This is one of my favorite summer paleo dinners! Chicken shawarma salad is an incredibly flavorful, fresh, and elegant weeknight dinner. The greens are tossed with mint and parsley, then topped with crunchy cucumbers, garden-fresh tomatoes, and tender slivers of red onion. Each bite is crisp, bright and bursting with flavor.
Chicken Shawarma is a regular eat in this house and it appears on our table in one form or another every couple of weeks. When take-out is required we turn to our favorite local spot, Fettoosh. The owner is affable and chatty, and regularly greets us with chilled mint tea in the summer and a bone-warming concoction in the winter. Going to his restaurant is more like visiting a fond acquaintance than a retail transaction – it makes me all warm and fuzzy, and that’s exactly what sharing good food is supposed to do.
Naturally, I also like to make homemade shawarma from time to time because duh. It’s a showstopper of a meal for company, and even my pickiest friends and family devour every bite. I typically serve it with homemade pita, cucumber and tomato salad, super smooth hummus, and maybe some yogurt dip. Lots of tahini dressing on the side for slathering and dipping. Leftovers keep reasonably well and make for a quick and easy lunch wrap the next day.
On days that I’m feeling particularly healthy and/or lazy, I opt for a chicken shawarma salad in lieu of the full platter. I whip up the quick marinade in the morning, then toss it with the chicken where it infuses with flavor in the fridge all day. One 30-minute roast later, and I’ve got an easy, healthy meal on the table that everyone loves. Even the kid.
Chicken Shawarma Salad Recipe Notes
I’ve always been a big believer in NOT reinventing the wheel, and this philosophy rings true throughout my kitchen and my life in general. While I might tweak and adjust things to my personal preference, tried-and-true is tried-and-true. Ain’t no reason to change what works. And because developing authentic middle eastern recipes isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse, I’ve been trying variations for a few years in search of the perfect make-at-home chicken shawarma. At this point I’m pretty sure I’ve tried them all and I gotta give it up for the NY Times. Their oven roasted chicken shawarma recipe is the freaking bomb. It comes the closest in terms of flavor, and the execution is stupid easy. Mix, marinate, roast.
While this recipe is perfect as-is, I do make a couple of modifications when I’m making this for a salad. I omit the red onion and instead toss it raw into the salad greens. Same with the parsley garnish. I also reduce the garlic by half, because it’s a bit overwhelming in a salad situation.
For the salad base, I like to use a mix of romaine and butter lettuce tossed with chopped parsley and mint. I found some gorgeous tomatoes at the market, so in they went, along with half an english cucumber and some thinly sliced red onion. Other nice additions? Pickled red onions instead of raw, chopped olives, pita chips, grilled eggplant, marinated chick peas, feta…you get the picture. Top the whole ensemble off with tangy, bright tahini dressing and you’ve got a fresh, delicious salad ready in just about 30 minutes.
Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma Salad
Chicken shawarma salad is an incredibly flavorful, fresh, and elegant weeknight paleo dinner. Each bite is crisp, bright and bursting with flavor. The marinade takes just minutes and can be prepped the night before, making for an easy and fast dinner.
- 2 lemons juiced
- 1/2 c. avocado oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1.5-2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 head romaine lettuce
- 1/2 head butter lettuce
- 1/2 c. fresh parsley chopped
- 1/2 c. fresh mint chopped
- 2 c. cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/2 english cucumber seeded and sliced
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
Lemon Tahini Dressing
- ½ c. tahini
- ¼ - ½ c. water
- ¼ c. olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced
- sea salt to taste
- cracked black pepper to taste
Marinate the chicken. In a small bowl, add the lemon juice, avocado oil, salt, pepper, and spices and whisk. Place the raw chicken thighs into a gallon-sized zipper bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. Rub the marinade into the chicken with your (clean) hands, then press the air out of the bag, seal, and place in the fridge. Marinate at least a few hours, and up to overnight. I prepare the marinade first thing in the morning for an evening meal.
Roast the chicken. Preheat the oven to 425. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it onto a rimmed baking sheet. Pour any excess marinade over the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked throughout. Set aside to cool slightly, then slice into 1/2" strips.
While the chicken is roasting, prep the salad. Chop the lettuce and herbs, then toss to combine. Chop the tomatoes and cucumber, and slice the red onion.
Prepare the dressing. Place the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a blender along with 1/4 cup of water to start. (I love using my Ninja blender to make dressings. The individual cups are the perfect size for small batch items like salad dressing!). Blend until emulsified. Add additional water to reach desired consistency. For salad dressing, vs. a dipping sauce, I use closer to half a cup, sometimes a bit more.
Compose the salad. Layer the tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions over the herb salad base. Top with the chicken, and then dress with tahini to taste. Serve immediately.
I use an adapted version of Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma from NY Times Cooking and it's perfect every single time.
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