Nothing beats authentic grilled chicken shawarma on the spit, and believe it or not, it's easy to make at home! With its bold seasoning, perfectly juicy center, and crispy charred edges this real-deal grilled chicken shawarma recipe will be your new family favorite!

A close up of the grilled chicken shawarma on a vertical skewer with a tomato on top.
Photo Credits: Ali Redmond

Grilled chicken shawarma is one of my absolute favorite Middle Eastern street foods. The smell of the seasoning with warming spices like cumin, cloves, and turmeric, brings me right back to the markets in Egypt, where as a kid I’d hop between the vendors shaving paper-thin shawarma off the spit, frying Falafel, and handing out ice-cold Karkade (Hibiscus Tea).

If you’ve been here a while you know I take no issue with weeknight-friendly versions of classics, as long the recipe celebrates the bold flavors I grew up with. So I’m often making easy oven-baked chicken shawarma, and I’ve even made vegan versions with cauliflower and mushrooms

But with grilling season I got inspired to make the grilled chicken shawarma from my childhood. I looked for a homestyle version of the traditional shawarma spit, so you get the juicy thin slices with caramelized edges in all their glory. 

I found this skewer-meets-pan contraption, which is not terribly expensive so I decided to give it a try. And I’m so happy I did! The chicken gets those beautiful crispy and juicy layers, and you can slice it off the spit just like a real shawarma seller. 

And though it looks fancy, it’s just as easy as threading meat for kebabs. I feel like a whole world just opened up! I know you’ll love this recipe, and if you’re anything like me you’ll start planning what to roast on a spit next… 

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients for Grilled Chicken Shawarma
  2. Ingredient Spotlight
  3. How to Make Grilled Chicken Shawarma
    1. Season and Marinate the Chicken
    2. Grill the Chicken
  4. What to Serve with Grilled Chicken Shawarma 
  5. More Shawarma Recipes
  6. Grilled Chicken Shawarma on a Spit Recipe
Ingredients for grilled chicken shawarma including chicken thighs, shawarma spice blend, olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, onion. tomatoes, persian cucumbers, pickled onions, kalamata olives, tahini sauce, and pita bread.

Ingredients for Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Though it seems exotic, chicken shawarma is made with pantry staples and the easy-to-find ingredients listed below. Don't forget to check out the, “What to Serve With Grilled Chicken Shawarma” section below for my top recommended sides and accompaniments. 

  • Shawarma spice blend: You can often find shawarma spice at your local grocery store, but I prefer to make my own with the high-quality spices from our shop. I don’t add any fillers, the spices are fresher, and I can make the perfect blend to match my memories! 
  • Olive oil coats the chicken as it marinates, infusing it with flavor. Use a high-quality extra virgin variety (any of the oils at our shop would work well, but I especially love the smoothness of our California Arbequina with this recipe. 
  • Lemon adds zing to lift the savory flavor.
  • Chicken: I prefer boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe, which are easy to work with and have enough fat to stay juicy. 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper enhance the flavor.
  • Yellow onion marinates and roasts with the meat, adding its sweet and savory depth. White onion, red onion, or shallots would also work.
  • I add a Roma Tomato at the top of the shawarma spit for a nice wow factor, but it’s totally optional. 
An overhead photo of the sliced grilled chicken shawarma, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bowls of tzatziki, kalamata olives and pickled onions on a serving platter. Next to this is a stack of pita bread.

Ingredient Spotlight

Why go through the effort to roast chicken on a shawarma spit? Two words: Chicken. Drippings. The spit allows you to take full advantage of all the good stuff! The juices drip from top to bottom as they roast, flavoring the meat and making it extra juicy.

The shawarma spit also gives you the best of both worlds. You’ll get that charred open-flame flavor over on the outside, while the inside stays protected and slow-roasts to tender perfection. 

  • LOOK FOR: “Al Pastor” skewer–a version of shawarma that made its way from the Middle East to Latin America by Lebanese immigrants in Mexico. I used this one, but any vertical spit that can stand upright and catch the drippings will work.   
  • BEST SUBSTITUTE: If you don’t have the spit or rotisserie attachment for your grill, you can just grill and slice the chicken as usual (use this grilled chicken thighs recipe as a guide). The marinade will still make it flavorful and delicious! 
A knife cutting into the grilled chicken shawarma on a vertical skewer.

How to Make Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Making grilled chicken shawarma on the spit is not any more difficult than making classic kebabs. If you can, allow the meat a couple of hours to soak up the marinade’s incredible flavor. Here are the steps:

Season and Marinate the Chicken

  • Make the marinade. In a large bowl, combine the shawarma spice blend (all ¼ cup), enough olive oil to fully coat the chicken (about ⅓ cup), and juice of 1 lemon. Whisk well. 
  • Marinate the chicken. Season 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the bowl and toss so it’s well coated in the marinade. Slice an onion into thick rounds and tuck in the slices, leaving them whole. If you have the time, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight, otherwise, set aside at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes while the grill heats up.The chicken thigh marinating in a large bowl.
  • Assemble the chicken on the spit/vertical skewer. Slide a thick slice of onion onto the vertical spit and push it all the way down to the base. Slide the chicken onto the spit, one at a time, changing the direction of the chicken pieces as you layer and adding the sliced onions between every 2 to 3 pieces of chicken (this imparts great flavor). Add a whole Roma tomato at the very top, if you’d like. The marinaded chicken and onion slices stacked on a vertical skewer with a tomato on top.

