Sometimes, you simply want the seasonings, sauces and sides that go with a traditional meat dish, without the meat. I’ve been doing it for years, taking tried and true flavor combinations and layering them on to plant-based foods, with great success.

If you’ve ever enjoyed meatless tacos, it’s time to try another great flavor and make shawarma. I’ll even make it really easy and do a Sheet-Pan Cauliflower-Chickpea Shawarma with vegetables.

Shawarma is a classic Middle Eastern dish, made with meat that’s been seasoned with some combination of turmeric, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and cardamom. The spiced meats are stacked up on a skewer, roasted and then shaved off to stuff in pita breads. Classic shawarma is cooked and served like gyros, although it’s chunkier.

The resulting sandwich is then served with chopped tomatoes and cucumber, marinated vegetables and tahini or yogurt sauce. All the gorgeous veggies are toppings and garnishes — so why not move them to the center of the plate?

For my vegetable version, I went with easy canned chickpeas and cauliflower, two of the favorite plant foods of the moment. Roasting the chickpeas makes them slightly firm and nutty, adding a chewy texture. The oven roasts the cauliflower to a tender, dense texture that seems almost meaty.

The balance of seasonings is what drew me to this recipe. The roasted vegetables and beans are coated in a colorful, fragrant mix of cumin, paprika, turmeric, a generous amount of black pepper, and the option of red pepper flakes for some heat. The turmeric and paprika tint the white cauliflower a lovely sunset orange, giving the results real curb appeal. Zingy lemon juice and olive oil are the Mediterranean flavor anchors that make the roast so satisfying.

If you want to make some sauces, simply stir up an easy tahini sauce, with half tahini and half lemon juice, and enough water to thin. You can also stir some chopped cucumber and dill into some plain yogurt, for a tangy topper.

I prefer to serve my shawarma on whole-wheat pita, for more fiber and nutrients. I also took a little creative license and sprinkled some chopped pistachios over the top for crunch.

This sheet-pan dinner goes Mediterranean, with spice!


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at