Chicken Shawarma 4.000

Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Best Cookbooks 2019 Dec 9, 2019

Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients for the spice rub — the spices listed are pretty common, and there's a good chance you already have most of them in your pantry. What you get as a result is irresistibly spiced chicken, accompanied by delicious, crunchy cabbage. Finished off with harissa and amba (a tangy mango pickle of Iraqi origin), every bite is packed with flavor.

To make pickled onions, follow our recipe here, but use apple cider vinegar in place of white.

Make Ahead: The chicken thighs need to be marinated for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

Where to Buy: Amba, a spicy mango pickle of Iraqi origin, can be found in Middle Eastern markets or online.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • For the chicken
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • Five (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • For the cabbage salad
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
  • 1/2 medium green or red cabbage (1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
  • For assembly
  • 4 pitas (white or whole-wheat)
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs, for serving
  • Pickled onions (see Headnote)
  • Harissa, for serving (optional)
  • Amba, for serving (optional)


Marinate the chicken: In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, cumin, pepper, turmeric, salt, coriander, cardamom, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat, ensuring the spice rub gets into all the folds and crevices of the thighs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

Make the cabbage salad: While the chicken marinates, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper. Add the cabbage and gently toss to coat. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Cook the chicken: Heat a large, heavy skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Lightly brush the pan with a whisper of oil to coat. Cook the chicken until golden, with crispy edges, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board, let rest for 1 to 2 minutes, then chop into bite-size pieces.

Toast the pitas lightly and stuff them with the cabbage salad, chicken, cilantro and pickled onions, if using. Serve right away, with harissa and amba, if using, on the side.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen" (Avery, 2019).

Tested by Olga Massov.

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