Middle Eastern

Lemony Cabbage Shawarma With Garlic-Chile Oil & Pine Nuts

June 29, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

It’s no secret that cabbage has made its way to the top of the vegetable hierarchy of late, but I still love to ogle at the transition this frumpy piece of produce has made. It’s a hopeful reminder that everyone has their time to shine. On plates and Instagram feeds worldwide, it’s being braised, roasted, smothered in tahini (an albeit very basic first step to giving an ingredient a Cinderella moment) and as I write, I can’t help but think of what I’d like to do to this humble brassica in the near future. But for now, I have a particularly soft spot for this very method of prep and I can’t help but think you will too.

As much as I love a crispy roast chicken or a juicy steak, I’m a big believer in the power of a vegetable that can truly fill that deep pit of carnivorous hunger when the mood strikes. I originally created this recipe for a supper club I threw and the crowd went wild for its hearty and meaty position at the table.

The term “shawarma” comes from the Turkish word for “turning,” referring to the patient process of the dish. A shawarma usually consists of an ingredient (usually meat of some sort) compactly stacked on a spit and continuously turned around and around. A marinade with warming spices (the specific mixture varies widely, but it typically includes some proportion of allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg) and fat keeps the protein company and becomes intertwined with its aromas and all the beautiful caramelization.

Shawarma is passionately claimed by so many different cultures of the Middle East; in many of these geographies, shawarma shops are dotted on every street. I love to pay homage to my local shop by giving my veggies a similar embrace of spice. Cabbage takes it particularly well because it takes on crispy edges while perfectly softening further into the bite, somewhat similarly to a meat-based shawarma.

Though the creamy, lemony sauce that goes on top is quite the highlight, what truly gives it first prize at the cabbage fair is the chile oil that goes on top. You can of course use any chile oil of choice, but this one will be doused on just about everything you eat until you’re scraping the bowl. At the end of it all, it can be jostled into a fluffy pita or eaten as is. —Emanuelle Lee

What You'll Need
  • For the cabbage shawarma:
  • 1 small white cabbage or 1/2 medium cabbage, first layer discarded
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon citrus salt (or, sub in 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt with 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • For the tahini lemon sauce & garlic-chile oil:
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Peel from 1 lemon, without white pith
  • 2 lemons, juiced (use the lemon(s) you've peeled and/or zested)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons tahini, well stirred
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 5 tablespoons pine nuts, finely chopped
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to toast pine nuts
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch sea salt, plus more to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. To make the shawarma spice, in a small bowl, combine the coriander, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, ginger, cloves, and turmeric and set aside.
  3. To make the cabbage shawarma, chop the cabbage into 1/2-inch chunks. (The layers will fall apart after cooking). Spread the cabbage over a large baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with all of the shawarma spice, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the citrus salt. Toss well so the cabbage is evenly coated.
  4. Place the cabbage in the center rack of the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Then, switch the oven to broil setting and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Toss the cabbage and broil for another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until ready to dress.
  5. To make the tahini sauce, combine the lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, honey and tahini in a food processor along with a pinch of salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Set the sauce aside.
  6. To make the chile oil, place a medium pot or pan on medium-high heat. Toast the chopped pine nuts with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, stirring often and keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. Once golden, quickly remove them from the pan and set aside. Let the pan cool for a few minutes. Return the pan to a low heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil, and add the chopped garlic. Leave the garlic to soften very gently and become slightly golden, about 12 minutes. You may raise the heat slightly for the last minute or so if it’s not becoming golden. Add the chile flakes, Aleppo pepper, vinegar, and bay leaves. Cover all of this with the additional 4 tablespoons olive oil, season with a pinch of sea salt, and let sit for 10 minutes, until the oil takes on a reddish hue and the chile flakes have somewhat rehydrated. Add the honey and the pine nuts, mix well, and set the chile oil aside.
  7. To serve, transfer the cabbage onto a serving dish of choice. Toss 3/4 of the chopped parsley through. Drizzle generously with the lemony sauce and as much chile oil as you like (careful, it’s spicy). Top with the remaining parsley and enjoy.
  8. The sauce can be made 3 days ahead and the chile oil can be eaten for up to a week.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Heather Poff
    Heather Poff
  • epicharis
  • Larnie
  • Shawarma boy
    Shawarma boy

4 Reviews

Heather P. September 15, 2020
Love the flavors of this dish. I don’t mind the forward lemon flavor of the tahini sauce - but I do love lemons. The recipe needs work - the ingredient list does not correspond easily with the recipe - what do you do with the lemon zest in the chili oil? I added to mine, but not sure it was needed give the strong lemon flavor of the tahini sauce. Also - let’s not call this shawarma - it’s not. It’s deliciously spiced roasted cabbage that I will make for year’s to come.
Larnie September 3, 2020
The recipe construction is quite possibly the most difficult to follow I've seen in my 40+ years of cooking. Why run together all the ingredients for different recipes? Requires a constant back and forward between instructions and ingredients to verify how much of an ingredient as several items are repeated in each recipe. Easier to go my own way on this one.
Shawarma B. August 19, 2020
Please stop ruining other cultures’ foods we are sick of it. Just call this what it is: cabbage sandwich ... just stop
epicharis August 18, 2020
There's real potential here; the pine nuts in oil are a winner, but who can go wrong with so much oil and garlic? The rest of the recipe needs work. As a questioner noted, you need way more than 1 tsp of spice for the cabbage. And either our broiler is bad or the recommendation for 2-inch chunks is way off---if I did this again I would roast and then broil. And the ratios for the lemon-tahini sauce seem massively out of balance. It was just overwhelmingly lemony. It could work as an interesting side dish with some tweaks, but despite the twee tryhard recipe notes there is no way this functions as a meat substitute (and I eat meat maybe monthly, tops). Use this more as a springboard to riff off of rather than a complete coherent recipe.