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Shawarma vs Kebab: How Do They Compare?

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

Anywhere you go, there’s probably a fast food joint providing delectable Turkish kebabs or shawarmas. But have you ever noticed how different yet similar they are?

These two meat-based dishes, which are widely popular across the world, are staples of Turkish cuisine.

Due to their similar flavors and ingredients, it can be challenging to distinguish between a kebab and shawarma.

Here are some fascinating distinctions between kebab and shawarma that will inform you more about these well-known foods and allow you to decide which is a healthier option.

Difference Between Shawarma and Kebab

The key distinction between shawarma and kebab is how the meat is cooked: for shawarma, the meat is grilled on a rotisserie, but for kebabs, meat is often skewered.

The doner, which is the base of kebab, is the only kind of kebab that resembles shawarma.


Shawarma gets its name from an Arabic translation of a Turkish term that means “turning.”


On the other hand, kebab is derived from the ancient Aramaic word “kababa,” meaning “char or burn.”

Although both of these two sizzling meat dishes are part of traditional Turkish cuisine, they have other differences other than how they are prepared and cooked.

Preparation Method

Kebab is a type of grilled Middle Eastern meat dish that is most frequently prepared and served on a skewer. The meat is either chopped up or minced into kebabs, and occasionally, fruits and vegetables are also included. It can be stewed, roasted in the oven, or grilled over an open flame.

In Middle Eastern cooking, shawarma is a delicacy made of thinly sliced meat that’s gently cooked on a vertical rotisserie and layered in a cone form.

Type of Meat

The traditional recipe for shawarma calls for either lamb or mutton meat, whereas modern shawarma is also prepared with turkey, chicken, beef, or veal.

Similarly, mutton or lamb is the traditional meat used in kebabs as well. However, local recipes may also call for goat, seafood, beef, chicken, or, less frequently, pork.

Way of Serving

Shawarma can be served in two ways. The meat may be thinly sliced on pita bread or served on a sizable dish with toppings, veggies, and bread to go with it.

The most well-known shawarma preparation involves wrapping the meat in flatbread. Skewered kebabs are also commonly served on plates.

Garnishing Ingredients

Shawarma frequently comes with fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and onions. In Middle Eastern countries, tahini is a well-known sauce used with shawarma.

The vegetables used to garnish kebabs are largely the same, including chopped tomatoes, cabbage, and onions. However, the sauces utilized differ. Tzatziki sauce is the most popular, while some also include flavored yogurt.

The two meals’ meats typically come with French fries and ketchup and mayonnaise.

Shawarma vs. Kebab Comparison Table

What is It?A dish with thin slices of meat stacked in the form of a coneA meat dish made with ground or chopped meat
Way of CookingA technique for cooking that entails grilling layers of meat placed on a rotisserie and cutting those layers into super thin slices to create shawarma.Has a variety of cooking techniques: It may be roasted over an open flame similar to shawarmaCan be cooked in an oven or fried in a panIt might be prepared as a stew
Regional VariancesNoneMany variations, depending on the region
Meat VarietiesInitially only made with lamb or mutton, but can contain beef, chicken, and turkeyOriginally using lamb or mutton, but subsequently expanding to include beef, chicken, goat, fish, shrimp, or, less frequently, pork
Way of ServingCommonly served as wraps in flatbread and sandwichesMainly served on plates but can be served as wraps and sandwiches too
GarnishMain toppings include pickled veggies, tomatoes, hummus, and tahiniMain toppings include tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, tzatziki sauce, and yogurt with spices
Name SourceTakes its name from the Arabic translation of a Turkish term that means “turning”Derives its name from the Aramaic word “kababa,” which means “char” or “burn”

Nutritional Content Breakdown: Which One Is Healthier?

Kebab has fewer calories than shawarma, making it the healthier choice between the two.

Despite the fact that both of these are extremely fatty and calorie-dense dishes, they are a better alternative than street food since they aren’t deep-fried.

If you want to stay low on calories, we recommend choosing chicken meat over beef. Request more veggies and carefully choose the dressings as they might increase the calorie and fat content.

