Recipes Main Courses Poultry and Game Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Chicken is anything but a run-of-the-mill dinner when it is paired with a bright sauce made with tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds that is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cooking (and easily available at most grocery stores). For a gluten-free meal, serve the chicken over a bed of spinach leaves and top with the red onion and tahini sauce.


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 lb. (1 kg) total, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the tahini sauce:

  • 3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 Tbs. tahini
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 red onion, halved and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) slices
  • 3 pita breads, halved and split to create 6 pockets
  • Romaine lettuce leaves, torn to fit inside pitas
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, thinly sliced


In a bowl, stir together 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, the curry, cumin, garlic and lemon juice. Add the chicken, season well with salt and pepper, and toss to coat thoroughly. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce. In a bowl, stir together the yogurt, garlic, tahini, cilantro and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a grill pan or frying pan over high heat or prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. When the pan or grill is very hot, add the onion and grill, turning occasionally, until nicely browned all over, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm. Do not wipe the pan clean.

Add the chicken to the pan or grill and grill, turning once, until opaque throughout and lightly browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.

To assemble, carefully fill the pita pockets with the grilled chicken and onion, lettuce leaves and tomato slices and top with a generous drizzle of the tahini sauce. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Chicken Night, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2014)

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