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.
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.
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 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.
Get your free spice blending recipe ebook here.
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
Yield 4 servings
Perfect for whole food eating: Healthy chopped chicken salad loaded with fresh vegetables and lemon tahini dressing.
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
Lemon Tahini Dressing:
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- 1/2 teaspoon Shawarma Spice Blend
Quick Pickled Red Onion
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 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
- 1/2 cup each picked fresh cilantro, Italian parsley, mint and dill
- 2 cups each torn romaine lettuce and arugula
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo or Maras pepper, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili
- 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.
- To make the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. For a creamier, emulsified dressing blend in a mini food processor or blender.
- To 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.
- 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.
Cuisine middle eastern