Chicken Shawarma

From Rockin Ron Shewchuk

2018 Jul/Aug

My lovely wife Kate and I have become devoted fans of Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. The rub for this dish is based on his recipe for lamb shawarma. Serve the chicken with pitas, tahini, baba ganoush, fresh mint and grill- roasted plum tomatoes.


  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • For the rub:
  • 2 t. black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 t. cardamom pods
  • 1 t. fennel seeds
  • 1 T. cumin seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • half a cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 t. fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 of a whole nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1 T. sweet paprika
  • 1 T. Maldon sea salt or 1 T. fleur de sel

For garnish:

  • 1 T. sumac (optional; available at specialty stores)
  • chopped fresh parsley, mint or cilantro
  • chopped white onion


Combine the first eight ingredients and dry-roast them by gently tossing them about in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat until they start to give off a wonderful fragrance. Be careful not to burn them. Let them cool and grind them to a fine powder in a spice grinder or coffee mill. Add the nutmeg, ground ginger, paprika and sea salt and mix thoroughly. Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness of about 3/4-inch. Coat the chicken breasts with the rub and drizzle them with olive oil ’til they’re just barely wet with the oil. Let them sit while you preheat your grill for medium-high direct cooking. Place the chicken breasts on the cooking grate, cover the grill, and cook for about a minute or two on each side, until the meat is firm to the touch and you have some nice char marks and the internal temperature of the thickest part reads 160°F. Remove from the grill and let rest, loosely tented in foil, for three or four minutes. Slice them up, garnish with fresh herbs, chopped onion and a sprinkle of sumac, and serve with your favourite accompaniments.

Serves 8, or 4 with some nice leftovers for lunch wraps the next day.