Beef and Chicken Shawarma with White Sauce

By January 30, 2017Recipes
We (literally) just got back from a family vacation.  This time, we ventured to the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten.  It’s a 36 square mile island in the Caribbean shared between two countries, France and the Netherlands.  We had a fabulous time.  Sunshine, 80 degree weather, crystal blue water and sand in our toes.  I can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with this tropical paradise.
One of the most unique experiences that you will find in St. Martin is right at the airport.  Maho Beach is unusually close to the runway, and is directly under the flight path, resulting in aircraft flying over the beach on their final approach at altitudes of less than 100 feet above ground level.  It appears as if the planes are going to literally land on your head!
Right beside Maho Beach is a local treasure, Guy’s Driftwood Bar.  The bar is actually a boat and it’s the perfect spot to kick back and watch the planes coming and going.  One of Guy’s specialties is a Shawarma.  I had no clue what a Shawarma was , only that they were not to be missed.
Upon returning home, I did some research.  Apparently a shawarma is a type of street food that can be found in many countries in the Middle East. It can be purchased quickly from street venders and consumed on-the-go. Though the recipes for and ingredients in shawarma differ from region to region, traditionally, the dish consists of meat, a sauce, and various toppings, which are all wrapped together in a piece of flatbread.
What I still haven’t figured out is how the shawarma found it’s way to the beaches of St. Martin…..?
At Gus’s, we decided to try both the mixed shawarma (I am assuming it was a mix of beef, chicken and lamb) and the chicken shawarma.  The first night my husband bit into his shawarma, he declared it his best meal on the island to date and vowed to return again before we went home.
Arriving back home, to this lovely winter weather is tough.  So, I am trying my hand at duplicating our shawarma experience.
Then I just need some sand and some low flying planes.
Chicken Shawarma
  • 2 lb. chicken thighs, skinless and boneless (thighs work best because they are fattier, but breasts would work as well)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoons ground cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Naan or  flatbreads
  • Sliced lettuce
  • Tomato slices

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag.
  2. Add the chicken , close the bag, and massage the bag to disperse the rub all over each chicken piece.
  3. Marinate overnight or up to 24 hours.
  4. Heat grill (or large heavy based pan on stove) on medium high. You should not need to oil it because the marinade has oil in it and also thigh fillets have fat. But if you are worried then oil your grill. (See notes below for baking….)
  5. Place chicken on the grill and cook the first side for 4 to 5 minutes until nicely charred, then turn and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes (the 2nd side takes less time).
  6. Remove chicken from the grill and cover loosely with foil. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Slice chicken and pile onto platter alongside Naan or flatbreads and the White Sauce (recipe below)
  8. To make a wrap, get a piece of flatbread and smear with white sauce. Top with a bit of lettuce and tomato and Chicken Shawarma. Roll up and enjoy!

This is best made with chicken thigh because it’s got more fat. But it’s still tasty made with chicken breast. The best way is to cut them in half horizontally to make 2 thin steaks. If needed, pound lightly. Marinate per recipe. Then cook on a high heat (not medium high per recipe) for just 2 minutes on each side until golden.

Cooking on a BBQ or stove will yield the best results.  Baking doesn’t yield quite the same flavour – but still very good! Bake at 425 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes, until browned.

Recipe found and adapted from

Beef Shawarma
  • 2 lbs of fatty beef cuts (I used rib eye steak…)
Marinade Ingredients
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of  lemon juice
  • ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon caraway
  • ½ teaspoon cardamon
  • ½ teaspoon of oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
 Sandwich Ingredients
  • ½ cup of finely cut Italian parsley
  • Grilled tomatoes
  • French fries
  • Pita bread
  1. Mix the spices along with the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar in a blender for a couple of minutes. Don’t mix in the olive oil yet.
  2. Cut the beef into chunks of 4 inches long by no more than ⅔ inch in thickness.
  3. In a ziplock bag, add meat and rub with the marinade, sprinkle a bit of olive oil then rub again, cover and let marinate overnight in the fridge.
  4. Lay the shawarma chunks in a Pyrex tray with a bit of marinade, cover the trap tightly with aluminum foil, then gently bake at 270-300F for 2 hours.

  1. Once cooked, shred the meat on a cutting board and serve hot. This roasting method will make the meat very tender and juicy and will almost fall apart.
  2. Place about 4-6 ounces (to taste) of shredded shawarma in a flat bread along the diameter, sprinkle some white sauce, add freshly grilled tomatoes, french fries, and a garnish of parsley.
  3. Roll and enjoy.

Recipe found and adapted from

Shawarma White Sauce


½ cup Greek Yogurt (sour-cream can also be used)

Juice of half a lime

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh dill,chopped (1 teaspoon dry dill can also be used)

½ teaspoon salt


Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process for 1 minute or until light and fluffy.Store in the fridge, in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe found and adapted from

*To the best of my ability, I have tried to indicate all ingredients, products and equipment that are available at Johnnies in Bold Print.  

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