The Untraditional Meat That's Popular For Israeli Shawarma

Does warm bread wrap stuffed with meat, spices, and veggies sound like something you want to enjoy for lunch? Well, then, you'd absolutely love shawarma (pronounced shuh-wor-muh). Shawarma is an important meal in the Middle East and is reminiscent of the Greek gyro recipe, which uses pita bread to hold spiced meat, tzatziki, and a combination of veggies. Shawarma and gyros, though similar, are not the same, but the basic bread, meat, and veggie combo are. These old-world sandwiches are so good that people travel around the world to get an authentic bite.

According to Bashas Shawarma, the dish is often made using a variety of meats (chicken, lamb, beef, etc.) spiced with cumin, turmeric, and paprika. Shawarma is served hot and ready after the meat is shaved from a massive rotisserie spit and paired with foods such as lettuce, tomatoes, tangy pickles, or even turnips! The sauces spread in the shawarma wrap are traditional Middle Eastern ingredients like tahini (made by toasting ground sesame) and hummus (a blend of chickpeas and tahini). Shawarma is a highly diverse food enjoyed in countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea and stretching further east. Every country has its own favorite recipe, but in Israel today, there is a particular meat used that is unique in the world of shawarma-making: Turkey.

Turkey is a fan-favorite

It may come as a surprise, but the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the country that chows down on the most turkey meat annually per capita is Israel. The small country is located in the Middle East along the Mediterranean sea. It is considered a holy land for many Abrahamic religions and the site of some incredible turkey shawarma. According to The Culture Trip, Israeli shawarma uses a bread wrap of either pita or laffa, which are flatbreads perfect for holding very juicy meat. The meat in question? Unlike the red meat (lamb or beef) commonly used in many Middle Eastern dishes, the shawarma most widely uses a mix of chicken and turkey to fill their wraps. The sauces and veggies remain consistent with the traditional shawarma in other regions. The turkey is stuck on a large skewer, and pieces are shaved from the sides.

The Taste of Kosher claims that shawarma originated in the heart of the Ottoman Empire and spread outward in a wave of fresh bread and garlic. In Israel, turkey shawarma is so wildly popular that though the turkey animal is not native to the region (they are distinctly American birds), the average person in Israel consumes over 28 pounds annually. In comparison, Americans only indulge in 16.7 lbs pounds, and that's only thanks to holiday practices, via Times of Israel.