Easy Lamb Shawarma With Tahini Dressing

December  7, 2021
0 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio Food Stylist: Drew Aichele
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Shawarma is one of those dishes that many think of as a "takeout-only food." While it's difficult to beat the freshly shredded meat straight off a spinning rotisserie skewer, there's a different comfort found in a homemade shawarma, starting with the fact that you can spice and dress it to your exact liking. It's also much easier than you think and can be a fun and interactive meal perfect for a family.

As an Egyptian who grew up in Southern Africa, one of my favorite things about visiting Egypt was having shawarma. Pulling the paper-wrapped roll out of the bag and smelling the spiced lamb was enough to make us all immediately start chowing down (get home to eat at the table? No need!). The anticipation of what was ahead was so great, we’d eat in the car or on the street outside the restaurant. Shawarma takeout was not as prevalent in our part of the world (compared to the Middle East, or even Europe or the United States), but thanks to my dad, who perfected an oven-roasted recipe, I now love to make shawarma at home whenever the craving hits.

This recipe is a one-dish meal: thinly sliced lamb leg, onions, vinegar, tomatoes, and spices like turmeric, paprika, and seven spice, also known as baharat. The most intensive part of the recipe is thinly slicing the meat: Use a sharp knife to make this process easier, or ask your butcher if they can do it for you (a real time-saver). For a slightly cheaper version, use half beef (sirloin or fillet), and half lamb. While people love all sorts of different toppings for their shawarma, in my opinion, the essentials are tahini dressing, some kind of pickle (I like pickles or turnips), and folding everything into a flatbread or a tortilla for the perfect balance of flavor and texture. —Mary Fawzy

What You'll Need
  • Meat Filling:
  • 2 1/4 pounds boneless leg of lamb, sliced as thin as possible (½ inch or less)
  • 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 chiles, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Arabic seven spice or baharat
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Tahini Dressing and Assembly:
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pinch ground cumin (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flatbread, pita, or flour tortilla; pickled cucumbers or turnips; and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, for serving (optional)
  1. Meat Filling:
  2. Heat the oven to 425℉.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the lamb, tomatoes, onion, chiles, if using, vinegar, oil, seven spice, turmeric, and paprika; season with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Alternatively, leave out the onion from the mixture, cover, and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate overnight, then add the onions 30 minutes before cooking.
  4. Transfer the meat with the marinade to a casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, toss, and continue to bake, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until the meat is lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 145ºF.
  5. Remove the meat from the oven. If there is excess liquid in the dish, pick up the meat with tongs and transfer to a clean dish or platter.
  1. Tahini Dressing and Assembly:
  2. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and tahini with a small spoon for about 1 minute as you add the water and lemon juice. The mixture will transform, first seizing up, then smoothing out into a pillowy creamy sauce as you add the water. The sauce should be light and slightly runny; if it’s too thick for your preference, add a little more water. Alternatively, you can make this dressing in a food processor. Stir in the cumin, if using; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve the meat in flatbread, pita, or a tortilla, drizzle with the tahini dressing, and top with the pickles, sliced cucumber, and tomato, if using.

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1 Review

birdman_jenkins April 19, 2021
Do you slice the lamb before or after the oven?