These air fryer chicken shawarma bowls are a tasty low-calorie option that will leave you feeling satisfied. Savory marinated chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives, pickled onions, and feta are scattered over a bed of fresh baby lettuce. The finishing touch is a drizzle of creamy lemon-tahini sauce. Add some whole wheat pita to up the energy or skip it for a lower-carb option. Delicious!
I feel the need to come clean before we get to this recipe. This air fryer chicken shawarma isn’t really shawarma at all.
Shawarma is traditionally made by taking meat slices and slowly cooking them while stacked on a vertical spit. If you’ve had take-out shawarma, you may have seen the cooked meat being shaved off the spit while it rotates. Lamb and mutton are classic meats used, but beef and chicken shawarmas have become more common.
The reason that this isn’t truly shawarma is that I’m not cooking the chicken on a spit. What I did instead was marinate the chicken overnight and cook it on air fryer racks.
You may remember from my air fryer rotisserie chicken recipe that my Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven does have a spit. It’s a horizontal spit, not vertical, but it still may be interesting to test some shawarma-style cooking on it sometime.
One of the things I liked about cooking a whole chicken on the spit is that it self-basted while it cooked. Slices of meat or poultry cooked on the spit would not self-baste unless I trim them to just the right size.
I was a little worried they’d dry out while rotating without the self-basting. So, I decided to try marinating the chicken and then cooking it on the air fryer racks instead. Maybe I’ll experiment with a spit recipe in the future.
It may not be an authentic shawarma recipe, but it gave me the flavors I craved.
I had the good fortune of living within a short walk of an excellent shawarma place when we lived in Toronto. Since we were in the city, we would walk or take the subway nearly everywhere. It made bringing home big grocery hauls more difficult, but luckily there were many healthy restaurant options nearby.
We enjoyed some dishes that are less common where I currently live, such as bibimbap and shawarma. (Also, physical activity played a much larger role in our daily lives without planning. Living on the 24th floor, “taking the stairs” took on a whole new meaning!)
The shawarma place would shave the meat off of the spit into a wrap right in front of you. Then they’d add lots of goodies such as tomatoes, kalamata olives, pickled onions, and feta. After a generous drizzle of tahini sauce, the wrap would be handed over to you, the hungry customer.
You could take a seat and eat your wrap there or take bites as you continued the walk home. It was delicious, satisfying, and (compared to some other area eateries) quite a bargain.
Since we make it up to Toronto rarely these days, I wanted to recreate this shawarma experience at home. I incorporated all of the fixings that I remembered in my wrap, including the tangy tahini sauce.
I used this recipe from Lively Table for the pickled onions. (Note to the purists: a tiny amount of sugar is included in the brine. I’m sure omitting it would not negatively impact the recipe.)
For the best results, I recommend getting a few things started for this recipe the night before you plan to eat. The chicken and onions will be more flavorful with the extra time spent in their respective marinade or brine. Bon appetit!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma Bowls
For the marinated chicken:
- 1 lb. chicken thighs, cut into thick strips (454 grams)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons oregano, dried
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the shawarma bowls:
- 4 cups baby lettuce
- 6 Persian cucumbers, chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
- 25-30 kalamata olives, pitted (packed in vinegar)
- 3 ounces fat-free feta, crumbled (85 grams)
- pickled red onions, drained (½ an onion's worth) (I used this recipe, skip the sugar if desired)
- 4 whole wheat pita bread (optional)
- cooking oil spray of choice
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
The night before you have this meal:
- Mix all of the "for the marinated chicken" ingredients together except the chicken. Add the chicken last and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
- If you are making your own pickled onions, those should be started the night before as well.
The evening you have this meal:
- Mist your air fryer baking trays lightly with the cooking oil spray. Put the marinated chicken strips on the trays in a single layer.
- Bake the chicken for 15 minutes at 350°F (175°C). Then flip the chicken pieces over, switch the position of the trays in the oven, and cook for an additional 3 minutes at 400°F (200°C).
- While the chicken cooks, whisk the tahini-lemon sauce ingredients together. Set aside.
- Divide the baby lettuce between the bowls. Top with the cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, olives, and pickled onions. Add the chicken once it has finished cooking.
- Drizzle your bowls with the tahini-lemon sauce. These can be eaten as a salad or stuffed into the optional whole wheat pita. Your choice!
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). The calorie count for this meal does not include the whole-wheat pita. This is a low-calorie meal, so I’d add the pita if you are not trying to lose weight. As you can deduce by the photos, we included the pita! Those following a low-carb plan will either want to use a low-carb wrap alternative or skip the wrap. Another way to lighten the meal is to skip the tahini sauce. The marinated chicken and onions provide a lot of flavor even if you choose to omit the sauce.
What are some restaurant specialties in your area of the world? As always, please leave a rating if you enjoyed these air fryer chicken shawarma bowls. Thank you for visiting my little corner of the web!