Healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls

We’re loving this recipe for healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead lunches for work or school. The flavors are out of this world!!

Loving this recipe for healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead lunches for work or school. The flavors are out of this world!!

Shawarma!!! Guys, my love affair with this Middle Eastern inspired dish is epic.

There’s a little Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurant out in town that is legit the most holey of hole in the walls. It’s connected to a run-down gas station in a questionable part of town and it’s SO GOOD I don’t even care! Their Shawarma is 110% worth the 45 min drive.

Since I don’t get out there as often as I’d like, I needed a copycat version to whip up at home. That’s what like half the recipes on my blog are at this rate, eh? Restaurant copycats for the military mama who is always freaking moving. I love it. You love it. (I hope!) Let’s keep this tradition alive, shall we?

The recipe below was inspired by Hummus in Pensacola, FL, a Plated dish we tried a few months back, and my go to Greek Quinoa Bowls.

The result was a plate-licking dish that makes a phenomenal 30-40 min dinner and a fantastic make-ahead lunch!

Loving this recipe for healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead lunches for work or school. The flavors are out of this world!!

Loving this recipe for healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead lunches for work or school. The flavors are out of this world!!

Healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls

Tender, juicy chicken spiced to perfection and tossed with fluffy quinoa, fresh veggies, warm naan and a creamy tahini sauce for a delicious dairy-free dish that’s sure to wow your tastebuds!

It’s even great the next day! See post below for meal prep + leftover tips and try this bad boy with my crispy shawarma roasted chickpeas too!

Loving this recipe for healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead lunches for work or school. The flavors are out of this world!!
4.89 from 17 votes
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Healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls

Healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead lunches for work or school. The flavors are out of this world!!

Course Main Dish
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword Healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 38 minutes
Servings 2 quinoa bowls
Author Jenn Laughlin - Peas and Crayons

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 chicken breasts boneless/skinless
  • 1 clove garlic smashed and minced
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil divided
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 naan flatbreads toasted or warmed slightly

The Veggies:

  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1/2-3/4 bell pepper red or green
  • 1/2 English cucumber 
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1-2 TBSP fresh chopped parsley

Tahini Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic smashed and minced
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 3 TBSP warm water
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp paprika

Instructions

  1. First rinse and drain your quinoa using a mesh strainer or sieve. Bring a medium saucepan to medium heat and lightly toast the quinoa to remove any excess water. Stir as it toasts for just a few minutes. This step is optional but really adds to the nuttiness and fluff factor of the quinoa! Next add your water, set burner to high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for 12-13 minutes or until quinoa is fluffy and the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. While the quinoa cooks, prep your veggies! Chop onion, bell pepper, cucumber, and parsley. Mince your garlic and slice grape tomatoes in half.
  3. Pat chicken dry with paper towel, then place a dry paper towel on top. Using a meat mallet or heavy pan, pound to 1⁄4-inch thickness.
  4. In a large shallow bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine cumin, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne pepper with juice of 1⁄2 lemon, minced garlic, and 1 TBSP olive oil. Add chicken and coat with the spices. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Snag your now-fluffy quinoa from the pot and give it a little fluff with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  6. Remove chicken from marinade and season both sides with 1⁄2 tsp salt and black pepper as desired. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan from naan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add chicken. Cook until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F), approx 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate and allow to rest while you prep your quinoa bowls.
  7. Combine onion, bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, and parsley in a bowl and dress with juice of one lemon and 2 TBSP olive oil. Season if desired.
  8. For the tahini sauce, whisk together tahini, lemon juice, and minced garlic. Slowly add warm water, whisking well until thin and saucy. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  9. Slice your chicken into thin strips or chop into bite-sized pieces.
  10. Now let's toss it all together! You can plate the veggies and chicken on top as pictured above or toss the quinoa with the veggies first for goodness in every bite! Dress with tahini sauce and dig in!

Recipe Notes

Prefer to skip the heat? Nix the cayenne pepper for a mild dish. Craving spice? Kick up the heat as much as you'd like. Anything goes with this delish dish!

You'll want to snag 2 medium lemons total and 2 cloves garlic total if making all the components of this recipe.

Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free versions available in the post below.

Loving this recipe for healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead meal-prep style lunches for work or school. Vegetarian and Vegan versions available too!

special diets and swaps

  • Gluten-Free? I’ve got your back! Simply snag your favorite GF flatbread in place of the naan or pita bread or simply skip it altogether!
  • Vegan + Vegetarian Chefs: Skip the chicken and make your favorite swap! My Roasted Shawarma Chickpeas are AMAZING in this dish! Pan-fried tofu would also taste awesome with this shawarma seasoning blend or you could also roast some chopped yukon gold potatoes in olive oil and the shawarma-style spices and top your quinoa bowls with it.
  • Paleo Peeps: skip the carbs and you’re good to go! You can even add some roasted or sautéed veggies to your plate if you’d like!
  • Avocado Crazy? Add some! This dish would be amazing with a hearty helping of chopped avocado or guac.

No matter how you make ’em, these healthy chicken shawarma quinoa bowls are sure to rock your fork!

love your leftovers:

I’m going to tell y’all right now, the leftovers are bomb.com status here.

