Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Signature Flavor: Shawarma Show This potato-based take on the shawarma boasts better-for-you benefits as well as showstopping creativity

Giving a veg-centric spin to an Eastern Med classic concept, the Potato Shawarma boasts bold flavors from sumac, ras el hanout, cinnamon, turmeric and allspice.

There’s a fascination with Eastern Mediterranean foods and flavors. It makes sense—it’s a part of the world bursting with bold spices, craveable street foods and rich food culture. In today’s exciting landscape of global mash-ups, the Eastern Med also offers easily translatable and adaptable dishes.

Shawarma, that flavor-rich meat cooked on a spit, has made big moves on American menus.

Chef RJ Harvey, global foodservice marketing manager with Potatoes USA, saw a plant-centric version on the menu at Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, starring celery root and truffles. “This innovative dish inspired me to create a more accessible version using potatoes,” he says. “Instead of truffles, we opted for traditional Middle Eastern spices.”

Apart from the primed-for-Instagram appeal of a potato shawarma, it taps into another giant movement in this country: plant-forward dining. “We are no longer defining dishes as vegetarian,” says Harvey. “We are simply making delicious food, using our talent as chefs and featuring them in a way that is craveable.”

This recipe sees a tower of marinated Russet potato slices that have been dipped in an aggressively seasoned mashed potato and egg mixture, which works to bind the potatoes into a shawarma-like cone. It’s vertically sandwiched between two generous slices of pineapple and roasted. “As the shawarma roasts, the pineapple drips its juices into the potatoes, adding sweetness and dimension,” says Harvey.

Get the recipe for Roasted Lebanese Potato Shawarma

This showstopper was originally designed for a carving station or a pop-up restaurant, but Harvey points out its versatility: “It can be arranged on a share plate, or used in a slider on mini flatbread, or as a base for grilled lamb with tzatziki and pickled vegetables.”

Part of the growth in plant-based culinary innovations resulting in cutting-edge builds like this is consumers’ desire for cleaner and healthier eating. Thanks to potatoes as the central feature, the nutritional profile of this shawarma build is rich in potassium, complex carbohydrates and fiber.

Combined with the functional benefits of the traditional spices—turmeric, clove, fenugreek and cinnamon—this potato-based take on the shawarma can boast better-for-you benefits—as well as showstopping creativity.

From the November-December issue of Flavor & the Menu magazine. Read this issue online or check if you qualify for a free print subscription.


About The Author


Katie Ayoub serves as managing editor of Flavor & The Menu and content strategist for the Flavor Experience, an annual conference geared toward chain operators. She is president of Katie Ayoub & Associates, serving up menu trends expertise, content creation and food & beverage consultancy. Based in Chicago, Katie has been working in foodservice publishing for more than 20 years and part of the Flavor team since 2006. [email protected]