An Easy Chicken Shawarma Salad that has warm spices, tender chicken, fresh veggies, and a zesty lemon tahini dressing. Perfect for lunch or a light dinner, and full of delicious flavor. Gluten free, low carb, keto, paleo and Whole30 compliant.
As soon as the temperatures are scorching hot, you’ll find me eating more and more loaded salads. If chicken shawarma is one of your favorite things to eat, but you’re cutting back on carbs, you’ll just love this low-carb version!
Instead of serving it with pita or a flatbread, the chicken is served atop a fresh and crisp salad and a zesty tahini dressing.
There are so many recipes out there to try. I based mine off of the No Crumbs Left recipe, and it is served with a garlic tahini dressing. I found a NY Times recipe that suggests to serve it with a white sauce that consists of plain yogurt mayonnaise, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and minced garlic.
What does an authentic shawarma have?
A traditional shawarma is made with meat that is slowly roasted and then thinly sliced. It could be made with chicken, beef, or lamb. It gets stuffed in a flatbread or pita. It could also have vegetables, pickles, hummus, and a flavorful shawarma sauce.
How to make an easy chicken shawarma salad?
There are some stages to putting together this salad. Some parts of it could be made a day or two ahead of time, so it’s no-fuss and not complicated.
Prepare it in these steps:
- Marinate the chicken
- Prep the marinated red onions
- Prep the dressing
- Assemble the salad
Marinate the chicken: in a small bowl, stir together the spices. Add in the garlic and stir it to make a paste. The lemon zest gets stirred in and while stirring, start to drizzle in the olive oil. Stir in the lemon juice and combine it all.
Add the chicken breasts into a large zipped lock bag (a bowl or an airtight container). Pour on the marinade and if you have it in a zipped lock sealed bag, squish it all around the seasoning, lemon juice + olive oil. If it’s in a bowl or container, use your clean hands to massage the marinade all around the chicken.
Place the bag or bowl (or container) in the refrigerator and let it marinate for 24 hours. It could even be prepped and marinated the day of cooking.
Prep marinated red onions: slice a red onion and place in a medium sized bowl. In a small bowl stir together the olive oil, vinegar, and dried oregano. Pour it over the sliced onion. The red onion could be left covered on the counter for 12 hours before using.
Or place it in a jar in the refrigerator. Since my kitchen is so hot, I marinated mine in the refrigerator. You could prep it even 2 days ahead of time.
Prep the dressing: mix the water, tahini, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and lemon juice. Stir it to combine. You could make the dressing 1-2 days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.
Roast the chicken: when ready to make the salad, cook up the chicken.
Assemble the salad: in a large serving plate or a bowl, add the lettuce and if you’re using a platter, assemble the vegetables around the salad.
Slice the chicken: arrange the sliced chicken on top of the lettuce. Drizzle on the dressing and serve with marinated onions.
How to make chicken shawarma seasoning?
There are different ways to marinate the chicken for the shawarma recipe. You can even buy shawarma seasoning mix. In this recipe I used:
- ground coriander
- ground cumin
- ground cayenne pepper
- ground turmeric
- garlic powder
- sweet paprika
- cayenne pepper
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- dried oregano
- minced garlic
- extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly squeezed lemon juice + lemon zest
Can chicken shawarma salad be prepped ahead of time?
Yes, it sure can! The chicken can be marinated overnight. In case you forget to marinate it, no problem. Just be sure to marinate it for at least 30 minutes (to 1 hour) before.
- Prep the salad ingredients ahead of time. Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers and cut up the lettuce.
- Slice the onions and marinate them. They are best marinated a couple days ahead of time.
- Store the prepped salad ingredients in the fridge until you’re ready to set up the platter.
- Make the dressing a day or two ahead of time and store in a jar or an airtight storage container.
Is this recipe Whole30 compliant?
Yes, this chicken recipe is definitely Whole30 compliant. It is also paleo, keto friendly, dairy-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free.
- I made this with chicken breasts, but it is also delicious with chicken thighs. You could even do a combo of the two.
- Make your own shawarma seasoning or buy a pre-made one.
- Serve the chicken shawarma with the salad recipe we share or serve it on top of a fattoush salad (a traditional Lebanese salad).
- If you’re not low-carb, go ahead and enjoy this with pita bread or a homemade flatbread (even this piadina-Italian flatbread would be perfect with this chicken recipe).
