What is Beef Shawarma?

Flavorful, tender, and rich, shawarma beef is a popular street food in the Middle East. It comes from slow-cooking layers of marinated steak on a vertical rotisserie or spit, then shaving the beef’s outer layer into thin slices. Usually, chefs serve the meat on breads like pita or lavash, topped with fresh veggies and drizzled with tahini sauce. However, it’s also common to see this dish as part of a grain bowl or beef shawarma platter.

Steak shawarma on a plate with pickles, tahini sauce, tomatoes and salad greens.

Though less traditional, you might also find a layered mixture of chicken and beef shawarma in some Middle Eastern countries.

Beef Shawarma Ingredients

Selecting the right ingredients is key to making the tastiest homemade shawarma. This ingredient list has everything you need, from the best meat to expert seasoning suggestions.

Ingredients for the recipe from the top view.
  • Beef: Flank steak and skirt steak are my favorite meats for shawarma due to their tender consistency and easy marination. You can also use ribeye steak for a more decadent finish, though this cut tends to be more expensive. No matter which cut you choose, just be sure to salt it before marinating to help break down its proteins and free up space for the juices to fill.
  • Shawarma beef seasoning: You can make homemade beef shawarma seasoning by combining ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, ground turmeric, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and ground cardamom. Otherwise, you can simplify your meal prep by trying out a store-bought brand. Sadaf’s and NYShuk are my favorite brands.
  • Marinade: To make a marinade for beef shawarma, you’ll need:
    • Olive oil 
    • Fresh lemon juice 
    • Finely minced garlic
    • White vinegar: While it is not traditional, you can also use white or red wine vinegar as a substitute, depending on what you have on hand.
  • Onion: A thinly sliced onion helps make the meat more tender by breaking down its proteins. Additionally, onions have natural sugars that add a rich, savory flavor to the meat as it marinates.
  • Sauces: This recipe’s heartier flavors can easily be balanced by topping the meat with fresh condiments like my Yogurt Tahini Sauce, Lemon Tahini Sauce, Tzatziki, or even Hummus.
  • Vegetables: Traditionally, beef shawarma is served with fresh vegetables (such as sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and curly green lettuce) and pickled vegetables like dill Gherkins, red onions, or pickled turnips. However, this is where you can make it your own with whatever fresh or pickled vegetable you have on hand.

How to Make Beef Shawarma

This easy beef shawarma recipe is a great way to enjoy authentic Mediterranean eats any night of the week. These simple instructions will ensure you come out with a perfectly tender, tasty meal—all without a vertical spit!

A collage of images showing how to prepare shawarma meat.
  1. Prepare the shawarma meat: Pat dry the steak on both sides with paper towels, then slice it against the grain into thin strips (¼-inch wide, three inches long). Sprinkle the steak pieces with one teaspoon salt and set it aside. 
  2. Combine the beef shawarma spices: Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamon to a medium mixing bowl. Blend the seasonings until thoroughly combined. Alternatively, you can use 3 tablespoons of store-bought shawarma seasoning.
  3. Marinate: Add the olive oil, white vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and shawarma spice mix to a large bowl and whisk them together until fully incorporated. Then, add the beef strips and onions to the bowl, toss to coat, and cover the bowl. Refrigerate the mixture for a minimum of four hours or up to overnight.
A collage of images showing how to cook and serve shawarma beef.
  1. Prepare the Lemon Tahini Sauce: Right before serving, in a small bowl, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and kosher salt until blended. Stirring constantly, slowly add in the water until you reach your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning, adding more if necessary, and then set the sauce aside until ready to serve.
  2. Cook beef: Remove the flank steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to let it reach room temperature. Then, heat a large skillet, such as a cast iron skillet, on medium high heat and add the marinated steak and onions to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and stir the mix occasionally as it browns, remembering not to overcrowd the skillet. Continue cooking until you achieve your desired doneness (4-6 minutes), then place the meat and onions on a plate. Cover the mix with a loose aluminum foil tent and let it rest for ten minutes.
  3. Serve: Transfer the now-rested meat to a large platter and serve it with tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, and tahini sauce. If you plan on making shawarma wraps, spread the Tahini Sauce on the bread, layer it with your favorite accompaniments, and finish it with the cooked steak.

