Slow Cooker Chicken Shawarma (Gluten Free, Paleo, and Whole30)

Slow cooker middle eastern recipes

Slow cooking chicken shawarma (also known as shwarma) combines the ease of a slow cook meal with the complex flavor of a slow-roasted Middle Eastern chicken feast! Here’s a quick version of the Middle Eastern favorite: the slow cooker does much of the work and can be prepared in advance. Several service options make this sensational paleo and gluten-free dinner recipe adaptable for low-carb fulfillment and Whole30, too!

I’m afraid I’m going to blow your minds with this one. Or maybe I’m not; maybe I don’t go out much anymore (I mean, have you seen the single-digit highs we’ve been having in Chicago??? I’m too wussy for this winter.)

Here’s why: This slow cooker chicken shawarma recipe is…

  • … A healthy dinner…
  • … that cooks in your slow cooker while you do something else…
  • … Only a total of about 10-15 minutes of practical preparation time…
  • .. and produce such tasty food that you’ll completely forget it’s…
  • … Low carb, gluten-free and compatible with Whole30.
  • … Also known as shwarma; By any name, it’s just as good.

How’s that for a sales pitch?

Everyone say hello to the

slow cooker! It’s a cliché this time of year

, but I know I’m not the only one who relies heavily on my slow cooker this time of year. The ease with which that thing offers comfort food; It’s practically magical. I’ve been rotating through a bunch of slow cooker recipes for dinners lately, but this is by far the one that’s been getting the most mileage.

Like most slow cooker recipes, it’s one that can produce as much or as little food as you need. That said, I suggest doubling down on the recipe if you’re preparing meals, as an easy way to get a couple of meals from the shortest total preparation time.

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I could eat chicken shawarma every day…

… And they’ve met me. I think we had it three times last week, and I still want more. It’s no secret that I’m moderately obsessed with Middle Eastern food, and I love making mine at home.

This chicken shawarma recipe is one I invented on a whim about a year ago and have been tweaking and perfecting ever since.

Slow Cooker Chicken Shawarma (Gluten Free, Paleo, Low Carb, Whole30)


to make shawarma: I

admit this is a total cheater shawarma (but until I achieve my dream of having my own meat supply on a spit in my own house, this will have to do!), and there are two parts to the trick.

You’ll start by cooking some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker. You can use a mixture of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs if you prefer. Just don’t use all the chicken thighs, which become too fatty once you fry them in shawarma. Oh, and if you prefer a longer simmering cooking time (rather than cooking faster over high heat, as the recipe requires), just use this easy slow-cooking method of shredded chicken, but don’t crush the chicken once it’s ready.

Once your chicken is cooked, you’re ready to move on to the second part, where shawarma-ing occurs. It is at this point that you will look at your cooked chicken and then look at me again as if asking “are you sure, Nora? This seems… unappetizing.” Yes, I’m sure.

Remove the cooked chicken from the slow cooker (discard any excess liquid) and cut it into slices. Then you will simply fry the sliced chicken with your spice mixture, which I give you the recipe below.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Shawarma (Gluten Free, Paleo, Low Carb, Whole30)

Some tips for making shawarma:

Before asking, you can definitely make the chicken ahead of time. Don’t worry if it’s cold; It will heat up when you finish cooking it in the pan with olive oil and a homemade spice mixture to die for. Make the chicken the day before (or even a few days before) you plan to serve it, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until it’s ready to eat, and then do the pan-frying part just before your meal. You can also make the spice mixture in advance; Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

And, I’m sure you’re wondering why this recipe requires double cooking. Well, two reasons, really.

First, so that this can be an advance prep recipe, if you want it to be, as I said earlier.

But also, because that’s what mimics the texture of shawarma, without many hours on a rotating rotisserie. Shawarma is made from marinated meat that is packaged well and cooked slowly, so that the fat comes out of the cuts that have something left over and moistens the entire cone. Yes, meat cone. Slow cooking near an open flame crunches the exposed edges so you get a few crispy chunks and some soft chunks in each bite.

Frying the spiced sliced chicken adds the fat again (from extra virgin olive oil; this is the one I use and love) and crunches the edges (from the frying process), and seasons everything with a strong dose of seasoning mix that allows you to skip the time-consuming marinating process. To prevent your chicken from drying out during the frying process, use a pan that fits the amount of chicken you have and keep the chicken pieces close together (touching or near it) to prevent too much moisture from escaping. (Yes, this is the opposite of all the frying tips you usually see!)

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And a few more to serve


As you can see in the picture, it’s not a particularly fancy meal.

Chicken shawarma is, in my book, the kind of food that is never alone, and is best enjoyed in a bowl full of many textures and flavors: rice, olives, sumac onions (or marinated red onion), and a splash of fresh lemon juice on top, with a fresh, crispy salad (I’m partial, I know, but I think my Jerusalem salad goes great with this!) on the side to balance the silky rice and aromatic spiced chicken.

As for what to serve, rice is, as I said, my preference, and I will share the turmeric rice recipe you see in the bowl later this week or early next week. But you can certainly stuff a gluten-free pita bread with this shawarma to turn it into a sandwich, or keep it in the bowl, but use a cauliflower rice base to make it low-carb and Whole30 compatible.

No matter how you eat it, I hope you enjoy it!

PS: Looking for more Middle Eastern recipes? How about trying:

Jerusalem salad

  • Turkish breakfast
  • Rice with turmeric If you combine this shawarma with

  • Jerusalem salad
  • and

  • turmeric

rice, it’s a perfect meal!

For a quick video of the recipe, click here to see our new web story.

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