Grill the Chicken

  • Prepare and heat the grill. Heat the grill to 375°F (or medium-high). 
  • Grill the chicken. Place the base of the vertical spit with the chicken over indirect heat and close the lid. After 30 minutes, open the grill and turn the base of the spit 90 degrees. Using a brush, baste the chicken with the drippings. Close the lid and cook for another 30 minutes. Do this again, if needed, rotating the spit and basting the chicken, until the chicken is well charred on the outside and its internal temperature reaches in the thickest part closest to the skewer is 160°F. All told this will take about 1 ½ hours. The grilled chicken shawarma on a vertical skewer being brushed with it's juices as it cooks on a grill.
  • Slice. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes at room temperature so its juices redistribute as the internal temperature rises to 165°F. Take a large chef’s knife and thinly slice the chicken from top to bottom. Rotate the spit and keep shaving the chicken off until all the chicken and onions have landed in the pan attached to your spit. A close up of a knife cutting into the grilled chicken shawarma.
  • Serve. Serve the chicken shawarma on a large platter, adding the fixings–tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled onions, olives, and pickles–around the chicken. Add sliced pita and tahini to the side. An overhead photo of the sliced grilled chicken shawarma, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bowls of tzatziki, kalamata olives and pickled onions on a serving platter. Next to this is a stack of pita bread.

What to Serve with Grilled Chicken Shawarma 

My husband, Saba, and I often do shawarma night at our house, and we put everything out family-style to let everyone serve themselves. My favorite fixings are:

  • Something fresh: No shawarma is complete without tomatoes and cucumbers (you could even make this Tomato Cucumber Salad), but you can also do whole parsley sprigs and mint leaves. 
  • Something pickled: I love these tangy Sumac Picked Red Onions and try to keep them stocked in my fridge, but any of your favorite pickles will work well. I used cornichons. I also love to throw Kalamata olives on the platter if I have them on hand.
  • Something creamy: I usually go for nutty dairy-free Tahini Sauce, but Tzatziki would also be delicious. 
  • Flatbread: Make your own Pita from scratch, or use a good store-bought version. For a gluten-free option, turn them into salad bowls by swapping out the chicken in this Chicken Shawarma Salad Bowl recipe.

More Shawarma Recipes

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4.70 from 10 votes

Grilled Chicken Shawarma on a Spit

Suzy Karadsheh of The Mediterranean Dish. In the kitchenSuzy Karadsheh
The grilled chicken shawarma on a vertical skewer being brushed with it's juices as it cooks on a grill.
Authentic grilled chicken shawarma is easy to make, you just need a hot grill with a rotisserie attachment or an inexpensive pan (see note). This recipe is as easy as making kebabs, but brings an added wow-factor that's prefect for special occasions, summer cookouts, Father's Day and more.
Prep – 30 minutes
Cook – 1 hour 30 minutes
Total – 2 hours
Cuisine:
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern
Serves – 6 to 8 people (with the fixings)
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup Shawarma spice blend
  • cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large lemon, juiced
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into thick rounds
  • 1 Roma tomato (optional)

To Serve

  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 2 to 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced into rounds
  • Pickled onions, cornichons, or your favorite pickles
  • Kalamata olives, to your liking
  • Tahini sauce
  • Pita bread

Instructions
 

  • Make the marinade. In a large bowl, combine the shawarma spice blend (all ¼ cup), enough olive oil to fully coat the chicken (about ⅓ cup), and the lemon juice. Whisk well.
  • Marinate the chicken. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the bowl and toss well so the chicken is well coated in the marinade. Tuck in the onion rounds, leaving them whole. If you have the time, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight, otherwise, set aside at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes while the grill heats up.
  • Assemble the chicken on the spit/vertical skewer. Slide a thick slice of onion onto the vertical spit and push it all the way down to the base. Slide the chicken onto the spit, one at a time, changing the direction of the chicken pieces as you layer and adding the sliced onions in between every 2 to 3 pieces of chicken (this imparts great flavor). Add the tomato at the very top, if using.
  • Prepare and heat the grill. Heat the grill to 375°F (or medium-high).
  • Grill the chicken. Place the base of the vertical spit with the chicken over indirect heat and close the lid. After 30 minutes, open the grill and turn the base of the spit 90 degrees. Using a brush, baste the chicken with the drippings. Close the lid and cook another 30 minutes. Do this again, if needed, rotating the spit and basting the chicken, until the chicken is well charred on the outside and its internal temperature reaches in the thickest part closer the skewer is 160°F, about 1 ½ hours.
  • Slice. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes at room temperature so its juices redistribute as its temperature rises to 165°F. Take a large chef’s knife and thinly slice the chicken from top to bottom. Rotate the spit and keep shaving the chicken off until all the chicken and onions have landed in the pan attached to your spit.
  • Serve. Serve the chicken shawarma on a large platter, adding the fixings–tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled onions, olives, and pickles–around the chicken. Add sliced pita and tahini to the side.