The recipe serves two dinner-sized potions, so if you’re cooking for one 110% pack yourself a quinoa bowl for lunch the next day. You can even prep the entire recipe in advance for grab and go eats during the week. You’ll end up with 2-3 lunches worth!

Everything can be piled into a container salad-style (tahini sauce and naan on the side) and enjoyed cold if chilled chicken salad is your thing, or you can follow my example below and pack the chicken in a heat-safe bowl and toss the quinoa and veg in its own container. Simply heat up the chicken, toss on top of your salad and dive in with a side of tahini and naan.

I’ve been doing the hot-chicken-cold-salad thing for lunches this week and la la love it! I also stick the naan in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up and use it to scoop out all the shawarma bowl goodness in to my face. YES!

These little meal-prep bowls give you all of the flavor with none of the fuss; love it so!

Loving this recipe for healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls with a super easy hack for creating make-ahead meal-prep style lunches for work or school. The flavors are out of this world!!

 

If you get a chance to try these Healthy Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls, let me know! Leave some love in the comment form below or tag your photos with @peasandcrayons on Instagram so I can happy dance over your creation! I can’t wait to see what you whip up!

hungry for more?

 

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Comments

  • Mia

    4 stars
    This took a little longer to cook and assemble than I’d hoped. Overall, very tasty. I subbed barley for the quinoa, which I hate. I made a tzatziki sauce to drizzle over the top. Also topped with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. My 2 year old loved the chicken by itself. Will probably make again sometime soonish.

    • So glad you enjoyed it Mia and that it made make-again status! WOOT!

  • Marie Trygar

    5 stars
    Delicious! I made this for my lunch prep this week and it’s fantastic! I took a couple shortcuts since I was low on time (pre-rinsed quinoa and Boathouse cilantro avocado dressing) but kept everything else the same. I added some avocado too. This will definitely be my go-to bowl recipe from here on out!

  • Ana

    5 stars
    So yummy! I added avocado, kalamata olives, and a little balsamic and it was perfect!

  • Krystle

    5 stars
    Fresh and healty 🤗

  • Ptracy

    How can this be made vegetarian?

  • Melanie M

    I haven’t made this yet because I’m still learning how to cook quinoa. You say to rinse and then to toast it. How to you toast wet quinoa? Usually when you toast something, you toast it dry. I cooked my first batch of quinoa last week and I did rinse it. But it a really, really wet and clumpy, which didn’t matter because I was covering it in water anyway. I’m just not sure what to expect when toasting wet quinoa.

    • Hi Melanie! This technique is my favorite.

      The rinsing is essential here because quinoa has a slightly bitter coating on it. Rinsing removes this coating and you wind up with delicious results by doing so. You’ll use a mesh strainer/sieve to rinse and that will allow the water to pass through it. It will be damp but not soaking wet and, if needed, you can pat the bottom of the sieve with a towel to absorb a little more moisture from the quinoa. You will toast it damp, yes, and this toasting will remove the additional liquid and then leave the quinoa with a slight nuttiness to it. The toasting is 100% optional and the main reason is to remove most of the water from rinsing and improve taste. I’ve been doing it like this for years and have gotten my friends hooked on the method too. Like I said, it’s totally optional but my fav way to cook quinoa. Hope this helps! xo

  • Magdalena Love

    5 stars
    What a great meal, I made with couscous instead of quinoa because I didn’t realize I was out of it and I added some mayo and sour cream to my tahini sauce,tahini is not my favorite thing which is weird because I love hummus but came actually nice and creamy,my husband loved it,thank you for the inspiration

    • Ooh I’m loving that jazzed up tahini sauce you made! Thank you Magdalena, so glad you enjoyed the shawarma bowls!

  • Mariam Khan

    5 stars
    Loved it! Great recipe easy to full well explained.. 🙌

  • Emily

    5 stars
    Wow!! I made this as a meal prep for work this week and all I can say is positive things. I’ve been eating it cold for lunch and it’s delicious. The seasoning in the recipe is absolutely perfect. I might add more cayenne next time since I love spice!

    Unfortunately, I was unable to find tahini at the store. So instead I grabbed some premade dill and cucumber tzatziki made with Greek yogurt to put on top – so good.

    I want to double the recipe next time so there will be enough to split up and share with my boyfriend so he can bring it to work too. I’ll see how doubling it goes!

    • Tzaziki makes a baller topping! I’m glad you’ve been loving the shawarma bowls, Emily!

      ps: extra cayenne makes my heart happy – doooooo it!

    • Sandi

      Trader Joe’s has organic Tahini!

  • Emily Rich

    5 stars
    So good!!!! Using the thermometer for the chicken was the best idea. I added avocado for taste and texture. Yum. Thank you!!

    • Woot! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it Emily, thanks! xo

  • Charli

    5 stars
    Great lunch thanks to this little recipe! I added olives to my vegetable mix and it was awesome! My hubby loved the Tahini sauce! He is not a quinoa fan (like I am) so I served his with rice. Great recipe if you are taking a hiatus from sugar.

    • So glad y’all enjoyed it Charli, thank you!

