Spicy Roasted Lamb Shawarma

“Have you ever had shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it.”

~Tony Stark, The Avengers

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I laughed at this scene in The Avengers when it came out, because that’s how many of the recipes in my house start out. Have you heard of {this dish}? I don’t know what it is exactly, but I heard about it/tried it once/saw an ad and I want to give it a go.

So let that be a warning to you all. If you’re looking for a recipe that’s “authentic,” don’t look at me. My food is often inspired by traditional flavors and techniques that I’ve experienced while traveling, but I will never claim to be the real deal.

Take shawarma for instance. I’ve tried shawarma. I love gyros. I love doner kebabs. They’re definitely not the same, but they have the same roots – the Turkish doner, which is rotisserie cooked meat. It was originally cooked horizontally, and eventually flipped to cook vertically. The concept was passed from the Turks to the Greeks {gyro} and the Ottoman Empire {shawarma}, but it is, in its essentials, rotisserie meat.

And I’m going to slow roast this version. So not authentic. But…still really good!

Shawarma is methodically marinated, which is the main reason I started playing with this dish. Every once in a while, I crave a hearty dose of Mediterranean flavors – turmeric, coriander, cardamon, lamb, onion, tahini. But until Scott sets up his smoker or we spring for a rotisserie attachment for our grill, I won’t be able to cook a proper shawarma.

Dutch oven it is.

And yes, I’m all about Staub and not Le Creuset. It’s better for braising, as the characteristic spikes on the lid create natural basting from the condensation.

This dish is less about the method of preparation but about the spices. When I set the lamb to roast, we all went out for a walk to enjoy the crisp fall air, and when we came back in, we took a deep breath and agreed that the house smelled like everything we should love about cozy, hearty fall recipes.

Pulse up the spices together with olive oil, garlic, shallot, and salt, and rub them all over the lamb. I use the container attachment that came with my favorite immersion blender but you can use any food processor just as easily.

Rub the paste all over the lamb, and let it sit and marinate, the longer the better. Then slow roast until it pulls apart with forks or tongs. Serve up with rice, couscous, pita, roasted veggies, or even in a taco.

Because as a California girl, I can swear to you – we can make anything into a taco. That’s the only bit of authentic I have in me.

Spicy Roasted Lamb Shawarma

Serves 6.

What You’ll Need:

For the marinade paste:

  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon
  • 1 tsp salt

For the lamb:

  • 3 lb boneless leg of lamb
  • one large yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 cup water

How to Make It:

1. Place the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor or Vitamix-type blender and pulse into a paste. Scrape the sides and mix.

2. Place the onion slices into the bottom of a dutch oven.

3. Dry the lamb gently and coat with the paste, making sure to cover all exposed sides. Place on the bed of sliced onion. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator 4 hours, or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350F.

5. Pour 1 cup water into the dutch oven and then cover with lid or foil, and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Uncover the roast to let the top brown and continue cooking another hour.

6. If the onions are dry beneath the roast, add another 1/2 cup of water.

7. Continue cooking until the lamb shreds easily with two forks. A 3-lb boneless leg of lamb normally takes me about 4 hours to cook.

8. Let stand and shred before serving with rice or couscous, roasted veggies, pita, and tahini sauce {see below}.

Tahini Sauce

Makes about 1 cup.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup tahini paste
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • toasted sesame oil

How to Make It:

1. In a medium bowl, whip the tahini paste with a fork to make sure it hasn’t separated. You don’t want to work with the solids and the oils separately.

2. With your fork, whisk in the warm water. If you want a runnier consistency, add a little more warm water, a tablespoon at a time.

3. Add in the lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and a dash of sesame oil and whisk together until the mixture is smooth.

4. Serve with your lamb shawarma, falafel, salmon, eggplant, or any number of delicious dishes. Or try your hand at making your own hummus!

As a bonus, this is pretty low calorie. About 220 calories for a cup of lamb, 190 calories for a cup of the garlic butter couscous I make {recipe to be shared soon!}, and 120-150 calories for roasted veggies.

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