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Marinated in tenderizing yogurt and an authentic spice blend, chicken shawarma kebabs are flavorful and juicy cooked in the oven, air fryer, or grill! Here we skewer the meat to make kebabs so that you can enjoy this Middle Eastern classic at home even without a vertical rotisserie.

top view of chicken shawarma spread with kebabss and wraps

If you’re not familiar with shawarma, you’re in for a real treat! It’s Middle Eastern street food at its finest.

Shawarma is meat (typically chicken or lamb) that’s marinated with a variety of spices, and then shaped into a cone on a vertical rotisserie. As the spit turns, the outer layer of meat cooks and gets deliciously crispy, and the juices collect in a drip pan at the bottom. The meat is shaved off, dunked in the juices, and then served up.

Most of us don’t have a vertical rotisserie at home, but don’t worry because you don’t need one for this recipe!

chicken shawarma kebabs on flatbread

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Authentic flavor – I learned how to make shawarma while living in the Middle East (check out my cookbook for more authentic recipes!). One of my favorite things to eat there was chicken shawarma, and this recipe takes me back.
  • Affordable – This economical recipe uses budget-friendly chicken thighs!
  • Versatile – These chicken skewers come out tender, juicy, and flavorful whether you make them in the oven, grill, or air fryer.
  • Special diet friendly – As written, this recipe is naturally gluten free, low carb, and keto friendly.

Ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

Chicken Shawarma Seasoning Ingredients

shawarma seasoning ingredients
  • Salt
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Black pepper
  • Ginger
  • Allspice
  • Fenugreek
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper

Chicken Shawarma Kebabs Ingredients

chicken shawarma ingredients
  • Plain whole milk yogurt – This yogurt-based marinade helps tenderize the chicken.
  • Fresh lemon juice – A tenderizer.
  • Garlic – For flavor and aroma.
  • Chicken shawarma seasoning – You’ll use the whole batch of chicken shawarma spice mix that you blend up. Pro Tip: Make a double batch of the shawarma spice recipe and set half aside for the next time you make this!
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs – You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead if you prefer.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – Oil helps balance yogurt and lemon juice’s acidic flavor (which are needed to tenderize the meat), and prevents them from overpowering the chicken. Olive oil also adds rich flavor, helps evenly distribute the spices, and prevents the meat from sticking while cooking.

Shawarma White Sauce Ingredients

shawarma white sauce ingredients
  • Plain whole milk Greek yogurt – We’re making a yogurt-based white sauce, which is what you’ll commonly find served as an accompaniment for shawarma here in the U.S. To make it richer, swap out half of the yogurt for mayo. (And if you want the authentic sauce that they serve with chicken shawarma in the Middle East, go for Toum, which is a fluffy garlic sauce.)
  • Tahini – In this recipe we go light on the tahini, but you can add additional tahini if you like more of the bitter, nutty flavor.
  • Lemon juice – Go for fresh lemon here. Acidic lemon juice is what makes tahini seize up and dry out, which is why we add water.
  • Water – Add enough water for the sauce to reach a pourable consistency that you can drizzle.
  • Garlic – Fresh garlic adds a ton of flavor to this yogurt tahini sauce.
  • Salt – So the sauce isn’t bland.
  • Cumin – Adds an earthy, smoky layer of flavor.

I have a full post on Shawarma White Sauce; check it out for more info!

Optional Ingredients for Serving

  • Arabic flatbread – Go the classic route and use Middle Eastern flatbread to wrap everything up into an Arabic-style sandwich.
  • Pickles – You can use any kind of pickled vegetables you like. My personal favorites here are cucumber and onion.
  • Fresh vegetables – Such as fresh sliced cucumber or tomato.

Instructions

No matter what cooking method you’re using (grill, oven, or air fryer), start by marinating the chicken.

