Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma

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by: Joanna Cismaru

This Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma will blow your mind! It combines the tender flavorful scrumptiousness of chicken shawarma with the ease and speed of any Instant Pot dish.

chicken shawarma on a pita bread with a bowl of hummus and garlic sauce

A couple years ago I shared with you my oven roasted chicken shawarma recipe and since then it’s become one of my most popular recipes on the blog! That’s because this chicken is just so good, it’s tender and flavorful and is so easy to incorporate into many a dish. The best part of this recipe is that it’s ready in about 8 minutes, all thanks to our trusty Instant Pot.

What Is Chicken Shawarma?

Shawarma is a Middle Eastern method of preparing meat. Have you been into a Donair shop and seen the cuts of meat piled high rotating slowly on a vertical rotisserie? While I don’t exactly have one of those rotisseries lying around (and I’m sure you don’t either) we’re going to use our Instant Pot today to replicate the flavor and juicy cuts achieved more traditionally.

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chicken shawarma on a plate with lime wedges and a bowl of salad in the background and garlic sauce

CHICKEN SHAWARMA

  • Olive oil – We want a nice neutral tasting oil to cook our chicken down in.
  • Lemon juice – Fresh is best! We’re using the juice from 2 lemons.
  • Spices – Smoked paprika, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes.
  • Garlic – Use as much or little as you like.
  • Seasoning – Salt and pepper.
  • Onion – White or yellow, something that cooks down well.
  • Chicken – I used chicken thighs today, you can always substitute breast instead but I find chicken thighs are so tender and flavorful.
  • Parsley – Fresh chopped up nice and fine.

GARLIC SAUCE

  • Oil – A nice neutral tasting vegetable oil like canola.
  • Garlic – Use as much or little as you like.
  • Lemon juice – Fresh as always, we’re using quite a bit of juice for this sauce.
  • Egg – Just egg white, if you’d rather not include raw egg I’ve included a section below detailing how to make a yogurt based sauce instead.
  • Seasoning – Just salt for this sauce.
overview of chicken shawarma chunks simmering in an instant pot
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How To Make Chicken Shawarma

CHICKEN SHAWARMA

  • Marinate the chicken: Add the olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, garlic, pepper, salt and onions to a ziploc bag, then add the chicken thighs. Seal the bag and shake it well to mix the ingredients. Place the bag in the refrigerator and marinate for at least 1 hour.
  • Cook the chicken: Transfer the chicken into your Instant Pot. Mix to ensure even coverage. Close the lid (follow the manufacturer’s guide for instructions on how to close the instant pot lid). Set the Instant Pot to the Manual setting and set the timer to 8 minutes on high pressure.
  • Remove the chicken: Once the Instant Pot cycle is complete, wait until the natural release cycle is complete, should take about 15 minutes. Follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release, if in a rush. Carefully unlock and remove the lid from the instant pot. Remove the chicken using a slotted spoon.
  • Brown the chicken shawarma: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs to the skillet and sear them for about 1 to 2 minutes per side just until they start to brown. You may have to do this in a couple batches. This step is optional if you want to get a crispier chicken.

GARLIC SAUCE

  • Combine the sauce: Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate leftover sauce.

CHICKEN SHAWARMA WRAPS

  • Assemble the wraps: To assemble the chicken shawarma wraps, warm up the pitas for 20 seconds to soften them. Spread a tbsp each of garlic sauce and hummus over the middle of the pita. Top with chicken, greek salad, garnish with parsley, and more sauce if desired.

Egg Free Garlic Sauce

Regarding raw eggs, some fear that they may contain Salmonella which can cause food poisoning. However, the risk of an egg being contaminated is quite low. This used to be a problem over 20 years ago, but since then improvements have been made in the processing of eggs, leading to fewer Salmonella cases.

If you’re looking to make a raw egg free garlic sauce, I’ve got an easy sauce here for you that is just as delicious although less authentic.

  • Combine: Lemon juice, plain yogurt (either Greek or regular), garlic, and salt.

You can also just omit the egg white and add your vegetable oil bit by bit to the blender as it blends till it has the consistency of mayonnaise.

tabbouleh salad in one bowl and garlic sauce in another bowl
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Other Cooking Options

Don’t have an Instant Pot? Fear not, there are other ways to make this delectable dish!

OVEN

If you’d like to prepare this recipe in the oven I have a beautiful Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma recipe on the blog which I can promise is just as drool worthy as this one. That recipe calls for chicken breast instead of thigh but feel free to use whichever cut you like!

SLOW COOKER

  • Create the marinade: Marinate the chicken the same as instructed above and allow to sit for at least 1 hour, although longer is ideal.
  • Cook the chicken: Dump the chicken and marinade in the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 4 hours. Remove the chicken and brown in a skillet on the oven. Follow the instructions outlined above for what to do with this chicken once it’s done cooking!
chicken shawarma on a pita bread with a bowl of hummus and garlic sauce

Some Tips

  1. The longer you let the chicken marinate for, the better it gets! It will become so intensely flavorful if given some extra time so feel free to prep the chicken the night before.
  2. When I initially made this recipe I forgot to add onions to the marinade so I decided to caramelize some onions in the left over liquid in the Instant Pot once my chicken was finished cooking. It was so delicious so feel free to get creative with happy accidents!
  3. While it’s totally optional I really recommend searing the meat so it gets nice and crispy once it’s done in the Instant Pot. This will get it as close as possible to the chicken you get from the vertical rotisserie at Donair shops.
  4. You can serve this chicken right over rice with a nice salad on the side if you’d like a meal that feels a bit more complete – it’s delicious either way!

Leftovers

CHICKEN

The Chicken Shawarma will last in the fridge in an air tight container for 3 – 4 days. If you’d like to freeze this dish I recommend freezing the chicken in the bag with the marinade while still raw, then when it defrosts it will marinate and you can pop it in the Instant Pot from there!

GARLIC SAUCE

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You can store this home made garlic sauce for up to 2 weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. I don’t recommend freezing this sauce as it is similar to a home made mayo which separates and becomes unusable after thawing.

Craving More Middle Eastern Dishes? Try These Delicious Recipes:

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