Homemade Chicken Shawarma with Yogurt Sauce

I’ve been craving chicken shawarma ever since I first saw The Avengers movie (years ago!)  Since I’m in NY, and the city wasn’t really broken like in the movie, I even looked up the place where the last scene was filmed (when they were all sitting around eating shawarma).  But somehow, I never managed to get there.  I was re-watching the movie again recently and had the same craving again. Then I thought, wait, I know how to cook! Why go out and schlep all the way to midtown when I can make homemade chicken shawarma instead?

So, instead of going out, I went to the Internet and found a NY Times recipe.  This dish is traditionally made on a spit or a rotisserie, but who has a roasting spit in their home? Not me, and certainly not in my tiny kitchen.  The oven works just fine.  If you want, you can roast the chicken first, and then fry it in a pan to make it crispier.  I prefer my chicken moist and tender, so I skipped that step.

You make this dish in two stages. First marinate the chicken, make the yogurt sauce, and let both sit in the fridge. It’s best if it sits overnight, but allow at least an hour so that the flavors have time to blend together.

I put the chicken and the marinade ingredients in a plastic zip lock bag, shook it all up, and rubbed the sauce into the meat.  One less bowl to clean! The yogurt sauce went into a small ramekin.

There are hundreds of different ways to make the sauce: with za’atar or sumac, with dill, mint, basil, mostly mayo, yogurt/mayo, and on and on and on.  I’ve listed several different variations, just pick the one that suits your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand.

I could use za’atar and sumac, but I left them out of the instructions since they are a bit exotic in the US and I try to stick to ingredients that are readily accessible. The lemon zest, salt, and pepper that are in the recipe are a decent substitute for the sumac.  You can combine thyme, sesame seeds, sumac (or lemon pepper), plus salt and make your own za’atar substitute.

If you like, combine the dry ingredients for the marinade together and keep them in a spice jar.  Then, you just have to add fresh lemon juice and you’re ready to cook.

Serve this with a Greek salad, rice, olives, feta, or even (gasp) French fries. Fried or roasted eggplant would be great too.

Homemade Chicken Shawarma

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Category: dinner

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

one serving

Homemade Chicken Shawarma

Get takeout flavor right in your own kitchen. Homemade chicken shawarma is a meal all by itself.

Ingredients

  • Homemade Shawarma Marinade
  • 1/2 small lemon, juiced (divided, about 2-3 T total; use 2T for the marinade and one for the sauce)
  • 2 T plus 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • generous pinch turmeric (about 1/8 tsp)
  • pinch cinnamon
  • red pepper flakes
  • Chicken
  • 1 chicken thigh (bone-in)
  • 1/2 onion, cut in quarters
  • One pita bread
  • Yogurt Sauce
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 T mayonnaise
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • grating of lemon zest (healthy pinch)
  • small clove minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional Sauce ingredients
  • minced mint
  • z'aatar
  • sumac
  • minced dill
  • tahini
  • chopped cucumber

Instructions

  1. Marinade
  2. Start by making the marinade for the chicken. Pour all the marinade ingredients into a plastic zip lock bag. Mix it all up with a spoon.
  3. Chicken
  4. Add the chicken, close the bag, and shake it, and rub the marinade into the meat. Set in the fridge for at least an hour (preferably overnight).
  5. Sauce
  6. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or ramekin. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour (or overnight).
  7. Preheat the toaster oven to 425 degrees.
  8. Take the chicken out of the fridge, open the bag, and add the onion. Close the bag and shake to mix it all up.
  9. Grease the toaster oven tray (or a small rimmed baking pan) with the remaining oil. Pour the chicken and marinade onto the pan.
  10. Cook for 30-40 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit for a minute or two until it's cool enough to handle. Cut the chicken up (save the bone for soup), and place on the pita.
  11. Drizzle the sauce over the meat and serve.

Notes

Note, the prep time on this includes an hour of marinating time. You don't actually have to work that long!




