International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Shawarma vendor in Istanbul, Turkey

(Middle Eastern spiced meat sandwich)

Average: 3.9 (45 votes)

Shawarma is popular throughout the eastern Mediterranean and is sometimes called the Middle Eastern taco. It originated in northwestern Turkey as döner kebab, which reached its current form and popularity with the Turkish population in Germany. The shawarma sandwich is now found in a variety of forms around the world.

Shawarma meat is typically shaved off a large rotating cone of layered meat. The meat is roasted with radiant gas or electric heat. The shawarma vendor cuts off thin slices of the roasted meat and serves them in a folded pita with garnishes and condiments. This recipe is a simpler, homemade version of what you find on the street. It's the spices that give it all of shawarma's signature flavor.

The word shawarma is an approximation of the Turkish word for "turning." Sometimes spelled shwarma. Known as guss in Iraq.

4 servings


  • Lean lamb or beef, or boneless, skinless chicken, sliced very thinly -- 2 pounds
  • Garlic, minced -- 3 or 4 cloves
  • Salt -- 2 teaspoons
  • Pepper -- 1 teaspoon
  • Ground allspice -- 1 teaspoon
  • Ground cardamom -- 1 teaspoon
  • Ground cloves -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground nutmeg -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Yogurt -- 1 cup
  • Vinegar or lemon juice -- 1/4 cup


  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and set aside to marinate for anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. Drain and discard any excess marinade.
  2. To Broil: Heat an oven broiler to high. Spread the meat evenly in a single layer on an ovenproof pan. Set 4 to 6 inches under the broiler flame and broil until cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir halfway through to cook evenly.
  3. To Grill: Heat coals or set gas to high heat. Spread the meat in a grill basket and grill until cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Serve the shawarma hot inside folded pita bread with your choice of garnishes and sauces (see variations below).

Shawarma Variations

  • Condiments and Garnishes: Shawarma is commonly served with tahini (taratour) sauceyogurt sauce or garlic mayonnaise. Other garnishes include chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, shredded lettuce, sliced red onion, pickles, mango pickle, hummus or even French fries.
  • Gyros (Greece): Serve with tzatziki sauce.
  • Döner Kebab (Turkey, Germany): Serve with cacik sauce (see tzatziki sauce recipe variations).
  • Meats: Shawarma is sometimes made with a mixture of meats. Goat meat shawarma is popular in Saudi Arabia.
  • Breads: Lavash bread can be used instead of pita. Roll all of the ingredients up in a piece of lavash like a burrito to make a Middle Eastern wrap.
  • Spices: Vary the number and amount of spices to your own taste. Some recipes call for adding cinnamon to the mix.

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