How to store chicken shawarma salad
Since this is a great recipe for meal prep, the best way to store is to keep the components separate. The chicken and the dressing could go (separately)in an airtight container (I keep the dressing in a jar).
Store the salad and veggies in a separate airtight container, or zipped lock bag. If you store the salad with the dressing on, it will be soggy the next day.
How long should I marinate my chicken?
Ideally, 12-24 hours would be a nice amount of time for the flavors to permeate the chicken. In case you forget to marinate the chicken, a 30-60 minute marinate time would also work.
Can different meat be used in a shawarma?
Yes! You can sub the chicken with beef or even lamb. You would just have to adjust the cooking time.
What could be used in place of tahini?
In case you do not have tahini on hand, you could sub in a different seed or nut butter. It has to be smooth for the salad dressing. You could make a quick vinaigrette if you prefer.
How long will Chicken Shawarma last in the refrigerator?
Keep thicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator and it will stay fresh for up to four days. The homemade tahini dressing should be kept in the refrigerator and will keep fresh for up to 2 weeks. The veggies should stay fresh for up to 4 days (without the dressing on it).
Some other chicken recipes to enjoy:
- Grilled Chicken Cutlets with a Cherry Tomato Panzanella
- Easy Grilled Chicken Salad
- Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Easy Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken
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Easy Chicken Shawarma Salad
- 3 chicken breasts boneless and skinless, pounded to even thickness
- 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 Tablespoon ground sumac or replace with 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 garlic cloves smashed and minced
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- To assemble
- 6 cups assorted greens I used Romaine lettuce
- 2 ripe medium tomatoes or 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups sliced cucumber
- Garlic tahini dressing:
- 1 packed cup cilantro leaves with tender stems about 1 small bunch
- 2 scallions sliced
- ½ cup well-stirred tahini see note below
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice or lime juice
- 1 medium garlic clove
- ½ teaspoon fine salt salt more to taste
- Marinated red onions:
- ½ medium red onion thinly sliced into rounds
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- Marinate the chicken: Pound the chicken breasts to 0.8-inch (2cm) at the thickest part. Be sure they are the same thickness to ensure even cooking.
- In a large bowl, add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, ground sumac, or replace with 2 tablespoons lemon zest, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, ground turmeric, freshly ground black pepper, ground cinnamon, minced garlic cloves, lemon zest, and whisk well.
- Add the chicken, and use your clean hands to massage the marinade all around the chicken. Cover tightly with foil paper or plastic wrap.
- Or, you could also add the chicken breasts into a large zipped lock bag. Seal the bag tightly (getting the air out before zipping it closed), and squish the marinade all around the chicken..
- Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours. If you are pressed for time, marinate it for 30 minutes before cooking.
- Bake the chicken: If marinating overnight, allow the chicken to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 425º. Place the chicken on a parchment lined baking sheet or in a casserole and bake until chicken is browned and crisp on the edges, for 16-18 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- For crispier chicken, turn on the broiler to high and broil it for 3 minutes (keep an eye on it).
- Remove the chicken from the oven and loosely cover the baking dish for 5-10 minutes, so the chicken can continue cooking in its residual heat, and the juices in the meat can redistribute.
- While the chicken cooks, prep the dressing, onions, and the salad.
- Prepare the tahini dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a blender (you could make the whole thing by hand).
- Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
- If seems too thick, thin it out with a little water (add 1 tablespoon at a time until it gets to desired texture).
- Prepare the marinated red onions: Combine all the ingredients in a blender (you could make the whole thing by hand).
- Measure the olive oil in a glass measuring cup. Add the vinegar and oregano and mix until combined. Pour the mixture over the onions and press the onions down until submerged in the oil.
- Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours before serving. If it’s more than 12 hours, my kitchen is hot, so it goes right into the refrigerator.
- Prep the salad: Arrange the greens on a platter (or plates).
- Layer on the chicken and add on the tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and red onions. cucumbers and red onions. Drizzle with the tahini dressing and enjoy!
Tahini: Check the ingredient label when purchasing tahini – sesame seeds should be the only ingredient.
Each brand will vary in texture and taste.
I usually get a Middle Eastern brand.
The dressing can be stored in a jar or an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Chicken: You could use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, instead of chicken breasts. Marinating chicken: If you have time marinate at least 12 hours, if not, even 30 minutes will do.
Cooking the chicken: Be sure not to overcook the chicken. Check if chicken breasts are ready with a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should reach 165°F .
Let chicken rest: Place the grilled chicken on a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes before you slice it.