Food/ Main Dishes

Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma Lettuce Cups

I am extremely excited to bring you these Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma Lettuce Cups. Not only is this recipe quick and easy, but it’s my first self-developed IP chicken recipe. So it’s pretty special.

When the Instant Pot first came out, you would’ve had a hard time convincing me that I’d eventually jump onto that bandwagon. Aside from the fact that I was living a pescetarian lifestyle at the time, there was the fact that the IP seemed marketed toward busy mom’s desperate for a quick weeknight dinner solution.

I eventually phased poultry back into my diet and, soon after that, learned that quick weeknight dinner solutions were also a godsend to childless creatives that work at home—like myself—because seriously. Who doesn’t love a quick dinner. Ease and simplicity isn’t exclusive and I have no idea what world my head was floating in, but I’m glad I’ve grounded it.

Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma Lettuce Cups.

The first few recipes I made in the Instant Pot were extremely watery and left me feeling defeated. I remember having to remove the meat, hit the sauté function, and stir in a slurry to thicken the sauce. Unlike with a slow cooker, the liquid in a pressure cooker doesn’t evaporate and reduce—so you won’t end up with a thick, gooey, sticky, beautiful mess. With that in mind, if you use too much liquid you end up with a watery, flavorless bath.

The rule of thumb with the Instant Pot seems to suggest a minimum of 1 cup of liquid, but I’ve learned that 1/2 cup of liquid will indeed work, and I’ve been sticking with that so far. It’s worked perfectly for this recipe. You’re presented with just a bit of liquid upon opening the lid when done, and once you shred the chicken, stir it, and let it sit for a few minutes, the shredded chicken soaks up all of that saucy goodness.

The original recipe for IP chicken shawarma I found worked as a wonderful guide—but there were a few spices missing in the mix, like cardamom and all spice. After doing some research, I was able to come up with this concoction and I think it worked out really well in comparison to some of the shawarma I’ve had at middle eastern restaurants.

Why lettuce cups?

You surely don’t have to limit yourself to lettuce cups. Snuggle it into a wrap, lay it over a pita, or dump it onto a salad—it’s all delicious! Right now, my husband and I are in “I want to fit into this shirt/these pants again” mode, so we’re inching back on snacks and bad habits and trying to eat lighter with more proteins and veggies.

Load up on fresh ingredients.

This recipe inevitably calls for a topping of crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, and a dollop of cooling tzatziki. When it comes to the tzatziki, I definitely recommend going the homemade route! It’s just so sososo good :)

If you make this dish, snap a photo and tag me on the Insta @killing__thyme! I love seeing your creations, and you could be featured in my monthly newsletter <3

Check out some of my other low-carb lettuce cup recipes:

5 from 9 votes

Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma Lettuce Cups

Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma Lettuce Cups are a great way to kick things up a notch during the week. They're fast, easy, and super nutritious.
Course Entree or Side
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword Chicken, Instant Pot, Lettuce Cups, Low carb, Shawarma
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Natural Instant Pot release 15 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Servings 16 Lettuce Cups (give or take)
Author Dana Sandonato


Instant Pot Chicken Shawarma.

  • 2 heads of bibb or butter lettuce
  • 3 lbs chicken, boneless and skinless Can be thighs or breasts; look for cruelty-free ethically-raised.
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced and cut into quarters
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 TBSP cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 TBSP ground coriander
  • 1 TBSP ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric

Toppings and additions.


  1. Place the chicken and the onions in a large freezer bag or plastic container; set aside.

  2. Place the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and all of the spices into a large bowl and whisk until the mixture is well blended. Carefully pour the mixture into the bag or container, over the chicken. Seal the bag or container, then mix and shake until the chicken and onions are well coated.

  3. Transfer the chicken and onions into your Instant Pot and mix things around to ensure even coverage. Close the lid (follow the manufacturer's guide for instructions if needed). Set the Instant Pot to the Manual setting, and set the timer to 8 minutes on high pressure. In the meantime, prep your tomatoes and cucumbers.

  4. When the Instant Pot cycle is done, wait until the natural release cycle is complete—this should take about 15 minutes. (If you're in a rush, check the manufacturer's manual for quick release.) Carefully unlock and remove the lid from the Instant Pot. Let the steam release itself. When done and when safe, take two forks and shred the chicken so it resembles pulled chicken. Stir the chicken around to coat and let it sit for a few minutes to soak up the sauce.

