A fresh chopped salad bursting with flavorful vegetables, green herbs and Middle Eastern street cart-style spiced grilled chicken.
Welcome to this flavor-packed chicken shawarma salad, created in the spirit of street cart food — particularly the fare from a very popular vendor in New York City. It has grilled spice-rubbed chicken in a lemony-garlicky tahini dressing, with loads of herbs and fresh crunchy vegetables.
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.
The street version features spit-roasted, spice-seasoned chicken, which is sliced and served over rice pilaf, fried falafel and ribbons of iceberg lettuce, all topped off with creamy hummus and tahini sauce. It’s an incredible flavor-bomb of a meal, well worth waiting in line for and devouring right then and there on the sidewalk.
Those big, bold spicy flavors — I’m kind of addicted to 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 chicken shawarma salad.
A while back, I came up with my own shawarma spice rub. It’s a blend of bold spices — 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.
Get my spice blend recipe ebook here.
Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients in the chicken shawarma salad 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
Yield 4 servings
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.
Shawarma Spice Rub:
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon Shawarma Spice Rub
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- 2 cups mixed color cherry/grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 4 Persian cucumbers, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup each picked fresh cilantro, Italian parsley, mint and dill
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo or Maras pepper, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili
- 2 cups each romaine lettuce and arugula
- 1/4 cup thick plain yogurt, such as labneh or Greek
- Warm pita bread, sliced into quarters
- Put the ingredients for the spice rub in a jar. Cover and shake well to mix.
- Sprinkle the chicken evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of the spice rub. Set aside while preparing the vegetables for the salad, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead.
- Put 1/2 teaspoon salt and the sugar in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and whisk to dissolve. Put the red onion in the bowl and toss together. Set aside or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead.
- Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice with the olive oil, garlic, tahini, 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon Shawarma spice. For a creamier, emulsified dressing blend in a mini food processor or blender.
- Put the tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions in a large 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 feta, Aleppo pepper and a pinch of salt.
- Stack the romaine leaves on a cutting board and slice thinly crosswise. Repeat with the arugula. Add both greens to the bowl.
- Cook the chicken on a medium-hot outdoor grill until firm and no longer pink, about 6 minutes per side. Or cook the chicken 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.
Cuisine middle eastern