How to Serve Beef Shawarma? 

My favorite part about this homemade beef shawarma recipe is its versatility. Below, you’ll find countless ways to make this dish yours, whether you want to serve it by itself or turn it into a crowd-ready platter or a delicious meat shawarma sandwich.

  • Platter: Equal parts filling and flavorful, a beef shawarma plate is the ultimate weeknight dinner. Serve your meat with a helping of zesty Tabbouleh, flatbread, pickled veggies, and toum (Lebanese garlic sauce), and you’re guaranteed to get a five-star review from all your dinner guests (kids included!).
  • Sandwich: In the mood for a beef shawarma sandwich or pita pocket? Spread a piece of pita with my Tahini Yogurt Sauce, then add your steak slices, sliced tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce. If you want to feel like you are at a Lebanese restaurant, serve this dish alongside a plate of French fries for an authentic Middle Eastern dinner.
  • Wrap: You can quickly transform this dish into a delectable beef shawarma wrap by placing your meat, Pickled Red Onions, tomatoes, and green curly lettuce onto a slice of lavash. Then, drizzle your toppings with Lemon Tahini Sauce and wrap it tightly.
  • Bowl: Easy to eat and deliciously customizable, steak shawarma dinner bowls make meal planning a cinch. All you have to do is serve your shawarma beef, veggies, and fresh parsley atop a bowl of grains (Bulgur Pilaf and Rice with Vermicelli are my favorites!). You can even give your recipe an extra creamy finish by serving it with a side of Hummus, Baba Ganoush, or plain yogurt.
  • Salad: You can get your fill of fiber and protein by topping a bowl of fresh vegetables with this succulent beef shawarma recipe. In particular, this warmly-spiced beef makes a great pair with Lebanese fattoush and my Greek Yogurt Cucumber Salad.
Beef shawarma sandwich drizzled with tahini sauce in someones hands.

Aysegul’s Expert Tips

Anyone can learn how to cook shawarma beef that’s worthy of being in a Middle Eastern restaurant. Below are a few tips to help you succeed on your first try:

  • Cut meat against the grain: To prevent your shawarma from becoming chewy, I highly recommend cutting your beef against the grain. Doing so shortens the muscle fibers, making the meat more tender and easier to chew.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan: When cooking steak shawarma, it’s best to avoid overcrowding your skillet to ensure that the meat is cooked evenly. Furthermore, basting the beef with the pan’s juices throughout the cooking process will ensure that the meat won’t dry out.
  • Let it rest: Do not skip the resting time, as it gives the meat time to reabsorb and equally distribute its flavorful juices. For the best results, I recommend letting this steak shawarma recipe rest for at least ten minutes before serving.

FAQs

What’s the difference between a gyro and shawarma?

Both shawarma and gyros come from slow-cooking layers of meat on a vertical roasting spit and shaving it into thin slices. However, the primary difference lies in their flavor profiles, as they use different spices during the marination process. For instance, the Greek gyro—often made of pork, lamb, or chicken—offers a brighter, more herby Mediterranean flavor, and you’ll usually find it served alongside light, creamy sauces like Tzatziki. By contrast, Middle Eastern shawarma—primarily made from beef and chicken—tends to have a warmer, more aromatic finish and is often accompanied by earthier, nuttier recipes, like Tahini Sauce and Hummus.

What is the best cut of beef for shawarma?

I recommend using flank steak, skirt steak, or sirloin tip (also known as beef flap steak) when making shawarma because they’re tender and easy to marinate. You may also use ribeye—a richer, more expensive cut—if it’s in your budget. While it is not traditional, you can use the shawarma seasoning to saute ground beef for an easy weeknight meal, introducing the flavors of shawarma in a simpler way.

