This one pot Shawarma Rice recipe is my top go-to quick dishes to make for busy weekdays. What's not to love about yellow rice with white sauce that gets cooked all in one pot and will take you no more than 40 minutes?!
What is Shawarma?
Shawarma is a traditional Middle Eastern street food found in many Middle Eastern and specifically Arabic countries. Pieces of chicken or beef are stacked on a very large and long rotating skewer and slow roasted to perfection. Then the meat is shaved off the skewer and made into delicious wraps.
It's irresistible. It's obviously hard to re-create at home using the skewer method, so I usually resort to my sheet pan chicken shawarma recipe for a quick fix and it's SO good. I also turn it into a shawarma plate when I have all the fixings and it's better than takeout.
Also, my Arab-Canadian self is so obsessed with Shawarma that I even made a shawarma poutine. If you are intrigued I highly recommend you try it!
But anyways, back to this shawarma rice... I know that it's not *really* shawarma because I'm cooking it in one pot with the rice, but I decided to call it that because I use the same exact spices for shawarma and the yellow rice just goes with it perfectly.
Ingredients you'll need
A few very simple ingredients is all you need. And you can feel free to add vegetables to this as well, like peas and carrots. You can cook them with the onion if you're using them.
A few notes on the ingredients:
- It's really important to use long grain rice for this recipe, because other types of rice will have different cooking time and water ratio.
- The diced onions is a must, don't skip it!
- I prefer to use boneless chicken thighs for the best flavour. If you are using bone-in, make sure to adjust your cooking time since they take longer
- The sauce is amazing. I make it using a mix of mayo and yogurt so it's lighter, healthier, but still super delicious!
How to make shawarma rice
This recipe will take about 10 minutes of hands on time, and then you're just waiting for everything to cook. It's incredibly easy. Here's how it goes:
- Marinate your chicken thighs with the chicken spices. Ideally the night before, but no worries if you didn't have time. Just marinate them while you're preparing everything else. I use boneless thighs that are cut up into bite sized pieces
- Dice the onions, crush the garlic and wash and drain the rice
- In a pan with raised sides (or a small pot), add some olive oil and sear the chicken pieces for 3-4 minutes on each side until they're golden. Remove them from the pan
- Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until softened. Then add the garlic and the spices and continue cooking a further few minutes
- Add the washed rice, stir, then add the chicken back on top
- Add the water, cover and lower to low heat. Cook for 20 minutes undisturbed
- Meanwhile prepare the sauce by whisking together all the ingredients. I have made the sauce with and without tahini, and both ways are great. If you don't have tahini I left it as optional
- Fluff the rice, serve with the sauce and a salad and enjoy!
FAQs and Expert Tips
- Can I use chicken breast instead? Yes you can use chicken breast. Just ensure you don't over-cook it especially when you're searing it. Use high heat and cook it only a few minutes until it starts to brown then remove it immediately. I prefer chicken thighs because they tend to remain really juicy due to their higher fat content, but if you love chicken breast, it certainly works.
- Can I use whole chicken pieces? If you are too lazy to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, then you can definitely use whole thighs. However, you will need to increase the cooking time when you're initially searing them to ensure they cook through later when added back to the rice.
- Can I use bone-in chicken? Bone-in chicken will work as well, but it will need even longer to cook than boneless thighs. Just ensure you test it for doneness! You will need to cook it until it's almost cooked through before adding it in with the rice.
- I can't find tahini, can I leave it out? Yes, you can make the sauce without the tahini. It'll still taste delicious
- Can I add vegetables to this dish? Yes, you can add vegetables and cook them with the onions. Things like frozen peas and carrots work well, or you can even add mushrooms, spinach, or kale. You may need to add a bit more spices to account for the additional vegetables - taste and adjust!
How to serve it
I love to pair this shawarma rice with some greens. I usually make a simple salad with whatever I have in the fridge like cucumber, tomato, lettuce, onion. The easiest dressing is a lemon and olive oil dressing to keep the flavours simple. You can also serve it with my kale tahini salad or some Fattoush if you're feeling it!
Other recipes you will love
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Shawarma Rice with White Sauce (in one pot!)
For the chicken:
- 450 g chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil for cooking
For the rice:
- 2 small onions or 1 medium roughly 1 cup diced
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 3 cups water
For the white 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 too, adjust amount to your liking
- ¼ teaspoon chilli powder
- 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice per preference
- 2 tablespoons tahini paste optional - you can leave it out if you don't have it
- Start by marinating the chicken with all the spices, either overnight (best results) or just before you start preparing the other ingredients
- In a large pan with high sides, add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil for the chicken, and sear the chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side on high heat, until golden brown. Remove and set aside
- Add the rest of the oil (2 tablespoons) and the diced onion with the salt (amount under "for the rice") and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat until softened
- Add the crushed garlic and all the spices, and cook for a further 2 minutes
- Add the washed and drained rice and stir for a few minutes. Add the chicken back into the pan and then the water
- It should start to bubble right away or within a few minutes. Once it bubbles, cover and turn the heat to low. Allow it to cook undisturbed for 20 minutes
- Meanwhile prepare the sauce by whisking together all the ingredients, and adjust the salt, pepper and lemon per preference
- After 20 minutes, fluff the rice with a fork and serve with the sauce and a side salad
- You can use chicken breast instead of thighs, just ensure you don't overcook it during the searing process
- The tahini in the white sauce is optional if you can't find it. If you do have it, I highly recommend it!
- You can also add vegetables like peas, carrots, mushrooms, or spinach. Cook the vegetables with the onion before moving to the next step. You may need to add a bit more salt/spices to adjust for additional vegetables