What is Shawarma and How To Use It in Recipes

What is Shawarma and How To Use It in Recipes

Shawarma History

What is Shawarma and how is it different from Turkish Döner, Greek Gyros and even the more modern day Mexican dish "tacos al pastor's” or "tacos al trompo"? The short answer is essentially nothing, as all of these "rotisserie" cooking styles or dishes originate from the same place and point in time. That being the Ottoman empire in the early 19th Century which is now modern day Turkey.

What is Shawarma Style Of Cooking

All of these styles of "shawarma" cooking use thin slices of seasoned meat, stacked in an inverted cone shaped skewer which are roasted on a slowly turning vertical rotisserie or spit. Shawarma is the Arabic derivative of the Ottoman word "çevirme," which means "turning" where as the modern day Turkish word Döner is derived from donmek, which means “one that turns”. Gyro means “ring or round” and Trompo means “spinning top".

Shawarma Spice Flavor Profile

The difference between these rotisserie style cooking methods comes down to the choice of meat and with what it is seasoned with.  This as a result is where all these culinary styles carve (pun intended) their own delicious paths and where Shawarma distinctively sets itself apart. What I love about the Middle Eastern Shawarma seasoning is its layering of exotic sweet spices missing from the other styles of seasoning. Shawarma embraces spices of cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The aromatics that pour out of the kitchen or off the grill while your Shawarma is cooking, is simply so very good. Don’t worry you still have all your savory spices in there like cumin, paprika, oregano, ginger and black pepper to balance and carry the bottom end of a Shawarma seasoning flavor profile. So don’t worry, this doesn’t taste like apple pie seasoning if that's what you were thinking.

Difference Between a Dry Shawarma Spice Blend and A Shawarma Marinade

A dry Shawarma spice blend recipe will add an acid as part of the marinade recipe. Possibly vinegar, usually lemon juice along with olive oil. We here at Wozz! never satisfied to do the status quo, incorporates the addition of acid driven wet ingredients which gives us a second opportunity to layer even more flavor and increase the depth of an already wonderful deep seasoning as well as adding those necessary sour bright notes. This is what sets Wozz! Middle Eastern Shawarma apart from a regular dry spice mix. Not only is the spice blend ready to go in its entirety but we have layered the sour ingredients. Starting with candied orange for citrusy sweetness, 100% fresh orange juice, preserved lemon for a salt toned down lemon flavor, rising up to the brighter ingredients of 100% lemon juice and a little cider vinegar. All of these flavors are brought together in an infusion of black tea, and for anyone who’s been to the Middle East or Turkey knows that the sipping of tea is as customary as breathing. 

Shawarma Uses and Application

The practical application of such a deep flavored marinade is as diverse as its ingredients. Shawarma is a great way to enjoy all your flatbread and pita style sandwiches whether using shawarma marinated animal protein or vegetables. Shawarma is a wonderful marinade for beef, lamb or chicken and is a fantastic vegan seasoning for roasted cauliflower, falafel and winter root vegetables.

Additional ways to use Shawarma?  To season ground meats for meatballs, patties, cabbage rolls and kebabs. With Shawarma, you can also season rice dishes, salad ingredients like chickpeas and lentils and all your favorite dips and sides. This seasoning is not just for Middle Eastern recipes either; Its a great addition to a roast dinner, to season all your vegetable sides or for a Greek Moussaka (a Greek beef and eggplant lasagna), stuffed zucchini and of course all of your favorite soups, stews and curries.

For some easy recipes and ideas, here are our favorite ways that we use our Middle Eastern Shawarma Marinade and Sauce

1. Use Shawarma As A Chicken Marinade

One of the most classic ways to use Shawarma is to season or marinade chicken.  Once you are finished marinating the chicken in the shawarma spice, you can simply grill it or bake it and serve it with traditional sides such as hummus, garlic yogurt, grilled pita bread and salad. 

Pictured Below:  Shawarma Marinated Chicken 

Chicken Shawarma


2. Roasted Vegetables Marinated in Shawarma Seasoning

Shawarma seasoning with it's aromatic warm flavor profile is delicious with roasted root winter vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato and butternut squash.  Simply marinade your vegetables with our shawarma marinade and roast until slightly crisp and tender.   

Pictured Below:  Shawarma Roasted Vegetables with Burrata

Roasted Vegetables with Shawarma Marinade and Burrata


3. Shawarma Seasoned Grilled Lamb Koftas or Beef Meatballs

Shawarma is a wonderful seasoning or marinade for grilled lamb koftas or beef meatballs.  Serve your shawarma grilled meats with all the traditional sides:  Tomato Cucumber Salad, Tabbouleh, Red Onion, Grilled Pita, Tahini Sauce, Hummus or Yogurt Sauce.  

Pictured Below:  Shawarma Lamb Koftas with Tabbouleh and Lemon Tahini Sauce

Grilled Shawarma Lamb Koftas

4.  Shawarma Seasoned Yogurt Sauce, Dip or Flavored Hummus

Add our Middle Eastern Shawarma Sauce to Greek yogurt, a tahini sauce or to your hummus for an aromatic flavor boost for all your sandwiches, grilled pita, burgers, wraps or vegetables. 

5.  Shawarma Seasoned Roasted Cauliflower and Hummus Bowls
Super healthy and low in sugar, Shawarma is a marinade that is delightful for a number of vegan dishes from shawarma marinated cauliflower bowls to falafel and hummus salad bowls. 

6.  Shawarma Marinated Ground Beef For Cabbage Rolls or Moussaka
I love to marinade ground beef in our Middle Eastern Shawarma Marinade to make a beef and eggplant Moussaka style lasagna, to make the seasoned beef filling to cabbage rolls or to for the meat flavoring in a meat pie.   It's absolutely delicious.

7. Shawarma Marinated Beef, Lamb or Chicken or Falafel In a Warm Pita Wrap

Hands down our favorite way to enjoy Shawarma seasoning is to marinate whatever protein or veggie you want - either beef, lamb, chicken, mushrooms, cauliflower or falafel, then grill or cook to your liking, add to a warm pita with all the toppings:  yogurt sauce, hummus, tomato, cucumber, tahini sauce and then wrap up and devour!  It's is so so good!

Chicken Shawarma Pita Wrap
Middle Eastern Shawarma Seasoning and Marinade
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