chicken shawarma bowl

chicken shawarma bowl

This chicken shawarma bowl is fragrant, delicious, and balanced with lots of fresh vegetables. You can’t walk through most streets in New York without aromas of food overwhelming your senses. Even with less pleasant scents occasionally mixed in, I love the way New York smells.

I always dreamt of living in New York City. Following my first visit in 2009, even the sudden whiff of garbage on a hot California day would trigger an involuntary “awww smells like New York” (with eyes closed and a love struck look on my face). Naturally, people around me thought it weird that I wasn’t repulsed by the scent of refuse. They didn’t understand that I wasn’t reveling in garbage, I was reliving my adventures in the most exciting city in the world. The streets also smell like yeast from pizza and bagels, cigarettes, perfume, and various food from street carts.

The strongest scent emitted by the street carts is the spice blend of chicken shawarma. I wanted a recipe that would emulate the flavor [and scent] of street cart shawarma at home.

chicken shawarma bowl

I tested various ratios of spices and concocted a seasoning blend that captures the chicken you smell on the streets of the city. Marinading the chicken in yogurt helps keep the chicken moist and flavorful. Broiling the marinaded chicken helps mimic the char of a grill at home. The cooked chicken is delicious and fragrant and serves as a perfect topping to a mediterranean salad bowl. You can also serve the chicken inside a pita pocket or alongside basmati rice. The tahini and yogurt dressing are not compulsory but they add a welcome creaminess to the overall dish.

Here are some recipes that would pair perfectly well with this chicken shawarma bowl:

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chicken shawarma bowl

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  • Author: Sepideh Esmaili Campos


  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅔ cup whole, plain greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1.5 pounds chicken thighs, boneless, skinless (excess fat trimmed off)
  • Avocado oil or olive oil spray
  • 2 fresh lemons, cut in half (trim off the bulbous ends so the lemon can stand cut side up)

Yogurt dill dip

  • 5.3 ounce container lowfat or full fat Greek yogurt
  • Juice of ½ broiled lemon
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic

Tahini dressing

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ⅛ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Juice of ½ broiled lemon
  • ¼½ cup water

Serving suggestions

  • Whole wheat pitas
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sliced colorful bell peppers
  • Sliced romaine lettuce
  • Diced cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Pickled red onion


  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the paprika, coriander, turmeric, cumin, onion powder, cayenne pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the yogurt and olive oil and salt. Mix to fully combine.
  2. Add the chicken to the bowl and use tongs to toss the chicken with the marinade. Be sure to cover all sides of the chicken with the spiced yogurt.
  3. Cover the bowl of marinated chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30minutes (or up to 3 hours).
  4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the wire rack inside the baking sheet. Spray the rack with avocado or olive oil spray.
  5. Preheat the broiler.
  6. Arrange the marinated chicken evenly on the wire rack. Place the lemon slices, cut side up, on the rack next to the chicken.
  7. Place under the broiler until the top of the chicken is blistered in areas and a crust has formed, 5-6 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the broiled lemons to a plate and reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  8. Return the chicken to the oven and bake until fully cooked, 10-20 minutes. Start checking the chicken for doneness after 10  minutes and remove it from the oven when it registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
  9. While the chicken is roasting, prepare tahini dressing and yogurt dill dip.
  10. To make the yogurt sauce: In a mixing bowl combine the yogurt, juice of ½ the broiled lemon, dried dill, and granulated garlic. Stir until fully combined. Set aside.
  11. To make the tahini sauce: Combine the tahini garlic, salt, and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons of water and stir the sauce with a fork or a whisk. The sauce will be very thick (almost like a paste). Add more water, 1-2 Tablespoons at a time, stirring well between additions. Keep adding water until you achieve the consistency you want. The more water you add, the more runny your sauce will become.
  12. Remove the chicken from the oven, let cool slightly. Cut the chicken into thin slices. Serve on top of a bowl of romaine lettuce, lettuce, cucumbers, and pickled red onions. Drizzle with the tahini and yogurt sauce and serve with a warm pita or pita chips.
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