Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

There’s a small restaurant chain in Los Angeles called Zankou Chicken that is well known for its super secret chicken shawarma recipe, which is crispy and juicy and beautifully spiced and comes with a crazy-good garlic sauce that will make your breath reek for at least the next few hours if not days. It’s a place that causes cravings, and while it’s not that pricey, I much prefer to be able to make my own chicken shawarma whenever I want to, rather than being held hostage by the operating hours and cash-only rules of Zankou. 

This recipe is as close as I’ve come to replicating their delicious chicken. It uses the leftover spice blend from the Tabbouleh recipe -- making both for the same meal would be a wonderful idea, as the spiced coolness of the Tabbouleh complements the savory crispiness of the chicken. If you don’t want to use the Tabbouleh spice blend, you can add some cinnamon, which I’ve specified in the ingredients.

Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

This is a great dish for a dinner party, or to keep in the fridge for a few days’ lunches or dinners. It reheats beautifully, crisped up in a pan with some olive oil.

Spices used in this recipe

Peppercorns, Tellicherry, Grinder
Cumin Ground
Turmeric, Ground
Paprika, Spanish Sweet
Chili Peppers, Crushed
Chili Peppers, Crushed



White Sauce:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise or yogurt
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, to taste, grated on a Microplane or minced

Red Sauce:


  • 1 medium English cucumber or 2 small Persian cucumbers
  • 2 perfectly rice Roma tomatoes


  1. Make the marinade. Combine lemon juice, ⅓ cup olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, Tabbouleh Spice Mix or cinnamon, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl and whisk. Add the chicken thighs and mix with gloved hands or tongs to coat evenly. Cover the bowl or transfer to a large plastic bag or container and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hours, ideally more, up to 12 hours.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a rimmed baking pan with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the quartered onion to the chicken and toss again to coat the onion with the marinade. It’s okay if it falls apart a little bit. 
  3. Place the chicken and onion on the sheet pan, spreading everything out evenly, and roast in the oven until it is well-browned and crispy at the edges, about 30-40 minutes. Check the temperature of the thickest parts with a thermometer -- it should be 165°F - 175°F when done.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauces. Combine the mayonnaise or yogurt with the garlic cloves in a bowl. Start with 2 cloves and go from there. You want something that tastes very garlicky.
  5. To make the red sauce, combine the ketchup, vinegar, and Red Pepper Flakes in a small pan. Simmer until the sauce becomes thick and syrupy. Allow to cool.
  6. Remove the chicken and onion from the oven and let rest for 2 minutes. Place the chicken pieces on a chopping board and slice into small strips. You can serve the chicken like this, or toss it in a hot pan slicked with some more olive oil to crisp it up even more. This is also a great way to reheat the leftovers, if you have any. 
  7. Arrange the chicken on a platter and scatter with parsley. Serve with White and Red Sauces, and the tomatoes and cucumbers sliced and tossed together. You can make a beautiful pita sandwich with all of these ingredients, or serve the chicken and condiments on rice. Anything vaguely Middle Eastern in flavor will go beautifully with this dish. Try the Tabbouleh with it too!

Serves 6. Adapted from The New York Times.


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