A Mid-East Feast: Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps

First let me say… this recipe is A-MAAAAZ-ING! It’s like Jem and the Holograms kind of truly outrageous-ly delicious. I want to apologize for that. I do, but it’s stuck in my head so it should be stuck in your head too. Misery loves company, or so they say.

Honestly, I had my doubts about this one for a few reasons. Typically yogurt is reserved for baked goods, not chicken. I mean yogurt ON chicken just seems wrong. I’m sheltered. I can’t help it. That’s the American in me who has only ventured out of the country a few short times, to Canada and Aruba. Neither offered anything remotely Middle-Eastern. Unless somehow you consider Little Caesars pizza somehow Middle-Eastern, but I doubt it. And Aruba was the last place I expected to see that btw.

The combinations of spices called for left me feeling like I was mixing together something for a pumpkin dessert and a savory side dish. It didn’t feel right, but I powered on.

I opted to prepare this over the course of a 24 hour period, stopping after the first round of cooking. Yes, this recipe calls for cooking the chicken twice but it’s SO worth it and the chicken isn’t at all dry. Pinky swear. Though, if it is… it’s your fault. Don’t blame me. It should be flavorful and tender with seared sides. It’s brilliant.

When day 2 rolled around, lunch was quick to whip up since the only thing left to do was sear the sliced chicken in hot oil and wrap these babies up.

The chicken has wonderful (and not weird at all) flavor. Mayonnaise is slathered on soft pita bread, topped off with tangy pickles and seared chicken strips. I opted to slather my pita with spicy mustard before layering on the chicken. Ohh it was heaven. I’m not a mayo fan, so that was a perfect substitution. I highly suggest you try both ways.

I only prepared a half batch which was perfect for 2-3 sandwiches with some scraps remaining. In the future, I’ll prepare this in just the same way.

Trust me on this, make this recipe. You’ll thank me…or rather Faith because it’s her recipe. :)

In case you missed it, last week we made Faith’s zucchini fritters.

*Note: While I did not opt to make the homemade garlic mayo or pickles, I’m including the recipes for them in this post in case you should want to make them along with the Shawarma chicken as Faith recommends.

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus 2 to 24 hours for the chicken to marinate
Cooking Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps

Shawarma Ingredients:
1 batch Shawarma Spice Mix
½ cup (125 ml) plain yogurt
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1½ teaspoons salt
2 lb (1 kg) boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing
16 flatbreads Garlic Mayonnaise (page 24)
Pickles (page 27)

Shawarma Spice Mix:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¹/ 8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne) (optional)

Prepare the Shawarma Spice Mix.

Combine the spice mix with the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F and spread 1 tablespoon of oil on the inside of a large baking dish.

Scrape off any excess marinade from the chicken with your hands. Starting in the center of the oiled dish, arrange the chicken so that it overlaps, and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on top. Bake (uncovered) 1 hour, or until the chicken is fully cooked; cool. (It’s done when you cut into the center and there is no pink.)

Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer it to a large cutting board; slice it very thinly across the grain, then transfer it back into the pan it was cooked in to soak up the juices (the chicken can be refrigerated this way for up to 3 days before continuing with the rest of the recipe, or you can continue after 10 minutes).

Coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat with oil. Once hot, add the sliced chicken and sauté until crispy and golden brown (you may need to sauté the chicken in two or three batches so the pan isn’t overcrowded).

Spread some Garlic Mayonnaise in the center of each piece of bread; add some chicken and pickles (and any other vegetables you like) and roll it up.

Toast the sandwiches on a dry griddle or a flat sandwich press so that the bread gets golden brown and slightly crispy.

Serve as is, or cut into small rounds; serve with additional Garlic Mayonnaise for dipping.


Yields 1 liter (1.06 qt) jar of pickles
Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus up to 20 days for the pickles to ferment

Pickle ingredients:
1 cup (250 ml) hot water
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar 7-10 Persian or Japanese cucumbers washed and ends slightly trimmed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Purified water, to cover the cucumber
½ teaspoon oil

Combine the 1 cup (250 ml) hot water, salt, and sugar in a large measuring cup with a pour spout; stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved and then cool to room temperature.

Sterilize a 1-liter (1.06 qt) canning jar.

Cut the cucumbers into spears by cutting them in half lengthwise, and then cutting each half lengthwise into 3 equal pieces.

Put 1 clove of garlic in the bottom of the jar, add the cucumber spears, and then add the other clove of garlic on top.

Pour in the water/salt/sugar mixture, then add enough purified water so that the cucumbers are completely covered, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of free space at the top.

Let the jar sit at room temperature to form pickles. The pickles are ready to eat when the cucumber turns khaki green in color, and they smell faintly of vinegar. This will take about 5 to 7 days in hot weather and 15 to 20 days in colder weather.

Once the pickles are ready to eat, drizzle in the oil and store refrigerated.

Garlic Mayonnaise

Garlic mayonnaise ingredients:
2 cloves garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle with ½ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or 1 large egg
1 cup (250 ml) oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold water

Crush the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle until it forms a smooth paste.

Whisk together the garlic paste and egg until well blended.

Add the oil, drop-by-drop, while whisking (after you’ve added 1 tablespoon of oil drop-by-drop, you can add the oil a little faster). Make sure the oil you add is fully incorporated before adding any more.

Once you’ve added ½ cup (125 ml) oil, alternate between gradually adding the oil and lemon juice and continue mixing until fully incorporated.

Add the cold water and mix until smooth and creamy.

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31 Responses to “A Mid-East Feast: Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps”

  1. #
    Kathryn — October 22, 2012 at 7:49 am

    This looks & sounds so good. I love middle eastern flavours but hardly ever cook with them but I can see this making a really tasty dinner one night.

