Middle Eastern Lamb Pita

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shawarma lamb recipe

What’s Up, Hungry People

A few weeks ago, the challenge was Middle Eastern food. And with all of the holidays and life events happening all around the same time, this recipe somehow got pushed down the line and forgotten about! But fret not, I still completed the dish during the required timeframe, and that’s all that really matters here – I’m only keeping score for myself anyways.

For my Middle Eastern dish, I made a shawarma-inspired yogurt marinade and soaked some sliced lamb shoulder for an entire day. Traditional shawarma is made with delicious spices like coriander, cinnamon, and cumin, and lots of garlic. I think there’s something magical about using yogurt as a marinade, especially for lamb – it makes it super tender and juicy.

Right now, the weather can’t decide if it wants to be hot or cold, so I had to rely on a grill pan to cook my lamb indoors. Because of the small shoulder chunks I used, this was probably for the best, but definitely feel free to use whatever boneless cut of lamb you can get your hands on!

Once the lamb is cooked, I served mine up in warm pitas along with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a quick raita-style sauce.

marinating lamb

Here’s What You Need

  • Lamb shoulder or boneless chops: The star protein, adds rich flavor and tenderness when cooked properly.
  • Plain Greek yogurt: Used in marinade and sauce, tenderizes meat, adds creaminess and tang.
  • Olive oil: Enhances marinade’s ability to coat the lamb, adds flavor and helps with grilling.
  • Cumin: Adds warm, earthy tones to the marinade, a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Coriander: Offers a slightly sweet, citrusy flavor to complement the lamb’s richness.
  • Paprika: Provides a sweet and smoky taste, adding depth to the dish’s overall flavor.
  • Lemon juice: Brightens the marinade and sauce with its acidity, balancing the rich flavors.
  • Cinnamon: Adds a subtle warmth and complexity to the marinade’s flavor profile.
  • Garlic: Offers a pungent kick that’s essential for the savory depth of the marinade.
  • Cucumber: Adds freshness and a slight crunch to the yogurt sauce.
  • Dill: Brings a fresh, herby element that elevates the yogurt sauce.
  • Lettuce: Adds a crisp, fresh layer to the pita filling.
  • Onion slices: Provide a sharp, slightly sweet crunch for contrast.
  • Tomato slices: Offer juiciness and a mild acidity, complementing the lamb.
  • Pitas: The vessel for this flavorful concoction, soft and slightly chewy.
grilling lamb shoulder

Let’s Cook

First things first, let’s whip up that marinade. You’ll want to take two cups of your plain Greek yogurt and mix it with the olive oil, cumin, coriander, paprika, lemon juice, cinnamon, and garlic. This isn’t just any old marinade; it’s packed with flavors that will make your lamb sing (not literally, of course). Once you’ve got it all mixed up, toss in those lamb strips. Make sure they’re well-coated, then seal the deal—either zip up that baggie or cover your bowl. Now, the waiting game begins. Let it sit in the fridge and soak up all that goodness for at least eight hours, or better yet, overnight. Patience is a virtue here, folks.

Time to Grill

Now, for the fun part. Heat up your cast iron grill pan over high heat and give it a good spray with cooking spray to keep things from sticking. Once it’s nice and hot, add your marinated lamb strips. You’ll want to let the excess yogurt drip off first—no need for a yogurt flood in your pan. Cook these beauties for about 5-8 minutes. You’re aiming for at least 145°F if you like it pink in the center, or push it to 160°F for a more well-done vibe. Trust me, either way, you’re in for a treat.

Whipping Up the Yogurt Sauce

Just before you’re ready to serve, let’s put together that cool, refreshing yogurt sauce. Grab the remaining yogurt, mix in the chopped cucumber, and dill, and there you have it. This sauce is like the cherry on top—it brings everything together. You can serve it up room temp or chilled, your call.

Assembly Time

Last but certainly not least, let’s get those pitas ready to be loaded up. Pop them in the microwave for just thirty seconds to get them warm and pliable. Now, it’s all about layering. Fill each pita with the juicy, flavorful lamb, add some lettuce, onion, and tomato slices for that crunch and freshness, and don’t forget to dollop on that yogurt sauce.

pita with lamb filling

Tips for Perfect Middle Eastern Lamb Pita

  • Choosing the Right Cut of Lamb: Opt for lamb shoulder or boneless chops for the best balance of flavor and tenderness. These cuts are ideal for grilling and absorb the marinade well, ensuring a juicy and flavorful result.
  • Marinade Time Matters: Allow the lamb to marinate for at least eight hours, or overnight if possible. This not only infuses the lamb with the rich flavors of the spices and yogurt but also tenderizes the meat, making it incredibly soft and juicy.
  • Grill Pan Usage: If using a grill pan, ensure it’s very hot before adding the lamb. This will help achieve those desirable grill marks and seal in the flavors. Don’t overcrowd the pan to allow each piece of lamb to cook evenly.
  • Internal Temperature is Key: Cook the lamb to at least 145°F for a pink center, and 160°F for medium well. Using a meat thermometer will help you achieve the perfect doneness without guesswork.
  • Balancing the Yogurt Sauce: The yogurt sauce should have a balance of tanginess from the yogurt, freshness from the cucumber and dill, and a slight seasoning. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste preferences.
  • Warming the Pitas: Warm the pitas in the microwave for just thirty seconds to make them pliable and warm. This makes assembling the pita sandwiches easier and enhances the overall eating experience.
  • Customizing Your Pita: Feel free to add or subtract toppings based on personal preference. The beauty of this dish is its versatility, allowing each person to tailor their pita to their liking.

And there we go, Hungry People! We’ve navigated through the delightful world of Middle Eastern flavors together and emerged with a dish that’s sure to become a new favorite. Making this Middle Eastern lamb pita might seem like a bit of a culinary adventure, but I promise, it’s as rewarding as getting through a holiday season without overcooking a single dish. It’s all about embracing the spices, the yogurt, and the joy of cooking something that brings a little piece of the world right into your kitchen.

Don’t be shy to tweak the recipe to suit your taste or what you’ve got in the pantry. Cooking is all about making it your own. So next time the weather can’t decide what it’s doing, or you just want to whip up something special, remember this lamb pita. It’s a small reminder that sometimes, the best dishes come from simply mixing a bit of this with a bit of that and seeing where the flavors take you. Enjoy, and here’s to many more culinary adventures together!

pita lamb shawarma

Middle Eastern Lamb Pita

The Starving Chef
Enjoy a savory blend of marinated lamb, fresh vegetables, and creamy sauce wrapped in a warm pita.
Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 10 minutes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 40 minutes
Course Lunch, Main Course, Sandwiches
Cuisine International, Middle East
Servings 2


  • 16 oz lamb shoulder or boneless chops cut into strips
  • 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons garlic minced
  • ¼ cup cucumber chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • lettuce for topping
  • onion slices for topping
  • tomato slices for topping
  • pitas for serving


  • In a large baggie or bowl, mix together two cups of yogurt with the olive oil, cumin, coriander, paprika, lemon juice, cinnamon, and garlic. Add the strips of lamb meat and marinate for at least eight hours or overnight.
  • Heat a cast iron grill pan over high heat and grease with cooking spray. Add the strips of marinated lamb, letting most of the excess yogurt drip off. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until cooked through – at least 145°F for a pink center, 160°F for medium well.
  • Just prior to serving, stir together the remaining yogurt, cucumber, and dill. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Warm the pita bread in the microwave for thirty seconds. Fill the warm pitas with the cooked lamb, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and yogurt sauce as desired. Enjoy!
Keyword cucumber, lamb, pita
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