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!
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!)

  • FLAVOR-FILLED. If one thing’s for sure, you won’t find this shawarma marinade recipe to be lacking in flavor. It starts with an easy homemade shawarma spice blend made with common pantry spices that pack a big punch of flavor – cumin, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, & more! The shawarma seasoning is balanced out with honey & lemon, creating absolutely crave-worthy bright + warm notes!
  • QUICK. Despite being so flavorful, this shawarma marinade is very quick to throw together! You can mix it up in 5 minutes or less – it doesn’t get easier than that!
  • VERSATILE. The best part? You can use it on just about everything. Grilled chicken shawarma, juicy & flavorful lamb shawarma or beef shawarma, & you can even shawarma-ify veggies & chickpeas for a vegan shawarma meal!

Pretty soon you’ll be shawarma-ing everything! ♡ Read on to learn more about this easy homemade shawarma marinade, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

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.

At the heart of the marinade is a homemade shawarma seasoning blend. It packs a huge punch of flavor with earthy, smoky, warm, & spicy notes. Plus, it’s made with spices that you probably already have on your spice rack! You will need…

  • Cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Oregano
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper

Once the shawarma spice blend is mixed up, the shawarma marinade comes together with the addition of a few staple ingredients that help balance out the warm, earthy flavor of the spices – lemon juice for brightness, honey (or agave, or pure maple syrup) for subtle sweetness, garlic (because duh *wink!*), & a little bit of olive oil to bring it all together.

How to make this Shawarma Marinade:

With the shawarma ingredients gathered, prepping this homemade shawarma marinade is really simple – a one bowl, 5-minute operation!

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 add all of the shawarma ingredients to a medium bowl, whisking to combine. That’s it! With your shawarma marinade mixed & ready to go, you can use it immediately or transfer to a small jar & place it in the fridge for later use. (In fact, if you’re prepping for later use, you can skip the bowl & combine all of the ingredients in a small jar & shake to combine – less dishes, for the win!)

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 do! Because it’s such a concentrated flavor from all of those great spices, a little really goes a long way.

Suggested Marinating Time:

Marinating time will vary based on the type of protein you use:

  • Resilient proteins (e.g. chicken, beef, lamb) should soak in the shawarma marinade for at least 8 hours & no more than 3 days.
  • Veggies will last even longer – you can marinate them for up to 5 days.
  • Delicate proteins (i.e. seafood – salmon, shrimp, flaky white fish) have a shorter marinade time – aim for at least 2 hours & no more than 12 hours.
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 times for this shawarma marinade, you can still get ahead on your dinner by prepping the marinade in advance. (A little bonus? The flavors of this homemade al pastor marinade meld together even more the longer the marinade sits!)

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Prep the marinade & store it in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator. The marinade will keep for up to 1 week.
  • When you’re ready to start marinating (refer to the suggested marinating times above), simply pour the marinade over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy!
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 your homemade shawarma marinade:

You can use this easy shawarma marinade on pretty much anything – that’s one of the reasons we love it so much! (As Chris would say, it would make a shoe taste good! *wink!*)

For easy chicken shawarma, try boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. You can also grill a whole chicken! For beef shawarma, go for tender cuts with nice marbling, like flank steak, sirloin, or ribeye. Lamb shawarma is typically prepared with leg of lamb, so thinly slice for faster cooking times. You can also use this shawarma marinade on kebabs, with any combination of meat & veggies you like best. For plant-loving friends, prep vegan shawarma with hearty vegetables (like cauliflower or sweet potatoes) or chickpeas.

I suggest cooking your shawarma marinated goodies on the grill or in a grill pan to create similar smoky, crispy, caramelization of traditional shawarma that’s cooked on a vertical spit. If you do not have access to a grill, you can create a similar effect by baking in the oven & finishing under the broiler. (That’s exactly how I make my Chicken Shawarma Hummus Bowls!)

My ideal plate? ⇢ Hummus Bowls forever!!! Grill chicken shawarma with medium-high heat, creating carmelly & crisp edges. Serve the chicken shawarma over top a creamy, dreamy swoop of your favorite hummus, with fluffy pita bread, punchy & pink pickled red onions & any other add-ins you love (cabbage! tomatoes! cucumber!). I could literally eat this every single day & never get sick of it…once you try it, I think you’ll understand!

Chicken Shawarma Hummus Bowl with quinoa, cucumbers, pickled red onion, shredded cabbage, & naan bread shown in a speckled gray ceramic bowl. The bowl sits atop a creamy cement surface, surrounded by lemon wedges, fresh basil leaves, a small bowl of pickled red onions, & a pink linen napkin.

I can’t wait for you to try this Shawarma Marinade Recipe. It’s light, bright, spiced, & sweet, & it packs a huge punch of flavor with minimal effort! 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! ♡

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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.

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Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compilation 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!

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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. 6.13.21
    Andre said:

    I took a gamble, we were invited to a Lebanese couple who happen to be our best friends for Bbq dinner last night…I told them that I would prepare the meat and prepared this recipe. Wow!! They were blown away as I was. I made chicken thighs and filet mignon cubes and marinated them in ziplock bags for a few hours The only thing I changed was adding Greek yogurt to the recipe for the chicken. This recipe goes into my “home run” recipes.

    • 6.20.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Andre, we are SO glad to hear that you & your friends enjoyed! The chicken thighs & filet mignon cubes sound wonderful & it means so much that you included Plays Well With Butter in this special meal with friends!

  2. 3.16.21
    Ellen said:

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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!!!

  11. 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!

    • 2.21.21
      Amy Ng said:

      Hey Autumn! What temperature / timing did you use for the airfryer?

  12. 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!

  13. 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

  14. 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