Shawarma vs Doner Kebab: Differences And Benefits

Shawarma and doner kebab share remarkable similarities with one of their differences being the place of their origin. While shawarma is a variant of doner kebab that originated from the Middle East/Arab region, doner kebab hails from Turkey. 

So what are the characteristics that differentiate shawarma from doner kebab?

From differences in health benefits and types of meat used in their preparation, this article shows how the doner kebab and shawarma differ from each other.

What is shawarma?

Shawarma is a popular traditional street dish that originated in the Middle East and has since made its way to the rest of the world. Locally, shawarma is made using beef that has been mixed with at least 5 spices. 

chicken shawarma - cheffist

You can however use as many as 15 spices to boost the flavor. The raw beef after being marinated in a sauce is then layered and cooked on a vertical spit of a shawarma machine.

The shawarma with pita bread serves as its wrap while Middle Eastern Salad, Hummus, and tahini sauce serve as its filling. 

What is a doner kebab?

Originating from Turkey, doner kebab is a traditional dish served inside a pide bread (a flatbread similar to the pita bread but much thicker). Doner kebab consists of minced lamb meat or beef that has been mixed with spices.

Fillings used in the doner kebab include diced onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and special Turkish dressing. The meat used in making the doner kebab is stacked on a spit and roasted on a vertical rotisserie. The outer part of the meat is also trimmed while it is still stacked.

SEE: Can You Eat Lamb Medium Rare Or Is Not Safe?

What are the differences between doner kebab and shawarma?

While doner kebab and shawarma both use meat, the form of the meat differs. While doner kebabs use ground or cut-up lamb or beef, shawarma uses thin slices of spit-roasted beef.

Other differences between the shawarma and doner kebab include the following;

Cooking methods

Shawarma only has one traditional method of preparation while the doner kebab has a wide range of cooking or preparatory methods.

When preparing shawarma, thinly sliced meats are stacked on a rotating spit in a vertical rotisserie and slowly grilled with a nearby heat source. Once the outer layer is well cooked, it is shaved off and then placed on pita bread. 

Doner kebab, however, uses a variety of cooking methods which can include; 

  • Cooking the meat in an oven.
  • Frying the meat in a frying pan.
  • Stacking the meat on meat skewers and grilling them over a fire.
  • Cooking the kebab as a stew (tas kebab).


There are no known shawarma variants while there are numerous variants of the doner kebab based on the region. In fact, the shawarma and Greek gyro are variants of the doner kebab.


Shawarmas come wrapped in pita bread while doner kebab is mostly served on Turkish pide bread which is much thicker than your average pita bread.

Toppings and garnishes

Shawarma uses tahini, hummus, and sliced vegetables as garnishes and condiments while doner kebab uses diced onions, yogurt with spices, tzatziki sauce, tomato, and cucumbers as garnishes and toppings.

Meat varieties

Shawarma primarily makes use of lamb or beef. However, it now uses other varieties of meat like lamb, turkey, chicken, or veal. Doner kebab originally started with lamb meat but as the Turkish dish became popular in other countries, other meat varieties were utilized. 

Other meats that you can use in making doner kebab include chicken, goat meat, fish, beef, veal, pork, and shrimp.

SEE: Exciting Recipes to Make With Pulled Pork Leftovers

What are the similarities between shawarma and doner kebab

The following are some known similarities that the shawarma and the doner kebab share;

  • Both are popular meat dishes and street foods in their respective regions.
  • They are cooked in similar ways, roasted on a skewer or rotisserie
  • You can serve them in bread wraps or as sandwiches
  • The doner kebab and shawarma both originate from the Middle East
  • The shawarma and doner kebab originally made use of contained lamb or mutton but have since started making use of other meat types.
  • Shawarma and doner kebab is served with vegetables as garnishes and toppings.
  • The doner kebab and shawarma make use of spices and condiments to season the meat.

What are the nutritional values and health benefits of doner kebab?

