What the Heck is Shawarma Spice?
If you haven’t had the opportunity to try our shawarma yet, you’re in for a real treat. Shawarma is one of the most popular Middle Eastern street foods, and there are plenty of reasons why people love it so much. Shawarma can be prepared using lamb, chicken or beef, but it’s not just the meat that makes it so good. Shawarma also comes with an incredible spice blend that goes beyond your typical salt and pepper to bring out even more flavor in every bite of your meal. But what exactly is shawarma spice?
In Arabic, shawarma means turning around. Most sources say it was named for its turning roasting spit—but others posit that its moniker comes from how Egyptian shepherds would cook it: they’d hang a lamb over an open fire and slowly turn it so that each part received equal heat. Over time, Middle Eastern countries began to prepare their own versions of grilled meat. Syria has doner kebab; Lebanon made kafta; Turkey created do?ner (which uses beef or lamb); and in Jordan you can buy musakhan (chicken on flatbread). And then there’s shawarma spice… the flavor that gives all those meats their signature zing. The spices differ according to region and restaurant, but you’ll always find cumin, coriander and black pepper somewhere in there—and sometimes cinnamon too. You might also recognize some of these ingredients from other favorites: mujadara rice pilaf or even Indian curry powder. That said, most recipes contain fewer ingredients than traditional curry blends; as with most spices used on meat before grilling or roasting, shawarma spice isn’t meant to stand out but rather help bring out all the other flavors at play
The distinctive flavor of shawarma spice comes from its main ingredients, including ground cumin, coriander, and black pepper. Other additions include cinnamon, cloves, allspice and dried mint. In some recipes, you’ll also find nutmeg and cardamom. Use these spices to season anything from chicken to lamb to the beef before grilling or roasting for a Middle Eastern flair.
How to use
Use shawarma spice in place of your regular cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and other spices for a distinctive Middle Eastern flavor. Just add it to beef, lamb or chicken before grilling or roasting for a burst of meaty goodness. It’s also delicious in shawarmas (duh), on salads and with rice and veggies. We love mixing it with hummus instead of salt. Yum!