I had a hard time coming up with the name for this shawarma-inspired chicken dish. Why? I don’t want to be culturally appropriative as this is not at all authentic. The flavors, however, remind me of chicken shawarma I have had in the past and hope to have again someday. (I miss traveling so much.) So I checked with some people I know, and they said to just go with Shawarma-Inspired Chicken…go figure.
I make this recipe a lot. It comes together quickly and doesn’t require a lot of thought or effort on my part other than getting it into the refrigerator prior to time to cook dinner. I also have to remember to thaw the chicken, but that’s why we have smartphones with reminders!
This recipe also works really well for our family’s varied diet needs. We’ve got low-carbers and high-calorie people and picky pre-schoolers and frankly just a lot of mouths. I wrote up the recipe for a typical family of 4-6. The pictures you see below, are a triple batch, cooked on a Blackstone Griddle. I’ve included the instructions for using a Blackstone griddle with the pictures and the standard instructions in the printable recipe.
This is one of those recipes that we’ve been eating week after week and each time I put it on the menu, I tell myself, “This will be the week, I take pictures of the process.”
Well, I should have also checked the weather forecast before becoming determined that this was the week I would follow through because last night’s cooking effort was a damp and chilly, miserable experience. No one was hanging out on the back porch with me, by choice that is. I did make the 17 year-old hold my light after it got dark.
What to Serve with Shawarma-Inspired Chicken
If you make this recipe for your family, consider serving it with tzatziki sauce, hummus, or toum, you can’t go wrong. When I cook a big batch, I use the other half of the griddle for cooking a large bag of frozen Normandy blend vegetables with complementary spices, and Ray, my husband, will throw together a Caesar salad. Another good choice would be Salad Shirazi. A simple salad of cucumber, feta, and tomatoes, tossed with olive oil, would be another nice side.
I know we’re in the dead of winter and I’m talking about summer sides, but this meal just works for our family any time of year. You don’t have to wait until summer to make it work for yourself or your family.
Tips for Making This Recipe Turn out Better
The key to making this dish?
Tenderize your chicken. For a small batch, you’ll want 2- 3 lbs.
I want you to meet Lucille.
Yes, that’s a Walking Dead reference. I use my French rolling pin to work out a lot of frustration.
Pounding your chicken breaks up the muscle fibers mechanically. Breaking up these fibers, gives you a much more tender finished dish. Make sense? Good.
Next, let’s look at our marinade:
- Greek yogurt
- Lemon or Lime juice
- Sazon Season All
(You’re going to want to put that chicken in a new bag, if you pounded it in the zippered bag, they tend to tear. If you didn’t tenderize it in a bag, I recommend cleaning up your kitchen before going any further…chicken tends to splatter, a lot.)
Mix all of that together. Just as an aside, you’ll have an easier time if you squeeze your lemon into one of the ramekins rather than right into the big bowl. This way you can use a slotted spoon to strain out the seeds rather than wasting your time, picking them out.
Make sure to put your bag of chicken inside a container, so that no cross-contamination happens while the chicken hangs out in your refrigerator. Zippered bags, like people, are not infallible and can leak. You don’t want raw chicken germs anywhere in your fridge.
I’ve written out the instructions twice. Here in the body, the instructions are specifically for using a propane griddle like a Blackstone, those of you cooking a small batch, just scroll to the recipe card where your instructions are waiting patiently. Griddle users, you’ll still want to read through the recipe card so you can get your ratios for multiplying your servings.
Making Shawarma-Inspired Chicken on a Propane Griddle
*NOTE – the distinction between an electric griddle and a propane griddle is important here. The instructions for notching and cutting your chicken ON the griddle can damage a nonstick Teflon-type surface. These instructions are for the type of surface that you have to season, similar to a cast iron skillet.
Turn your griddle on and allow it to heat, I usually cook over medium, last night was windy so I ended up using high heat and having to set up make-shift wind-guards. It wasn’t a lot of fun. You’ll want to adjust the heat based on the conditions at the time you are cooking.
I start out, by cooking the chicken on top of sliced onions, and shawarma, and later, when the chicken is about halfway done, off to the side, I blister some grape or cherry tomatoes.
When your griddle is hot, add your oil, make sure you choose one with a high smoke point, like avocado.
Spread your sliced onions (I use one onion per 2 – 3 lbs of chicken) on the griddle in a thin layer.
I then add the chicken immediately on top of the onions.
I then use a baking sheet to cover the chicken and cook for 3 – 5 minutes.
Then before flipping, I use my scraper and cut not quite through each chicken breast before flipping. A bench knife will accomplish this task, too.
This makes the chopping up of the chicken after cooking the other side SO much easier. When you notch the chicken, go against the grain.
Then flip your chicken, leaving the layer of onions in place. Cook, covered for another 3 – 5 minutes. Then use either your bench knife or scraper and cut your chicken into strips.
This is a little tedious and your chicken is not quite done at this point.
Now use your spatula and scraper to move the chicken and onions around together until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. I had a good handful of grape tomatoes cooking off to the side that I mixed into my chicken once we neared the finishing point. I love the pop of acidity the tomatoes provide.
Bring your chicken inside and serve with all of your sides.
Instructions to Make Shawarma-Inspired Chicken with a Skillet
- 2 – 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, thawed
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon – juiced or 1 lime – juiced it’s your preference
- 1 TBSP Sazon Spice Blend
- 1 TBSP ground coriander
- 1 TBSP ground cumin
- 1 onion sliced thinly
- a small handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, optional
- a couple of tablespoons of your favorite cooking oil. You can use olive oil
- Using a mallet or other kitchen utensil, pound the boneless chicken to tenderize it.
- In a bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon or lime juice, Sazon Complete Seasoning, coriander, and cumin
- Place the chicken and the marinade mixture into either a gallon zippered bag or another container and allow to marinate for at least two hours. It can marinate overnight.
- If you are cooking only a single batch, you can use a skillet or a small electric griddle. In this case, you will want to heat your skillet/griddle to medium. (If you are cooking a large batch and using a propane griddle, see the detailed instructions in the post)
- Add the oil and look for it to shimmer.
- Add your thinly sliced onions to the pan.
- Remove your chicken from the marinade, shake off any excess and immediately lay your chicken on top of the onions.
- Cover and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Turn your chicken, using tongs. Allow the chicken to cook for another 3-5 minutes, covered.
- Remove your pan from the heat and temporarily switch off the burner.
- One chicken piece at a time, cut into thin strips. Cut across the grain. If you can see the muscle fibers, you cut across, rather than along them.
- Return the chicken strips to the pan and turn the heat back on as soon as you have finished cutting the chicken.
- Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the chicken, scraping up any onion bits or dark bits from the bottom, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Places the chicken and onions into a serving dish and add the optional tomatoes, and a splash more oil, to your skillet and cook over high heat until just blistered and toss with the chicken prior to serving, if desired.
If you use a propane flat top griddle, like a Blackstone, choose an oil with a high smoke point, like Avocado oil.