The doner kebab when made with chicken is a healthy dish that decreases the risk of cancer, increases metabolism, and provides a lot of protein to the body.

Providing a lot of nutrients

Using chicken as a meat source for your doner kebab is a great choice as it offers lots of lean protein. This protein aids the growth process in the body. 

Also, the use of chicken makes your doner kebab keto-friendly and exceptionally great for weight management. 

The Turkish pide or pita bread which also serves as a wrapping for the doner kebab offers enough nutrients. These nutrients range from dietary fiber to calcium, vitamins, and protein. 

Increasing metabolism

A doner kebab made using chicken is rich in vitamin B6 and helps enhance the body’s metabolic processes. It also provides the body with sufficient energy required in performing these metabolic processes. 

Protection against cancer

Unknown to many, the use of chicken in making doner kebab can serve as a great way to prevent cancer. 

While it does not mean that eating doner kebabs made with chicken will completely prevent cancer, a serving of this meal enriches your body with vitamin B3. 

Vitamin B3 is known to play an important role in improving blood fat levels, reducing blood pressure, and reducing the rates of skin cancer.  

Nutrients values of doner kebab

You stand to gain the following nutrients from a small serving of doner kebab;

  • 750 calories
  • 47 g of fat
  • 1,800 g of sodium
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 30 g of carbs (2 g of dietary fiber)
  • 20 g of fat
  • 30 g of protein

How to Make your doner kebab healthier

There are many ways to make your doner kebab healthier and safer to consume. They include;

  • Completely avoiding the use of meat (lamb, beef, chicken, etc) and replacing meat ingredients with minced chickpea. This is also known as vegetarian doner kebab or shish kebab. 
  • Replace ingredients like mayonnaise or cheese with much healthier substitutes like hummus, avocado, or nut butter. If substitutes are not available, simply reduce the portion of mayo and cheese. 
  • Another option is to avoid meat that contains high levels of saturated fat like beef or mutton. Instead, make use of fish or chicken which are much healthier. 

SEE: Is Lamb Considered Beef? [See The Difference]

What are the nutritional values and health benefits of shawarma?

Shawarma, especially one made with chicken, provides the body with various minerals such as iron, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. It also offers sufficient amounts of protein, vitamin A, and vitamin C. 

How to make your shawarma healthier

To make your shawarma healthy, it is advisable that you use chicken. Also, substitute regular oil or fat with olive oil when cooking it. 

Avoid roasting the chicken with a flame that’s too hot. This can cause carcinogens to form that may cause cancer. Rather, keep it medium to prevent the meat from being charred. 

SEE: How Common Salmonella Is In Chicken: Read This To Avoid Food Malady


Is doner kebab meat keto-friendly?

Yes, doner kebab is keto-friendly because it mostly contains protein (meat) and vegetables, hence they make the best keto-friendly option.

What meat can you use for the doner kebab?

The traditional or originally used doner kebab meat is lamb. However, chicken, veal, turkey, and beef work as suitable alternatives.

Is doner kebab healthy? 

Doner kebab is generally considered unhealthy due to its high-calorie content. However, the presence of vegetables in the doner kebab makes it a more healthy fast-food option than most street foods.


Both shawarma and doner kebab is delicious. Whether you’re buying from a food cart or a full-fledged restaurant, they’re both clearly popular dishes that you will enjoy eating.

In fact, the shawarma despite being in the Middle East for a long time originated from the Turkish doner kebab and shares some similarities with it. 

In the end, both shawarma and doner kebab have their pros and cons. They serve different purposes and taste better in different situations. 

Finally, if you’re like me and you eat either of these delicious Middle Eastern dishes on a frequent basis, you’ll really appreciate having both as options. Another street food that shares similarities with shawarma and doner kebab is the Greek gyro.

Find out how the Greek gyro also differs from the doner kebab, its nutritional benefits, and how to make it.

I hope you found this article helpful. Thanks for reading.