Chicken Shawarma

There are combo-shops that sell döner kebabs and pizza on every other corner in Prague’s city center, and the luscious smells—a unique combination of hot fat (from the kebab) and oregano (from the pizza)—that waft through the serving windows make my mouth water every time.

I was pouting a little bit the other day, wanting to just stuff a pita-bread wrapped kebab in my face, when I remembered: There’s an awesome Chicken Shawarma recipe in Well Fed Weeknights. We’re having it for dinner tonight.

Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish, similar to döner kebabs (Turkey) and gyros (Greece). In all of these “it’s almost a meat salad if you do it right”-dishes, a variety of proteins including lamb, chicken, beef, veal, and turkey (solo or in combination with each other) are mixed with spices then packed tightly on a vertical skewer that’s slowly rotated and roasted all day. When it’s time to eat, the meat is shaved off the spit in thin slices, piled on pita bread or in a bowl, and topped with fresh veggies, hummus, tahini, pickled veggies, hot sauce, and the spicy-mango condiment known as amba. (If you have Well Fed 2, you can make my amba recipe!)

Bonus etymology lesson: Shawarma is an Arabic version of the Turkish word çevirme, which means “turning.” The words döner and gyros also refer to turning.

Yes, the whole turning thing seems pretty important to authentic shawarma.

Luckly, we’re not making authentic shawarma. (I don’t want to speak for you, but I, personally, do not own a three-foot tall rotisserie spit attached to a coal or wood fire.) So rather than aim for “authentic,” my goal was “delicious,” “easy to make at home,” and “paleo/whole30 compliant.”

My shawarma recipe is based on chicken breast, but you could certainly use the same spice blend on lamb or beef, if you prefer. To me, it’s the toppings that really make the fun: shredded raw veggies, creamy tahini sauce, maybe a spritz of lemon juice, or a few pickles… you really can’t go wrong if you include contrasting colors and textures.

Chicken Shawarma (Paleo, Whole30)

From Well Fed Weeknights | Total time 35–40 minutes | Serves 2-4 | Whole30 Compliant

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4–6 ounces each)

  • 1⁄4 cup water

Spice Blend:
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder

  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1⁄4 small head red cabbage

  • 1 large carrot

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • a handful fresh mint leaves

Tahini Dressing:
  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1⁄3 cup tahini

  • 1⁄3 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • pinch salt

  • pinch ground black pepper


Cook the chicken. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. While it heats, make the spice blend: Mix together all the spices in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend on both sides of the chicken, then place the chicken in the pan and cook it undisturbed, 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for 2 minutes, then add the water, cover the skillet, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10–15 minutes.


Make the salad. Use the slicing blade on a food processor to thinly slice the cabbage and carrot. Place the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and mint; set aside.


Make the tahini dressing: Smash and peel the garlic, then place it in the bowl of the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and whirl until smooth.


To serve, cut the chicken into thin slices and place it in a bowl, then top with salad and drizzle with tahini dressing.

Tastes Great With…

In Well Fed Weeknights, I recommend you serve the Shawarma on top of a baked potato. But you it also tastes great on any of these, too:
Cauliflower Rice—plain or fancy
Baby Spinach
Spring Mix
Classic Diner-Style Home Fries

You also would not be wrong if you added some Grain-Free TabboulehBaba Ghanoush, or Lebanese Onion & Parsley Salad to the bowl. You could also add some chopped pickles for extra salty zing—or even a little gut-friendly sauerkraut.

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  • Jordanna says:

    can I just say I love your recipe print outs…they’re amaze! I love how they’re laid out…mega cool…I’ma start a well fed recipe scrapbook of awesome. 🙂 (PS I also have one of your cookbooks which is of course also fab!)

  • Kathie says:

    That sounds so yummy! I never thought to cook chicken breasts that way, fantastic! Thank!

  • Linda says:

    Hi! I love chicken shawarma and can’t wait to make this recipe! Do you think this would work all thrown together in the crockpot? Just wondering as I have 6 kids and it’s easier to batch cook that way for me. Thank you! Love all your recipes!

    • You can cook the chicken in the slow cooker, the assemble the rest when you’re ready to eat. It won’t be quite the same, but it will still be good. Just sprinkle the chicken with the spice blend and place the chicken breasts in a single layer in the bottom of your slow cooker. Cook on low for approximately 3 hours until the chicken reaches 165F on a digital thermometer.

  • Sue says:

    My college age son just came up to me and said “I just want you to know that tonight’s dinner was very good. I’ll be having the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.” I can’t remember the last time he told me he like a meal so much.
    Now, I must confess, that I eat Paleo, but my son and my husband do not so they had their chicken on pita bread with shredded lettuce and I made a chopped salad to go with dinner. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has several different diets to satisfy and I love recipes that can be enjoyed by everyone with the simple addition of a bread.
    Kudos for yummy recipes that non-Paleo eaters enjoy as well.

    • That is high praise indeed! I’m so glad this recipe was a hit with everyone! And I have no problem with mixing paleo and non-paleo ingredients in a meal — it’s all still real food. (We eat white rice a few times a week… don’t kick me out of the paleo club.) Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed this recipe 🙂