What nationality is shawarma?

Shawarma originates from the Middle East, including countries like Turkey, Israel, and other Arabic areas. Because of the dish’s broad popularity, it’s also known by many other area-specific names, such as “Lebanese shawarma” and “Mediterranean beef shawarma.”

Other Beef Recipes You Might Also Like:

If you make your own Beef Shawarma following our recipe, I would greatly appreciate it if you could take a minute to rate it and leave a comment below. It is a great way to support this website and help those planning to make it. Also, if you took pictures, I’d love to see them. Share your creations on Instagram using #foolproofeats so I can share them with the Foolproof Living community.

Beef Shawarma Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Yields4 servings
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Marinading Time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 30 minutes
Learn how to make the best beef shawarma at home with tender, juicy marinated beef, aromatic shawarma spices, and delicious toppings. Perfect for shawarma platters or stuffing into warm pita pockets for an authentic Middle Eastern experience!

Ingredients 

For The Beef

  • 2 pounds flank steak, or skirt steak
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For The Shawarma Seasoning

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

For The Marinade

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced

Tahini Sauce

  • ½ cup Tahini paste
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4-6 tablespoons water

Optional Wraps

  • 4 Pita bread or Lavash, or more
  • ½ cup Pickled red onions
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 cup pickles, sliced
  • 2 cups green curly lettuce, roughly chopped
  • Slices of a lemon, optional

Instructions 

  • Pat dry the flank steak on both sides and cut it into 1/4-inch strips, each measuring 3 inches long (lengthwise), against the grain. Sprinkle with the kosher salt and set it aside.
  • Make the shawarma seasoning: In a medium bowl, mix the cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamon until thoroughly combined.
  • Make the marinade: In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, white vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and shawarma seasoning until incorporated.
  • Add the flank steak strips and onions to the bowl and toss to fully coat.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Make the lemon tahini sauce: In a bowl, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and kosher salt until blended. Slowly add the water while whisking until you reach your desired consistency. Adjust seasoning to taste. Set aside until ready to serve.
  • Cook the meat: Remove the flank steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Heat a large skillet (a cast iron skillet works best) on medium-high. Remove the flank steak and onions from the bowl and place on the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally as it browns. Cook for 4-6 minutes or until you achieve your desired doneness. Do not overcrowd the skillet. You may have to cook in 2-3 batches. Once cooked, place it on a plate or platter, loosely tent it with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  • To serve as a wrap: Spread the tahini sauce on the bread (or inside of a pita pocket) and layer it with sliced tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, lettuce and beef shawarma. Drizzle with more tahini sauce and if preferred with a squeeze of lemon juice right before serving.

Notes

  • Yields: This recipe serves 4 people if you serve it with the toppings/veggies, but if you decide to turn it into sandwiches/wraps, it will be enough for 6 servings.
  • Shawarma Seasoning: We used our own homemade shawarma seasoning mix, but if you prefer to use a storebought brand, I recommend using 3 tablespoons of seasoning.
  • The longer you marinate, the better: Technically, you can cook it after it has marinated for an hour, but like most meat recipes, the longer the beef stays in the marinade, the more delicious it becomes. If you have the time, I recommend marinating your meat overnight for the most profound flavor. This is one of those recipes where planning ahead pays dividends.
  • Store: You can store leftover steak shawarma in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
  • Freeze: If you plan on preparing a few batches in advance, I highly recommend freezing the raw marinated meat (with the marinade) in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag until ready to use. However, you can also freeze the cooked meat in an airtight container for 2-3 months.
  • Thaw: To thaw your shawarma steak, place it in the fridge overnight and cook as directed in the recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 668kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 56g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 1300mg | Potassium: 1273mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 529IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 155mg | Iron: 6mg

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

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Tried this recipe?Mention @foolproofliving or tag #foolproofeats!

About Aysegul Sanford

Hello Friend! I'm Aysegul but you can call me “Ice." I’m the cook/recipe-tester/photographer behind this site.

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5 from 1 vote

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