Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma is a quick and easy homemade pressure cooker version of shawarma that’s healthy, requires very little hands-on time and delivers a delicious punch of bold flavor. Make a chicken shawarma wrap with pita bread or make a shawarma rice bowl. Serve with hummus, garlic sauce, tahini sauce or hot sauce, and pickles, lettuce, tomatoes , onions, french fries.
I’m a huge fan of gyros and shawarmas. Both are street food sandwiches made out of succulent meat wrapped in flatbread or pita and both have a common ancestor: the doner kebab which is a Turkish street food, created during Ottoman times. But there are some important differences between shawarma and gyro.
Gyro (pronounced ‘yee-roh’) originated in Greece. Gyros are generally made from pork, lamb, and/or beef and are served with a cucumber yogurt sauce called Tzatziki (pronounced ‘zat-zee-kee’). Gyro meat is usually flavored with mediterranean spices like oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
Shawarma (pronounced ‘shwaar-maa’) has its origins as a Middle Eastern / Arabic street food and is made from chicken, lamb, or beef. It’s served with a tahini sauce (made from sesame seeds) or garlic sauce. Shawarma meat has very different spices from gyro meat – it’s flavored with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and coriander.
This delicious chicken shawarma pressure cooker recipe is adapted from a stovetop shawarma recipe I’ve been making for many years. I have family living in the Middle East and was introduced to Arabic food during my visits there.
I feel that my recipe is healthier than what you’d get at a shawarma fast food place because when you make chicken shawarma at home, you don’t get that fat dripping back into the rotisserie meat like you do from a takeout place.
I like to eat Instant Pot chicken shawarma with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and/or onions. Often times I make this Mediterranean Salad that I like to serve on the side or to fill the shawarma with, instead of lettuce and tomatoes.
The garlic sauce / white sauce recipe that I’ve included in the recipe card is my own concoction that I just kinda made up! I serve it with all kinds of foods including Mexican fish tacos or carnitas.
My kids like to add french fries into the shawarma wrap like some of the street-food doner kebabs we ate during a visit to Istanbul. It’s actually quite good! You could substitute sweet potato fries to make it healthier.
Instant Pot Shawarma can also be served with accompaniments like pickled cucumbers, hummus, and tabbouleh or fatoush (Middle Eastern salads).
Another way of eating the chicken shawarma is as part of a shawarma rice bowl, arranging the toppings side by side. You might like to try using my recipe for Instant Pot rice. If you use the Pot-in-Pot method, you could make both chicken shawarma and rice at the same time.
And here’s a tidbit of trivia for you if you’re a fan of Mexican food: Tacos al Pastor was introduced by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico and is an adaptation of shawarma! It always fascinates me how the foods of the world are so inter-related.
Although the recipe states that you can marinate the chicken 2 hours to overnight, I’ve made this without any marination ahead of time and the flavor is still amazing.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I prefer to use chicken thighs in general and especially in the pressure cooker. The flavor is much superior to chicken breasts, which dry out.
I like to quickly saute the chicken in a frying pan or cast iron skillet but you don’t need to do that; you can just remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and allow to drain well before placing directly in your pita or flatbread.
I mix up a larger batch of the dry spices and store them in a bottle in a cool dry place, and that way I can save time if I want to make this dish on a busy night.
In the summertime, I use the same marinade and make this Instant Pot chicken shawarma by pressure cooking boneless whole chicken thighs for 10 minutes, finishing on a barbeque grill, and slicing into thin strips before assembling the shawarma.
Although it might seem that there isn’t enough liquid for the Instant Pot to come to pressure, I’ve never had trouble building pressure in my 6 quart Instant Pot with this recipe. That being said, if your Instant Pot is picky about the quantity of liquid (eg. some newer model Instant Pots, particularly the 8 quart Instant Pots and burn messages), please add 1/4 cup of chicken broth or a little extra yogurt. You might want to increase the quantity of spices if you do that.
If you’re new to the Instant Pot and aren’t familiar with how to use it, please read the Instant Pot DUO Beginner’s Quick Start Guide or the Instant Pot ULTRA Beginner’s Quick Start Guide first and then come back here to learn how to make this Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma.
Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma Ingredients
How to Make Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma (Step-by-Step Instructions)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, yogurt, garlic.
- Add chicken to the marinade and stir. Refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.
- Transfer chicken to Instant Pot inner pot.
- Add bay leaves and stir to combine.
Instant Pot DUO Pressure Cook:
- Close the lid and make sure steam release handle is in ‘Sealing’ position
- Press ‘Manual’ (or ‘Pressure Cook’) and ‘+’ or ‘-‘ until display reads ‘5′ (5 minutes).
Instant Pot ULTRA Pressure Cook:
Instant Pot ULTRA
- Close the lid.
- Select Pressure Cook mode and adjust time to 5 minutes (00:05).
- Press ‘Start’.
- Instant Pot display will change to ‘On’.
- Once the Instant Pot is pressurized, the float valve will go up.
- The display will count down from 5 to 0; it will then switch to ‘Keep Warm’ mode and display ‘L0:00’ or ’00 00′ and begin to count up.
Instant Pot Natural Pressure Release (NPR):
- Allow the pressure to release naturally (NPR). The float valve will be in the down position. This may take 15 to 20 minutes.
- Press ‘Cancel’ and open the Instant Pot.
- Stir up the chicken.
- Using a slotted spoon, drain chicken well and transfer to a serving bowl, and discard the sauce.
- Optional: heat some oil in a frying pan or cast iron skillet. Saute the chicken till lightly browned, adding some of the sauce to deglaze and keep the chicken moist.
Assemble the shawarma sandwich:
- Lightly heat the pita to make it pliable.
- Spread garlic sauce / white sauce on the pita.
- Add your choice of: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions.
- Add chicken on the vegetables.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
- Optional toppings: feta cheese, hummus, pickled cucumbers.
- Roll the pita up tightly.
Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma
- 1/4 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder or 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves powdered
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 2 Tbsp garlic minced
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 2 inch strips
- 2 bay leaves
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- pita to serve
- Toppings: lettuce, tomatoes
- Optional toppings: cucumbers, sliced onions, hummus, feta cheese, pickled cucumbers, french fries or sweet potato fries
- In a large mixing bowl, combine coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, yogurt, and garlic.
- Add chicken to the marinade and stir. Refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight if you have the time.
- Transfer chicken to Instant Pot inner pot.
- Add bay leaves and stir to combine. Close the lid and pressure cook on High Pressure for 5 minutes.
- Allow the pressure to release naturally. If you're in a hurry, do a 10 minute natural pressure release (NPR) i.e. allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, and release remaining pressure using quick release (QR). [Read More: The Different Pressure Release Methods]
- Stir chicken and sauce.
- Transfer chicken to a serving dish using a slotted spoon, draining well.
- Optional: heat oil in a large frying pan or cast iron skillet. Saute the chicken till lightly browned, adding some of the sauce to deglaze and keep the chicken moist.
Garlic Sauce / White Sauce
- Combine all ingredients for garlic sauce / white sauce in a medium bowl.
- Whisk together until smooth and set aside.
Chicken Shawarma Assembly
- If necessary, lightly heat the pita to make it pliable
- Spread garlic sauce/white sauce on the pita
- Add lettuce and tomatoes
- Add your choice of optional toppings
- Add chicken on top
- Garnish with chopped parsley
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I am not a certified nutritionist. I provide my best estimate of nutritional information merely as a courtesy to my readers. If you depend on nutritional information for dietary or health reasons, I suggest using your favorite online nutrition calculator to confirm the nutritional value of this recipe based on the actual ingredients that you use.
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