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Cheater’s Shawarma

Vijaya Selvaraju

Don't have a spit in your kitchen? No worries, the shortcut to shawarma is easy-ish — and delicious.

Cheater’s Shawarma


  • For the chicken:

  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • For the salad:

  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

  • 1 medium sweet white onion, diced

  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt, to taste

  • Tahini sauce:

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 1/4 cup warm water

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Salt, to taste

  • To assemble:

  • Warm pita

  • Hot sauce


  1. Combine all chicken ingredients in a bowl. Cover, and allow to marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours to overnight.

  2. In a pan on medium-high heat, heat vegetable oil and add chicken breasts, making sure not to crowd the pan.

  3. Cook until chicken is browned and slightly crispy on both sides and juices run clear. Set chicken aside to rest, then chop into small pieces.

  4. Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl, and set aside until assembly.

  5. Combine all tahini sauce ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

  6. To assemble, place salad on pita, followed by chopped chicken, tahini sauce and hot sauce to taste. Enjoy immediately.

Cheater’s Shawarma




Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox


- I love shawarma, but let's keep it real. Homegirl's not gonna be installing a spit in her kitchen any time soon. So that's why I came up with this recipe for cheater shawarma. All you need is a pan and get all the flavor payout of a great shawarma. Let's get started. The key to a killer chicken shawarma is all in the flavor of the marinade. I have some garlic powder, nice and earthy cumin, sweet cinnamon, and allspice. For a little bit of zip, some fresh lemon juice. Ooh, and I got lucky. This one doesn't have any seeds in it. Some vegetable oil to get things moving, and some salt to season, and a little bit of black pepper. I have some chicken breast that I butterflied, and that'll make them really easy to cook nice and evenly. So you want every little bit of this chicken to be covered in the marinade. So really get in there and make sure it's nicely coated. You can let it marinade for about two hours, up to 24 hours. Obviously the longer it marinades, the more flavorful. I'm just gonna pop this into the fridge. It's time to fry off the chicken. A little bit of vegetable or canola oil. And it's just a matter of laying the chicken in there gently. And sometimes that happens. So be careful kids. Wowzers. Check that out. See those crispy, crunchy bits along the edge? Those are the bits that everyone fights for. Ooh. Yes, girl. This one's done. I'm just gonna let it hang out so all the juices can redistribute so that it stays nice and juicy. Onto the salad. We have some seeded and diced cucumber. Some sweet onion. Tomatoes. And my personal favorite, flat-leaf parsley, and I find that flat-leaf is a lot tastier than the curly variety. So if you can get your hands on this, go for it. A little bit of salt. There's that lemon again. Oh, this one has seeds in it. So you'll see how I catch them with my hands. And some olive oil. The really good stuff. Give that a toss. My chicken has had a chance to rest. You can chop it up however you like. I like to cut it into bite-sized pieces. So, a little toasty warm pita at the bottom, followed by that super fresh salad, some of the chicken. And this is a sauce that I've made ahead of time. It's a tahini-based sauce. So there's tahini in it, lemon, garlic, a little bit of water, and salt, and it's so good. It's nutty. It's a little tart. And then for me personally, no shawarma is complete without a little bit of hot sauce. So find your favorite and go crazy. How good does that look? All the flavors of shawarma. Let's give it a taste. Mm, this reminds me of going to my favorite shawarma shop and getting that shawarma shaved right off the spit, but I made it at home, guys, and it was so simple. You get all the flavor of the spices, the nice crunchy chicken, the fragrant salad. It's like an entire meal wrapped up in a pita, and it is amazing.