Plant-Based Tofu Shawarma Pitas Recipe

Shawarma is a popular Middle-Eastern street food that often takes the form of a sandwich — wrapped in with pita with a variety of fillings — but it can also be served as a platter with the bread on the side. Shawarma is traditionally made from meat like lamb or beef that is roasted on a rotating vertical spit. Toppings like fresh vegetables, pickles, hummus, french fries, and tahini sauce traditionally accompany the meat. For those interested in a plant-based version, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, and mixed vegetables are all good options to use as the main filling.

Recipe developer Michelle Bottalico has created a vegan shawarma recipe featuring extra-firm marinated tofu. The tofu is first marinated in a robust seasoning blend and then pan fried in a cast iron pan until crispy, browned, and bursting with flavor. We top the tofu with tomato, red onion, lettuce, and pickles as well as a generous drizzle of lemony, garlicky tahini sauce. If you've only had bland or tasteless tofu before, don't hesitate to try making it like this, as the flavor of the spice blend paired with the caramelized browned crust is simply delicious. When the tofu is wrapped in a pita with the right toppings, all the ingredients come together to form a delicious and filling meal that might just turn you into a fan of tofu.

Gather your tofu shawarma pita ingredients

For this recipe, you will need a package of extra firm tofu as well as the following ingredients for the tofu marinade: cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, white vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. You can press the tofu first if desired, but for this recipe it is not really necessary.

For the tahini sauce, you will need tahini paste, garlic, lemon juice, water, and salt. You'll need pitas if you want to serve this as sandwiches, and the toppings we use in this recipe are tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, and pickles. The pickles could be sliced dill pickles or, for a more Middle-Eastern style, any kind of pickled vegetables including carrots, onions, turnips, cauliflower, pepper, cabbage, and beets.

Step 1: Drain and cube the tofu

Drain the tofu and press it slightly by hand to squeeze out a little water, pat it dry, and cut it into ½-inch cubes.

Step 2: Whisk the marinade ingredients

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well to combine.

Step 3: Marinate the tofu

Add the tofu to the bowl and mix gently to coat it in the marinade. Set the bowl aside for 30 minutes to marinate.

Step 4: Make the tahini sauce

To make the tahini sauce, place the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water, and salt in a small bowl and whisk well until thickened and creamy. Set aside.

Step 5: Heat the oil

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium high.

Step 6: Place the tofu in the pan

Place the marinated tofu cubes in a single layer in the hot pan, in batches if necessary. Do not add extra marinade beyond what is coating the pieces.

Step 7: Fry the tofu

Fry the tofu for about 10 minutes until crispy and browned, flipping occasionally with a spatula to cook on all sides.

Step 8: Finish the tofu

Remove the pan from the heat, pour a little of the remaining marinade over the tofu, and mix gently.

Step 9: Place the tofu in the pitas

Assemble the shawarma by first distributing the tofu evenly at the center of the 4 pitas.

Step 10: Add the toppings

Add the tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles to taste, and a generous drizzle of tahini sauce on top of the tofu.

Step 11: Serve the tofu shawarma pitas

Serve immediately.

Do I need to serve vegan tofu shawarma in a pita?

Shawarma is often served in a pita as a sandwich, but if you don't eat bread or want to try other options there are several alternatives you can consider. You can serve it on other kinds of flatbread. One option is a Middle Eastern bread called saj, which is eaten in Turkey, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. It's similar to a pita but it's thinner and unleavened. You could also use fluffy naan bread or even warm tortillas.

You can also serve shawarma as a platter instead of a sandwich. The platter can include the bread on the side, or you can omit it. To make a tofu shawarma platter, place a serving of fried marinated tofu on a large plate, and surround it with a variety of sides, garnishes, and sauces. You can include a Middle Eastern salad made from tomato, cucumber, red onion, parsley, and lemon juice, or simply place sliced raw vegetables or pickled vegetables on the plate. Hummus and olives are delicious additions. Rice, tabbouli, and french fries are other options that are commonly served with shawarma. Top the platter with a generous drizzle of tahini sauce.

What can I substitute for tofu in vegan shawarma?

If you don't like tofu, you can make this shawarma with other high-protein foods, but you might want to give tofu a chance. It's a bland food that many people don't appreciate on its own, but it can become quite tasty with the right seasoning and cooking methods. If you've only had tasteless tofu or tofu with too soft a texture, consider trying the marinating and cooking techniques in this recipe. The tofu is infused with flavor from all the spices in the marinade and the pan frying makes it crispy, changing it completely from its uncooked form. In addition, we use extra-firm tofu in this recipe, which is never mushy.

Shawarma is traditionally made with meat of course, so vegan copycat versions of beef or chicken can be used. For other plant-based options, tempeh is a good alternative to tofu. Tempeh has a different, stronger, flavor and can be marinated and pan fried just like tofu. Chickpeas and mixed vegetables like cauliflower, onion, and bell peppers, marinated and fried as described in this recipe, would make a delicious dish. 

Plant-Based Tofu Shawarma Pitas Recipe
5 from 29 ratings
Marinated tofu, fried till crispy and wrapped in pita with fresh veggies and zesty tahini dressing, makes a tasty, satisfying plant-based version of shawarma.
Prep Time
40
minutes
Cook Time
12
minutes
Servings
4
Sandwiches
wrapped tofu shawarma on table
Total time: 52 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the marinated tofu
  • 1 (12-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil + more for frying
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • For the tahini sauce
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 generous pinch of salt
  • For the sandwiches
  • 4 pitas
  • 2 plum or vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • Pickles to taste
Directions
  1. Drain the tofu and press it slightly by hand to squeeze out a little water, pat it dry, and cut it into ½-inch cubes.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well to combine.
  3. Add the tofu to the bowl and mix gently to coat it in the marinade. Set the bowl aside for 30 minutes to marinate.
  4. To make the tahini sauce, place the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water, and salt in a small bowl and whisk well until thickened and creamy. Set aside.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium high.
  6. Place the marinated tofu cubes in a single layer in the hot pan, in batches if necessary. Do not add extra marinade beyond what is coating the pieces.
  7. Fry the tofu for about 10 minutes until crispy and browned, flipping occasionally with a spatula to cook on all sides.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat, pour a little of the remaining marinade over the tofu, and mix gently.
  9. Assemble the shawarma by first distributing the tofu evenly at the center of the 4 pitas.
  10. Add the tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles to taste, and a generous drizzle of tahini sauce on top of the tofu.
  11. Serve immediately.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 213
Total Fat 13.2 g
Saturated Fat 1.9 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 18.8 g
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g
Total Sugars 1.9 g
Sodium 297.8 mg
Protein 8.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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