Chicken shawarma plate: chicken, banana peppers, garlic sauce, and classic hummus served up with warm pita bread. It’s not traditional but it is so good!
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Warning: This recipe is not traditional. It doesn’t include slow roasting large amounts of chicken over a spit, the spice combination has not been passed down through generations, and I use canned (gasp!!) chickpeas for my hummus. Whew! It feels good to get that off my chest!
This chicken shawarma plate was originally inspired by the chicken and hummus from Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, where I went to college. I was introduced to it by my best friend and it didn’t take long before we were picking up a to-go order at least once a week to share while watching reruns of Sex and the City.
Over the years I’ve searched high and low for an easy way to recreate it at home. Note the key word: easy. While my final result is quite different from the original inspiration, according to my tastebuds it’s still very, very good. The best part is that all but the chicken can be made in advance which makes getting dinner on the table much quicker.
My rendition of chicken shawarma, like the original, is best when you have all 5 elements: warm pita bread, garlic sauce, pickled banana peppers, classic hummus, and spiced chicken. The garlic sauce, chicken, and hummus come from recipes I have perfected over the years, while the pita and banana peppers are store bought ready for use.
The ideal pita for chicken shawarma is thin and soft. The best place to find them is at a Mediterranean restaurant, but if that isn’t an option you can usually find them at the grocery store too. Someday I’ll figure out how to make pitas puff up without setting off the smoke detector, but for now I use what I can find.
The banana peppers provide a little bit of crunch with a tangy and slightly sweet flavor that comes from the pickling process. They come in a jar and you can find them near the salad dressing section of your grocery.
Traditional recipes for shawarma call for stacking chicken on a spit and slow roasting for hours. The flavors provided by the spit are amazing, but the amount of chicken in this recipe is not nearly enough to warrant a spit.
In a medium sized bowl combine together the spices, add the yogurt, milk, and lemon juice then whisk to combine. Slice the chicken into strips about 1/4 inch thick and 2 – 3 inches in length. Stir the chicken into the marinade until it’s completely coated, then refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes. The chicken can be prepared up to two days in advance, giving it extra time to marinate.
The hummus is a classic made with garlic, tahini, and lemon juice. I prefer to make mine in a mini chopper because it fits and it’s less clean up. You can also use a food processor or blender, depending on what kitchen tools you have. Place the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, paprika, and water into the food processor and pulse to combine. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach the desired consistency. When making the hummus in advance it may dry out and thicken up in the fridge. A little extra water will get it back to the right consistency.
Toum is a thick, creamy, Lebanese style garlic sauce. With it’s sharp garlic flavor and mayo like consistency, it was the most challenging to re-create and took the most research. Like the chicken, many recipes I found were geared up towards making quantities large enough to feed a small restaurant or a large extended family. It was always way more than I would ever use. They all called for a full size food processor and drizzling oil in at just the right speed while the machine is running. Way too much work!! Then I looked at it from the standpoint that essentially it’s a very strong garlic mayo and if I approach it that way, I can make a smaller portion using a wide-mouth mason jar and my immersion blender. It didn’t just work, it worked amazingly well!
When making toum, don’t use olive oil. The extended mechanical processing of the blender gives it a funky, almost rancid flavor. Select a refined, neutral oil that is liquid at room temperature – I like canola oil. Place the garlic, salt, lemon juice, water, egg white, and vegetable oil into the bottom of the mason jar. Place the immersion blender into the jar, touching the bottom. Turn it on high and let it do it’s work. As you start to see the oil emulsify and turn white, begin to rock the immersion blender gently back and forth to help draw in the ingredients. In about 2 – 3 minutes you will have a super thick, super flavorful garlic sauce that will keep for about 2 – 3 weeks in the fridge.
The last step in making this chicken shawarma plate is to cook the chicken. While I will happily eat leftovers of this chicken any day, it does taste best when it’s hot. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add in just enough olive oil to keep the chicken from sticking. Add the chicken to the skillet a few pieces at a time and sauté for about 1 – 2 minutes on each side, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. I use a 13 inch cast iron skillet and it takes me 2 – 3 batches to cook all of the chicken.
Now for the fun part: assembly and eating! This dish is best served family style so that everyone can adjust how much of each part they want. My preference is equal portions of chicken and hummus, along with quarter sized portions of garlic sauce and banana peppers. If your pitas need to be softened, wrap them in damp paper towels and microwave for about 10 – 15 seconds. The steam and heat should make them soft and pliable.
My personal favorite way to eat them is to stuff the pita and roll them up. Start by cutting the pita into 6 triangles. Open up the first pita triangle and layer on the garlic sauce, followed by a banana pepper or two, then a couple chunks of chicken and a dollop of hummus. Gently wrap the tips of the triangle around the filling and enjoy!
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Chicken Shawarma Plate Recipe
Chicken Shawarma Plate
For the Chicken:
- 1/2 cup low fat greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb of chicken breast or thighs
For the Hummus:
- 1 - 15 ounce can of chickpeas
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 2 TBSP tahini
- 2 TBSP water
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
For the Toum:
- 6 - 8 garlic cloves 1 ounce of garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg white
- 1 TBSP water
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 jar of pickled banana peppers
- 4 - 6 pitas
Make the Chicken:
In a medium sized bowl combine together the spices, add the yogurt, milk, and lemon juice then whisk to combine.
Slice the chicken into strips about 1/4 inch thick and 2 - 3 inches in length.
Stir the chicken into the marinade until it's completely coated, then refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes or up to two days.
Make the Hummus:
Place the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, paprika, and water into the container of a food processor, mini chopper, or blender and pulse to combine.
If needed, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach the desired consistency.
Make the Toum:
Place the garlic, salt, lemon juice, water, egg white, and vegetable oil into the bottom of the mason jar.
Place the immersion blender into the jar, touching the bottom. Turn it on high and let it do it's work.
As you start to see the oil emulsify and turn white, begin to rock the immersion blender gently back and forth to help draw in the ingredients. In about 2 - 3 minutes you will have a super thick, super flavorful garlic sauce that will keep for about 2 - 3 weeks in the fridge.
Cook the Chicken:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in just enough olive oil to keep the chicken from sticking. Add the chicken to the skillet a few pieces at a time and sauté for about 1 - 2 minutes on each side, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
Assembly and eating!
Cut the pitas into 6 triangles.
Open up the first pita triangle and layer on the garlic sauce, followed by a banana pepper or two, then a couple chunks of chicken and a dollop of hummus.
Gently wrap the tips of the triangle around the filling and enjoy!