Shawarma Marinade

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Easy to prepare & filled with absolutely crave-worthy flavor, this Shawarma Marinade recipe is the BEST! It starts with an easy homemade shawarma spice blend made with aromatic warm spices like cumin, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric & more. The spice blend is offset with a little bit of lemon & honey to create balanced bright, sweet, & spiced flavor. Use it to make easy chicken shawarma, lamb shawarma, beef shawarma, veggie shawarma, a hummus bowl, & more!

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Grilled Shawarma marinated chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with fresh herbs & ribbons of pickled red onion.
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Shawarma at Home! Easy & Absolutely Delicious!

Every time I make shawarma-anything, the first thing I think to myself when I take the first bite is, “Why don’t I make this more often?!” This shawarma marinade recipe is one of my all-time favorites. It’s so easy to throw together & it adds crave-worthy flavor to anything it touches. (Not surprisingly, you love it as much as I do – it stars in two of the most popular recipes here on PWWB, Easy Shawarma Hummus Bowls & Sheet Pan Veggie Shawarma!)

What is Shawarma? If Middle Eastern shawarma is new to you, you’re in for such a treat! Traditionally, shawarma is made by layering seasoned chicken, beef, or lamb on a vertical spit. The meat, which takes on gloriously charred edges as the spit rotates, is carved from the spit & served on steamed flatbread or pita with all kinds of sides like hummus, tahini, veggies, etc. (It’s no coincidence that it sounds similar to Mexican Al Pastor! It’s said to be originally based on lamb shawarma, brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the 19th century. Pretty cool!)

This shawarma marinade recipe came to be as a result of a desire to recreate the flavors & textures of the shawarma at one of my favorite fast-casual spots here in Minneapolis using the ingredients & equipment I have at home. The secret lies in the marinade! Made with simple ingredients like warm spices, lemon, & honey, this shawarma is spiced with a kiss of sweetness, & you can use it on just about anything!

Shawarma marinade shown in a small ball jar, sitting atop a light blue surface with a lemon wedge in the foreground & a lemon wedge & fresh turmeric in the background.

Shawarma Marinade – Recipe Highlights

This shawarma marinade is (click for shortcuts within this post!)

  • BRIGHT + WARM. Warm Middle Eastern spices, honey, & lemon come together to create perfectly balanced spiced
  • flavor!
  • BRIGHT . This recipe starts with an easy homemade seasoning blend of common pantry spices & it can be mixed up in 5 minutes or less. It doesn’t get simpler than that!
  • VERSATILE. The best part? You can use it on just about everything. Grilled shawarma chicken. Juicy & flavorful grilled lamb & beef shawarma. Shawarma-fied veggies & crispy grilled chickpeas!

We’re completely obsessed…& I’m pretty sure that you will be too! ♡ Read on to learn more about this easy homemade shawarma marinade, or jump straight to the recipe & get grilling!

What’s in Shawarma? Shawarma Marinade ingredients:

Shawarma marinade ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: olive oil, lemon, garlic, honey, ground cumin, smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, dried oregano, ground turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, & pepper.
Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

The heart of this shawarma marinade recipe is an easy homemade shawarma seasoning blend, made with:

  • Ground cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground ginger
  • Dried oregano
  • Ground turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper

These warm spices come together to create an amazing concentrated flavor that is addictively good!

Once you mix up the shawarma spices, all you’ll need is some:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • & Honey

That’s it! Seriously so simple.

How to make this Shawarma Marinade:

Making this homemade Shawarma marinade couldn’t be easier! It’s a one bowl, 5-minute operation! Perfect for when you want to add a lot of flavor ASAP.

Chicken thighs in a large glass mixing bowl, marinating in Shawarma marinade. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.
Note: full Recipe Directions are provided in the Recipe Card, below.

Here’s how you do it: Simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl & whisk to combine. If you’re prepping for later use, you can combine all of the ingredients in a small jar & shake to combine.

That’s it! It couldn’t be easier.

With your shawarma marinade mixed & ready to go, you can use it immediately or pop it in the fridge for later use. (More on that in a sec!)

How long to marinate:

Marinating time will vary based on the type of protein you’d like to use. Because of the amount of lemon juice used in the marinade, it’s important not to marinate for too long, as it will really negatively affect the texture of meat. (Mushy, mealy meat = no good.)

Having tested this Shawarma marinade on a variety of different proteins with a variety of different marinating times, here’s what we suggest:

  • Seafood – at least 20 minutes & no more than 1 hour.
  • Chicken & pork – at least 4 hours & up to 6 hours for maximum flavor.
  • Beef & lamb – at least 12 hours & up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
  • Veggies – at least 20 minutes & up to 24 hours.

A note on texture & consistency: The shawarma ingredients in this marinade will have a paste-like consistency similar to a wet rub. It won’t seem like you have enough to marinate a couple of pounds of meat, but trust me – you will! Because it’s such a concentrated flavor from all of those great spices, a little really goes a long way.

