying the base for flavor, here are a few highlights! (These are the ground versions):

  • Paprika – mild sweet paprika that adds vibrant red color without too much heat 
  • Cumin – warm and earthy with a hint of bittersweet citrus
  • Coriander –  adds a hint of citrus, often paired with cumin for just the right balance of earthiness.
  • Cinnamon – adds sweet and earthy heat. So versatile it’s used throughout the world in both savory and sweet dishes. 
  • Cardamom – heady and super aromatic, wonderful in desserts!
  • Cloves – aromatic flower buds from the evergreen clove tree. Slightly sweet and pungent, often paired with cinnamon and black pepper for a perfect spice blend.
Ingredients for chicken shawarma

Substitutions

  • I recommend using boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe as it will give your tender juicy meat with crisp edges. You can also use chicken boneless chicken breasts for this recipe, but make sure to marinate it for at least for 4 hours and do not overcook
  • Check the temperature of the chicken using a digital thermometer to make sure the thickest piece reaches 165 degrees F
  • Smoked paprika will add subtle smoky flavors but you can also use regular paprika
  • Add more or less cayenne pepper to your taste. I do not like this dish to be overly spicy but have a balance of flavors with various spices
  • Use your favorite flatbreads to wrap the chicken, you can also use gluten-free bread or serve on warm steamed rice. For a low-carb option serve the sliced chicken over lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions drizzled with tzatziki.

There’s a Way to Cook Chicken Shawarma for Every Kitchen

Marinate the chicken for up to 24 hours and then either grill, bake, or air fry (my newest obsession) for those perfect charred edges. Instructions for each technique are described in the recipe below. YOU CAN MAKE THIS AWESOME CHICKEN SHAWARMA EVEN WITHOUT AN AIR FRYER. 

How to Make Chicken Shawarma

Here is a step-by-step recipe showing how I cook the chicken for shawarma in the air fryer. Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post for a printable recipe card with ingredient quantities, instructions, and also how to bake or grill if you do not have an air fryer!

  • In a large bowl mix together salt, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground black pepper, lemon juice, and oil. Add the chicken and coat well. Allow to marinate for 2 hours or overnight.
photos one through four showing how to marinate chicken for shawarma

Air Fryer Method

  • Preheat the Air Fryer to 400 degrees F. Line the chicken in a single layer. Spread sliced onions on top. Air Fryer at 380 degrees F for 10 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 2 to 5 minutes. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before cutting it into thin strips.
photos five through eight showing how to air fry marinated chicken

Oven Method 

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and line the chicken thighs in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes on each side as the edges crisp up and the chicken is cooked through in the middle. Use a digital thermometer to make sure that the thickest piece has reached 165 degrees F.  Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. 

Lemon Dill Tzatziki

  • Peel and grate cucumbers and then press out all the excess liquids using a strainer or a cloth. Stir together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and dill in a medium bowl. Season the yogurt sauce with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
steps showing how to make lemon dill tzatziki
  • Chop the veggies – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, etc. Next, warm up the bread. You can either use pita bread or other flatbread you like. I also love serving the Shawarma on either homemade parathas or the flaky Kawan Parathas sold in Indian grocery stores.
shawarma chicken served with pita bread and chopped salad

Serving

  1. Here is the classic way to serve shawarma – spread Tzatziki on the warm bread, top it with your favorite veggies, lettuce, and tomato are a must for me. Then layer over the sliced chicken. Roll up and enjoy.
  2. I love the fusion feel of using flaky parathas and making shawarma roll-ups. Frozen Kawan Parathas sold in Indian groceries work best for this.
  3. You can also serve them as Pita pockets. Bake the pita bread in the toaster oven until it fluffs up. Allow it to cool for a minute and then cut it in half. Carefully open up each half and spread  Tzatziki inside. Add lettuce, and tomatoes, and top with chicken.
  4. For a low-carb meal, serve the shawarma meat on a pile of crispy lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and drizzle with creamy yogurt Tzatziki. 
shawarma chicken served over chopped salad and tzatziki

Storing

Chicken Shawarma is a perfect make-ahead meal. Cooked Chicken can be refrigerated for up to a week. Warm up in a stovetop pan, air fryer, or microwave.

I hope you will try this easy recipe. My entire family loves it and it is also a kid-friendly meal. Make a batch of quick and easy white chocolate bark for dessert with this meal.

Did you enjoy this easy Air Fryer Shawarma? Here are some Air Fryer Recipes to try:

Recipe

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stack of chicken shawarma rolled in pita

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5 from 11 votes

Chicken Shawarma

Easy and incredibly flavorful recipe for Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma. Chicken thighs bathed in Middle Eastern Spices are marinated then cooked to juicy perfection with yummy crisp edges in the Air Fryer. Sliced thin, topped with Homemade Dill Tzatziki Sauce, lettuce, and tomato

Prep Time30 mins

Cook Time15 mins

Marinating Time6 hrs

Total Time6 hrs 45 mins

Course: dinner

Servings: 6

Calories: 288kcal

Ingredients

Dill Tzatziki sauce

Instructions

  • In a large bowl mix together salt, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground black pepper, lemon juice, and oil

  • Add chicken and coat well. Allow to marinate for 2 hours or overnight.

  • Preheat the Air Fryer at 400 F. Line the chicken in a single layer. Spread sliced onions on top. Air Fryer at 380 F for 10 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 2 to 5 minutes. Note: My air fryer basket fits 4 to 5 chicken thighs at a time without overcrowding. I usually air fry chicken in 2 batches.

  • Allow the chicken to rest for 2 minutes before cutting into thin strips.

Tzatziki

  • Stir together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and dill in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Serving

  • Here is the classic way to serve shawarma – spread Tzatziki on the warm bread, top it with your favorite veggies, lettuce, and tomato are a must for me. Then layer over the sliced chicken. Roll up and enjoy.

  • You can also serve them as Pita pockets. Bake the pita bread in the toaster oven until it fluffs up. Allow it to cool for a minute and then cut into half. Carefully open up each half and spread  Tzatziki inside. Add lettuce, tomatoes, and top with chicken.

  • For a low-carb meal, serve the shawarma meat on a pile of crispy lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and drizzle with creamy yogurt Tzatziki. 

Notes

  • The nutrition facts do not include the bread. 

Oven Recipe 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and line the chicken thighs in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes as the edges crisp up and the chicken is cooked through in the middle. Use a digital thermometer to make sure that the thickest piece has reached 165 degrees F.  Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.                            

Nutrition

Calories: 288kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 146mg | Sodium: 1126mg | Potassium: 695mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2103IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 2mg

Author: Archana

Hey there! I am a techie turned recipe developer, cooking instructor, and food blogger. I love food and enjoy developing easy and healthy recipes for busy lifestyles. I live in New Jersey with my husband and two sons.


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