This yogurt based shawarma sauce is ready in 5 minutes and perfect to drizzle over shawarma bowls and so much more! This is a lighter alternative to the traditional middle eastern garlic shawarma sauce. Let's get into everything you need to know about shawarma sauces!
What is Shawarma Sauce?
If you haven't heard of it, shawarma is a traditional middle eastern dish consisting of either chicken, beef or lamb roasted on a rotating spit, and shaved off to make wraps or served over rice.
Now shawarma is always served with a sauce. However, there are a few different shawarma sauces that you can make, depending on your preference. A few are traditional shawarma sauces, which are the sauces you will find served with shawarma if you were to order it from a middle eastern street vender. But there is also a more westernized version of shawarma sauce, which is what this recipe is for. Let's walk through each type of sauce!
Traditional Garlic Shawarma Sauce or Toum
Authentic chicken shawarma is always served with toum, which is a garlic sauce made by emulsifying garlic and oil with lemon juice and salt. It is a thick sauce and it's typically more pungent. This sauce is smeared on bread for shawarma wraps and is important for a truly authentic shawarma experience! If you haven't had chicken shawarma with this garlic sauce, you have not lived!
Traditional Tahini Sauce or Tarator
Authentic beef shawarma however is always served with a tahini sauce, and not toum. This tahini sauce is often referred to as "tarator" in Lebanon and other Levant countries. Its simply made by whisking together tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. It's also the same sauce used to drizzle over falafel.
The colour of the sauce is more of a light tan, due to the tahini, and the texture is runnier than toum. It also has less of a strong garlic flavour than toum.
Westernized "Shawarma Sauce" or "White Sauce"
As Shawarma travelled to the west and became very popular, many restaurants and street vendors started to serve it with a smooth and creamy "white sauce" or "shawarma sauce" that is less pungent than traditional toum. This sauce is runnier and easier to drizzle, and in my opinion, it is also much lighter than toum.
Growing up, my mom always served shawarma with a version of this yogurt based white sauce, simply because she couldn't be bothered to make toum (which is a long process, but I've found ways to make it simpler in this post).
This version of shawarma sauce is yogurt based, with a little bit of mayo, tahini, lemon juice and garlic. The mayo is an ingredient that you can crank up or down, based on your own preference. Some prefer a lighter sauce, while others like it decadent. It is also perfect as a light dipping sauce with vegetables or crackers.
TIP: Shawarma sauce is not traditionally laden with a lot of fresh herbs like mint, dill, and cilantro. The flavour of the garlic and lemon is meant to shine!
Ingredients You'll Need to Make This Recipe
For this version of shawarma sauce (which is my perfect balance of flavours), here's what you'll need:
- Yogurt; you can use regular whole yogurt or Greek yogurt. I suggest opting for whole yogurt to optimize flavour.
- Mayonnaise; I add a few tablespoons of mayo to get that decadent taste and texture. You can increase or decrease this amount to your liking.
- Tahini; Tahini adds a wonderful nuttiness and more depth of flavour. If you don't have it on hand though, it's totally fine to skip it.
- Lemon Juice; an essential for acidity, but based on how tangy the yogurt is, you can use more or less.
- Garlic; If you are a garlic fan, then I suggest crushing one fresh small clove in the sauce. But if you like a milder flavour, then use garlic powder.
- Seasoning; salt and pepper are a must, and if you like a bit of heat, add some chilli powder, Aleppo pepper, or chilli flakes.
How to Make This Recipe, Step by Step
This recipe couldn't be easier to whip up, which is why I make it the most out of all the shawarma sauces I walked you through.
Start by spooning in the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and all the seasoning in a small bowl.
Whisk the sauce together using a small whisk or a fork. You will feel the sauce start to get dry and seize up as you whisk. Continue to whisk and it will smoothen out.
TIP: Whenever tahini is mixed with lemon juice, it starts to seize up and dry, forming a clumpy texture. That's completely normal! Simply keep whisking, adding a few tablespoons of water as needed and it will form a smooth consistency.
Once all the ingredients are mixed together well, taste the sauce. I like to adjust for the following:
- More salt if necessary
- More mayonnaise. This is especially needed if you're using a low fat type of yogurt. It's nice to have a bit of decadence to the sauce. But if you like it really light, then keep as is!
- More heat if you prefer.
Garnish it with a little bit of parsley if desired. This is purely just for colour, and not for flavour, so no need to mix it in.
So Which Shawarma Sauce Should I Use?
Since we went over three different sauces in this post that are all affiliated with Shawarma, here's a quick summary and tips on what to make, when!
Traditional, Authentic Toum (Garlic Sauce): Make this with chicken shawarma to try taste the authentic flavour of a shawarma wrap! Also make it if you have an immersion blender or food processor, otherwise it is hard to make. It tastes very strongly of garlic.
Traditional, Authentic Tarator or Tahini Sauce: Make this using just tahini, lemon juice and garlic, and serve with beef shawarma or falafel wraps. It has a mild taste mostly dominated by tahini. It's light and perfect for drizzling.
Western "White Sauce": Make this as a very quick sauce you can whisk to serve with shawarma along with other dishes like chicken and rice, or even as a salad dressing. It is yogurt based with some mayo and has a versatile taste that goes with many dishes.
How to Use this Shawarma Sauce
My favourite way is to drizzle this sauce over a shawarma served in a bowl, with rice. For Shawarma wraps, I prefer to use toum. I also love drizzling it over salads as a salad dressing.
It goes perfectly with any chicken and rice recipe too, like this one. I love using it as a dip with cut up vegetables and crackers. The options are endless!
Other Sauces & Dips to Try:
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5-Minute Shawarma Sauce
- 1 cup full fat plain yogurt
- 1.5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper more per preference
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder you can use fresh crushed garlic too, adjust amount to your liking
- ¼ teaspoon chilli powder more per preference
- 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice more per preference
- 2 tablespoons tahini optional
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together well.
- If the sauce seizes up and clumps together (specifically after whisking in the tahini), simply continue to whisk and add a few drops of water if required. It will become a smooth sauce.
- Store in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. Drizzle on Shawarma!
- You can adjust the amount of mayonnaise in this recipe to your liking. More will result in a more decadent sauce.
- You can skip the tahini if you don't have it.
- If you like a stronger garlic flavour, add freshly crushed garlic.