Tofu Shawarma Pita Wraps

published Jul 21, 2022
Tofu Shawarma Pita Wraps Recipe
Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
tofu shawarma in on pita on pink tile
Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Greg Lofts; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez Hart

My love for shawarma is deep and I will go to great lengths to find or make the perfect version of this popular street food. I love the fact that it’s a complete meal in a wrap, and is packed full of flavor in a way that is hard to achieve in other foods: complex spices, creamy tahini tanginess, and a sharpness from the pickles to cut through the richness.

While a skewer of rotisserie meat is often a major component of this meal, the vegetarian option that many Arabic food spots offer is a falafel wrap. I love falafel, but it’s quite a different experience, in both taste and texture. Even though my Egyptian heritage says it’s logical to have falafel instead of shawarma, it doesn’t work for me. When I want shawarma, nothing else compares, and I would rather find a vegetarian way to make something more similar. 

Credit: Photo: Chris Simpson; Food Styling: Greg Lofts; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez Hart

Enter: firm tofu, and the freezing technique. While I’ve been pressing tofu for a firmer texture, I recently learned that if you freeze your tofu, then defrost it, it has an even firmer, meatier texture when cooked. Not only that, but it can also absorb marinades and sauces better, which makes it perfect for shawarma, which is all about the spice marinade.

I like to freeze it overnight, then transfer it to the fridge in the morning to defrost during the day. The amazing thing about this method is that the tofu absorbs the flavor of the marinade in just 15 minutes, while meat usually needs to marinate overnight to have the same impact. Using tofu is not only cheaper than using a leg of lamb, but it’s also easier to make — and the result is a tasty dish that is just as satisfying.

Tofu Shawarma Pita Wraps, by the Numbers

You can make this dinner for four for less than $10. Here’s the ingredient-by-ingredient cost breakdown. (Prices will vary depending on your location and where you’re shopping.)

Tofu Filling

  • 1 pound firm tofu $2.98
  • 4 medium or 3 large tomatoes $0.87
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow onions $0.99
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar $0.05
  • 1/3 cup olive oil $0.61
  • 1 tablespoon ground Arabic seven spice or baharat $0.12
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric $0.44
  • 1 tablespoon ground smoked paprika $0.19
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Tahini Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons tahini $0.20
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar $0.03
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice $0.22
  • 1 pinch ground cumin (optional) $0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed

For Serving

  • Flour tortilla; $1.98
  • Some pickles, like pickled cucumbers, turnips, or carrots $0.58

Total cost: $9.27

Tofu Shawarma Pita Wraps Recipe

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the tofu filling:

  • 1 (14 to 16-ounce) package

    firm tofu

  • 1/3 cup

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    distilled white vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground Arabic seven spice or bahārāt

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground turmeric

  • 1 tablespoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    large or 2 small yellow onions

  • 4

    medium or 3 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

For the tahini dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons

    tahini

  • 2 tablespoons

    distilled white vinegar

  • 1/2

    medium lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    water, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 pinch

    ground cumin (optional)

For serving:

  • 4

    (8 to 10-inch) burrito-sized flour tortillas, or large pitas with pockets

  • Pickles, such as pickled cucumbers, turnips, or carrots

  • Sliced cucumbers (optional)

Instructions

Make the tofu filling:

  1. Drain and cut 1 block firm tofu into 1-inch cubes. Place in a single layer on a large plate or baking sheet. Freeze for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Place in the refrigerator to thaw for at least 3 or up to 24 hours.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF.

  3. Place 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of seven-spice/baharat, 1 tablespoon ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Transfer 1 tablespoon to a small bowl and reserve for the vegetables.

  4. Pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Add to the marinade and gently toss to combine (don’t worry if some of the pieces break). Let marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, cut 1 large or 2 small yellow onions into large dice (about 1 1/3 cups). Core and large dice 4 medium or 3 large tomatoes (about 3 1/3 cups).

  5. Transfer the tofu to a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the pieces in a single layer without touching. Bake until nicely browned on the edges and firm to the touch, indicating a chewy texture, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  6. Place the onion and tomatoes on the same baking sheet (no need to wash), drizzle with the reserved marinade, and toss to combine. Spread out into an even layer. Roast until the onions are lightly browned and the tomatoes soften, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing.

Make the tahini dressing:

  1. Place 2 tablespoons tahini and 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar in a small bowl and stir to combine. Juice 1/2 medium lemon into the bowl (about 1 tablespoon). Add 1/4 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and continue to mix vigorously. The mixture will seize up at first as you mix it, then turn into a smooth and creamy sauce as you add the water and continue mixing. The sauce should be slightly runny; if it’s too thick, mix in a little more water. Stir in a pinch of ground cumin if desired.

  2. Assemble the wraps: Place the tofu, tomatoes, and onions in a pita or a wrap, drizzle with the tahini dressing, and top with pickles. Delicious as-is, but if you want more freshness, add some cucumber slices.

Recipe Notes

Spices: If bahārāt or seven-spice is hard to find, use 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin and 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon instead

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 3 days. The sauce will thicken up, so loosen with a few drops of water before serving.