Beef Shawarma

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Beef shawarma can be made at home with great success using my simple recipe and tips. Shawarma is a classic street food in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, made on a turning spit. Stovetop beef shawarma at home is just as good!

Beef shawarma platter with tahini sauce and vegetables

I love asking around the family for their experiences and ideas when I start developing a new recipe—sometimes the response is as it was when I started on the homemade beef shawarma quest: “That’s not a homemade food, Maureen.”

Never did I meet a recipe challenge like that without getting more than a little excited to prove an idea wrong (or, my idea right!). Several methods, flavors, and ways to eat later, I now present a recipe for beef shawarma that gives us a delectable shawarma experience that’s easy to make at home. Read on!

What is Beef Shawarma?

Shawarma is similar to Greek gyro in its preparation: highly seasoned, marinated thinly sliced beef, chicken, or lamb is layered tightly on a vertical spit. The spit turns with a heat panel behind it, cooking the shawarma to juicy perfection. The meat is cut with a sharp knife, vertically, and the tender layers fall to a plate or piece of flatbread for a wrap. Who’s in?

Spices in a bowl for beef shawarma

Ingredients for Delicious Beef Shawarma

Shawarma flavor is all about the spices. There are many here! Feel free to mix and experiment with flavors you like more or less pronounced. Shawarma blends, like my custom chicken Shawarma spice, are available in Middle Eastern markets. Beef shawarma seasoning has a different flavor profile than the spice blend for chicken shawarma. Consider scaling up the spice blend for a larger quantity, then you’ll have shawarma spice at the ready.

Here’s the balance of flavors I love for beef shawarma. All of the spices are ground:

  • Paprika
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic Powder
  • Allspice
  • Ginger
  • Salt and Pepper

The shawarma spices are whisked together with olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and fresh minced garlic. When marinating the meat, know that it need not “swim” in the marinade! The meat should be well-coated and allowed for at least one hour to soak up flavor and tenderness.

I always add sliced onion to the marinade with the meat, for another layer of flavor. The onions are then sauteed along with the meat.

Sirloin cut in strips on a board for shawarma

What is the Best Cut of Beef for Shawarma?

It’s not the time for expensive cuts of meat when making this recipe for beef shawarma! The marinade for the meat tenderizes it while imparting lots of deep flavor, so we that we want a cut that can stand up to all of that.

Try sirloin, chuck steak (not a roast), flank steak, skirt steak, or round steak. There is no absolute in terms of the cut, so peruse what’s available at your meat counter and adapt from there.

Beef Shawarma meat is sliced into thin strips, so the meat can already be thin-cut or a thicker steak of an inch or two also works well.

Beef strips in a saute pan for shawarma

How to Make Beef Shawarma

Here is how to make beef shawarma in just a few simple steps:

  1. Blend the spices, if making your own spice blend, and combine them or a purchased spice blend in a large bowl (to marinate the meat) along with olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  2. Slice the meat and onion. Use a sharp knife to cut the meat against the grain into strips that are about 3 inches in length and about ½-inch thick. Freeze the meat for about 20 minutes if it’s very soft; this will make slicing easier. But a sharp knife is really the key; it will cut through the meat with ease. Cut a medium yellow or white onion into thin slices.
  3. Then add the meat and onion to the marinade, cover, and set aside to soak up the goodness for an hour (room temperature) and up to 3 hours (refrigerated).
  4. Next, sauté the meat and onions in two batches in a large skillet over medium-high heat. The meat will release lots of liquid. Keep cooking until some of that liquid cooks off and the meat begins to get some char color (and not just steamed).
  5. Prepare a platter with trimmings, including a great tahini sauce or toum (check out how to make toum), to make either a beef shawarma platter (for shawarma wraps using pita or flatbread) or beef shawarma bowls (with rice or bulgur pilaf as the basis of the bowls).
Beef strips on a platter for shawarma
Tahini sauce in a dish for beef shawarma

Best Ways to Serve and Eat Beef Shawarma

Serve Shawarma delicious in a variety of delicious ways. This is great “feed a crowd” food, piled high on a platter with accompaniments nestled all around the shawarma. Eaters can make their own wrap with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sumac-spiced red onions, fresh mint, pink turnip pickles, and anything else you love!

