Summer’s fresh and fast impromptu meals can still deliver developed flavour–all you have to do is reach into your spice cabinet.
This homemade shawarma spice mix recipe uses pantry staples like coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and smoked paprika. It’s that warm, smoky, earthy, and tangy combination of tastes that builds layers of complexity, without hours of cooking typically associated with shawarma.
Oven-roasting or grilling shawarma-inspired chicken after it’s been spice-rubbed and quickly marinaded (the longer the better, but you can skip the step if you don’t have time) is the only real cooking you have to tackle for this recipe, making it all come together in just over 30 minutes. When dinnertime or lunchtime rolls around, you end up with an endlessly adaptable, lighter chicken shawarma without the need for a vertical spit.
To round out the salad, or rather, to make it a salad, there are butter beans, tomatoes, lettuce, mint, cucumber, lemon, and a rich yogurt dressing. As presented, the meal is gluten-free and grain-free, but you could shred the poultry and make a chicken shawarma wrap, creating a handheld dinner or next-day lunch. Or, skip the beans and replace their creaminess with hummus, baba ghanoush, or crumbled feta. Chicken is a protein that’s fabulous hot or cold, so you can make it ahead of time if you’re a meal-prep fan, packed lunch fanatic (I think you know I am!), entertainer, or general busy human (all of us) who just wants dinner or lunch to be ready when they are.
If you’re a reader of this recipe blog, or my cookbooks, you know I’m all about adaptability and flexibility, because the best meals are ones using the ingredients you love, have on hand, and trust.
Chicken Shawarma Salad Recipe
An oven-roasted or grilled chicken shawarma salad that’s made doable for the home cook–no vertical spit required. Salad greens, cucumber, tomatoes, beans, mint, lemon, and a creamy yogurt dressing add a refreshing contrast to shawarma-spiced chicken. Great cold or warm, the meal-sized salad is a wholesome way to get your shawarma fix.
For a vegetarian option, replace the chicken with firm tofu or big, meaty portobello mushrooms, and bake or grill until crispy. If going the vegetarian route with tofu or mushrooms, allow them to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes to 1 hour for best taste.
To grill instead of roast, grill the spice-rubbed chicken on your barbecue over medium heat until cooked through and crispy on the outside, 15 to 25 minutes or so.
Roasted Shawarma Chicken
1 (3 lb) whole organic chicken or skin-on chicken thighs or breasts
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus more for serving
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cinnamon stick or ½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground dried ginger
2 tsp flaky salt or 1 tsp fine-grain salt, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 large head red leaf lettuce, torn
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
3–4 tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1 (14 oz.) can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 English cucumber, sliced into thin strips or rounds
Yogurt Dressing or Tahini Dressing (recipe here)
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise (vegan and gluten-free, if necessary)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
2 tsp honey
Pinch, granulated dried garlic or 1/2 clove garlic, grated into a paste
- For the chicken, preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Cut chicken into 8 pieces and place on the prepared baking sheet or place already cut chicken thighs or breasts on the prepared baking sheet, along with the cinnamon stick if not using ground cinnamon. In a small bowl, stir to combine lemon zest and juice, olive oil, ground cinnamon if not using cinnamon stick, coriander, cumin, ginger, salt, and pepper. Drizzle spice mixture over chicken and rub well to coat, getting some under the skin, directly onto the meat. At this point, if you have time, allow the chicken to marinate at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes, or marinade covered in a glass (non-reactive) dish or bowl in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Arrange chicken skin side up in a single layer and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the juices run clear and the skin is crispy. You can make this portion ahead to serve both the salad and chicken cold, if desired. Meanwhile, prepare the salad and dressing.
- For the salad, on a large platter or individual plates, arrange lettuce, mint, tomatoes, butter beans, and cucumber.
- For the dressing, whisk all dressing ingredients until fully combined.
- If slicing the chicken, allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before doing so.
- To serve, arrange chicken pieces or slices on the salad platter or plates and drizzle everything with dressing, to taste. Season with additional salt and lemon juice, to taste, and then serve.