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Lamb shawarma

Sat, 10 June, 2023

Jerusalem lamb shawarma is a beloved Middle Eastern dish that has become increasingly popular in the West. Made from tender lamb leg on the bone, marinated in a blend of eleven Lebanese spices for two days, and cooked to perfection, this dish is a true explosion of flavours.

lamb shawarma

What spices are used in lamb shawarma marinade?

Lamb is a staple meat in Middle Eastern cuisine, and the leg on the bone is one of the best cuts to use for shawarma. The bone provides extra flavour and moisture to the meat, making it juicy and tender when cooked.

The lamb is marinated in a blend of eleven Lebanese spices, which includes cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, paprika, cinnamon, fennel, star anise, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and ginger. This unique blend of spices creates a complex and aromatic flavour profile that is both savoury and slightly sweet.

shawarma spice blend

How long should you marinate lamb for shawarma?

Marinating lamb for shawarma is done to add flavour and tenderize the meat. The marinade consists of a combination of spices, herbs, and acidic ingredients such as lemon juice. The acid helps break down the tough fibres in the meat, making it more tender.

The marinating process is essential to the success of this dish. The lamb needs to be marinated for at least a few hours and up to two days to fully absorb the flavours of the spices. The longer it marinates, the better the flavour will be.

Once marinated, it is ready to be cooked. Traditionally, shawarma is cooked on a vertical spit, but it can also be cooked in the oven in a roasting tin.

oven ready lamb shawarma

How do you cook lamb shawarma?

When cooking the lamb for shawarma, it is important to cook it low and slow to ensure that it stays juicy but becomes fork tender.

The outside should be tented with foil about halfway through the roasting time, to prevent the spices from burning.

The lamb should also be basted with the juices released into the roasting dish, to keep it succulent.

For a leg of lamb on the bone that weighs about 3 kilos or 6 pounds, the roasting time at 180C/350F will be about four to four and a half hours.

jerusalem lamb shawarma

Ottolenghi’s shawarma recipe

Yotam Ottolenghi's lamb shawarma recipe was my inspiration. The British-by-way-of-Jerusalem chef cooked this recipe as part of what he called ‘a Middle Eastern take on a proper English garden party’.

As a classic crowd-feeding lamb dish, it is a popular and reliable choice for several reasons. First, Ottolenghi is a renowned chef with years of experience in Middle Eastern cuisine. He has a deep understanding of the flavours and techniques that make shawarma a truly exceptional dish.

Second, his recipe uses high-quality ingredients and a unique blend of spices that create a complex and aromatic flavour profile.

Finally, Ottolenghi's recipe is tried and tested, having been featured in his popular cookbooks and restaurants. Many home cooks and professional chefs alike have successfully recreated his lamb shawarma with great success.

Overall, Ottolenghi's lamb shawarma recipe is a reliable choice for anyone looking to make an authentic and delicious Middle Eastern dish.

ottolenghi lamb shawarma

What are the traditional toppings for lamb shawarma?

Jerusalem lamb shawarma is a dish that is perfect for a special occasion or a weekend dinner. The preparation may take some time, but the end result is well worth it. The combination of tender lamb, aromatic spices and flavourful toppings creates a dish that is both comforting and exotic.

Once the lamb is cooked, it is time to assemble the shawarma. Typically, shawarma is served in a warm pita bread or another flatbread, with a variety of toppings such as tomatoes, onions, corn ribs, lettuce, and a yoghurt sauce.

The lamb can also be served on a plate with rice or salad, depending on your preference.

Whether you are a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine or just looking for a new recipe to try, Jerusalem lamb shawarma is definitely a dish that should not be missed.

lamb shawarma with sides and toppings

The best flatbread recipes to serve with lamb shawarma

Lavash, Middle Eastern flatbread often served with dips or kebabs, is easy to make and cooked on the hob in a frying pan with a little ghee.

An easy recipe for classic pita bread, the traditional flatbread for a lamb shawarma sandwich. It is an invariably gratifying sight to watch pita breads puffing up in the oven like alien space ships!

Or why not make a fusion sandwich, stuffing lamb shawarma into soft burger buns with a sesame sprinkle, made from dough enriched with butter and eggs?

roast leg of lamb shawarma

The best dips and toppings for lamb shawarma

Mast o khiar is a Persian yoghurt and cucumber dip with fresh herbs, walnuts and raisins. Samin Nosrat’s recipe suggests using labneh, strained yoghurt cheese, and that is a complete winner.

Muhammara, roasted red pepper and walnut dip, flavoured with pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper flakes. This should be a firm fixture in your next meze!

Radish, cucumber and herb salad, the healthiest plate imaginable. This is a super easy recipe for a summer salad of cucumbers, radish and lots of fresh herbs with a simple dressing, based on sabzi khordan, Persian fresh herb platter.

lamb leg in eleven lebanese spices

lamb shawarma

Servings: 4Time: 4 hours plus marinating


  • ½ tsp cardamom seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • seeds extracted from 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp grated nutmeg, about half a pod
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried sumac
  • ¾ tbsp fine sea salt
  • a 7 cm (3-inch) piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ bunch fresh coriander
  • 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 120ml (½ cup) groundnut oil
  • 1 leg of lamb on the bone, about 2½-3 kilo (5½-6½ pounds)


One or two nights before the roast marinate the lamb.

1. Lightly toast all the seeds (cardamom, fenugreek, fennel, cumin and star anise) in a dry skillet and grind them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining spices and salt.

2. Peel and coarsely grate the ginger, peel and crush the garlic. Finely chop the coriander and add to the spices with the lemon juice and oil. Stir to a paste.

3. Make incisions all over the lamb into the meat and fat. Place it in a large bowl and pour the marinade over it. Massage the marinade thoroughly into the meat, cover the bowl with foil and leave in the fridge overnight or for 2 nights.

4. Heat the oven to 150C fan if available/350F/gas 4.

5. Transfer the lamb to a roasting tin with all the marinade. Roast for 4 hours in total.

6. After 30 minutes add 250ml/a cup of boiling water to the tin, topping it up later if it cooks off. Use the liquid to baste the lamb every hour. After 90 minutes tent the lamb with foil to avoid burning the spices.

7. When done, let the meat rest for 15 minutes before carving thinly around the bone and serving with flatbreads, dips and salads.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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