Chicken Shawarma & Trimmings: Nouna’s Syrian Recipe

“There is always a way to bring laughter and warmth to our life”, that is my mantra in 2021!

For many across the globe,  2020 seems to be still looming over. 

In a hopeful attempt to mitigate the inevitable reality, and to bring some family fun to our dinner table, I composed a  Shawarma platter that includes vibrant, colorful trimmings.

Kids exhibited happiness while they are customizing their own wrap.

Shawarma is a middle Eastern dish that hails in Turkey and was spread to the Middle East until the rule of the Ottoman Empire that ended in early 20th century.

Typically, Shawarma is Middle Eastern dish, that consists of meat cut into thin slices, stacked in a cone-like shape, and roasted on a slowly-turning vertical rotisserie or spit.

Growing up in Egypt, Shawarma was always the forte of Syrians expats residing in Egypt.

While writing these words, I almost smell the irresistible wafting aromas of charred flat bread encasing juicy, smoky shawarma meat, studded with turnips and pickles, slathered with pungent Toum (garlic spread), and spiked by a galore of warm spices. 

Aiming at a good homemade shawarma experience, I approached a shawarma expert on Instagram, Nouna @nouna2004,  a friend and loyal member of my foodie tribe, to kindly ask for her no-fail recipe.

Nouna is a lovely Syrian-American Lady who immigrated to the US over two decades ago, where she made a career in baking. Now she is a retiree and a loving grandma. To cherish Nouna’s repertoire and family recipes, check out her Instagram account @nouna2004.

Nouna generously and promptly shared her go-to Chicken Shawarma recipe, including the indispensable Toum (garlic spread).  

Toum (garlic spread)

For the most part, I followed to a T, the spices amount used in the marinade, yet I slightly tweaked Nouna’s recipe as follows:

  •  Instead of using yogurt in the marinade, I used full fat milk.
  • Swapped in lime instead of lemon as I believe it is more powerful in marinades.
  • For that extra zing, I added a splash of apple cider vinegar, but regular vinegar will do.
  • While Nouna uses chicken breasts, I used a whole deboned and sliced chicken, to leverage the juiciness of the thighs.
  • I smoked the chicken. See instructions and watch video here👇
  • I added to the trimmings, some sumac dredged onions, and homemade pickles. 

This recipe is pretty straightforward, and foolproof. It was tested by pretty picky kids and a food snob spouse. And, I broke down the workload into two days: 

On day #1, I marinated the chicken and made the toum (garlic spread).

On day #2, I prepared the toppings/trimmings and cooked the chicken shawarma. 

Nouna, I can’t thank you enough for your wonderful recipe. It put a priceless smile on the faces of my family members. 

If you like this recipe, please share it with others and tag #cheznermine.  

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Chicken Shawarma 


Recipe adapted from the Instagramer Nouna @nouna2004 

Serves 6 people


  • 1 whole chicken, deboned and cut into 1 inch strips 

The Marinade 

  • 1/4 cup of milk or buttermilk 
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon pepper paste or harissa (you can also use red pepper flakes) 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or regular vinegar 
  • Juice of one lime 
  • Juice of one orange 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated 

To finish up the Shawarma 

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley,  finely chopped 
  • 1/4 cup tomato, diced 
  • Salt to taste

The trimmings

  • Flat bread (Lebanese bread), recipe coming soon 
  • Sumac spiked red onions, recipe follows 
  • Toum (garlic spread)
  • Cucumber and turnip pickles, recipe coming soon
  • Sliced tomatoes

Sumac-Spiked Onions

  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced  
  • 1 tablespoon sumac 
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon vinegar 

Toum Spread

  • 1 1/2 cup water 
  • 1/2 cup cornflour
  • 5 whole gloves of garlic 
  • Salt to taste  
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more if needed 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil


  1. Marinate the chicken. Add all the marinade ingredients to the container of a food processor, blitz a few times until the marinade has the consistency of a paste. Add the marinate to the chicken. With gloved hands, thoroughly coat the chicken pieces with the marinade.  Cover the marinated chicken with plastic film and place it in the fridge for three hours and up to one day. See notes for a tip.  
  2. Cook the Chicken. Place a hot griddle over medium heat on the stove top. Brush or spray the griddle with some canola oil. When the griddle becomes hot, add the chicken in one layer. Don’t flip the chicken until it can detach easily from the griddle.
  3. Finish The chicken. When the chicken is almost cooked, toss in the chopped parsley and the diced tomatoes and stir everything on the hot griddle for no longer than 2 to 4 minutes. The charred tomatoes and parsley will give the chicken an edge.
  4. Smoke the chicken. For a restaurant shawarma experience, spread your shawarma on a flat, big dish, leaving a space in the center. Heat a piece of charcoal until it becomes very hot or turns ash gray. Also heat some vegetable oil. Place the charcoal in the center of the dish, and drizzle the hot oil on top. Once the charcoal starts to release smoke, cover the dish with a piece of foil and let the chicken infuse with the smoke. 
  5. Prepare the Sumac-spiked onions. Coat the thinly slices onions with the sumac, olive oil, and vinegar and set aside.
  6. Make the Toum spread. Dilute the cornflour in water in a deep, heat resistant pan. Transfer the pan to the stove top. On low-medium heat, stir until it forms a pudding-like consistency. Let this cornflour-water mix cool down completely.  Add the garlic and lemon juice to the container of a blender and blend. When the garlic is totally pulverized, and incorporated into the lemon juice, add the cornflour and run the blender. Drizzle in the oil while the blender is running to emulsify it into the cornflour paste. When the spread becomes totally smooth and has the consistency of mayonnaise, stop the blender, transfer the spread with a spatula to a deep serving bowl and set aside. See notes.
  7. Serve the Chicken Shawarma with all the trimmings. 
  8. Assemble and toast the Chicken Shawarma Wrap.  Spread the Toum (garlic spread) and customize your warp the way you want. Bend the wrap so the two ends meet in the middle. Place the wrap, seam down, on the hot griddle of a panini machine, and press until you hear a nice sizzle and see striped charred marks. Flip the warp and repeat the same steps. Cut the wrap in half and enjoy. 
  • Preferably, leave the marinated chicken overnight in the fridge.
  • Don’t salt the chicken before it is fully cooked, as the salt will draw out the chicken juice which will result in dry chicken strips. 
  • Toum (garlic spread) stores well in the fridge, in an airtight container up to one week.

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