A Taste of the Middle East:Vegan Shawarma Recipe

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I don’t normally accept guest posts on ESBT but when I started this travel from home’ recipe section at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took off more than I expected too. I guess I’m not the only one cooking more from home! Now, I love to cook and experiment but I’m no expert. However, my friend Liam of Eat Go See is. He’s new to the blogging world but has been an Instagram friend for ages now and I’m constantly drooling over his foodie photos and recipes (which you can find here). Liam is currently based in Dubai, somewhere I have not yet been, but I liked the idea of sharing a Middle-Eastern recipe here so asked him if he’d help me out. Clearly, he delivered with this upscale vegan shawarma recipe. I know I have a few veggie and vegan friends who read as well so, this one is for you guys! Here’s Liam’s recipe for roasted cauliflower shawarma with roasted chickpeas, pomegranate, and hummus dressing.  

This Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma is a vegan interpretation of a Middle Eastern staple.  City markets and streets in Levant whirling with the intoxicating smoke of charred marinated shawarma cooking on coals or spits. I spent days in Damascus, Syria exploring and observing diligent street food vendors loading wraps with freshly charred shawarmas.  Shawarma is typically made with chicken or lamb marinated in woody spices like allspice, cinnamon and cumin.  My brightening sumac and fresh coriander lifts the woody cauliflower. This vegan shawarma is finished and jewelled with pomegranate seeds and pops of crunchy, roasted chickpeas.  

Vegan Shwarma Recipe: roasted cauliflower shawarma with roasted chickpeas, pomegranate, and hummus dressing

Ingredients: Vegan Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma

1 large cauliflower, whole, leaves on

50g pomegranate seeds

50g pomegranate molasses

Fresh coriander leaves and stems chopped (garnish)


Ingredients: Vegan Shawarma Marinade

100ml olive oil (EVOO not required)

1 whole lemon juiced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp sumac

1 whole garlic clove, microplane grated

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves and stems

A few light gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon


Ingredients: Roasted Chickpeas

250g canned chickpeas, drained

2 tsps maldon sea salt

1 tsp black pepper, ground

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

Zest from 1 lemon

50g virgin olive oil (EVOO not required)

½ tsp turmeric (optional)


Ingredients: Hummus Dressing

100g hummus

1 tbsp lemon juice, fresh

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves

50ml ice cold water

Sea salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste


Tools: Vegan Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma

1 large pot

1 baking tray

A chopping board

A cook’s knife, sharpened

1 microplane

A ramekin or mixing bowl

Barbecue tongs or two large spoons


Method: Vegan Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma

Step One: Prepare the Marinade

Find a mixing bowl or ramekin and mix all of your marinade ingredients into a bowl. Leave these ingredients to mingle in the oil. It is ideal to leave this for an hour or more.

Step Two: Roasting Your Chickpeas

Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius and place your rack to the top third of the oven. Grab a baking tray and place it on the counter. Grab your mixing bowl and place all your ingredients into the bowl. Stir and toss the chickpeas around the mixing bowl until everything is thoroughly and evenly coated. Lay the chickpeas in the baking tray and ensure they are evenly distributed in one layer and not sitting on top of each other.

Place the baking tray on the high oven rack and allow to roast for 10-15 minutes checking periodically. If you want crunchy chickpeas, leave them to roast longer (see notes).  If you want a softer roasted chickpea then you may want to remove them around 15-20 minutes.

Remove your chickpeas from the oven and allow them to cool. Keep the oven on for the cauliflower. 

Step Three: Prepare the Cauliflower

I recommend cooking and roasting the cauliflower whole, but you can break into individual florets just before roasting.

Fill a kettle with water and bring it to the boil. You may need about 2 litres of boiling water depending on the size of your pot.  Score the cauliflower stem with a cross but keep the leaves on the cauliflower.  Place your pot on the heat and put it on a high heat.  Lower the cauliflower into the pot stem side down and top it with boiling water.  Add salt to season the water.  Make sure the cauliflower is covered completely in water.  Allow the water to come back to a boil and then lower to a simmer. You want to simmer the cauliflower for 10 minutes (see notes).

Step Four: Marinade & Roast the Cauliflower

Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius on a fan or convection bake setting and place the rack in the middle of the oven.  

Remove the cauliflower from the water with your tongs or spoons. Place it on your baking tray to cool. The cauliflower should be cool enough for you to manage by hand. 

This is where you decide if you want to roast the cauliflower whole or in florets.

Roasting Whole Cauliflower: Stir the marinade and pour it over the cauliflower.  Make sure the marinade coats the cauliflower. Turn the cauliflower over, rub marinade into the stem and florets. You could have a dark rust coloured cauliflower caked in marinade.  

Roasting Cauliflower Florets: break the cauliflower into large generous sized florets.  Place the florets into a large mixing bowl and pour your marinade over the cauliflower florets and mix them generously in the marinade.  

Place the cauliflower in the oven and allow it to roast. You should check every ten minutes looking for a sear on the florets from the roasting.

Step Five: Prepare the Dressing and Garnishes

Place your hummus in a ramekin or small mixing bowl. Add lemon juice stir and taste. Add sea salt, black pepper, cayenne and taste. Add ice cold water a tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want. This is addressing and not a hummus so you will want it to be looser than perhaps you would normally. Taste to check for acidity and seasoning, adjust as needed. Add chopped coriander and allow to sit.  

Step Six: Combine the Dish

Plate your cauliflower as you would want it on a dish. Add teaspoons of hummus dressing on the cauliflower or the florets sparingly for now. Add scatterings of the roasted chickpeas.  Drizzle pomegranate molasses over the cauliflower, hummus dressing and roasted chickpeas.  Add more hummus dressing. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil sparingly. Top with freshly chopped coriander.  

Serve. If the cauliflower is whole, you can cut it into wedges and serve it in thick, generous slices. You get the contrast of rusty coloured crusted florets topped with bright garnishes and bright white cauliflower interior. 

Notes and Rationale: Vegan Shawarma Recipe

Why Simmer the Cauliflower?

You want to pre-cook the cauliflower because you risk burning the spices in the marinade if you roast the cauliflower roast from raw. You could roast the cauliflower with a touch of olive oil and without spices and then coat it with shawarma marinade.  If you simmer the cauliflower in water, you do not want to use a rolling boil at the risk of overcooking the cauliflower.

Crisp or Toasted Chickpeas?

This is dependent your personal taste. I like batch cooking these chickpeas into large volumes so they can be scattered into salads or eaten as a snack. You could roast the chickpeas then remove half and allow the remaining half to roast to a crisp texture. This allows some contrast in the dish.

Why should I use olive oil and not EVOO?

There are levels to olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is, broadly, more expensive, peppery and often used as a finishing oil used just before serving. Too often people waste extra virgin olive oil in cooking especially at high temperatures. I speak as a recovering EVOO waster.  

There are articles that will teach you about different types of olive oils.  A virgin olive oil or olive oil is perfectly suitable for cooking especially saute cooking like this recipe.

You can use extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the dish with some sea salt should you wish (this is what I do!).

Enjoy this version of vegan shawarma! 

Hope you guys enjoyed this vegan shawarma recipe by Liam! You can find him and more amazing recipes on:

Blog: Eat Go See

Instagram: @eatgosee

Twitter: @eatgosee

Facebook: Eat Go See

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