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Oven-Cooked Chicken Shawarma

by . Featured in SIMPLY NIGELLA
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Introduction

A proper chicken shawarma — the spiced meat cooked on a spit, then stuffed with pickles, sauces, tomato and other salads into a flat bread wrap — is truly right up top on the God Tier of sandwiches. This, my improper version, is another proposition, but headily delicious in its own right. I marinate the chicken with lemon, garlic, oil and all the right spices but, for an easy meal at home, I cook it in the oven. I do serve it with pitta or other flatbreads, along with a divine sauce made simply by mixing together yogurt, tahini and more garlic, adding a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds if I have some. As you can see, I serve the chicken on a mound of shredded iceberg, and you could easily put a bowl of sliced tomatoes out on the table too and, if it took your fancy, another of pink-pickled onions (you can see the method for this in step 1 of the fish finger bhorta.

Of course, you are free to add anything you may want alongside — you can never have too many pickles, in my book! — but whatever you do, provide plenty of napkins, and allow everyone to roll up or stuff their pittas as they wish. It’s the perfect indoor picnic!

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

A proper chicken shawarma — the spiced meat cooked on a spit, then stuffed with pickles, sauces, tomato and other salads into a flat bread wrap — is truly right up top on the God Tier of sandwiches. This, my improper version, is another proposition, but headily delicious in its own right. I marinate the chicken with lemon, garlic, oil and all the right spices but, for an easy meal at home, I cook it in the oven. I do serve it with pitta or other flatbreads, along with a divine sauce made simply by mixing together yogurt, tahini and more garlic, adding a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds if I have some. As you can see, I serve the chicken on a mound of shredded iceberg, and you could easily put a bowl of sliced tomatoes out on the table too and, if it took your fancy, another of pink-pickled onions (you can see the method for this in step 1 of the fish finger bhorta.

Of course, you are free to add anything you may want alongside — you can never have too many pickles, in my book! — but whatever you do, provide plenty of napkins, and allow everyone to roll up or stuff their pittas as they wish. It’s the perfect indoor picnic!

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Chicken Shawarma
Photo by Keiko Oikawa

Ingredients

Serves: 6-10, depending on how you choose to serve it

Metric Cups
  • 12 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 100 millilitres regular olive oil
  • 4 fat or 6 smaller cloves garlic (peeled and finely grated or minced)
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • lettuce leaves (to serve)

FOR THE SHAWARMA SAUCE

  • 250 grams plain yoghurt
  • 4 x 15ml tablespoons tahini
  • 1 fat or 2 smaller cloves garlic (peeled and finely grated or minced)
  • fat pinch of salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
  • 12 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 7 tablespoons regular olive oil
  • 4 fat or 6 smaller cloves garlic (peeled and finely grated or minced)
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • lettuce leaves (to serve)

FOR THE SHAWARMA SAUCE

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 1 fat or 2 smaller cloves garlic (peeled and finely grated or minced)
  • fat pinch of salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds

Method

  1. Take a large resealable freezer bag and put the chicken thighs in it.
  2. Using a fine microplane grater (for choice), grate in the lemon zest, then squeeze the lemons and add the juice. Pour in the olive oil and add the garlic, then add all the remaining ingredients, except for those for the sauce.
  3. Squish everything about together, then seal the bag, place it on a plate or in a dish, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 1 day.
  4. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7/425°F, remove the chicken from the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature.
  5. Tip the contents of the freezer bag into a shallow roasting tin — mine measures 44 x 34 x 1.5cm (a half sheet with a small lip of ½ inch) — and make sure all the chicken thighs are lying flat and not on top of one another (if possible) before roasting in the hot oven for 30 minutes, by which time they should be cooked through (though obviously you must check) and golden on top.
  6. When the chicken’s more or less cooked, make the sauce simply by combining the yogurt with the tahini and garlic, stir and salt to taste, and sprinkle with a few pomegranate seeds.
  7. Line a platter or a couple of plates with crisp lettuce, shredded or torn into pieces, and then top with the piping hot chicken, pouring the oily juices over them, unless you are, for some inexplicable reason, anti-oily-juices. If you wanted to make the chicken go further, you could cut the thighs into chunky slices rather than leaving them whole. And please do add any of the suggested accompaniments, itemized in my Introduction.
  1. Take a large resealable freezer bag and put the chicken thighs in it.
  2. Using a fine microplane grater (for choice), grate in the lemon zest, then squeeze the lemons and add the juice. Pour in the olive oil and add the garlic, then add all the remaining ingredients, except for those for the sauce.
  3. Squish everything about together, then seal the bag, place it on a plate or in a dish, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 1 day.
  4. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7/425°F, remove the chicken from the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature.
  5. Tip the contents of the freezer bag into a shallow roasting tin — mine measures 44 x 34 x 1.5cm (a half sheet with a small lip of ½ inch) — and make sure all the chicken thighs are lying flat and not on top of one another (if possible) before roasting in the hot oven for 30 minutes, by which time they should be cooked through (though obviously you must check) and golden on top.
  6. When the chicken’s more or less cooked, make the sauce simply by combining the yogurt with the tahini and garlic, stir and salt to taste, and sprinkle with a few pomegranate seeds.
  7. Line a platter or a couple of plates with crisp lettuce, shredded or torn into pieces, and then top with the piping hot chicken, pouring the oily juices over them, unless you are, for some inexplicable reason, anti-oily-juices. If you wanted to make the chicken go further, you could cut the thighs into chunky slices rather than leaving them whole. And please do add any of the suggested accompaniments, itemized in my Introduction.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD:
The chicken can be marinated 1 day ahead. Store in fridge until needed.

STORE:
Transfer leftover cooked chicken to a container, then cool, cover and refrigerate within 2 hours. Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days.

FREEZE:
The chicken can be frozen in its marinade — as long as the meat has not been previously frozen — for up to 3 months.

MAKE AHEAD:
The chicken can be marinated 1 day ahead. Store in fridge until needed.

STORE:
Transfer leftover cooked chicken to a container, then cool, cover and refrigerate within 2 hours. Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days.

FREEZE:
The chicken can be frozen in its marinade — as long as the meat has not been previously frozen — for up to 3 months.

Tell us what you think

What 3 Others have said

  • I've made this a couple of times and it looked very impressive. It tasted impressive too, i should add!

    As with so many of Nigella's recipes, they are relaxing to do, but wowee! on flavour. So marinating the chook is easy peasy, then cooking it in the oven. How straightforward is that?? I made a few sides, the tomato and mint, the cucumber and the shawarma sauce, of course.

    It was a real winner.

    Posted by Chairman_Miaow on 10th June 2022
  • If I am having people over for dinner, and I don’t know what to serve, I almost always choose this. It is perfect for entertaining: it can be made ahead, it’s exotic and off the beaten path, and it’s a fun presentation with lots of colors and condiments. In addition to some warm pitta bread, shredded lettuce, and some diced tomatoes, I always make the caramelized garlic and yogurt sauce as well as the pickled carrots and cucumbers (all from “Simply Nigella”) to go with. It is one of my very favorite recipes!

    Posted by joshv41680 on 5th June 2022
  • Delicious

    Posted by cdr56 on 6th May 2022
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