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Hawa Hassan's Xawaash-Spiced Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Hawa Hassan's Xawaash-Spiced Chicken Sandwich
Hawa Hassan's Xawaash-Spiced Chicken SandwichCourtesy Kate Burr
Cook Time:
25 mins
Prep Time:
20 mins

Chef notes

So, here's a sandwich with a twist. In between the chicken and bread, we put in xawaash, a Somali spice blend that adds great and distinctive taste. Somali food is typically seasoned with this spice blend and it helps give every recipe a unique level of flavoring. And it's also what makes this chicken breast sandwich so special.

Technique tip: Once the chicken breast is cooked, remove from the pan and let it rest on a cutting board to avoid overcooking.


  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 pound thinly sliced chicken breast cutlets
  • 1 tablespoon xawaash (recipe above)
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup good-quality mayonnaise
  • 1 (20- to 24-inch-long) baguette, split and cut into 4 segments
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh mint and/or cilantro leaves
  • sliced fresh or pickled jalapeño (optional)


For the xawaash:

Combine the cumin, coriander, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in a small skillet over low heat. Stir and toast until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool.

Transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a powder. (If the spices are mostly ground with a few chunks, you can sift it and return just the large pieces to regrind.) Stir in the turmeric. Store in an airtight jar. The xawaash will keep in a cool, dark place for several months.

For the sandwich:


Put the chicken breast cutlets in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the xawaash and season with salt. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat the chicken in the spices. Let sit at room temperature while you preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.


Grill the chicken until well charred and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove to a cutting board to rest for 5-10 minutes.


To serve, slice the chicken against the grain. Spread half of the mayonnaise on the bottom pieces of the baguette. Layer on the sliced cucumber. Pile the sliced chicken on top. Top with the herbs and jalapeño, if using. Spread the remaining mayonnaise on the baguette tops, close the sandwiches and serve.

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