Girls night chicken shawarma is my non traditional take on a classic chicken shawarma plate. Inspired by one of the best things I ever ate, an off menu combination from my college days, it has become my go to meal for a girls night in with my friends. It’s loaded with rich flavorful chicken, crunchy banana peppers, spicy garlic sauce, and smooth hummus wrapped up in warm, homemade pita bread. With enough garlic to satisfy garlic lovers everywhere, it’s definitely not what I’d serve for date night. Read on for a few tips or skip to the recipe and make it for your next girls night in!
This girls night chicken shawarma plate was inspired by the chicken and hummus from Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky. I was introduced to it by my best friend, while we were in college. It wasn’t long before we developed a near weekly habit of sharing a to-go order over reruns of Sex and the City.
Like the original, this chicken shawarma has 5 elements: warm pita bread, garlic sauce, banana peppers, hummus, and chicken. 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 different from the original, according to my taste buds it’s still very good. So, plan a girls night and treat your friends. It’s so much better than takeout!
The Pita Bread
The ideal pita for chicken shawarma is thin, soft, and pliable. It should be strong enough to hold in the filling, but not so thick that it breaks. The best place to find authentic pita made in a tandoori oven is at a Mediterranean restaurant. The next best is homemade, followed by store bought. It’s taken me FOREVER to perfect my homemade version of pita, but I’ve finally figured out how to make them puff up without setting off the smoke detector!
While making pita at home makes it a bit less easy, I think it’s worth it. This chicken shawarma recipe uses about half the batch of pita bread, while the rest can be frozen. When ready to eat, let them thaw at room temp. When ready to eat, wrap them one at a time in a damp tea towel or paper towel and microwave. The steam from the damp towel will help to soften the pita as they warm up. Cut the pitas into wedges and layer in the rest of the fillings.
The Banana Peppers
The banana peppers are the one element here that I get straight from a jar. They provide a little bit of crunch with a tangy and slightly sweet flavor that comes from the pickling process. Look for them near the pickles in your local grocery.
Traditional recipes for shawarma call for stacking chicken on a spit and slow roasting for hours. The flavors you get from spit roasting are amazing, but this recipe doesn’t use enough chicken to warrant a spit. Limiting ourselves to the home kitchen, I’ve found that the best results come from oven roasting thin sliced chicken. A previous version of this recipe called for a yogurt based marinade, but the dry rub in this version is much better.
To replicate the shaved chicken without the spit, you need to start with thin chicken breasts. Easy method: buy thin style chicken breast. More effort, but easier to find: buy standard chicken breast and cut them in half laterally to create thin chicken breast. Messy and less efficient: pound out standard chicken breast until they are about 1/2″ thick.
Dry rub the chicken with the spice mixture before roasting. To save time the day of, you can do the dry rub a day or two in advance, leaving the chicken to marinate in the fridge. Alternatively, you can do what I do and simply pre-blend the chicken shawarma spices.
I make make 6 times as much as the recipe calls for because 1/2 tsp x 6 = 1 TBSP. You can quickly measure out single TBSPs for most of the spices, then store this blend in your spice cabinet for later.
The Homemade Hummus
The hummus is a classic made with garlic, tahini, and lemon juice. I 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 chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, paprika, and water into the food processor, 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.
The Garlic Sauce aka Toum
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 recreate. Most of the information I found was for making large quantities, like for a small restaurant or large extended family. It was always way more than I would ever use.
So I changed my perspective. Once I considered that it is essentially a very strong aioli, or garlic mayo, I realized I could change my approach. Instead of focusing on large batches, 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!
Some things I’ve learned the hard way: 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 grapeseed oil best. 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.
Assembly and Eating!
Now for the fun part! 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 aren’t as soft as you like, wrap them in a damp tea towel or paper towels and microwave at 10 – 15 second intervals. The steam and heat should make them soft and pliable.
My personal favorite way to eat chicken shawarma is in small pita rolls. Start by cutting the pita into 6 -8 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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Girls Night Chicken Shawarma Recipe
With tender chunks of spiced chicken, smooth hummus, garlicky toum, and crunchy banana peppers wrapped up in warm homemade pita bread, this chicken shawarma plate has earned the title of Girls Night Chicken Shawarma. If your friends are like mine, they will beg you to make double so they can take the leftovers home.
If you do happen to have leftovers, it’s best eaten within 3 days. The hummus may dry out a bit in the fridge, causing it to thicken. If needed, add water a bit at a time and stir to return it to it’s normal consistency. I’ve had the toum last as long as a month in the fridge – just check the expiration date of your eggs. Leftover pita and chicken can be frozen for longer storage.
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For the Chicken:
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1.5 lbs of thin sliced chicken breast
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
- 3 large homemade pitas
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a small sized bowl combine together all spices including salt and pepper.
- Rub chicken liberally with spice mixture and place in a greased baking dish.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then flip chicken over. Bake an additional 5 - 10 minutes, or unti chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Allow chicken to rest 5 minutes then thinly slice.
- 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.
- 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. Pulse it on high a few times while stabbing at the bottom of the jar a few times to puree the garlic chunks. Turn it on high, then hold it steady at the bottom of the jar.
- 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.
Assembly and eating:
- Cut the pitas into 6 - 8 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!
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.
For the toum do not use olive oil! Select a refined, neutral oil that is liquid at room temperature - grapeseed oil is my favorite, but vegetable oil, corn oil, or canola oil all work well too.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 872