Slow-roasted lamb shawarma gets its incredible flavor thanks to a marinade filled with spices and seasonings. Serve with fresh veggies, creamy sauces, and pita for a flavorful meal that will fill you up!
I’m always looking for new Middle Eastern recipes to try. As I was thinking about what to endeavor next, it hit me – lamb shawarma! If you’ve ever traveled to a big city like New York, or even outside the United States, you have probably seen this popular street food. If you’ve never tried it before, lamb shawarma is traditionally used as a filling in a hearty sandwich. Trust me, you won’t be hungry for at least a few hours.
This Middle Eastern dish (sometimes spelled shawerma) is traditionally prepared by roasting meat (lamb, chicken, or turkey) using a large cone-shaped skewer. The meat is seasoned with several different spices. It’s then served with fresh and pickled veggies, tahini, hummus, labneh, and/or yogurt sauce on pita. Sometimes you’ll see it served with tabouli salad.
SHAWARMA VS. GYRO
There tends to be some confusion surrounding these two dishes, and their names are often used interchangeably. But they are, in fact, two different things that come from two different parts of the world.
Gyro is Greek, and shawarma is Middle Eastern. They can both be made with lamb, but the gyro can also be prepared with beef, chicken, or pork. Shawerma can be made with chicken or turkey as well. The spices involved in roasting the meats are also very different.
Both are served with pita and hummus, but gyros are often served with tzatziki. The Middle Eastern variety comes with tahini and is often served with a mix of pickled and fresh vegetables, while gyros feature only fresh veggies.
Now that you’re aware of those differences, let’s talk shawerma!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Lamb - Opt for a bone-in shoulder cut.
- Red Onion - You’ll use this when roasting the meat as well as in the marinade and for serving.
- Chicken Stock - This is used in the roasting process so that your meat doesn’t dry out. You could also substitute vegetable stock, if desired.
- Garlic - Is any savory recipe complete without garlic? This small addition always goes a long way. In this recipe, you’ll use it in the marinade.
- Ginger Paste - If you don’t have any paste on hand, you can use fresh ginger. Peel an index-finger-size piece of ginger with a spoon and chop it roughly.
- Olive Oil & Apple Cider Vinegar - You’ll need both for the marinade.
- Spices & Seasonings - Roughly chopped cilantro and parsley, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne powder, salt, and pepper come together in the marinade for your slow-roasted shawerma meal.
- Serving & Garnish - Serve your roasted meat as a sandwich with:
HOW TO MAKE LAMB SHAWARMA
Prepare Your Marinade. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger to a food processor – you want it to blend down so that the mixture is finely minced. Add the fresh cilantro and parsley, plus all of the other spices. Last, but not least, add the vinegar and oil. Blend until becomes a coarse paste. Then, coat the meat with the marinade and refrigerate (covered) overnight.
Cook The Meat. First, let it warm on the counter while you preheat your oven. Spread the sliced red onion in the bottom of a roasting pan, then add the meat. Squeeze out any remaining marinade and pour chicken stock into the pan.
Cover with foil and bake for 4 hours. Remove the foil and bake for another hour, then turn up the heat and roast for 30 minutes. Once the meat has cooled a bit, shred it with a fork!
Garnish & Serve. You can serve in a warm pita with sauces, fresh veggies, and fresh parsley on top. Add a bit of lemon to finish off the dish and enjoy!
Can You Reheat Lamb Shawarma?
Absolutely! Simply reheat leftovers in the oven until warmed through, adding a splash of stock as needed for moisture.
Make sure that you store any leftover shawerma in an airtight container in the fridge so that it stays fresh. It will keep for 3-4 days.
What Does Lamb Shawarma Taste Like?
Prepared with several different spices and seasonings, lamb shawerma is filled with flavor! It is marinated in garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom, lending it a complex flavor profile. Tangy yet spicy, warm yet intense — there isn’t much missing from this dish!
Why Is It Called Shawarma?
Shawarma is an Arabic rendering of the Turkish word çevirme 'turning', referring to the turning rotisserie. Since this dish is traditionally prepared on a large skewer that turns, it makes sense! It originated in the 18th or 19th century in the Ottoman Empire, which is where modern-day Turkey is located. Enjoy!
Lamb Shawarma (Shredded)
- 5 lb lamb shoulder bone in
- 2 red onions sliced
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 red onion quartered
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoon ginger paste (index finger piece of ginger, peeled, roughly chopped)
- ½ cup cilantro roughly chopped
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley roughly chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Place the onion, garlic and ginger into a food processor and process until finely minced. Add the cilantro, parsley, spices, salt, pepper, vinegar, oil then pulse to form a coarse paste, then transfer to a non-metallic container large enough to hold the lamb.
- Pat lamb dry and pierce all over with a small, sharp knife. Smear spice paste and coat generously all over. Cover and marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
- Take lamb out of fridge 1 hour before roasting. Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Spread the 2 red onion slices on bottom of large roasting pan. Place the lamb and paste/marinade on top and pour chicken stock into pan. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 4 hours.
- Remove and discard the foil and bake for a further 1 hour, then turn heat to 350°F and bake 30 minutes more.
- The lamb is ready when it is tender and easily pulls away from the bone. Set aside to cool slightly, about 15 minutes and roughly shred the meat directly in the pan with forks.
- Serve the shredded lamb in warm pita with tahini yogurt sauce, red shatta, sliced cucumber, tomato, onion and parsley. Squeeze lemon on top of Lamb Shawarma sandwiches.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.