Here’s the nutritional content of the two most popular varieties of shawarma and kebab.

Shawarma vs. Kebab: Nutritional Profile

Category (1 serving)Beef ShawarmaBeef Kebab
Fat16 g16.63 g
Carbs38 g77.1 g
Fiber1.9 g4.3 g
Sugar2g6.91 g
Protein51 g37.87 g
Cholesterol131 mg53 mg
Category (1 serving)Chicken ShawarmaChicken Kebab
Fat15g14.13 g
Carbs40g76.33 g
Fiber2.7 g4.3 g
Sugar2.9 g6.85 g
Protein39 g34.98 g
Cholesterol86 mg86 mg

Shawarma and Kebab Recipes

Do you want to recreate your favorite takeout foods at home? We have two recipes for you: beef doner kebab and chicken shawarma. Let’s get cookin’!

Regional Recipes

Consequently, Turkish cuisine offers a wide variety of kebabs. Here are the most common ones:

  • Chicken Adana — a dish made of minced meat that is barbecued on metal skewers in the classic kebab style.
  • Shish Kebab — grilled cubes of meat on skewers. This is the most popular kebab variety.
  • Doner Kebab – a cone-shaped meat grilled on a vertical rotisserie and thinly sliced on bread or on a platter with a variety of veggies, sauces, and bread.

There are other kebab varieties that are not cooked on skewers, such as the well-known Shammi kebab and Galauti kebab in India. These recipes call for pounded meat instead, which is then formed into patties and fried.

Shawarma is renowned for using a rotisserie to roast the meat horizontally. The rotating grilling process was employed to prepare doner kebab in the Ottoman Empire.

In a nutshell, shawarma is a type of kebab that has developed into a distinct meal and is well-liked in many nations throughout the world.

Homemade Beef Doner Kebab

Homemade Beef Doner Kebab
Homemade Beef Doner Kebab


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander

For serving:

  • 4 pita breads
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 cup lettuce leaves
  • ½ cucumber
  • ¼ onion
  • Tzatziki sauce

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Meanwhile, combine the meat, egg, minced garlic, and all the seasonings in a large bowl to marinate.

Place the marinated meat in an oiled pan and let it set for a few minutes. Once done, put it in the oven and cook it for around 30 minutes.

Take it out of the oven after it’s finished baking and let it cool fully. After that, cover the meat in foil and put it in the refrigerator.

Once the meat is fully cooled, reheat it in a frying pan. Slice the meat as thin as possible, and cook it in an oiled pan on medium heat until it’s nice and crispy.

Take your pitas, lightly toast them, then top with tzatziki sauce. Put the meat inside, chop the onion, slice the tomato, cucumber, and lettuce, and sprinkle some additional sauce.

Homemade Chicken Shawarma

Homemade Chicken Shawarma
Homemade Chicken Shawarma


  • 2lb chicken fillets
  • 3tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cardamom


  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 garlic

For serving:

  • 4 flatbreads
  • Tomato
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese
  • Onion
  • Hot sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

First things first — marinate the chicken. Slice it into small pieces, drizzle over some olive oil, and season with the aforementioned spices.

Take a ziplock bag, close it, and rub the chicken inside. Give it at least three hours to sit.

Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce. Combine some freshly squeezed lemon juice with Greek yogurt and season with the aforementioned spices. Until needed, cover and place in the refrigerator.

Then, place a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat with a little oil in it. Cook the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes on one side, turn it, and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes on the opposite side.

When the chicken is finished, take it off the heat and cover it loosely with foil. Set aside five minutes to chill.

Place the chicken onto a plate, drizzle the yogurt sauce on top, and serve with flatbreads and the suggested veggies.


Both shawarma and kebab are well-liked all across the world, and many people claim that the only significant distinction between them is the name.

But we hope that you’ve learned otherwise. While both of them belong to Middle Eastern cuisine and have fairly comparable garnishes, meat, and tastes, the preparation method is what makes them different from one another.

So which one do you like better? A juicy kebab grilled on a skewer or shawarma that is thinly cut and cooked on a rotisserie? Kebab is lower in calories, so maybe that will make it easier for you to pick a side!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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