 

Homemade Chicken Shawarma Substitutions and Variations

  • Serve with Persian or English cucumbers and fresh tomatoes
  • Top with feta cheese
  • Add chopped dill or mint to the sauce
  • Put za’atar or sumac in the sauce
  • Make the sauce with tahini
  • Serve with a Greek salad (olives, feta, tomatoes, and cucumber)

More Middle Eastern Recipes

Shakshouka for One

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person

Chopped Israeli Salad for One Person

Easy Lentils and Rice Recipe

Tools and Ingredients for Homemade Chicken Shawarma

norpro porcelain ramekinsNorpro 4oz/120ml Porcelain Ramekins, Set of 6norpro porcelain ramekins

These little ramekins are super-handy in the kitchen. I use them for dips, sauces, mixing up a quick salad dressing, nuts, slices of lemon to squeeze on fish, and olives. Use one for the olives, and another to hold the pits (works for cherries too). Or, you can even use them for spare change.

zaatar seasoning
USimply Season Za’atar

If you want try try actual za’atar, make sure to look carefully at the ingredients. Some of them have wheat (?!?) in them, and others are just thyme (which is the English translation). You want a mixture of sesame seeds, thyme, oregano or marjoram, and sumac. This one delivers what it should. Use it for the yogurt sauce, add it to roasted vegetables or fish, or sprinkle it into olive oil and serve with pita bread.

ground sumac
USimplySeason Sumac

Sumac adds a pop of bright red color, as well as a citrusy, lemon flavor to food. It’s great with hummus, over fish, mixed in salads, or on potatoes. There’s no additives, salt, or other fillers in this jar, just sumac.

 



 

Shakshouka for One

Shakshouka doesn’t roll off the tongue when you try to say it.  Maybe it’s a Middle Eastern market?  Or a new folk dance?  It is Middle Eastern spicy poached eggs, either Tunisian or Israeli (depending who you ask, or which ingredients you use). If you make it with onions and bell peppers, it’s Israeli.  On the other hand, if you serve it up with feta or potatoes then it’s Tunisian.

This shakshouka for one recipe is actually two recipes that I mind melded together (one from column A and one from column B) to get what I wanted.

Also, for some reason, I thought it had spinach.  So, I washed and chopped 1/4 C of spinach. Only to find out there was no spinach in either recipe.  I added it anyway. Why waste perfectly good spinach? Besides it adds extra color and flavor, which I think worked out well.

The real recipe ingredients are poached eggs, tomato, onions, bell peppers, and some cayenne for kick.

I’m calling it lunch here, but it works well as a light dinner too. You can put the whole thing together in only 20 or 25 minutes.

So, easy, and no fussing. The hardest part is making sure you don’t break the egg yolks.

Serve it with lots of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.




Shakshouka for One

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

one serving

Shakshouka for One

Israeli, Tunisian, I've even seen a Chinese version of the same idea. Whatever your preference, this meal looks like you worked really hard (even though you didn't).

Ingredients

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • generous pinch cayenne
  • 2 mini orange bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 C pureed tomatoes
  • 2 T water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C chopped spinach

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a medium size frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring every once in a while. The onion should be soft and slightly browned (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the chopped garlic, cumin, cayenne, and chopped bell peppers.
  3. Cook, stirring, until the garlic gets soft. This should take another minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the water to the pan. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until it gets a bit thick.
  5. After the mixture has cooked about 10 minutes, season with salt.
  6. Carefully break the eggs over the tomato mixture. Cook until the whites set (this should be about 5 minutes). Spoon the sauce over the white part of the eggs. Be careful not to break them.
  7. Sprinkle the spinach over the eggs and cook for a minute.
  8. Using a spatula, carefully lift the shakshouka from the pan onto a plate.

