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Fresh chopped Mediterranean salad bursting with flavorful vegetables, green herbs and Middle Eastern street cart-style spiced grilled chicken.
Welcome to this flavor-packed, easy to eat chicken shawarma recipe.
I created this salad in the spirit of street cart food — particularly the fare from a very popular vendor in New York City.
The starring role is played by grilled spice-rubbed chicken in a lemony-garlicky tahini dressing, with the support loads of herbs and fresh crunchy vegetables.
About the ingredients
- Chicken breast or thigh (boneless)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Persian or seedless cucumber
- Green onions
- Red onion
- Spices (cumin, nutmeg, allspice, coriander, black pepper)
- Olive oil
- Cilantro, mint, dill and or fresh parlsey
- Romaine lettuce and arugula
- Feta cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Tahini paste
- Pita or naan bread
Because I went ahead and healthified this dish, I guess you can call it a yoga-pants-wearing version of a street food chicken salad.
In reality, it only resembles what you’d actually get from a NYC halal cart. For that, I suggest you proceed straight to the source!
Authentic chicken shawarma
The street version features spit-roasted, spice-seasoned chicken, which is sliced and served over rice pilaf, fried falafel and ribbons of iceberg lettuce.
It’s all topped off with creamy hummus and tahini sauce.
It’s an incredible blast of flavor in one dish, well worth waiting in line for and devouring right then and there on the sidewalk.
Those big, bold spicy flavors — I’m passionate about them! That delicious combo of acidic, fatty, salty, fresh, crunchy and herbaceous elements just makes my mouth water.
So, I set out to recreate the spirit of Mediterranean-Middle Eastern street food in a healthy homemade version of the salad.
I created my own formula for shawarma spice rub.
It’s a blend of bold spices like cumin and black pepper, with a background of sweet warm ones like nutmeg and allspice.
The rub is fantastic on other meats too — like these lamb burgers, possibly my favorite burger ever.
Don’t be afraid of the list of ingredients in the recipe — most of the prep involves mixing spices and preparing and chopping the ingredients for the salad, which can all be done a day ahead.
Chopped Chicken Shawarma Salad
Shawarma Spice Rub:
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Lemon Tahini Dressing:
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
- 1 tablespoon tahini paste
- ½ teaspoon Shawarma Spice Blend
Quick Pickled Red Onion
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
Assemble the Salad
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups mixed color cherry/grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 4 Persian cucumbers, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup each picked fresh cilantro, Italian parsley, mint and/or dill
- 2 cups each torn romaine lettuce and arugula
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- [1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili]
- ¼ cup thick plain yogurt, such as labneh or Greek
- Warm pita bread, sliced into quarters
- Green sauce, optional
Make the spice mix:
- Put the ingredients for the spice rub in a jar. Cover and shake well to mix.
Make the dressing:
- Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. For a creamier, emulsified dressing blend in a mini food processor or blender.
Make the pickled onion:
- Put 1/2 teaspoon salt and the sugar in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and whisk to dissolve. Add the red onion in the bowl and toss together. Set aside or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead.
For the salad
- Sprinkle the chicken evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of the Shawarma spice rub. Set aside while preparing the vegetables for the salad, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead.
- Put the tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions in a large salad bowl. Drain the red onion and add to the bowl.
- Pile the herbs together on a cutting board and finely chop. Add the herbs to the bowl, along with the romaine, arugula, feta, Aleppo chili pepper and a pinch of salt.
- Cook the chicken on a medium-hot outdoor grill until firm and no longer pink, about 6 minutes per side. Or cook indoors under a hot, preheated broiler with the oven rack 6 inches from the heat source, about 6 minutes per side. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes, then slice into bite-sized chunks.
- Add the chicken to the bowl. Drizzle about half the dressing over and toss to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more dressing, salt, pepper or chili if you like.
- Spread a tablespoon of yogurt on each serving bowl or plate. Serve the salad over the yogurt with the pita on the side.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- To make this a vegetarian salad, omit the chicken and use chickpeas instead – try the crunchy roasted chickpeas in this recipe, using 2 teaspoons of the Shawarma rub.
- The spice rub recipe makes a little more than you’ll need to make the salad. Store in a covered jar.