Side angle of chicken thighs in a large glass mixing bowl, marinating in Shawarma marinade. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.

Make-Ahead & Meal Prep:

Great news for meal preppers: despite the suggested marinating periods for this shawarma marinade, you can still prep the marinade itself well in advance.

To make it ahead of time, simply prep the marinade & store it in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator. The marinade will keep for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to start marinating (based on the suggested marinating periods, above), simply pour the marinade over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy peasy!

& a little bonus for prepping in advance? The flavors of the shawarma ingredients in this marinade meld together even more as the marinade sits.

Chicken thighs in a Ziploc bag, marinating in Shawarma marinade. The bag sits atop a light blue surface. “Shawarma Marinade" is penned in the bag's memo area.

How to use shawarma marinade at home:

I love this homemade shawarma marinade recipe because it’s really nicely balanced. Even though it has so many spices, the brightness of the lemon juice balances out the warmth of the spice blend. & That honey? It helps create an addictively caramelized crust on whatever you’re grilling. & The best part? You can use this easy shawarma marinade on pretty much everything! As Chris would say, it would make a shoe taste good!!!

You can shawarma pretty much anything (yes, verb!), & that’s one of the reasons I love this shawarma marinade most!

Some of my favorite things to shawarma include…

  • Chicken. #1, of course, is grilled shawarma chicken.
  • Whole chicken. You could absolutely use this marinade on a whole chicken & toss it on the grill. It’s so easy & yields the most amazing caramelly, crispy skin once finished.
  • Lamb. Make some grilled lamb shawarma or marinate lamb meatballs, YUM!
  • Beef. Grilled beef shawarma
  • Kebabs. Make some classic grilled shawarma kebabs with any combination of veggies & meat you love.
  • Veggies. Onions, bell peppers, & sweet potatoes…omg! Any of these would make excellent grilled shawarma veggies!
  • Chickpeas! If you haven’t tried grilled chickpeas you absolutely need to – they can be tossed in a salad or a grain bowl & add the best smoky grilled crunch.

My absolute fave? Hummus bowl-style, always! Dice some chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces & marinate for at least 4 hours. Skewer the marinated shawarma chicken, then grill over medium-high heat until crispy & charred. Serve over top a creamy, dreamy swoop of your favorite hummus, with grilled pita bread, pickled red onions & other middle eastern add-ins you love. I could literally eat this every single day & never get sick of it…once you try it, I think you’ll understand!

an easy shawarma marinade recipe, filled with an easy homemade shawarma seasoning (cumin, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, turmeric!). the warmth in the middle eastern spices is offset by a little bit of lemon & honey to create absolutely addictive flavor. Use it to make easy grilled shawarma chicken or a hummus bowl! #playswellwithbutter #shawarma #shawarmamarinade #shawarmarecipe #shawarmaseasoning #shawarmachicken #easymarinade #grillingrecipes #chickenmarinade

I can’t wait for you to try this Shawarma Marinade Recipe. It’s so classic, totally easy, & I’m certain that it’ll be a staple at your house once you master it this summer! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Want more grilling marinade ideas? We’ve got you covered! Check out our 15 Go-To Grilling Marinades next. Happy grilling! ♡

Print
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Grilled Shawarma marinated chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with fresh herbs & ribbons of pickled red onion.

Shawarma Marinade

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1/2 cup 1x
  • Category: Sauces & Condiments
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Lebanese

Description

This Shawarma Marinade recipe is the BEST! It starts with an easy homemade shawarma spice blend, which is offset with a little bit of lemon & honey to create balanced bright, sweet, & spiced flavor. Use it to make easy chicken shawarma, lamb shawarma, beef shawarma, veggie shawarma, a hummus bowl, & more!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds meat or veggies of choice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or pure maple syrup or agave, if vegan)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • optional: up to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Shawarma marinade ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: olive oil, lemon, garlic, honey, ground cumin, smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, dried oregano, ground turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, & pepper.


Instructions

  1. Mix the shawarma marinade: Add the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, honey, cumin, smoked paprika, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, turmeric, & cayenne to a bowl or jar. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Whisk or shake to combine.Shawarma marinade shown in a small ball jar, sitting atop a light blue surface with a lemon wedge in the foreground & a lemon wedge & fresh turmeric in the background.
  2. Marinate: Pour the shawarma marinade over your meat or veggies of choice. Marinate for at least 6 hours or for up to 2 days.Chicken thighs in a large glass mixing bowl, marinating in Shawarma marinade. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.
  3. Grill as desired. Enjoy!Grilled Shawarma marinated chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with fresh herbs & ribbons of pickled red onion.