  2. #
    Heather @girlichef — October 22, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I’m gonna have to agree – truly, truly, truly outrageous!

  3. #
    amy @ fearless homemaker — October 22, 2012 at 8:26 am

    This sounds fab! As i mentioned, i loooove middle eastern food, so i’d be all over this!

  4. #
    Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen — October 22, 2012 at 8:27 am

    WHOA! That is some serious business!! Looks delicious!

  5. #
    Amy — October 22, 2012 at 9:07 am

    So, you’ve never had Tikka Marsala? Add that to your bucket list, lady! Yogurt and chicken=love. I would devour this. Gorgeous!

  6. #
    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen — October 22, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Jem and the Holograms…oh my. That just made me feel old, ha! I’m seriously psyched to make this now!

  7. #
    Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama — October 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Wow… Gem and the Holograms! I think I just got an idea for my Halloween costume!

  8. #
    carrian — October 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I’m pinning this so I don’t forget to make it this week. So excited to try it!!

  9. #
    Cassie — October 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    This truly looks amazing and I LOVE the way you styled it!

  10. #
    Linda | The Urban Mrs — October 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I believe you that this is so A-MAAAAZ-ING! It does look amazing and makes me hungry, too. :) I’m totally psyched.

  11. #
    amanda @ fake ginger — October 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    You crack me up! These were delicious though. I didn’t share with the kids so I have lots of leftovers! wooo!

  12. #
    Carlas Confections — October 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I love this! I agree that it does sound weird to have yogurt on chicken, but I have had it, and it is to die for. I am looking forward to trying this recipe! It looks awesome

  13. #
    Carolyn — October 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Those look amazing, Rachel! Just like you would see in a Middle Eastern restaurant.

  14. #
    Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts — October 22, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    This is my kind of sandwich! Looks amazing, will be trying it soon!

  15. #
    Julie @ Table for Two — October 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    i saw this this morning and was instantly craving shawarma. i don’t know how to say it but man, my mouth is saying WANT.

  16. #
    Laurie {Simply Scratch} — October 23, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Shawarma is the BEST! Now I’m totally craving it!

  17. #
    Faith — October 23, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Your sandwiches are beautiful!!! I am so happy you enjoyed it! Lol, I know what you mean about the yogurt…but odd as it is, it really works! (That’s actually the secret to having it turn out tender and flavorful. :) )

    • #
      Rachel — October 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Thanks Faith! I’m positive this will be a repeat recipe here. :) Delicious!

  18. #
    Paula — October 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I’m not a mayo fan either so the mustard on the wrap sounds perfect to me. That chicken looks amazing and the Shawarma spice mix enticing! Now I have to go and look up Fenugreek as I’ve never heard of it before :)

    • #
      Rachel — October 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

      You reminded me, fenugreek is the one thing I couldn’t find for this recipe so if you can’t… it’ll still turn out amaaaazing. :)

  19. #
    Barbara | Creative Culinary — October 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I made something with that exotic name in it sometime last year…I really still don’t know how to pronounce it…but it was love at first bite so I’m salivating over this.

    The recipe I made was probably the most unusual thing I’ve ever done with ground beef…it went through the food processor and was spread on a piece of pita and baked…but that first bite said it was all worth trying something a bit unique for us. Shawarma rules! :)

  20. #
    Rachael {SimplyFreshCooking} — October 23, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Mmmm! I started loving Middle Eastern flavors when I started eating healthy. If you’re only eating veggies and lean proteins for a long time, you have to start venturing out of the norm… and I really enjoyed it when I was a hardcore healthy eater! :)

  21. #
    Maria @ Box of Stolen Socks — October 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

    OMG your post brought back memories of 4 years ago when I was eating shawarma practically every day!!!! Never made it at home though. I am definitely going to try it.. at least the spice mix…and yoghurt on chicken is not weird at all ;) tzatziki sauce, hello !!! :) :)

  22. #
    Jeanette — October 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    These were incredibly good – and I was surprised as well at how tender the chicken came out – the yogurt is the secret ingredient. My family loved these and there were no leftovers. Next week, I’m making a double batch so I have some to share with friends and hopefully some leftovers.

  23. #
    Tracey — October 30, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Hahaha, I am cracking up about the Jem and the Holograms reference!! Between the raves from you and Amanda, I will be making this sooner rather than later.

  24. #
    nicole @ I am a Honey Bee — November 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    if you come into Boston one day I’ll have to take you to the best falafel place downtown to get some great falafel and kabobs like this. soooo good!

  25. #
    shaghayegh — December 24, 2012 at 3:24 am

    I love this but i dont know what you mean about pikles…
    Im so happy you enjoyed it
    tahank yoy

  26. #
    Cathie C. — February 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Working on this right now, right here in Ontario, Canada. Thanks for posting the recipe: it looks and smells like it’s going to be delicious. Btw, we have a LOT of GREAT Middle-Eastern restaurants up here, and I’m not even counting Little Caesars! ;)

  27. #
    MIchelle — February 23, 2013 at 10:52 am

    This looks amazing, I am looking forward to trying it out.

    Has anyone ever tried to put the chicken in a crockpot after marinating? I was wondering if that would work with the yogurt or if I should stick to the cooking suggestions.

  28. #
    Peter — May 17, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    If I leave out the turmeric am I ok? I think I am pretty allergic to it , is it something I can replace it with?

    • #
      Rachel — May 18, 2016 at 7:04 am

      It’s such a tiny amount, I’m sure you’d be fine without. Enjoy!

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