What is Shawarma and How to Make it at Home

Estimated read time: 1 minutes

What is Shawarma and How to Make it at Home - Rumi Spice

What is shawarma?

Shawarma is a dish that originates from the Middle East. Traditionally, shawarma is a Levantine dish consisting of cooked meat that is shaved off a spit. It is usually made with lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, or mixed meats. These days, shawarma can also be prepared with fish, tofu or vegetables.

The meat is marinated overnight in a mixture of spices, including cumin, cardamom, paprika, and turmeric. It is then skewered on a spit and cooked slowly for several hours. The cooked meat is shaved off the spit and served in a pita or flatbread with fresh vegetables and sauces such as Tahini, Tzatziki, Hummus, Amba or Zhug.

Where does shawarma come from?

Shawarma originated in Ottoman Turkey, but it is now commonly consumed throughout the Levant region, including Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. Shawarma is also popular in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world. The word "shawarma" comes from the Turkish word çevirme, meaning "turning", referring to the method of cooking – slow roasting on a turning spit. It was probably introduced to the Levant by Ottoman Turks in the mid-19th century. 

How is shawarma served?

Common shawarma dishes include chicken shawarma, lamb shawarma, shawarma kebabs, shawarma sandwiches, shawarma rice bowls, and shawarma salads. Shawarma can be served as a main dish (usually with accompaniments), or as a sandwich or wrap.  Shawarma is often served with pita bread, tabbouleh, fattoush salad, pickled turnips, taboon bread, tomato salad or hummus, and topped off with tahina sauce, amba sauce or toum (garlic sauce). 

What is shawarma spice blend?

We wanted to make a spice blend inspired by the flavors of this slow-roasted, warm and savory shawarma-style of cooking. To do this, we combined Rumi coriander and cumin with other warming and bold spices including paprika, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, cardamom and ginger. 

How to make chicken shawarma at home:

Chicken shawarma is a popular variation of this dish, and it can easily be made at home with a few simple ingredients. (It’s okay if you don't have a spit to roast it on, we aimed to mimic the flavors captured by the spit in our earthy spice blend). To make chicken shawarma marinate chicken (thighs or breast, but we prefer thighs for extra-tender shawarma) in a mixture of yogurt, spices (like our signature Shawarma spice blend), and lemon juice. This helps to tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor from the inside out.

Then, sear the chicken on a grill or in a skillet until golden brown and slightly charred. Once nicely charred on both sides, transfer your skillet of chicken to the oven and continue roasting over low heat until the meat is cooked through and very tender. If you’re grilling your shawarma, simply reduce the grill temperature to medium/low and continue cooking your chicken until cooked through.

Finally, after letting it rest for a few minutes, thinly-slice the meat and serve it with fresh vegetables, herbs and your favorite sauces. Try it with this simple homemade Za’atar tzatziki or even this Saffron Greek yogurt dipping sauce. Chicken shawarma makes a delicious and healthful meal that can be enjoyed any time of day.

Get the full recipe for oven-roasted chicken shawarma, here!

Back to blog