Marinade the Chicken

how to marinate chicken shawarma for kebabs
  1. Add all of the chicken shawarma seasoning ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Add the yogurt, lemon juice garlic, and chicken shawarma seasoning to a large bowl, and give it a stir.
  2. Trim the excess fat off the chicken thighs, and add them to the marinade.
  3. Toss well to coat the chicken, cover the bowl, and marinade in the fridge for at least 20 minutes (or up to 24 hours).
  4. After the chicken has marinated and you’re ready to cook it, use your hands to scrape off as much of the marinade as possible. Then skewer the chicken (I like to use metal skewers so they don’t burn or catch fire), drizzle the chicken skewers with the olive oil, and cook it in the oven, air fryer, or grill.

Chicken Shawarma Skewers in the Oven

No matter which cooking method you use, note that as per the USDA, chicken is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F (use an instant-read thermometer for the most accurate reading).

how to cook chicken shawarma kebabs oven
  1. Preheat the oven to 500F; place the chicken in an even layer on a baking tray and roast 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Once it’s cooked, turn on the broiler and brown the chicken slightly (about 5 minutes, but stay with it because every broiler is different).

Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Preheat a grill to medium-high; cook the chicken until it’s charred and fully cooked in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma

Preheat the air fryer to 400F. Brush a little light olive oil or vegetable oil in the air fryer basket, and arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer. Air fry until fully cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the chicken once halfway through.

Storage

Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Cook’s Tips

  • Don’t be tempted to use store-bought shawarma spice mix! Take a couple minutes to whip up your own for the best flavor. I learned how to make this seasoning in the Middle East, and it’s what makes these chicken kebabs taste like shawarma.
  • If you’re pressed for time, a quick 20-minute marinade will do. But if you want intensely flavorful, juicy, and tender meat, let the chicken thighs marinade in the fridge for a full 24 hours.
  • If you’re cooking this in the oven or air fryer, skewering the chicken is optional. For the oven method, you can simply spread the chicken out on a baking dish. And if you’re using the air fryer, just add the chicken right to the air fryer basket.
top view of platter of shawarma chicken thigh skewers with arabic bread and vegetables

How to Serve Chicken Shawarma Kebabs

In the Middle East, you can find shawarma wraps and platters.

Shawarma wraps are typically considered fast food or street food. They include some kind of pickled vegetable (pickled beets, pickled cucumbers, and pickled onions are popular), and a sauce. And you can usually get your wrap with fries in it and/or served on the side.

Shawarma platters are a more filling meal. They commonly include flatbread, rice or fries, pickled vegetables, fresh vegetables and/or salad, and a sauce.

Here are a few ideas for how you can serve chicken shawarma kebabs:

  • Serve it with a couple sides, such as rice and a salad. To make it special, go for Homemade Rice a Roni and Salad Shirazi.
  • Make the chicken into a shawarma bowl by serving it on a bed of rice, couscous, or quinoa.
  • Turn it into a salad; serve it on a bed of greens with a variety of vegetables.
  • Make a chicken shawarma wrap or sandwich with your favorite condiments and toppings!
chicken shawarma sandwich wraps on plate with cucumbers and tomatoes

Chicken Shawarma Kebabs Recipe FAQs

What’s the Difference Between Chicken Shawarma and Chicken Kebabs?


Chicken kebabs (also spelled kababs or kabobs) is marinated chicken that’s threaded onto skewers and grilled or roasted.

Chicken shawarma is made of marinated chicken that’s shaped into a cone, and then cooked on a vertical rotisserie with the large part of the cone on top. A vertical cooking element next to the rotisserie cooks the meat from the outside. As the meat cooks, the chef thinly slices off the cooked portion.

In addition to different cooking methods, chicken shawarma has its own spice mix, while you can season chicken kebabs any way you like.

What is Shawarma Seasoning?


Shawarma seasoning is a specific spice mix that flavors shawarma. Chicken and lamb each have their own unique shawarma spice blends.

Like most seasoning mixes all over the world, this one is subject to change based on where you are or who you’re talking to. The chicken shawarma seasoning I learned in Jordan contains the following spices: salt, cumin, coriander, black pepper, ginger, allspice, fenugreek, cardamom, cloves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne pepper.

What Are Traditional Chicken Shawarma Toppings?


Chicken shawarma wraps (aka sandwiches) in the Middle East are typically served with Toum (Garlic Sauce), pickles of your choice (usually cucumber pickles), onion (either marinated sumac onions or pickled onions), and French fries all wrapped up on Arabic flatbread.