  5. Serve with lettuce cups, tomatoes, cucumbers, and tzatziki or hummus.

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  • Reply
    Marisa Franca
    August 13, 2018 at 10:54 am What a great sounding recipe and I simply love using lettuce cups and serving bowls. I used to have an old fashion pressure cooker -- in fact I had two. I don't know what happened to them. I said I wasn't going to get an Instant Pot but everytime I see a delicious dish like this I'm tempted. I'm saving this recipe -- just in case.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 11:01 am Thanks, Marisa! I always said I'd never get an IP—mostly due to fear and paranoia since I've read some scary things about the "old school" pressure cookers. I thought, "What if it blows up? What if I lose an eye? What if… ?" But, the IP is super safe and technologically advanced so I'm pretty comfortable with it. (Though the first few times I went to release the pressure, I did it standing as far back as I could with the end of a wooden spoon, hitting it in nervous spurts and backing away. It probably looked like I was fencing... lol).
  • Reply
    August 13, 2018 at 10:18 am I have been SO HUNGRY when I've seen these chicken lettuce cups on social media. What a fantastic recipe for the Instant Pot! The Chicken Shawarma must be SO flavorful cooked this way and the drizzle of tzatziki on top must be the perfect accompaniment. What a great way to cook with the Instant Pot for a healthy, restaurant-quality dish.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 10:58 am Thanks, Amanda! Sounds like the video is doing its job ;)
  • Reply
    August 12, 2018 at 10:36 pm Giiiirl, that chicken looks like perfection! I still don't have an IP, but my momma does. I need to go visit and make this. The chicken looks so tender, and all those spices are fabulous. And I do love a good lettuce wrap!!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 10:57 am I hope you love it! Lettuce wraps always seem like such a snore at first blush, but when you bite into them? MAGIC.
  • Reply
    August 12, 2018 at 5:11 pm Welcome back to the world of chicken! And congrats on your first Instant Pot recipe! I too thought I wouldn't get on the IP bandwagon, but looks like we're going to be getting one soon!! Pinning this to try!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 10:56 am Thanks girl! I'm glad you're hopping onto the IP train. I think you'll love it! I hope you and your fam dig this recipe as much as we did. It's definitely going to become a regular thing here. SO GOOD.
  • Reply
    August 12, 2018 at 10:52 am Awesome! I am new to insta pot and don't have many recipes that everyone likes. We love shwarma so I am so excited to try this. The spices sounds perfect and I love how quick this comes together plus the suggestions of healthier options for wrapping. Thank you.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 10:54 am I hope everyone loves this as much as we did, Debra!
  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 3:54 pm Oh my goodness. When I saw the video playing on my Facebook feed, I was READY to try this! This looks AMAZING. I can't believe this is your first IP recipe on the blog. I love that you used lettuce cups instead of pitas because I'm trying to cut down my carb intake but I loooove shawarmas so this is the perfect alternative.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 10:53 am I'm really glad this recipe works for you, Carmy. It makes a lot, so it would be perfect for your meal preppin' :)
  • Reply
    Jennifer Bigler
    August 11, 2018 at 1:37 am This recipe is right up my alley. I'm a sucker for a good instant pot recipe. I need to eat less grains and this looks like the perfect easy recipe that is full of flavor! Do you think after I add the chicken and other ingredients to the ziplock I could freeze a few to cut down on my prep?
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 11, 2018 at 8:43 am Hi Jennifer! Do you mean make extra batches to freeze in advance? If so, then you could totally do that, but make sure to thaw the chicken prior to putting it in the Instant Pot.
  • Reply
    kristen kemp
    August 10, 2018 at 6:48 pm I have a brand new 6 qt instant pot. can I halve this recipe and, if so, do I have to adjust cooking time? thank you!!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 10, 2018 at 7:10 pm Hey Kristen! You can totally half his recipe. In your case I'd cook it for 8 minutes at high pressure and then do a quick release rather than let it naturally release. If by some chance you see that the chicken isn't cooked all the way through when you start to shred it, pop it onto high pressure for another 2 minutes, and that will take care of it. Good luck! Let me know how it goes :)
      • Reply
        Kristen Kemp
        August 10, 2018 at 7:15 pm Thank you for the immediate reply! This is now part of my weekend cooking plan!
        • Reply
          Killing Thyme
          August 10, 2018 at 7:32 pm I can't wait to hear how it goes! And welcome to the Instant Pot tribe ;) Have an awesome weekend!
  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 9:34 am My husband and I recently agreed that we need to start eating healthier because there's an entire side of our closet that we can't fit into right now, so I really appreciate the healthy nature of this shwarma. The lettuce cups are genius and I think it would be great on a kale salad, too. I don't have an Instant pot (only person on the planet who doesn't). Are there any changes I should make if I do this in my dutch oven? Would appreciate your tips.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 10:52 am Haha, I'm glad we're not alone ;) Also! Thanks for reminding me: I meant to write a little blurb for folks without an Instant Pot. So I'm going to add that in here today. But to answer your question—I'd go ahead and dump the chicken and sauce into your Dutch oven and bake at the temp and time you normally would for poultry. Once it's done, you could remove the chicken and roughly chop it or even cube it, toss it in what sauce is leftover, and serve it that way. If you do try it, please let me know. I'd love to know if it works well. Thanks, Lisa!
  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 9:29 am I would devour these for lunch or dinner. This is the perfect meal to feed a crowd. Love this chicken recipe...and since I don't have an Instant Pot, I will try to make this in my regular pressure cooker.
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      August 13, 2018 at 10:48 am Hi Gloria! You should have no problems doing this in your pressure cooker. Please let me know how they turn out. I hope you love them!

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