Substitutions and Variations for Shakshouka for One

  • Slice and fry up a potato in some olive oil, then proceed with the rest of the recipe
  • Add some sliced spicy sausage (merguez would work beautifully)
  • Sprinkle it with some feta cheese
  • If you do break the eggs, just scramble them

More Egg Recipes

Egg and Tomato Gratin for One Person

Cherry Tomato Basil Frittata

Egg Chili Cheese Burrito Recipe

Spinach and Egg Frittata for One Person

 




Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person

One of the things I like about cooking is that you can take one recipe or meal and transform it into something else entirely.  For example, this vegetarian eggplant sandwich is a variation on the sabich sandwich eaten in Iraq and Israel.  First, I made another batch of the Israeli salad recipe from two weeks ago (the original way, with lemon and bell pepper instead of the mint and lime), and then I added pita, fried eggplant, hummus, spinach, and a hard boiled egg.

And voila! A side dish is now a full meal. The spinach isn’t traditional, but I had some handy and I figured it would go well with the other ingredients.

It makes a great lunch (or light dinner), without a lot of fussing. You hard boil the egg, fry the eggplant and onion, and then just stuff everything into the pita.  You can even follow local tradition and eat it for breakfast on a weekend morning; it has eggs, it must be breakfast food).

Some versions of this sandwich use Israeli pickles and pickled mango sauce. These are both probably delicious, but I didn’t add them because I hate buying large containers of ingredients only to use a few spoonfuls. If you don’t mind that, or plan to eat a lot of sandwiches, you can find both on Amazon.




Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: sandwich

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

one serving

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich

Vegetarian sandwich with eggplant, hard boiled egg, hummus, and chopped Israeli salad.

Ingredients

  • three slices eggplant, cut into strips
  • pinch or two of kosher salt (to draw out the moisture from the eggplant)
  • hard boiled egg
  • 2-3T olive oil
  • 2 tsp onion, diced
  • handful spinach (optional)
  • 2 T persian/israeli salad (cukes, tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, optional bell peppers, cut into tiny pieces; the full recipe is here)
  • 2 T hummus
  • one pocket pita bread

Instructions

  1. Salt the eggplant and let it sit while you boil the egg.
  2. Fill a small saucepan (preferably enamel or stainless steel) with water and add the egg. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the egg for 12 minutes (right out of the fridge, 10 if it was sitting on the counter for a while).
  3. Remove the egg from the pan with a large slotted spoon and hold it under cold running water (or plunge it into an ice bath). The shell will come off more easily if it's cold.
  4. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the eggplant. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes.
  5. Now add the spinach, if using, and cook for one minute until it wilts.
  6. Remove the eggplant mixture from the heat.
  7. Peel the egg and cut it into slices.
  8. Cut open the pita, and add the spinach.
  9. Add eggplant mixture, egg, salad, and hummus in layers.

Substitutions and Variations for Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich

  • Add the pickles and the mangos
  • Layer in some tahini sauce
  • Shred some cabbage and put that between the layers
  • Include bell pepper (about one mini pepper) in the Israeli salad
  • Try some jalapeño for extra heat

More Eggplant Recipes

Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe for One

White Pizza Recipe Without Ricotta

Sichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

 




Chopped Israeli Salad for One Person

Chopped Israeli salad isn’t quite what you might assume. It doesn’t have lettuce or carrots.  It’s not even eaten when you’d expect.  Israeli salad isn’t for lunch or dinner. Instead people eat it for breakfast with eggs, hummus, pita bread, fish, and olives. Not being much of a standard American breakfast person, I approve!

Of course, all of those things make a great lunch too, especially on a hot day when  you don’t want to get anywhere near a stove or an oven. I adapted this recipe from a comment on Tori Avery’s web site. 

She had a recipe for Israeli salad, and a commenter, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, pointed out that there’s a Persian version called “salad e-shirazi.”

She said it calls for red onion and parsley (neither of which I had).  However, I did decide to follow her suggestion and use lime juice instead of lemon juice and add mint.

