These homemade beef and lamb shawarma wraps are hands down the best you'll ever have outside of the Middle East. Bold statement right? I don't take it very lightly either. The meat is cooked in the most flavorful marinade until tender and juicy, then it's wrapped up with all the delicious toppings for the perfect shawarma wrap. You won't be able to have just one.
What is shawarma?
Shawarma is an iconic Lebanese street food consisting of juicy, marinated meat that is thinly sliced and combined with several toppings and wrapped up in pita bread. It's packed with flavor and portable, making it perfect for a quick meal back home!
Traditionally, shawarma is made by marinating thin slices of meat and stacking them on a vertical spit or rotisserie which spins slowly and continuously, with a flame on one side cooking the meat evenly as it rotates.
The fat slowly renders and drips down the layers of meat, basting itself with deliciousness. When you order your wrap, they thinly slice the outer layer right onto the pita bread, add the toppings, wrap it up, and hand it right to you. It's glorious.
Unless you are dedicated to shawarma like my parents, you probably don't own a vertical spit (yes, they own one). This recipe is the next best thing, or just as good to be perfectly honest. It's super easy and so quick to put together! Plus it's oven roasted for the juiciest, tender, most flavorful meat.
Traditionally, beef and lamb shawarma are served with tarator, which is a lemony, garlicky tahini sauce, while chicken shawarma is served with toum, a Lebanese garlic dip. Please make the tahini sauce with this shawarma recipe!
- Beef and/or lamb: you can choose one or the other, but my personal favorite is a 50/50 combination of the two. Boneless leg of lamb and flap meat are my cuts of choice.
- Aromatics: sliced onions and lots of minced garlic are used in the marinade for tons of flavor. I subconsciously diced the onions for this post, but sliced is better.
- Tomatoes: they add a delicious sweetness to the sauce when roasted. I used cherry tomatoes because my garden was bursting with them, but you can use regular tomatoes.
- Spices: a combination of Lebanese 7 spice, smoked paprika, black pepper, and bay leaves infuse the shawarma meat with authentic flavor.
- Liquids: yogurt, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and olive oil act as flavorful meat tenderizers.
- Citrus: lemon and orange rinds add a bright, zesty flavor to the marinade.
How To Slice the Meat
Like I said, we're doing this sans vertical spit, so it's going to be easy and pretty quick!
First, you'll need to thinly slice the meat. When I say thinly, I mean thinly. As thin as you can slice it and no longer than 3 inches in length.
You can do it yourself or better yet, ask the butcher to do it when you buy the meat. Many grocery stores will cut it for you however you want for free!
If you are doing it yourself, I recommend pat drying the meat with paper towels, placing it on a plate, and popping it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This firms up the meat to make it easier to thinly slice.
Important: Slice the meat against the grain, otherwise you'll end up with mouthfuls of tough, chewy meat. Look for the lines running through the meat. You want to slice perpendicular to those lines.
If you do that, you shouldn't be able to see any long muscle fibers across each slice of meat. This is honestly the hardest part if you choose to do it yourself!
Marinate the Shawarma and Bake
Next, all you have to do is combine the yogurt, red wine vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, 7 spice, smoked paprika, black pepper, and salt in a small bowl.
Use a vegetable peeler to peel the lemon and orange rinds and set them aside, then juice both the lemon and orange into the small bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
Whisk the marinade together until fully combined.
Place the sliced meat, sliced onion, diced tomatoes, citrus rinds, and marinade in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Mix everything together until all the meat slices are evenly coated with the marinade.
Tuck the bay leaves in between the meat once it's all mixed and cover the baking dish. If you have the time, I highly recommend letting it marinate overnight in the fridge.
If you're tight on time, let it marinate for one hour before cooking.
Place the shawarma, uncovered, in a 400°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Every 15 minutes, give everything a good stir to cook evenly.
The meat is done when there are no longer any pink or red slices of meat, and the sauce is bubbling. Depending on how thick your sliced meat is, it may take more or less time.
Optionally, set the oven to broil for about 3 to 5 minutes at the end to crisp up and char the tops of the meat, similar to traditional shawarma on a spit.
Traditional Shawarma Toppings
While the beef and lamb shawarma is in the oven, prepare all the toppings because they truly make it! First and foremost, you need to make the tarator (tahini sauce). Don't skip it.
You'll also need to slice some tomatoes and Lebanese pickled wild cucumbers. Please don't use dill pickles. Or you could use pickled turnips instead, which is also traditional. (Please note: the online prices are outrageous, they are linked just for your visual reference. You can find these at your local Middle Eastern store.)
You'll also need to roughly chop some fresh parsley. Fresh mint is also delicious and the leaves can be kept whole to preserve their color.
Finally, thinly slice a white onion and toss with a few big pinches of sumac. Measure with your heart.
