Spice up your life - or at least your lunch or dinner - with these healthy, flavor-packed Low FODMAP Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls! Similar to a Greek gyro, shawarma is a heavily spiced Levantine street food dish of marinated chicken, lamb or other meat. The meat is traditionally roasted on a vertical rotisserie or spit and served in a wrap, pita, or sandwich. This version of shawarma is made with chicken grilled on a barbecue or grill pan, served along with crunchy veggies over nutritious quinoa, and topped with cooling tzatziki. It's packed with protein and other nutrients while being low FODMAP and gluten-free. If you omit the feta cheese garnish, these chicken shawarma quinoa bowls are also lactose-free.
Shawarma + Quinoa = Love
I originally discovered shawarma on Pinterest, and my mouth started watering just looking at it. It looked juicy and flavor packed, so I tried a few recipes. I discovered that it's as good as it looks, if not better. Shawarma is great as part of a salad, but as I'm currently trying to eat more quinoa, I thought shawarma might go well with quinoa instead. As it turns out, it does. Served on quinoa and topped with tzatziki, this version of shawarma a bit of a Greek - Levantine fusion thing going on. It's pretty magical.
Would Chicken Shawarma Work in the Instant Pot?
As with a lot of my recipes, I started this shawarma recipe in the Instant Pot. Shawarma turns out okay in the Instant Pot, but in my opinion, it was just screaming for the barbecue. SCREAMING! The char that the barbecue brings combined with the acidity from the lemon juice in the marinate just gives the most delicious bite. This delicious type of bite is also found in my Grilled Chicken Fajita Salad and Grilled Pork Chops with Lemon and Sage recipes. As much as I love the Instant Pot, this shawarma is made just as easily on the barbecue and tastes a ton better. Sorry, Instant Pot.
That being said, I do make the quinoa portion of this recipe in the Instant Pot and have a recipe on the blog with instructions as to how to do this easily. If you don't have an Instant Pot or don't want to make it that way, you can always just follow the instructions on your package of quinoa for how to make it on the stove.
The equipment I use to make these Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls includes:
- Barbecue (I use an outdoor natural gas grill) or grill pan
- Grill tongs
- Large Ziplock bag
- Measuring cup or small bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Small whisk or fork
- Citrus juicer
- Cutting board
- Chopping knife
- Plates x 2
- Basting brush
- Instant read thermometer
Equipment necessary for the quinoa depends on how you decide to make it. If making it in the Instant Pot, a list of equipment is included in that post. For the tzatziki, a list of equipment is included in that post.
Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls: Ingredients & Tips for Success
For this chicken shawarma recipe, I use 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I find these offer the best flavor for the shawarma.
I start the recipe by marinating the chicken thighs the night before cooking so that they can marinate overnight. First, I place them in a large Ziplock bag. Then, in a measuring cup or small bowl, I whisk together the marinade ingredients, which include:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Garlic-infused olive oil
- Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Lemon zest
- Sweet paprika
- Smoked paprika
- Ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom and cayenne
- Salt and ground black pepper
If you're thinking that's a lot of spices, you're absolutely correct. As mentioned above, shawarma is heavily spiced, and I found using all of these spices bring the absolute best flavor for the shawarma. It may be more spices than you're used to adding to a marinade, but I assure you, it is worth it.
I pour the marinade over the chicken thighs in the Ziplock bag, seal the bag, and shift the bag around with my hands to ensure the thighs are completely coated in marinade. I place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
Then, either the night before or the day of cooking, I make my Easy Tzatziki recipe, the ingredients and instructions for which can be found on that post. For this recipe, I'm using the tzatziki as a dressing, so I add up to 4 tablespoons of almond milk (or another lactose-free milk) to it to thin it out. To use the tzatziki as a veggie dip, I would only use 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Due to the cucumber in the tzatziki, even if you thin it out, it will still go on rather thick.
Once completed, I cover the tzatziki and place it in the refrigerator until everything is ready to serve. Make sure you stir the tzatziki before serving.
Either the night before or the day of cooking, I chop the produce that will accompany the shawarma in the bowl:
- Red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced then halved
- English cucumber, sliced then halved - I use one half of a large English cucumber in the tzatziki, and the other half in the bowl, which works out nicely.
- Scallions, green tops only, chopped - also known as green onions. The green tops of scallions are FODMAP free, while the white bulb portion is high in FODMAPs.
Then, either the night before or the day of cooking, I cook the quinoa, either by using my Easy Instant Pot Quinoa recipe or by following the package instructions. If you cook the quinoa ahead of time, put in an air tight container once cooled and refrigerate until ready to serve. Then, simply reheat it in the microwave or eat it cold, if that's to your liking.
Grill the Chicken
Once the chicken has marinated overnight and I'm ready to cook, I preheat my outdoor grill or grill pan on medium heat. While the grill is heating up, using tongs, I remove the chicken thighs from the bag, gently shaking off the excess marinade into the bag before placing the chicken on a plate. This may seem like an extra step, but this helps to mitigate the risk of flare ups.