Make sure to use either Persian cucumbers or English cucumbers (rather than the standard kind).  The Persian (or mini) cucumbers are shorter and thinner than standard cucumbers and usually sold in sealed packages.  The English (or hothouse) cucumbers are the long, skinny ones individually wrapped in plastic wrap.

They’re easier to cut up and you don’t have to peel them! Also, the standard cukes tend to be more bitter.

I cut everything up, mixed it together, and left it out on the counter for a couple of hours (there’s nothing to spoil quickly) so that the flavors would blend.  Also, if you put tomatoes in the fridge, they start to lose their flavor.

You can serve this salad with the pita and etc. I mentioned above for a light meal or as a side dish with a sandwich or some eggs. You can make plain scrambled eggs, a frittata, or keep the Persian theme going and serve it with Persian eggs. I added about 1/4 C of eggplant I had left over (recipe here and it’s even for one person).

There’s no picture of the eggs because I was hungry and started eating before I remembered to take one!





Chopped Israeli Salad for One

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Category: side dish

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

one serving

Chopped Israeli Salad for One

A versatile salad that works for breakfast, as a side dish with a sandwich, or with pita, feta, and olives for lunch.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 C Persian cucumber (about half a cucumber)
  • 1/3 C tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes, you can use beefsteak)
  • 1 tsp onion, diced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper
  • sprig of fresh mint (mix a few leaves in the salad, use the rest for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Cut the cucumber and tomatoes into small chunks. The smaller the better. I cut the cucumber in half, then cut the half lengthwise, then gradually smaller dice. Do the tomatoes the same way.
  2. Dice the onion.
  3. Add the vegetables to a small bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and mint.
  5. Toss to mix thoroughly.
  6. You can eat this right away, but it's better to let it sit for an hour or two to let the flavors blend.


Substitutions and Variations for Chopped Israeli Salad

  • Try the full standard Persian version, “salad-e-shirazi,” which is made with seeded cukes and tomatoes, red onion, parsley, mint, salt, pepper, lemon juice (or lime juice) and a bit of olive oil.
  • Make it more filing with some crumbled feta cheese.
  • Add some red bell pepper (or try orange or yellow for more color), cut into tiny pieces
  • Chop some radishes and add them to the salad
  • The Book of Jewish Food has a variation popular with Baghdadi Jews in India: add grated ginger and some chopped chili peppers.

Ingredients and Tools for Chopped Israeli Salad

Oxo Lemon/Lime Reamer

You can squeeze the lime with your hands, but it’s a bit messy.  It’s much easier (and neater) to use a reamer instead. And since it’s made by Oxo, it’s comfortable to use.  Tip: Leave the fruit out to get to room temperature (or zap it in the microwave for 5 seconds). It will juice more easily.

Oxo Salad Chopper (mezzaluna) and bowl

You can use a sharp knife to cut up your salad, but it’s even easier with a salad chopper.  The double blades chop the salad, veggies, cheese, etc into tiny little pieces. And it takes a lot less effort. Just rock your hand back and forth.

More One Person Salad Recipes

Mixed Greens Egg Potato and Chicken Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Blueberry Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese and Walnuts

Cottage Cheese Yogurt and Fruit Salad

Chicken Salad Recipe with Greek Yogurt and Dried Currants




Red Lentil Carrot Soup

It’s getting chilly outside, so that means it’s time to start making soup.  I spotted a bag of red lentils in Trader Joe’s, and just had to have them.  The nice thing about lentils is that they cook fairly quickly.  So, you can have delicious red lentil carrot soup in about an hour, without having to wait for beans to soak.

The lentils do need to be rinsed, but that only takes a minute.

Now that I had my lentils, it was time to find a recipe.  I looked at several recipes, and didn’t like any of them.  Also, reading the reviews it sounded like the ones I did find needed some tweaking.  I ended up combining two different recipes, and adjusting them based on the comments.

While this isn’t one serving, I did cut the original recipes in half because I didn’t want 8 servings of soup (no room in the freezer).  This recipe makes 3-4 servings, depending on whether you have the soup as a main course or a side dish. Adding the rice will make it more filling.

