tacos árabes | pork shawarma

5 from 1 review

for a halal version, try my chicken shawarma


for the pork shawarma:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons lime juice (90g)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cumin (8g)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon oregano (2g)
  • between 2 tsp – 1 tbsp salt (12-18g), to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (1g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom (1g)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (4g)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (2g)
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly (250-315g sliced)
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (1350g)

for serving:

  • banadurah harrah or your favorite salsa
  • thin pita bread, or tortillas (best for wrapping, rather than stuffing)
  • lime wedges
  • labneh or Greek yogurt
  • cilantro


  1. Place the pork shoulder in the freezer, and set a timer for 1 hour (this makes it easier to slice thinly).
  2. Combine the lime juice, cumin, oregano, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, and black pepper.
  3. Toss the onions together with a few tablespoons of the marinade until they are very evenly coated.
  4. Thinly slice the semi-frozen pork, and toss it together with the rest of the marinade until it’s very evenly coated.*
  5. Preheat the oven to 250° F (121° C) once the pork is sliced, and lightly oil a 10 to 12-inch oven-proof skillet.
  6. Build a layer of overlapping pieces of pork, leaving a border of at least 1 inch between the pork and the walls of the skillet. Add a layer of onions, followed by another layer of pork, and continue until all the ingredients are used up. When layering, make sure your pieces of pork overlap a little, aim for making a pentagon or square with them, make sure it doesn’t taper too much as you build upwards, and squish it down every few layers to make sure it’s stable and compact.
  7. Bake for about 4 1/2 hours, until the pork is very tender and crispy on the outside. About once every hour or so, baste the shawarma with the juices collecting around the edges.
  8. Once it’s done, remove the shawarma from the skillet to a cutting board (don’t throw out the juices!), and let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing.
  9. Remove the juices to a small bowl or measuring cup, and allow them to separate for a minute. Rinse out the pan.
  10. Peel off the top of the shawarma, thinly slice it, and then thinly slice off the crispy edges from the shawarma. Set these aside in a bowl (they don’t need to be seared). Thinly slice the rest of the shawarma.**
  11. Heat the empty cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Use a spoon to skim about a tablespoon of the fat off of the surface of the reserved juices, and add it to the hot skillet. Swirl to coat, and then add about 1/3 of the sliced shawarma. Stir it frequently for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove to a bowl, and repeat with the remaining batches, adding a little more fat each time.
  12. Taste the finished shawarma. If it needs more seasoning, discard the remaining fat from the surface of the juices, and use some of the juices at the bottom to season it a little more. They’re quite salty and acidic, and add a ton of flavor, so use them very sparingly.
  13. Serve with salsa, pita, lime wedges, cilantro, and/or labneh.


* You can make ahead to this point, and let it marinade up to overnight, or you can bake it right away (it makes little difference).

** You can even make the whole dish ahead up to this point. Cook and slice the shawarma the day before you plan to serve, reserve the juices, and then sear at the last minute. The fat will solidify in the fridge overnight, and the juices will gel, but you can use it just like butter the next day (throw it in the pan and let it melt).