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Difference Between Shawarma and Kebab

Who does not love the taste of shawarmas and kebabs? The savory flavor of these favorite meat dishes leaves you craving for more. They have fans across the world. But did you know shawarmas and kebabs are not the same? Due to their similar tastes and flavors, they have left fans unable to differentiate the two. Here are some interesting differences between shawarma and kebabs that you would want to know.


Shawarma refers to a dish that consists of meat sliced thinly and put together in a cone shape. It’s then roasted on a slow-turning rotisserie, which is a cooking appliance with a rotating spit. The rotating spit is a pointed rod on which meat is skewered and roasted over an open fire. Though originally made with lamb, mutton, and chicken, today shawarma can be made of turkey, beef, or veal. As the meat rotates, thin slices are shaved off the cooking surface. It’s one of the world’s most popular street foods in Egypt, Turkey, Levant, and the rest of the Middle East.

Shawarma is prepared from thin slices of marinated meats which are heaped upon a skewer about 60cm high. Some fat may be added onto the stack to add flavor. The outer layer is continuously roasted as the spit slowly turns the stack of meat. Both the electric or gas-fired heating elements can be used for this purpose. A long flat knife is used for cutting off the shaving when serving. 

Shawarma is commonly served as a sandwich or wraps in a flatbread such as a pita. Spices for use may include cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, and paprika.


Kebab is a cooked meat dish. It has its origin in the Middle East. It has its variants across the world. The recipes for kebab preparation differ according to the region. In India and many parts of the Middle East, kebab is any of a wide variety of grilled meat dishes. 

Kebab consists of cut-up or ground meat. Sometimes it’s mixed with vegetables and other accompaniments depending on the recipe. Kebabs are cooked on a skewer over the fire. Some, however, are baked in a pan in an oven or prepared like a stew. Traditionally, kebabs contain mutton or lamb but depending on regions may contain beef, fish, chicken, goat, or more rarely pork. 

A type of kebab, namely doner kebab is very similar to the shawarma. The only difference being the place of origin. Shawarma is from the Arab-Middle East region while Doner kebab is from Turkey. Shawarma was derived from doner kebab. It’s a type of doner kebab.

Similarities between shawarma and kebab

  • Both are meat dishes
  • They are cooked in similar ways, roasted on a skewer
  • They can be served as sandwiches or wraps in bread
  • Both have their origin in the Middle East
  • Both originally contained lamb or mutton but have since added other types of meat.
  • Both can be served with vegetables
  • Both are seasoned with spices
  • Both are popular street foods.
  • Both are served hot.

 Differences between Shawarma and Kebab


Shawarma refers to a dish consisting of meat cut into thin slices and stacked in a cone-like shape while kebab refers to a cooked meat dish consisting of cut-up or ground meat.

Cooking methods

There is one way of cooking traditional shawarma while kebab has a variety of cooking methods.

In shawarma preparation, meat layers stacked on a rotisserie are slowly grilled as the rod rotates. Once the outer layers are nicely cooked, they are shaved off to make shawarma sandwiches. Kebab on the other hand has a variety of cooking methods. Kebab on meat skewers may be cooked on the fire. They may also be cooked in an oven or fried in a pan. Kebab may also be cooked as a stew as in tas kebab.


There are no variances of shawarma but kebab has its variants across the world. Each region has its recipe for kebab preparation.

Meat varieties

Initially, shawarma was made using lamb or mutton. Nowadays, the dish is made with many other meat varieties such as beef, chicken, veal, and turkey. Kebab originally used lamb or mutton too but as the dish increased its popularity, other meat varieties such as beef, chicken, goat, fish, and shrimp have been used.


Shawarmas are commonly served as wraps in bread and sandwiches while kebabs on skewers are served commonly served on plates.  They may also be used as wraps in bread.

Toppings and garnishes

The main kebab toppings are tomato, onion, cucumbers, tzatziki sauce, and yogurt with spices while for shawarma pickled vegetables, tahini and hummus are important condiments.


Shawarma derives its name from an Arabic rendering of Turkish word which means turning while the word kebab derives its name from an Aramaic word ‘kababa’ which means char or burn.

Shawarma vs. Kebab: Comparison Table

Summary of Shawarma vs. Kebab

Shawarma and kebabs are popular street foods and are a delicacy to many. Many think they are the same thing. Though very similar, shawarma and kebabs have differences and with this knowledge, you will be able to tell which is which the next time you order your shawarma or kebab whether in your favorite spot or street. Enjoy your dish and don’t hesitate to tell us of any more differences that you found out.


What is the difference between doner kebab and shawarma?

The difference lies in the origin of these dishes. Doner kebab is one of the varieties of Turkish kebab while Shawarma originates from the Arab Middle East region and is derived from doner kebab.

What’s the difference between chicken shawarma and chicken kabob?

Chicken shawarma is prepared from chicken meat slices that are stacked in a rotisserie and roasted vertically while a chicken kebab is made from ground chicken that is skewed on fire but can also be cooked in an oven or fried in a pan.

What exactly is shawarma?

 Shawarma is a type of doner kebab. It is made by roasting slices of meat stacked in a rotisserie vertically as it turns and then shaving off the nicely cooked meat to put in wraps or sandwiches.

What is shawarma called in English?

Shawarma is referred to as a doner kebab or a meat sandwich in English.

 Is shawarma fried?

Shawarma is not fried; it’s roasted but fat is applied to the meat while it roasts and turns to add flavor.

 Is shawarma junk food?

Yes, Shawarma is considered fast food. It can be taken as a snack of fast dinner but it’s considered not so healthy from the fats used to marinate and the entire cooking process.

 How does kebab taste like?

Kebabs taste wonderful with the appropriate spicing.

 Are chicken Shawarmas healthy?

Yes, Chicken shawarmas are the healthy forms of the shawarmas as there’s no addition of fat and can be eaten with salad and cucumber dressing. 

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References :

[0]Jackie Lynch. The Right Bite: Smart Food Choices for Eating on the Go. Duncan Baird Publishers, 2016. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=-RapCwAAQBAJ&pg=PT123&dq=Differences+between+shawarma+and+kebab&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiOgPGJlsjzAhXSg_0HHVTfA7oQ6AF6BAgFEAI#v=onepage&q=Differences%20between%20shawarma%20and%20kebab&f=false

[1]Peter Heine. Food Culture in the Near East, Middle East, and North Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=1jE5k5qeKbgC&pg=PA91&dq=Differences+between+shawarma+and+kebab&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiOgPGJlsjzAhXSg_0HHVTfA7oQ6AF6BAgJEAI#v=onepage&q=Differences%20between%20shawarma%20and%20kebab&f=false

[2]Dan Toombs. The Curry Guy Easy: 100 Fuss-Free British Indian Restaurant Classics to Make at Home. Hardie Grant Publishing, 2018. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=i0ZVDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Differences+between+shawarma+and+kebab&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiOgPGJlsjzAhXSg_0HHVTfA7oQ6AF6BAgHEAI#v=onepage&q&f=false

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lula_kebab_2.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shawarma_(3157609887).jpg

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