Kebab vs. Shawarma

What's the Difference?

Kebab and Shawarma are both popular Middle Eastern dishes that are loved for their flavorful and succulent meat. While they share some similarities, there are also distinct differences between the two. Kebab typically refers to skewered and grilled meat, often marinated in a variety of spices and herbs. It can be made with various types of meat, such as lamb, beef, or chicken. On the other hand, Shawarma is made by stacking thin slices of marinated meat, usually chicken or lamb, on a vertical rotisserie. The meat is then slow-cooked and shaved off in thin strips, resulting in a tender and juicy texture. Additionally, Shawarma is often served in a wrap or pita bread with a variety of toppings and sauces, while kebab is commonly enjoyed on its own or with rice and salad.


Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash
OriginMiddle EastMiddle East
MeatTypically lamb or beefTypically chicken or lamb
MarinationMarinated with various spicesMarinated with various spices
PreparationGrilled on skewersRotisserie roasted
BreadPita breadPita bread or flatbread
SauceGarlic sauce, tahini, or yogurt sauceTahini sauce, garlic sauce, or yogurt sauce
VegetablesLettuce, tomatoes, onionsLettuce, tomatoes, onions
Popular VariationsDoner kebab, shish kebabChicken shawarma, beef shawarma
Photo by cindy fernandez on Unsplash

Further Detail


The Middle Eastern cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors and diverse range of dishes. Among the most popular and beloved are kebab and shawarma. These two dishes have gained international recognition and have become staples in many countries around the world. While both kebab and shawarma share similarities, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics of kebab and shawarma, exploring their ingredients, cooking methods, flavors, and cultural significance.


When it comes to the ingredients used in kebab and shawarma, there are some similarities, but also notable differences. Kebab typically consists of skewered and grilled meat, which can be lamb, beef, chicken, or even fish. The meat is often marinated in a mixture of spices, herbs, and yogurt to enhance its flavor and tenderness. On the other hand, shawarma is traditionally made with thinly sliced meat, such as lamb, beef, or chicken, which is marinated in a blend of spices, vinegar, and oil. The marinated meat is then stacked on a vertical rotisserie and slow-cooked, allowing the flavors to infuse and the meat to become tender and juicy.

Cooking Methods

The cooking methods used for kebab and shawarma are distinct and contribute to the unique characteristics of each dish. Kebab is typically cooked on a grill or barbecue, with the skewered meat being placed directly over the heat source. The meat is carefully turned and basted with marinade to ensure even cooking and to prevent it from drying out. This grilling method imparts a smoky flavor to the meat, resulting in a deliciously charred exterior and a juicy interior.

On the other hand, shawarma is cooked using a vertical rotisserie, where the marinated meat is stacked in layers and slowly roasted. As the rotisserie rotates, the outer layers of the meat are cooked and sliced off, while the inner layers continue to cook. This method allows the meat to retain its moisture and tenderness, while also creating a crispy and flavorful exterior. The slow cooking process ensures that the flavors are well-developed and the meat is incredibly succulent.


Both kebab and shawarma offer a burst of flavors that tantalize the taste buds. Kebab, with its grilled meat, has a distinct smoky and charred flavor that is complemented by the marinade. The spices and herbs used in the marinade infuse the meat with a delightful blend of aromas, creating a savory and aromatic experience.

Shawarma, on the other hand, boasts a unique blend of spices that varies depending on the region and personal preferences. The marinade used in shawarma often includes ingredients such as cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, garlic, and lemon juice. These spices work together to create a bold and zesty flavor profile that is both tangy and savory. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a harmonious taste that is hard to resist.

Cultural Significance

Both kebab and shawarma hold significant cultural importance in the Middle East and beyond. Kebab has a long history and is deeply rooted in various Middle Eastern cuisines. It is often associated with gatherings and celebrations, where families and friends come together to enjoy a delicious meal. Kebab has also gained popularity in many Western countries, becoming a favorite street food option.

Shawarma, on the other hand, has its origins in the Levant region and has spread throughout the Middle East and beyond. It is commonly found in street food stalls and restaurants, where it is served in a variety of ways, such as in wraps, sandwiches, or on a plate with accompaniments. Shawarma has become a beloved fast food option, offering a quick and satisfying meal that is packed with flavor.


In conclusion, kebab and shawarma are both iconic Middle Eastern dishes that have captivated the taste buds of people around the world. While kebab is known for its skewered and grilled meat, shawarma stands out with its slow-cooked and thinly sliced meat. The cooking methods, flavors, and cultural significance of these two dishes contribute to their unique appeal. Whether you prefer the smoky and charred flavors of kebab or the zesty and tender goodness of shawarma, both dishes offer a delightful culinary experience that is sure to satisfy.

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