  • Sara

    Hiya! Could you include nutritional amounts?

    • Hi Sara! Because everyone seems to mix and match ingredients with this one, I don’t want to provide anything that could be inaccurate or misleading. I calculated the base recipe of the quinoa, veggies, and seasoned chicken and it’s about 734 calories per serving according to MyFitnessPal. The flatbread will vary by brand/size so I’d say look at the package for the nutrition facts there since each brand is different. You can also choose to skip it to make the dish GF and healthier! The tahini sauce makes 4 servings (you add it to taste basically) at 260 calories each since tahini is a bit calorie heavy much like nut butter. Hoping this helps!

  • Elizabeth

    5 stars
    Delicious! Great recipe. Swapped the quinoa for couscous and added some fresh mozzarella for good spirit. Will definitely make again.

    • Thank you Elizabeth! Couscous sounds like a lovely swap and the fresh mozzarella must have been pretty tasty too! So thrilled it earned make-again status.

  • Matt

    5 stars
    Really enjoyed this recipe! Both healthy and filling. Thank you!

    • Thank you Matt! So thrilled you enjoyed it!

  • Shelly

    My daughter likes this. I made this for her to pack for lunches. However, this chicken is not shawarma. This chicken is tasted much closer to Indian chicken and my daughter was disappointed. My daughter ended up liking it all mixed together.

    • Hey Shelly! I’m so glad she liked it all mixed together! It tastes just like the chicken shawarma I get at my local mediterranean restaurant so that’s all I have to go by as a comparison, but I completely understand that it could be made differently in different restaurants/regions/kitchens and taste different each place.

  • Cheri

    Our family has a lemon allergy…what’s your suggestion for a lemon juice substitute for this recipe?

    • Hey Cheri! Is it just lemons or all citrus? Lime juice and fresh squeezed orange juice would work fantastic here. If citrus is off the table, I’m thinking a little red or white wine vinegar might work good here as a swap as long as you’re a fan of vinegars (I love them!)

  • 5 stars
    This was TO DIE FOR. The marinade, I wish I could put myself in it. lol. It is just so fantastic.

    Thank you so much for sharing! This one definitely ended up in our monthly rotation!

    • I would gladly bathe in that marinade LOL! Thank you so much Missy – I’m stoked it made monthly rotation status! 🙂

  • Cindy

    5 stars
    This is a fantastic recipe! Thank you.

  • Betty Watson

    Hi Jenn! Hubby found this recipe and wants to make it for supper tonight; it sounds so yummy! Question though, in the directions for the chicken marinade you mention onion, but there is no quantity given. Onion is mentioned later again, in the instructions and the ingredients (1/4 of a red onion as part of the veggies that go alongside the chicken and quinoa, but no amount for the marinade. Please advise, can’t wait to try it! I will rate it once we’ve tried it for sure. Thank you.

    • Hi Betty! So excited y’all found me and that you’ll be trying the recipe – we’re crazy about this one! Sorry for the misclarification in the recipe, I’m glad you pointed that out! We tried it two ways: one with onion in the marinade too (a few TBSP chopped), to be sautéed along with the chicken and once with it just added at the end. I didn’t really notice a difference between to the two taste-wise so you can absolutely do either! I updated the recipe with the easier method, but feel free to go either route. I hope you love the recipe! xoxo

  • TiffanyK

    I’d like to make a 3oz bottle of the spice mix so I don’t have to mix it every time. Have you ever made it in a large batch?

    • Go for it Tiffany! I think this idea is totally genius and I totally want to do the same! You can mix it up in an old glass spice jar (hooray up-cycling!), shake it uber well so it mixes evenly, and then sprinkle away as needed 🙂

  • 5 stars
    This is perfect for packing it in a lunch box for work! I love shawarmas but I hate eating it in its original form at work as everything goes EVERYWHERE.

  • Ella

    I’m going to the store right now to buy all the ingredients. Perfect for this week’s lunches! My only concern is the tahini. I’ve only ever seen the paste in a large jar and this recipe calls for a small amount. Does it save well? I know homemade hummus recipes use it, too, but have you used it for anything else?

    • Ahhhh so excited Ella! So stoked you’ll be making it! I already put all the ingredients back on my list to make it again lol 😉 So from past experience and a little google research, most tahini will keep up to a year if you pop it in the fridge after opening and then just bring the amount you need to use to room temp before mixing/stirring/all that jazz 🙂

      I love using it in dressings, savory sauces, and of course hummus too, and this Bon Appetit post (20 Tahini Recipes) has some great ideas. I’ve even seen it used in baking and pesto recipes which I totally want to try next!

    • Emz

      5 stars
      Hi Ladies.
      I’m from a Lebanese background – tahini paste – the real stuff last outside of a fridge well over a year. Just a cool dry place in your pantry is fine. All u need to do is stir it well as the tahini solidifies a little at the bottom . No need for a fridge. It’s really good For u and stays good for at least 2 years I know.
      Your shawarma looks divine

      • So so so good to know, thank you! 🙂 I have a new bottle I haven’t opened yet so I’m excited that I can just pop it back in the pantry until I need to dive back into the jar! xoxo

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