Video

Notes

  • Shop this recipe: Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including the olive oil,  olives, and spices used in this recipe.
  • Where to find the Spit/Grill Pan: Unless you have a rotisserie attachment for your grill, you will need a spit or Vertical skewer like what is used for Al Pastor. This is the one I used - it’s not expensive and you’ll make good use of it.

Nutrition

Calories: 152.9kcalCarbohydrates: 4.5gProtein: 22.5gFat: 4.8gSaturated Fat: 1.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.6gTrans Fat: 0.02gCholesterol: 107.3mgSodium: 103.6mgPotassium: 427.4mgFiber: 1.1gSugar: 2.2gVitamin A: 365.8IUVitamin C: 13.8mgCalcium: 22.9mgIron: 1.2mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.70 from 10 votes

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Comments

  1. Jewell says:

    5 stars
    I am eating this as I type. It is so freaking delicious I had to review it immediately! The shawarma spice is out of this world and the chicken is so juicy and tender. I served it with your pita and cucumber dill salad. Yum! This will be a new regular in our house!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Yay! We love to hear that! Thanks so much, Jewell!

  2. Tom says:

    5 stars
    Hey y’all! I am in the process of making this as I type. The main course is on the spit, my wife is making tzatziki, slicing cherry tomatoes, and life is good. The shawarma spice recipe is about to be a regular in the cabinet. The fire is red oak and hickory chunks from splitting firewood.
    I did one thing differently. I sliced an eggplant into thick slices, marinated it with the chicken, and put it between the onion and the chicken.
    Suzy, your site is now a main source for us. It’s hard for me decide whether I like SE Asian or Mediterranean cuisine the best. Depends on the day. Wish I could attach a pic.

    1. TMD Team says:

      I love the idea of adding eggplant to this, Tom!!! Thanks for sharing! Sounds like you guys enjoyed quite the feast!

  3. sandra says:

    5 stars
    I made this today and I am absolutely amazed at how delicious it was!
    It was not hard to make and the results were perfect. I did get one of the spit pans for this and the shawarma finished exactly as pictured. Served it with Tahini, pitas and a cucumber/tomato/feta salad.

    So good!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and review, Sandra!

  4. Peg says:

    3 stars
    Not near “schwarma” enough for us. Needs more spice.

  5. Jill Dilger says:

    5 stars
    Amazing! Super easy and fun dinner!

  6. Juliana says:

    5 stars
    Fantastic recipe! We made this as written this weekend for a small dinner party. Everyone raved. One friend said “This is one of the best meals I have ever had!” Thank you so much.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Oh, wonderful! We love to hear that! Thanks, Juliana!

  7. Benni Boom says:

    5 stars
    That was absolutely delicious! I purchased the spices from Suzy's shop, bought the pan from her link to Amazon & used 4 thighs which was the perfect amount for the shorter skewer (the only one that fits the BBQ with the lid down). The temp gauge on the grill fluctuated a little & the timing was shorter than an hour, but it turned out fantastic!! So much better than any shawarma dish I've picked up from Med. restaurants -- juicy, tender & the spices were perfect. The dollop of feta cucumber dip, left over from a previous recipe, put it over the top. This is an easy, inexpensive meal to prepare. Highly recommend!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thank you so much for the great review, Benni!

  8. Kay Menard says:

    5 stars
    I didn't have any suitable chicken so we made this recipe with boneless leg of lamb. Delicious, delicious, delicious! And the tahini sauce recipe is an absolute must!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Yay! We love hearing this worked so well with lamb!

  9. Elaina Dulaney says:

    4 stars
    Tough to keep the grill at the right temperature, need to keep a super close eye on it. Mine burned on the outside...

  10. Jewel says:

    Where can I purchase the schwarma pan? Thank you!

    1. Summer Miller says:

      Hi, Jewel! I'm Summer and I work here at The Mediterranean Dish. You can find the spit Suzy used on Amazon. Here is the link

  11. Sharon says:

    So it is over direct heat? I want to mix boneless thighs with some boneless breast….should I put the breast on top if it cooks faster and would be easier to remove? Or do you think it will cook at the same rate? I bought that spit right after you posted the video on Facebook. Love making shawarma and this way seems so authentic.

  12. Mike says:

    5 stars
    Bought the spit and made for Father’s Day. I got 12 chicken thighs on the long skewer (with onion slices) and cooked on the green egg. Took a little more than 2 hours but it was worth the wait! A very cool family style meal the everyone enjoyed. Thanks for bringing us this awesome recipe!

  13. Kat says:

    Video and recipe here is different. Temp 375 but video says 350. I've had mine on gril at 375 for 30 minutes and it is charred...