Shawarma also makes an ideal, flavorful protein in a bowl-style meal. Layer cooked shawarma with rice or bulgur pilaf and all of those same trimmings used in a wrap and top with a generous drizzle of tahini sauce. I like to add chickpeas to my shawarma bowls for an extra hit of texture, flavor, and above all: fiber and protein.

Drizzle garlicky tahini sauce on top to serve, or add even more fiber and protein by using my hummus recipe.

Storing Leftovers

If you end up with leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Beef shawarma on a platter with vegetables and tahini sauce

More Shawarma Recipes

Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Yogurt Marinated Chicken (shawarma-style, oven-baked)

Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma

Homemade Pita for your Shawarma!

Lebanese Rice for Shawarma Bowls

Bulgur Pilaf for Shawarma Bowls

Here’s how to make great Tahini Sauce

Beef shawarma on a platter with vegetables and tahini sauce
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5 from 3 votes

Beef Shawarma Recipe

This beef shawarma recipe is easily doubled (or tripled!) for a crowd. Blend your own shawarma spice using the recipe below, or use two tablespoons of purchased beef shawarma spice. Make a big beautiful platter with the shawarma and accompaniments, and everyone can make their own wrap with pita or bowl with rice or bulgur pilaf.
Prep: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

For the beef shawarma:

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, or vinegar (such as rice vinegar or white wine vinegar)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to sauté the meat
  • 2 pounds sirloin or chuck steak, cut in thin 3 x 0.5-inch slices
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, cut in thin slices

For the tahini sauce:

  • ½ cup tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic or fresh minced garlic, (for a smooth sauce, use granulated)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup cold water, plus more as needed

For accompaniments:

  • Chopped or sliced tomatoes
  • Fresh mint
  • Sliced red onions seasoned with sumac and olive oil
  • Sliced Persian cucumbers
  • Pink Turnip Pickles
  • Pita bread for wraps or rice or bulgur pilaf for bowls

Instructions 

  • In a medium bowl, whisk all of the spices with the garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, and olive oil. Add the sliced meat and sliced onions and mix well to coat the meat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and set aside for one hour.
  • Prepare the tahini sauce: Whisk the tahini with the lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt. The mixture will seize and become clumpy. Add the ice cold water a tablespoon at a time, whisking with each addition, until the mixture is smooth. The finished sauce should be thin enough to pour.
  • In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add about half of the marinated meat and onion mixture. Saute until cooked through and juices are released, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking until much of the cooking liquid is evaporated and the meat begins to caramelize on some of the edges. Transfer the meat to a platter and repeat with the rest of the meat and onions. This process splatters! A splatter guard is helpful!
  • When all of the meat is cooked, arrange and serve immediately on a platter surrounded by the accompaniments plus pita or pilaf, if making wraps or bowls.

Notes

Storing: You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 626kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 56g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 138mg | Sodium: 1452mg | Potassium: 1006mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 272IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 125mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Lebanese
Servings: 4
Calories: 626
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6 Comments

  1. Hi Maureen. Have a question. Do we have to or can we tenderize the meat before hand to achieve a more tender beef results?
    I mean tenderizing similar to Chinese meat tenderizing techniques ?

    1. Lévon that’s a great thought and will be excellent. The marinade does a nice job of tenderizing as well.

    1. Charlotte, you sure can substitute lamb here. Leg of lamb can be a little chewier than the beef but the marinade.

  2. Hello, Maureen. I am a bit confused. Your beef shawarma sounds delicious; however, I am wondering if your suggested spices to make from scratch are the same as your Original Shawarma spices from your shop. I was unaware that there were different spices or flavor profiles recommended for beef vs. chicken, for example.
    Have a great weekend,
    Pat

    1. Hi Patricia–traditionally the two spices, for red meat or chicken, are different blends. But you can totally use the original shawarma spice for the beef and it will be delicious!