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Kevin Weeks for NPR /

The shawarma is a Middle Eastern version of the Greek gyro, made with chicken, turkey or lamb. In either sandwich, the meat is meltingly tender, partially because of the marinade and partially because it's presliced and then packed back together before it's roasted slowly on a vertical spit in front of a layered fire. My efforts to duplicate this have failed in the past, and I finally figured out why: I was cooking the meat too quickly. So I slowed it down by giving the meat an hour to cook in a low oven and got as close to perfect as you can get without a vertical rotisserie. The meat marinates for a day.

Makes 4 sandwiches


1 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon ground sumac (available at many supermarkets)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


2 lamb leg steaks (about 2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 flatbreads or pita

1 tomato, sliced thin



1 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground sumac

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Thoroughly mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a large zip-top bag and add lamb steaks. Toss to coat thoroughly and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, tossing every now and then to redistribute marinade.

Heat oven to 225 degrees.

Remove steaks from bag, discarding marinade, and wipe dry (more or less) with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, lidded saute pan over medium-high heat. Brown steaks on both sides in pan (about 3 minutes per side).

Pour off excess oil, cover saute pan and roast in the oven for 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Remove meat from pan and slice steaks thinly across the grain. Spoon sauce down the center of a flatbread or pita. Add tomato and a leaf or two of lettuce. Add lamb, roll up and enjoy.

Oh, and save those juices in the saute pan and sop bread in them for an amazing treat.

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