Notes

  • Suggested marinade time: Marinating time will vary based on the type of protein you’d like to use. Because of the amount of lemon juice used in the marinade, it’s important not to marinate for too long, as it will really negatively affect the texture of meat. Having tested this shawarma marinade on a variety of different proteins with a variety of different marinating times, here’s what we suggest:
    • Seafood – at least 20 minutes & no more than 1 hour.
    • Chicken & pork – at least 4 hours & up to 6 hours for maximum flavor.
    • Beef & lamb – at least 12 hours & up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
    • Veggies – at least 20 minutes & up to 24 hours.
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep: If you’d like to marinate something later in the week, I suggest making the marinade in advance, whenever you’re meal prepping for the week. Store it in a jar or an airtight container for up to 5 days – the flavors meld together even more as the marinade sits. At least 4 hours before you’re ready to hit the grill, simply pour the marinade over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy peasy!
  • Not sure how to serve shawarma? Make a hummus bowl! This is one of the most popular recipes here on PWWB, for good reason!

Keywords: shawarma marinade, grilled chicken shawarma, shawarma seasoning

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat

Grilled Shawarma marinated chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with fresh herbs & ribbons of pickled red onion.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compliation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.

All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

Want more grilling tips & recipes?

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 3.16.21
    Ellen said:

    This was super delicious!! Definitely recommend letting the marinade soak over night for extra flavor.

  2. 12.19.20
    Jo said:

    Absolutely love this recipe. I triple the amount of the dry herb and spice mix and store in an airtight jar. Means I can throw together the marinade in minutes.

    • 3.5.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Such a good idea, Jo – sounds like the perfect little Mise En Place meal prep! We are so glad to hear that you enjoy!

  3. 10.27.20
    Lauren said:

    This is one of my go-to marinades. So yummy. I prefer it with boneless chicken thighs & then serve with hummus bowls. So yummy & flavorful.

  4. 10.19.20
    Helen Chalk said:

    Jave become addicted to this recipe!

    • 3.9.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      This shawarma marinade certainly has that affect!😂 So glad you enjoy it as much as we do, Helen!

  5. 9.1.20
    Megan F said:

    This recipe is a winner and I will definitely make it again. Perfect balance of flavors. I marinated it overnight on chicken thighs and cooked on the grill. Amazing!

    • 3.12.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hey Megan! So so glad you enjoyed this Shawarma marinade! It is a go-to around here too, thank you for sharing!

  6. 8.4.20
    Theresa said:

    This Easy Shawarma Marinade was so yummy! I used it to marinate chicken breasts for four hours and then grilled them. They tasted phenomenal! Thanks for pinning the recipe.

    • 3.10.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Theresa! Thank you so much for sharing, we are so glad you found PWWB & enjoyed this recipe! Can’t go wrong with Grilled Shawarma Chicken!

  7. 6.19.20
    Allen said:

    Loved the marinade, would have cooked the chicken first then cut up

    • 6.24.20
      jess said:

      So glad you loved it, Allen! You can definitely grill up the chicken whole first next time, or use it on another protein of choice!

  8. 6.11.20
    Diana said:

    Super delicious and easy to make. I didn’t have turmeric and it only marinaded for 4 hours but it still had a great flavor, I saved a few pieces to try it tomorrow with a longer marinade time. You don’t taste the cinnamon… I was concerned about it since it was my first time cooking with cinnamon. I highly recommend this recipe. Thank you!

    • 2.5.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Diana! So glad you enjoyed, the Shawarma Marinade is perfect with chicken!

  9. 4.22.20
    Theresa said:

    Absolutely love your recipes. Wow making the schwarma chicken tonight. Yummmmm

    • 4.23.20
      jess said:

      Thanks, Theresa! Chicken shawarma is one of my FAVES. I hope you loved it!!!

  10. 4.14.20
    Autumn Wallace said:

    This is such a great recipe. I am lame and don’t have a grill, but I do have an air fryer ! My kids even ate up the chicken. We served with hummus and homemade pita.

    • 1.27.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Autumn! So great to hear that you were able to successfully use your air fryer with this & that your kids enjoyed!

  11. 8.24.19
    Harini said:

    Shouldnt we use mayonnaise??cheese and stuff?

    • 8.24.19
      jess said:

      hi harini! i’ve never had shawarma with mayonnaise & cheese, but if that’s how you’re accustomed to it i’d love to learn more!

  12. 7.5.19
    Susan said:

    This marinade was excellent ! We used boneless thighs on the grill , served with pita , hummus , cucumber and tomato salad and cumin and garlic roasted potatoes . Great meal ! Thanks .

    • 7.8.19
      jess said:

      yesss! so glad to hear you loved this shawarma marinade, susan. sounds like the perfect dinner! xo

  13. 6.28.19
    Den said:

    Hey Jess, as I’m a pescatarian how would this marinade go with salmon?

    • 6.30.19
      jess said:

      hey den! thanks for the comment. i can’t say with 100% certainty as i’ve not tested the marinade on salmon, but if you love the flavors of salmon + middle eastern spices, i think you’d like it. my general rule of thumb for marinating seafood is to keep the marinade time under the 2-hour mark so the acidity from the lemon juice doesn’t break down the delicate texture of the fish. definitely try & report back; i’d love to hear how it goes! xx