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Shawarma Burgers with Chef Drew

Written by Drew Brown, Director of Food Service at the J

Occasionally the culinary staff here at the J holds impromptu culinary competitions. Like most creative professions; we are passionate, proud, and competitive about the work we do. I encourage that competitive spirit in my staff because we often come up with remarkably good dishes that end up on one of our menus. Some of our competitions have included Dairy Pizzas, Veggie Burgers, Beef Burgers, and BBQ.

We ask other departments to come in and judge the results to keep things fair. This recipe was my entry into one of the competitions. I was trying to make a burger that looks and tastes like Kafta (Israeli Meatballs).

These seem like a lot of work on paper but most of the work can be done the day before. The end product is Israeli street food with sweet, savory, and a little heat that packs a flavor punch. You may be able to find a prepared shawarma spice blend, there are several good local companies blending spice rubs that would work just fine in this recipe. Happy Grilling!

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Shawarma Burger Recipe


Shawarma Rub
¼ cup Granulated Garlic or Garlic Powder
¼ cup Ground Cumin¼ Cup Ground Coriander
8 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
8 teaspoons Kosher Salt
4 teaspoons Ground Cardamom
4 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
2 teaspoons Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Turmeric
3 teaspoons Oregano

Israeli Ketchup:
1 cup Ketchup
1 tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 tablespoon Tahini Paste
1 tablespoon Paprika
½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Cucumber Relish:
1 Cucumber-peeled, seeded, diced
½ Onion, diced
2 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoon Minced Cilantro
2 tablespoon Sugar
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Pepper

Burger Ingredients:
1 lb. Ground Chuck
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
4 tablespoon Shawarma Rub (see above)
½ cup of your Favorite Hummus
1 Tomato Sliced into 4 thick slices
4 Burger Buns


The day before or an hour or two prior to cooking/service:

  1. Make the shawarma rub by combining the ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Make the cucumber relish by combining all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Make the Israeli Ketchup by combining all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl or Tupperware container.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Preheat your grill and bring it up to a very high temperature.
  5. Mix the ground chuck, tomato paste, and 4 tablespoons of the Shawarma Rub together in a small mixing bowl. Patty out 4 burgers. Dust them with a little more of the shawarma rub on both sides of the patties.
  6. Once the grill is very hot. Grill the sliced tomato, flipping it just once. It will cook in just a minute or so on each side. Set them aside.
  7. Grill your burger patties to the temperature you prefer. I cook mine 5 minutes on each side for a nice medium.
  8. Assemble the burgers as follows:
    • Bottom bun, 1-2 tablespoons hummus, Burger Patty, 1 tablespoon Israeli Ketchup, A Slice of Grilled Tomato, 2 tablespoons Cucumber Relish (drain most of the liquid off), and the Top Bun.

The man behind the meals: Drew Brown is the Director of Food Service at the J. He is a graduate of Cincinnati State, The University of Cincinnati, and received his Master’s degree from The College of Mount Saint Joseph. He is the Chef-Owner of Spice Spice Baby Cincinnati, and his recipes have won multiple awards in cooking competitions around the Tri-State. Drew is the Founder of Avon Miami Charities, a charity that prepares and distributes more than 10,000 meals a year to local homeless shelters.

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