Turkish Shawarma Recipe


Homemade Chicken Shawarma (shāwarmā)

I will guide you into heaven with this recipe. And with heaven I mean flavor euphoria.

I wrangled this recipe out of a woman while hunting for rugs in Istanbul, Turkey.

Our first night there a gentleman named Bulit (who apparently knew everyone) met us at the lobby and took us to a Turkish belly dance where I was named Sultan (on stage mind you – with photos), fed us copious amounts of “Raki” and drove us around the Euro side and the Asian side of Istanbul. We ended the night back at his shop where we talked about rugs. Oh, so many rugs. These were handmade rugs from the Turkish country folk. The good, fair trade stuff. We learned all about natural dyes (from insects), tensile strength, and were even shown how to inspect quality with a magnifying glass.

We were served apple tea and a fantastic shawarma from the old woman next door. I’ll never forget that first bite. It was heavenly. Now, I’ve had my fair share living in SF and NYC but this…this my friends was unreal. If the Turks worshipped Demeter, this would have been her go to snack. Many months after that trip I finally made contact with this woman via Bulit and paid for the recipe (that’s another story). It was a glorious purchase. Without further ado here it is in all its splendor.

By the way, the rugs (and business) were a colossal failure but the Shawarma was a total success. Hey, this is how I remember my dishes.

For this recipe measure out all the shawarma ingredients first. Also make sure you have an outdoor grill or fire pit. An electric stove-top will have issues and I don’t recommend it at all. You can even get away with a Staub grill pan if need be. If you don’t have access to those, I would rethink this meal.

This will give you some time to invite the lucky souls to your fantastic supper and get the setting just right. If you are planning on doing this on a grill, invite everyone out to enjoy the smells and salivate while they watch the magic.

Turkish Shawarma Recipe

Prep Time: 24 hours

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 24 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: 6

Serving Size: 1 big skewer

Turkish Shawarma Recipe


  • Homemade Shawarma Ingredients
  • 8 fresh boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 TBL Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 4 TBL goat yogurt
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 onions


  1. Ok, let’s start blooming our shawarma spices. Blooming is a great way to intensify your flavors.
  2. Grab a 1/2 tsp of fennel seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, smoked paprika and ground cardamom.
  3. Grind them down with a mortar and pestle.
  4. Roast (bloom) them in a non-stick pan or iron skillet. I prefer iron.
  5. Get your exhaust fan on high and/or open the windows. The aroma will envelop the house. Not a bad thing though.
  6. When everything is starting to smoke turn the heat off and remove the spices to a bowl.
  7. Your should be getting excited at this point. The aromas are intoxicating and of course I missed this part in my travels to Turkey since the dish went straight from kitchen to my mouth. I wish I had some process shots of that old woman. Ugh.
  8. Grab 4 TBL of goat or sheep yogurt and marry that with 1 TBL of tahini, 4 cloves of garlic, a couple bay leaves and a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil.
  9. Buzz that in a CuisinArt or you can use an immersion blender.
  10. Pour the roasted spices into this mixture. Spin for a few seconds.
  11. Add 1 tsp of fine Kosher salt and 1 tsp cayenne pepper.
  12. Walaah. You have an authentic shawarma marinade / paste.
  13. Coat the boneless chicken thighs with this little bit of heaven and put in the fridge for a full day.

You can now go to the store and pick up some lemons, onions and tomatoes. Cut them in wedges. Thread a metal skewer with the lemon, then chicken, then tomato and then onion. That’s it my friends. That’s all there is to it. Keep turning and searing as you go. Don’t be afraid the shave off some of the chicken as you go. If you see it getting too well done, shave.

Simply buy some pita, flat bread or my favorite cracker bread for the meal. You can serve it with a cucumber yogurt sauce. Keyfini çıkarın! (enjoy)

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