I place the chicken top side down onto the grill grate. If there are any parts of the bottom side of the chicken that didn't get marinated, use a basting brush to add marinade to the bare spots. Sometimes the chicken thighs remain folded in the bag and marinade doesn't get inside the fold. Discard the remaining marinade.
I grill the chicken on medium heat for 5-6 minutes per side and remove to a fresh plate. I allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before slicing it into ½ inch strips. This helps the chicken retain its moisture.
Assemble the Grilled Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls
To assemble the shawarma bowls, I add ¾ cup of quinoa into each bowl. Then, I place a quarter of the shawarma, red bell pepper, cucumbers and scallions on top of the quinoa. Finally, I top with tzatziki and optionally garnish with crumbled feta and parsley. Omit the feta to keep this recipe lactose-free.
A Word About FODMAPS
Quinoa and lemon juice contain the same FODMAP: fructans. According to Monash University's Low FODMAP Diet App, quinoa is low FODMAP in quantities of up to 1 cup; lemon juice is low FODMAP in quantities of up to ½ cup. As we're having only ¾ cup of quinoa per serving, this leaves enough room for the quantities of lemon juice in both the shawarma marinade and the tzatziki to remain under Monash University's recommended amount per serving. The chicken only retains a small portion of the lemon juice anyway as the majority ends up being discarded with the rest of the marinade. However, as the research can change and I'm not a dietitian, you will always want to check the app and do the math yourself to make sure everything can be consumed together without FODMAP stacking.Print
Spice up your life - or at least your lunch or dinner - with these healthy, flavor-packed Low FODMAP Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls! This version of shawarma is made with marinated chicken grilled on a barbecue or grill pan, served alongside crunchy veggies over nutritious quinoa, and topped with cooling tzatziki. Gluten-free and lactose-free when the feta garnish is omitted.
SHAWARMA (CHICKEN + MARINADE):
- 1.75 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
- ⅓ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (from 1 large lemon)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- A full batch of my Easy Tzatziki recipe
- 1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced and then the slices halved horizontally
- ½ of a large English cucumber, sliced and then the slices halved (use the other half in the tzatziki)
- ½ cup scallions, green tops only, chopped
- 3 cups cooked quinoa (such as from my Instant Pot Quinoa recipe)
- ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled (omit to keep lactose-free)
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- Lemon slices
- Marinate the chicken. The evening prior to cooking, put the chicken thighs in a large Ziplock bag and set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, add the marinade ingredients and whisk until well combined. Seal bag tightly and shift the bag around with your hands until the chicken thighs are evenly coated. Place bag in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.
- Prepare the tzatziki. Meanwhile, prepare the tzatziki. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir before serving.
- Chop the produce. Chop the red bell pepper, cucumber, and scallions. Cover and refrigerate.
- Cook the quinoa. Once the chicken thighs have marinated overnight and you are ready to start cooking, cook quinoa, either using my Instant Pot Quinoa instructions or by following the instructions on the package for the stove top.
- Grill the chicken. Preheat your grill or grill pan on medium heat and allow the temperature to rise to 350°F. Place marinated chicken onto a plate, shaking off the excess marinade into the plastic bag (this will help mitigate flare-ups). Using grill tongs, place the chicken top side down on the grill grate. If there are parts of the bottom side of the chicken that didn't get marinated, use a basting brush to add marinade to any bare spots. Discard remaining marinade. Grill chicken for 5-6 minutes per side until a temperature of 165°F is reached per an instant read thermometer. Remove chicken from the grill. Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes. Then, slice the chicken into ½ inch slices, and place on a platter.
- Assemble the bowls. To assemble the bowls, add ¾ cup of cooked quinoa to each bowl. Then, place a quarter of the shawarma, red bell pepper, cucumbers, and scallions on top of the quinoa. Top with tzatziki. Garnish with crumbled feta, chopped parsley, and lemon slices (optional, see note).
- This Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowl recipe works great for meal prep. For the best results, marinate the chicken the night prior to cooking. You can also make the tzatziki, chop the produce, and cook the quinoa the night prior and simply reheat the quinoa in the microwave the next day (or eat it cold if that is to your liking).
- According to Monash University’s Low FODMAP Diet App, quinoa and lemon juice both contain the same FODMAP: fructans. Please see my notes in the post above about FODMAP content of these two ingredients.
- Feta only contains trace amounts of the FODMAP lactose; however, if you want to keep this completely lactose-free, just omit the feta. It’s an optional garnish and the shawarma still tastes fabulous without it.
- Cooking times and nutritional information only includes that for the chicken shawarma and chopped produce and does not include information for the tzatziki and quinoa. Please see those respective posts for cooking time and nutritional information.
- Category: Salad & Bowl
- Method: Barbecue / Grill
- Cuisine: Levantine
Keywords: chicken shawarma, low FODMAP shawarma, grilled shawarma, shawarma bowl, Levantine cuisine, middle eastern cuisine, Mediterranean food, barbecue shawarma, gluten-free, lactose-free