Fast and Fresh Shawarma Recipes for Globally-Inspired Meals at Home

For a fast lunch or a fresh dinner idea, serve up these easy shawarma recipes inspired by classic eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern street food.

Mediterranean food is not only delicious but full of healthy ingredients. When you need a break from plain sandwiches, look no further than shawarma. The specialty dish is popular in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and includes juicy meat (traditionally lamb, beef, or chicken) marinated in a blend of spices that packs a punch. Shawarma can be enjoyed plain, but it is extra delicious and satisfying when eaten as a wrap with toppings such as hummus, tahini, and fresh or pickled veggies. It's most popular served as street food, but you can learn how to make shawarma in your own kitchen for a delicious global-inspired meal at home.

What Is Shawarma?

Similar to gyros, shawarma is traditionally made of lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, or veal, and is grilled on a spit. Shawarma originated in the eastern Mediterranean and is usually seasoned with a variety of spices like cumin, turmeric, and cardamom.

Chicken Shawarma
Jennifer Causey

Chicken Shawarma

If you've never tried shawarma before, start here. This recipe can be made either in your slow cooker or a pressure cooker, so you can make it in a snap or let it simmer for a while. Start by rubbing chicken thighs with the popular North African spice blend ras el hanout, then give the chicken a quick sear in a skillet ($25, Walmart) before adding it to your slow cooker (or pressure cooker) with chicken broth. This shawarma is also served with a few different toppers—pickled carrots and red onion, and a simple lemon-yogurt sauce. When you're ready to eat, serve the chicken on top of pita bread rounds with the pickled veggies, and serve the lemon-yogurt sauce on the side. This fast and fresh recipe will quickly make its way into your regular meal plan.

mini shawarma recipe
Peter Krumhardt

Mini Shawarma

When you want to share your new love for shawarma with friends, make this mini shawarma for a party appetizer. Unlike our chicken shawarma recipe, this dish uses bite-size strips of lamb as the featured meat. To give big flavors to these tiny appetizers, marinate the lamb in a mix of yogurt, white wine vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin, cardamom, pepper, and cloves. If you're in a rush, you can start cooking after just an hour, but if you want to make these apps ahead of time, you can let the meat marinate for up to 24 hours. When it gets close to party time, let the meat broil for just a few minutes in the oven. Then, top pita rounds with a smear of hummus, and stack on the lamb plus fresh lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Whip up a quick Greek yogurt sauce to serve on the side, and your shawarma is party-ready in no time.

shortcut shawarma recipe
Jason Donnelly

Shortcut Shawarma

If you want to upgrade your lunch try this fast and easy shawarma recipe. Instead of slow-cooking, pressure-cooking, or marinating and broiling, use precooked shredded beef, chicken, or turkey (your choice) with a spice blend all in one skillet. For a shawarma sauce on the side, just mix together Greek yogurt and tahini. Once the meat is about finished cooking, mix in a splash of lemon juice to add a hint of tang. When it's time to eat, spoon the meat into pita halves, and add fresh tomato and avocado slices. Add a drizzle of yogurt sauce, and this super-quick shawarma sandwich is ready for a mouthwatering lunch or a fast and delicious dinner.

Homemade Gyro
Matthew Clark

Bonus Recipe: Homemade Gyros

If you love shawarma, be sure to try its Greek cousin: the gyro. Though gyros are similar to shawarma, both in how they're made and how they're served, gyros are usually made with lamb or beef, whereas shawarma can be made with a variety of meats. Oftentimes the meat in gyros is ground and mixed with a variety of spices before cooking. A true gyro also needs a generous dollop of tzatziki sauce, plus a few fresh toppings like tomato and onion slices.

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