And of course, you can't forget the pita bread! Arrange everything on a platter and each person can build their own shawarma wrap.
The shawarma meat will be swimming in juice when you pull it out of the oven, so it's important to pull the meat out of the juice before making the wraps, otherwise they'll get soggy and fall apart quickly.
You can strain all the meat if you want and put it on a plate to make it easier. (Save the sauce and cook some rice in it another time! It's packed with flavor!)
Hold a pita or put it on a plate, place some meat down the middle, add tomatoes, pickles, onions, herbs, and LOTS of the tahini sauce. Wrap it up and take the biggest, most delicious bite!
Substitutions and Variations
I'm going to be straight with you. If you want to experience eating the tastiest, authentic, homemade beef and lamb shawarma, don't change a thing. This recipe is tried and tested many times and loved by everyone that has had it.
- Gluten-free - if you can't find gluten-free pita bread, you can make a rice bowl and top it with all the shawarma meat, veggies, herbs, and tahini sauce.
- Dairy-free - omit the yogurt or use a plant-based yogurt.
- Meat - like I said, my favorite is a combo of beef and lamb, you can play with the ratio. But it's also delicious with all beef or all lamb. Although you could make this with chicken, it wouldn't be the authentic chicken shawarma flavor because we use a different marinade for it. I'll post a recipe for that in the future.
Tips on Making the Best Shawarma at Home
- Don't trim the fat: Traditional shawarma is stacks of sliced meat AND fat. The fat adds so much flavor and moisture so don't trim it. On that note, don't buy a very lean cut of meat. For beef, flap meat is a great option, but flank steak is also good. After cooking you can remove the fatty pieces if you want.
- Marinate in advance: I would really recommend that you at least let the meat marinate for an hour, but for best results, leave it in the fridge overnight.
- Slice thinly and against the grain: I mentioned it earlier, but it's very important to slice against the grain for the most tender meat. Also, these cuts of meat are not as tender as good cuts of steak, so thin slices ensure a tender bite.
- Don't skip the toppings: They all play a delicious role in the shawarma wrap, so make sure you prepare as many of the veggies and pickles as possible along with the tahini sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Shawarma is Middle Eastern and made with slices of meat such as chicken, beef, and lamb that are heavily spiced and marinated, then stacked on a vertical spit. Gyro is Greek and made with ground beef or lamb and cooked on a similar spit. The texture and flavor is completely different, and so are the toppings.
Although wraps are the most popular way to enjoy shawarma, you can definitely make a shawarma plate by placing a little bit of everything on your plate, drizzling some tarator, and making small bites with pita bread. Or you can omit the bread and make a shawarma bowl with some rice with toasted vermicelli and all the toppings.
Leftover shawarma should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. I like to store the meat in its juices to prevent drying it out.
See My Latest Recipes for More Delicious Ideas
- Lebanese 7 Spice
- Chickpea Fatteh (Fattet Hummus)
- Balila (Lebanese Chickpeas)
- Hummus with Spiced Meat and Pine Nuts
- Authentic Homemade Hummus
If you’ve tried making this Beef and Lamb Shawarma Wrap or any other recipe on Forks & Foliage, then please don't forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I would be so happy to hear how it turned out for you. And if you took any photos or videos, please share them with me on Instagram @forksandfoliage so I can see the deliciousness you made!
Beef and Lamb Shawarma Wraps
BEEF AND LAMB SHAWARMA:
- 3 pounds beef (flap meat or flank steak) and/or boneless leg of lamb, very thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 lemon, rind peeled, lemon juiced
- 1 orange, rind peeled, orange juiced
- 12 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- ¼ cup yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Lebanese 7 spice
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
- Place the thinly sliced meat in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish along with the sliced onion, diced tomatoes, and citrus rinds.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the minced garlic, yogurt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, citrus juices, 7 spice, smoked paprika, black pepper, and salt until fully combined.
- Pour the marinade into the baking dish and mix everything together until the meat slices are thoroughly and evenly coated with the marinade. Tuck in the bay leaves. Cover the baking dish and marinate at least one hour, or preferably overnight in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F, then place the baking dish, uncovered, on the middle rack for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink or red, and the sauce is bubbling. Stir everything well every 15 minutes until the shawarma is done. Optionally, broil the shawarma at the end for 3 to 5 minutes for crispy, charred edges.
- While the shawarma is cooking, make the tarator (tahini sauce). Slice the tomatoes, pickles, and onions. Sprinkle sumac on the onions and toss together. Roughly chop the parsley. Arrange all the toppings on a platter and keep the pita bread covered until ready to make the wraps.
- To make a shawarma wrap, strain the meat so it's not overly juicy, and place it on the pita bread. Top with tomatos, pickles, sumac spiced onions, parsley, mint, and lots of tarator. Enjoy immediately so the bread doesn't get soggy.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and may vary.