Most visits with my in-laws in Abu Dhabi involve a midnight trip to the drive-in for shwarma. You pull up to the curb and a waiter runs out to your car, takes your order, and brings back your sandwiches. Since we prefer not to wait for good shwarma, and we don’t have one of those vertical spits that restaurants use to cook them, we’ve learned how to make our own using a large skillet.  This is a VERY quick recipe, good for a weeknight and can be sized up to feed a crowd, which we’ve done often.

3 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 T. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in a plastic container or a large ziploc bag and let them marinate for at least an hour and at most, overnight.
You’ll also need:

pita bread
dill pickles, cut into six or eight spears
aioli (garlic mayo, which you can make two ways)

While the chicken is marinating, slice up some dill pickles into thin spears and either make your own aioli from scratch (I use the recipe in the New Basics cookbook) or mix a cup of mayonnaise with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic.

Heat a large skillet on medium high heat and dump the marinated chicken into the pan. Saute until the chicken strips are lightly browned.

To assemble a shwarma sandwich, take a pita, slather it with the garlic mayo, and drop in a couple of thin pickle spears, then pile on some cooked chicken. Fold or roll it and dig in. Use lots of napkins. This is messy goodness at its best.


If you are egg-allergic, skip the aioli and use hummus or baba ganoush instead. Both are tasty.

If you prefer to use lamb, get leg meat, skip the lemon juice and add a shwarma spice mix to the marinade instead.

I’ve seen folks put everything from tomato and onion slices to cole slaw in their shwarma so knock yourself out on the condiments.  (No ketchup or mustard though.  Ick.)  We made an entire party once out of a batch of chicken, a batch of lamb, and a bunch of different condiment so folks can make their own.  It’s a great choice when a game is on and the host would rather be glued to the big screen than the kitchen.


About aecsarah

I've been working in marketing for architects, interior designers, engineers and contractors since 1997. Before that I did stints as a university professor and a radio documentary producer. In my spare time I'm a foodie and craft-ie.
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