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Alternative nameschawarma, shaurma, showarma,[1] other variations
Place of originOttoman Empire[2]
Region or stateAnatolia, Levant, Middle East[1][3]
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsMeat: lamb, chicken, turkey, beef
Sandwich: Shawarma meat, pita or wrap bread, chopped or shredded vegetables, pickles and assorted condiments
Similar dishesDoner kebab, al pastor, gyros

Shawarma (/ʃəˈwɑːrmə/; Arabic: شاورما‎) is a Middle Eastern meat preparation based on the döner kebab of Ottoman Turkey. Originally made of lamb or mutton, today's shawarma may also be chicken, turkey, beef, or veal, cut in thin slices and stacked in a cone-like shape on a vertical rotisserie.[4][5][1] Thin slices are shaved off the cooked surface as it continuously rotates.[6][7] Shawarma is one of the world's most popular street foods, especially in Egypt and the countries of the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula.[8]


Shawarma is an Arabic rendering of Turkish çevirme [tʃeviɾˈme] 'turning', referring to the turning rotisserie.[9]


Shawarma in Lebanon, 1950

Grilling a vertical spit of stacked meat slices, and cutting it off as it cooks, first appeared in the 19th century in Ottoman Turkey, where it was known as döner kebap.[10][11] Shawarma and the Greek gyros, is derived from the döner kebap.[2][12] Shawarma was brought to Mexico by immigrants from the Middle East, where it evolved in the early 20th century into tacos al pastor.[2][13]


Shawarma in a pita

Shawarma is prepared from thin cuts of seasoned marinated lamb, mutton, veal, beef, chicken, or turkey. The slices are stacked on a skewer about 60 cm (20 in) high. Lamb fat may be added to provide extra fat for juiciness and flavor. A motorized spit slowly turns the stack of meat in front of a heating element, continuously roasting the outer layer. Shavings are cut off the rotating stack for serving, customarily with a long, sharp knife.[1]

Spices may include cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and paprika, and in some areas baharat.[13][3] Shawarma is commonly served as a sandwich or wrap, in a flatbread such as pita or laffa.[1][14] It is often garnished with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, pickled vegetables, and tahini sauce or amba mango sauce.[1] Some restaurants may offer additional toppings like grilled peppers, eggplant or french fries.[15]

In Israel, most shawarma is made with dark meat turkey and is commonly served with tahini sauce because serving yogurt sauce with meat would violate the Jewish dietary restriction of not eating milk and meat together.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Marks, Gil (2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780544186316 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c Prichep, Deena; Estrin, Daniel. "Thank the Ottoman Empire for the taco al pastor". Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b Salloum, Habeeb. The Arabian Nights Cookbook. Tuttle.
  4. ^ Albala, Ken, ed. (2011). Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 197, 225, 250, 260–261, 269. ISBN 9780313376269 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Davidson, Alan (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. p. 259. ISBN 9780191040726 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Philip Mattar (2004). Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle Eastern (Hardcover ed.). Macmillan Library Reference. p. 840. ISBN 0028657713. Shawarma is a popular Levantine Arab specialty.
  7. ^ John A La Boone III (2006). Around the World of Food: Adventures in Culinary History (Paperback ed.). iUniverse, Inc. p. 115. ISBN 0595389686. Shawarma - An Arab sandwich similar to the gyro.
  8. ^ Street food around the world : an encyclopedia of food and culture. Santa Barbara, California. pp. 18, 339. ISBN 1598849557. OCLC 864676073.
  9. ^ Reporter, Mohammed N. Al Khan, Staff (31 July 2009). "Shawarma: the Arabic fast food".
  10. ^ Eberhard Seidel-Pielen (May 10, 1996). "Döner-Fieber sogar in Hoyerswerda" [Doner fever even in Hoyerswerda]. ZEIT ONLINE (in German). Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  11. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147
  12. ^ Aglaia Kremezi and Anissa Helou, "What's in a Dish's Name", "Food and Language", Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 2009, ISBN 190301879X
  13. ^ a b c "How to Make Shawarma Like an Israeli". Haaretz. 2017-05-01.
  14. ^ Al-Masri, Mohammad. Colloquial Arabic (Levantine): The Complete Course for Beginners. Routledge.
  15. ^ "Shawarma, the Iconic Israeli Street Food, Is Slowly Making a Comeback in Tel Aviv". Haaretz. 2019-01-10.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Shawarma at Wikimedia Commons