Chicken Shawarma With Vampire-Slaying Toum From Ottolenghi Test Kitchen

November  4, 2021
6 Ratings
Photo by Food52
  • Prep time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Toum, which literally translates to “garlic” in Arabic, is a Levantine condiment made by whipping together raw garlic and oil with a good amount of lemon juice. It is potent enough to ward off even the most persistent of vampires and is most definitely not for the garlic averse among us. Use it sparingly, and if you find it too potent, swirl in some Greek yogurt, as we do in the following two recipes. Make sure to use a neutral-tasting oil here, such as vegetable oil, and not olive oil—it’ll ensure the toum stays white and fluffy and won’t detract from the intensely pungent garlic flavor. This recipe will most likely make more than you need, but toum is stable enough to have a long shelf life. Once made, store it in a sealed jar in the fridge; it’ll keep for up to 4 weeks and goes really well with crispy potatoes, grilled meat (particularly when rich and fatty), and just about anything battered and fried. Lastly, toum loses its intensity the longer it sits, so for the more faint of heart, make this a few days in advance of when you need it. —Food52

Test Kitchen Notes

Recipe excerpted with permission from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi, published by Clarkson Potter © 2021. —The Editors

What You'll Need
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Chicken Shawarma With Vampire-Slaying Toum From Ottolenghi Test Kitchen
  • Chicken Shawarma
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (500 grams) boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3 to 4 pieces each
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Toum
  • 3 heads (100 grams) garlic cloves, well-dried and peeled
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 milliliters, or 250 grams by weight) sunflower oil, or another neutral-tasting oil
  • 3/4 cup (75 milliliters) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. First, marinate the shawarma. Add all the spices, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper to a large bowl and mix well to combine. Add the chicken thighs to the bowl, mix well, and leave to marinate, refrigerated for at least an hour, or up to overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, make the toum. Halve the garlic cloves lengthways and use a small, sharp knife to remove and discard the inner part (some will look green or similar to a white twig).
  3. Transfer the cored-out garlic cloves to a food processor along with 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Blitz until very smooth and aerated, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl a couple times. With the machine still running, very slowly drizzle in about 60ml (a fifth) of the oil, followed by a tablespoon of lemon juice. Continue in this way, alternating between oil and lemon juice and ending with the oil. Do this very slowly and steadily; you don’t want the toum to split at all. You should be left with a white, fluffy and homogenised mixture. Transfer to a sterilized, sealed jar and store refrigerated; it’ll keep for up to 4 weeks.
  4. When ready, remove the chicken from the fridge about half an hour before you want to cook it. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.
  5. Skewer the chicken onto four (9-inch/23cm) metal skewers or soaked wooden skewers. Transfer to a parchment lined baking tray and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through, rotating the skewers halfway through cooking.
  6. Assemble the platter: toum, chicken, fries, pickles, herbs, lettuce, onion, and so forth.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Marisa Corrado Walsh
    Marisa Corrado Walsh
  • Casey
  • Kathy Douthit
    Kathy Douthit
  • HelloYou

9 Reviews

HelloYou August 17, 2023
This was amazing and very easy. The toum was a little time consuming but well worth it. I misread the directions and added an extra bulb of garlic, but it was still delicious. The chicken was incredible. I paired it with the smashed carrots recipe (from Shelf Love I think) & it was all to die for. Great recipes.
Marisa C. June 4, 2023
Love this recipe. Chicken is so easy. We marinate overnight and then grill it for fast weekday meal. Toum keeps and is so delicious!!
Holly August 13, 2022
Re toum lemon juice should measure - 5 TABLESPOONS/75 ml
And yes, don't forget to add the yogurt to the chicken marinade in Step 1!
Casey April 7, 2022
In Step 1 don't forget to add the Greek Yogurt to the chicken and spices so it can marinate. That step was left out of the recipe.

Great flavor, I love how the fenugreek brought a little sweetness to the spice mix. I had never used that spice before and it was a great addition. I served it with a cucumber and tomato salad and some shredded red cabbage (just used what I had leftover in the fridge). And the Toum, what a great flavor bomb! It wasn't as garlicky as I was thinking it would be, I think pulling out the center of the garlic was a good additional step in order to achieve that perfect flavor.
milkyway December 8, 2021
Schwarma overall was so delicious, it seems like I’m going to use this chicken marinade often! I didn’t have any measurement cups/scale and used fresh garlic instead, I think in total it was 1-1,5heads of garlic and bit more oil, less lemon juice. Went here by taste and it turned out very yummy. I can honestly say with the additional sumac, olive oil, fresh mint etc. this was the best schwarma I had!
Anshum_m December 7, 2021
Several mistakes in this recipe, one of which made me ruin a batch. Firstly, the ingredients list yoghurt but the recipe does not say when and where it is to be added. Secondly, the ingredients listed for the toum say 'lemon juice 3/4th cup (75 ml)'... In what world is 3/4 cup = 75 ml? I did not see the ml listed the first time around and used 3/4 th full of lemon juice and ended up with a runny, sour toum. I was able to salvage it to an extent by adding some more garlic which improved the texture to make it more mayo like. But its still way too sour from the excess lemon juice and that really takes away some of that strong garlic flavour you look forward to in the toum
Bonnie A. February 13, 2022
Where did you finally put the yogurt? And how much lemon did you use?
beejay45 November 12, 2021
Toum would make a great base for/addition to tahini sauce. Just saying.
Kathy D. November 9, 2021
In the recipe, it says to mix the marinade ingredients together, but it doesn't say to put the chicken into it. I know it must be obvious, but some people will take it literally.