The result was this red lentil soup with carrots. This recipe has cumin for earthiness, a bit of red pepper flakes for heat, plus garam masala and ginger for warm spiciness.

Update: I came across still another recipe, which was for masoor dal (red lentils) as a side dish, and decided that with a bit of tweaking, it would make a wonderful, flavorful soup.  It was, and it was even better than my original recipe. So, I’ve now ditched the curry, and added ginger for warm spiciness and turmeric for color.




Red Lentil Soup with Carrots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Category: soup

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

three to four servings

Red Lentil Soup with Carrots

Red lentil soup with carrots

Ingredients

  • 2T olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • pinch red pepper flakes (or use red chili pepper)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • one small bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dried red lentils
  • 3 C chicken broth
  • 2 T crushed tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 C cooked rice (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in heavy saucepan or Dutch oven.
  2. Add onion and cook on low heat until soft, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, carrot, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, salt, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and crushed tomatoes.
  4. Cook stirring about 5-10 minutes, until carrot softens.
  5. Add lentils and chicken broth.
  6. Season with salt.
  7. Bring soup to a simmer, and cook stirring occasionally, until lentils are cooked, about 35-40 minutes, then remove the bay leaf.
  8. If using the rice, return the pot to the stove and heat for 5 minutes until the rice is hot.
  9. If not, pour one serving into a bowl. Pour the rest of the soup into individual containers to eat later in the week or freeze it for later.

Notes

Add the rice if your soup is a bit thin, or if you just want a more filling meal.

More Lentil and Lentil Soup Recipes

Lentils with Rice

Moroccan Chicken and Bean Soup

Lentil Bean Sausage Soup



Easy Lentils and Rice Recipe

I had a partial bag of lentils leftover from making lentil soup some months ago, and decided they’d make a good fairly last minute dinner. Unlike beans, lentils don’t have to be soaked, so you can make them quickly.

Lentils and rice go together just as well as beans and rice, plus when you put them together you’ve got a complete protein. My mom always stressed this when I was a kid; it makes me laugh now. It’s a fairly quick, tasty dinner and it’s also pretty budget-friendly.

I looked at several other lentils and rice recipes and didn’t like any of them. Some were too bland and simplistic, while others involved way too much work and some hard-to-find ingredients.

I try to keep my recipes tasty, but not complicated (and with ingredients that are readily available).  So, I did a bit of fudging, combining, and tweaking to get the results I wanted.




This lentils and rice recipe is fairly easy to prepare, and features a surprise ingredient you may not expect. It is, admittedly, not going to win awards for looks, but it did taste good!

Easy Lentils and Rice Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

one serving

Easy Lentils and Rice Recipe

Lentils and rice with curry, ginger, and garlic.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rice (preferably jasmine)
  • 1.2C lentils
  • 1 T canola or other neutral cooking oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 t ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1.4 tsp curry
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch turmeric
  • 1T chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. While the rice is cooking, fill a small saucepan with water and add the lentils. Cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the onion and saute for a minute or two. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Now, add the ketchup and the spices. Cook, stirring until the onion wilts (about 5 minutes or so). Add the chicken stock.
  4. Once the lentils are done, drain them and add them to the spice mixture. Cook five minutes, adding more chicken stock if necessary.
  5. Serve over rice.

Substitutions and Variations for Lentils and Rice Recipe

  • If you have the time, start by caramelizing the onions first; you’ll get a deeper, richer flavor
  • Make it Lebanese with the carmelized onions, a fried egg, and cumin (full recipe)
  • Or, go to Ethiopia with some cardomom, tomatoes, cumin, and red lentils (instead of brown)

More Easy Lentil Recipes

Lentil Bean Sausage Soup

Red Lentil Carrot Soup

Lamb and Lentil Soup Recipe

Moroccan Chicken and Bean Soup