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 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)

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.

Thrive Market Organic Za\'atar 1.7 oz pouchzaatar seasoning
Thrive Za’atar

If you want to 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.

More Middle Eastern Recipes

shakshouka for oneShakshouka for One

Poached eggs layered over a tomato sauce punched up with spinach and sweet bell peppers.

 

israeli chopped saladChopped Israeli Salad for One Person

An easy, healthy side dish with no cooking required. Or, add olives, plain yogurt (or lebne) and pita and call it breakfast.

 

vegetarian eggplant sandwichVegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person

See that Israeli salad above? Add some pita bread, fried eggplant, hummus, spinach, and a hard boiled egg, and it’s now a sandwich!

 

spicy lamb and lentils

Spicy Lamb and Lentils

Lamb and lentils are a classic Middle Eastern combination. This one is flavored with cumin, garlic, and just a pinch of red pepper flakes. It’s flavorful, but not spicy. And fast too.

 




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.




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 gratinEgg and Tomato Gratin for One Person

“Fast” food doesn’t have to mean heavy and greasy. This egg dish is different. Great for brunch or a light lunch.

 

cherry tomato basil frittataCherry Tomato Basil Frittata

Delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated. This recipe has only four ingredients. And you probably have most of them already.

 

egg chili cheese burritoEgg Chili Cheese Burrito Recipe

A quick meal with a bit of a kick. Ready in about fifteen minutes with pantry and fridge staples.

 

eggs with spinach and chili pepperEggs with Spinach and Chili Peppers

Brighten your day with this delicious and colorful frittata. It’s another “fast” food meal, ready in minutes. And only requires one skillet too.

 




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.




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 eggplantPasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Take advantage of fresh summer eggplant with this mildly spicy pasta dish. Tender eggplant, a quick tomato sauce, and you’re ready to eat in about 20 minutes.

 

eggplant parmesan for oneEggplant Parmesan Recipe for One

Lightly fried eggplant, rich tomato sauce, and melted mozzarella makes a dinner that’s a lot easier than you may think.

 

sichuan chinese chicken and eggplant with garlic sauceSichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

A takeout standout that you can easily make at home.  And it’s a lot faster than going out for the takeout would be.

 


rosemary olive oil broiled eggplant
Rosemary Olive Oil Broiled Eggplant

An easy side dish that’s ready in minutes. Great with lamb or chicken.

 




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!




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 chicken saladMixed Greens Egg Potato and Chicken Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Toss together your favorite greens and veggies, add hard boiled egg and leftover chicken, and you’ve got a new twist on the old chef salad.

 

blueberry and spinach salad with fetaBlueberry Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese and Walnuts

The perfect summer meal when it’s too hot to cook, this recipe is packed with sweet blueberries, salty/tangy feta, and crunchy walnuts.

 

strawberry spinach salad balsamic dressing feta cheeseStrawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dressing and Feta Cheese

Don’t have blueberries? Or want a change? Try this spinach and strawberry salad. Sweet, tangy, and fruity. No cooking required.

 

leftover roast lamb eggplant spinach saladLeftover Roast Lamb Eggplant and Spinach Salad

If you didn’t quite eat all your lamb breast, use the leftovers for this salad. Rich lamb, creamy soft eggplant, and earthy spinach work beautifully together for a festival of flavors.




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 red lentil carrot soup 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 resulting red lentil carrot soup 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.




More Lentil and Lentil Soup Recipes

easy lentils and rice recipeLentils with Rice

Got lots of lentils? Not sure what to do with them? This recipe is pantry-friendly and has an unexpected special ingredient.

 

spicy lamb and lentilsSpicy Lamb and Lentils

Want something heartier? This Middle-Eastern inflected recipe has earthy lentils, meaty lamb, and a hint of heat. Flavorful, and easy too.

 

ham and lentil soupEasy Ham and Lentil Soup for One Person

A comforting soup that’s great for chilly weather. Just chop some veggies, add the ham, and simmer.

 




Easy Lentils and Rice Recipe

I had a partial bag of lentils leftover from making lamb and 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!




Lentils and Rice Recipe Substitutions and Variations

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

More Easy Lentil Recipes

red lentil carrot soup

Red Lentil Carrot Soup

Carrots add sweetness, while the garlic, ginger, and garam masala add warm earthy spice.  For heat, add red pepper flakes (or if you really like spicy food, go for red chili peppers).

Spicyspicy lamb and lentils Lamb and Lentils

Fragrant with cumin and garlic, and just a smidgen of heat from red pepper flakes. This meal is largely pantry and fridge staples, and takes only a few minutes to make.

 

single serving lamb and lentil soupLamb and Lentil Soup Recipe

Exactly one portion of soup. Made with leftover lamb, this is hearty and filling. Great for changeable weather. I used lamb broth (since I had it). Beef broth will work too.

 

Easy Haham and lentil soupm and Lentil Soup for One Person

Ham and lentil is, of course, a classic combination. This is simmered slowly. It’s also got kielbasa for extra salty, smoky, peppery flavor.