For this recipe we’re whipping up a quick and easy Shawarma White Sauce like what you’d find served at a lot of Arabic and Middle Eastern restaurants here in the U.S. But for authentic flavor, take the time to whip up Toum!

If you want the recipe for sumac onions, check out my post for Adana Kebab because I include it there!

close up of chicken thigh shawarma with sauce on arabic flatbread

More Healthy Chicken Recipes to Try

shawarma chicken on arabic flatbread with white sauce and pickles

Let’s Connect

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Chicken Shawarma Kebabs Recipe

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Other Time20 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Tender and flavorful chicken shawarma kebabs are marinated in a yogurt base with an authentic spice blend. Instead of using a vertical rotisserie, we skewer the chicken and cook the kebabs in the oven, air fryer, or grill so you can enjoy this Middle Eastern classic at home.

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Equipment

Ingredients
 

Chicken Shawarma Seasoning (You’ll Use it All):

Chicken Shawarma Kebabs:

  • 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large cloves garlic crushed
  • Chicken Shawarma Seasoning
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat (up to 2 1/2 pounds is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Shawarma White Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt or 1/4 cup Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup mayo or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon tahini you can add additional tahini if you like more of the bitter, nutty flavor
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Water start with 3 tablespoons and add more to reach desired your consistency
  • 1 large clove garlic crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

Optional Serving Suggestions:

  • Arabic flatbread
  • Pickles
  • Red onion

Instructions
 

Make the Chicken Shawarma Seasoning:

  • Add all spices to a bowl and stir to combine. You’ll use this entire spice mix to marinade the chicken.

Marinade the Chicken:

  • Add all ingredients for the chicken (except the oil) to a large bowl. Toss well to coat the chicken, cover the bowl, and marinade in the fridge for at least 20 minutes (or up to 24 hours).

Make the Shawarma White Sauce:

  • Add the yogurt, tahini, and lemon juice to a medium bowl and mix to combine. Whisk in the water until it reaches your desired consistency (it should be pour-able, but not watery). Whisk in the garlic, salt, and cumin. Taste and add more tahini, lemon, and/or salt if desired. Cover and refrigerate until using (or up to 2 weeks).

Cook the Chicken:

  • After the chicken has marinated and you’re ready to cook it, use your hands to scrape off as much of the marinade as possible. Then skewer the chicken (I like to use metal skewers so they don’t burn or catch fire), drizzle the chicken skewers with the olive oil, and use one of the following methods to cook it. Note that according to the USDA, chicken is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
  • Grill: Preheat a grill to medium-high; cook the chicken until it’s charred and fully cooked in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 500F; place the chicken in an even layer on a baking tray and roast 15 to 20 minutes. Once it’s cooked, turn on the broiler and brown the chicken slightly (about 5 minutes, but stay with it because every broiler is different).
  • Air Fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 400F. Brush a little light olive oil or vegetable oil in the air fryer basket, and arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer. Air fry until fully cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the chicken once halfway through.

Serve:

  • Serve the chicken along with the sauce for dipping. You can make it into a sandwich using Arabic flatbread, pickles, and red onion (or whatever vegetables you like).

Video

Notes

  • Nutrition Information: The nutritional information for this recipe was calculated without the optional serving suggestions.
  • Net Carbs: 3g per serving
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Oven or Air Fryer: If you’re cooking this in the oven or air fryer, skewering the chicken is optional. For the oven method, you can simply spread the chicken out on a baking dish. And if you’re using the air fryer, just add the chicken right to the air fryer basket.

Nutrition

Calories: 269kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 147mg | Sodium: 832mg | Potassium: 480mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 132IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Arabic and Middle Eastern
Keyword: Chicken Shawarma Air Fryer, Chicken Shawarma Kebabs, Chicken Shawarma Oven, Chicken Shawarma Skewers, Grilled Chicken Shawarma, Shawarma Seasoning, Shawarma Seasoning Recipe, Shawarma Skewers, Shawarma Spice, Shawarma Spice Blend, Shawarma Spice Recipe

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Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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