Chicken Shawarma with Tomato-Cucumber Salad

My family’s nickname for me is “Aida Pita.” And I have a thing for pita bread. It’s a chicken-egg situation in that I’m not really sure which one came first. My siblings would joke that I earned the nickname as an acronym for “Pain In The you-know-what,” but I like to think it’s simply because it rhymed and because I always loved pita bread. There’s something about the pita pocket that made me super jazzed as a little one — like a treasure chest where you could store away tasty treats when no one was looking.

So, pita bread has always been my thing. Over the years I’ve crafted them into pizzas, toasty peanut butter parcels, pita chips, and given a nod to its origins by making shawarma. To my Middle Eastern friends, shawarma is the ultimate fast food. And if those shawarma cart vendors on the sidewalks of midtown Manhattan are any indicator, it’s easy to understand why. But true shawarma can be time-consuming, requiring a long list of spices and a seriously patient cook. That’s great and all, but I’m embarrassingly short on patience and don’t have a shawarma-spit-cooking-thingy.

Well, this is shawarma lite — “lite” because while it is healthier than other shawarma recipes out there, it’s also much faster and easier. Just marinate the chicken, do a few mixes and stirs of the other bits while you heat the grill, get the chicken crisp and cooked, and there you have it: Aida Pita’s shawarma lite.


Chicken Shawarma with Tomato-Cucumber Salad Recipe

  • Makes: 4 servings
  • Total Time: 45 minutes to 12 hours
  • Hands-On Time: 30 minutes


  • For the chicken:
  • 2 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • For the salad:
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces grape or sweet 100 tomatoes, halved (about 3/4 cup)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 to 8 pita, for serving


  • For the chicken:

Mix everything except the chicken together in a large, nonreactive dish until well combined. Add the chicken and turn to coat in the mixture. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes; meanwhile, prepare the sauce and salad.

  • For the sauce:

Combine everything in a small bowl and mix to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired.

  • For the salad:

Combine cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, lemon, and olive oil in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and toss to combine. Set aside until ready to use, at least 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

  • To cook the chicken:

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high (about 400°F) and rub the grill with a towel dipped in vegetable oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade and let any excess marinade drip off.

Place the chicken on the grill and cook uncovered, turning rarely, until it’s charred and the juices are running clear, about 10 minutes total. Remove from heat and let rest a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat the pita bread by lightly toasting on the grill.

To serve, thinly slice the chicken across the grain. Spread a spoonful of yogurt-tahini sauce on the pita, add a bit of the thinly sliced chicken, top with the tomato-onion salad, and serve.

Chicken // Poultry Lunch // Dinner Recipes Salad // Sandwich // Soup