New York is full of smells…some of them good, some of them not so good, but one of the all time great scents is the halal cart. Seen from blocks away, the colorful LED signage drawing in patrons like moths to a flame. Everyone has their favorite guy, the one with the best hot sauce, the one who makes their chicken over charcoal, the one with the fresh pickles on the salad. Everyone has their order down too, some people go for lamb, some go for falafel, but me, I’ve always been a chicken and rice, white sauce hot sauce, extra pita. 

Bonus, you don’t have to go all the way to NYC now to get this amazing dish! Super flavorful chicken marinated in a bunch of spices and yogurt, amazingly simple and flavorful homemade yellow rice, and the all important white sauce. You’ve got the recipes…now go make them!

Marinating In Yogurt

Let’s talk marinating for a minute. The goal of marinating is to increase the flavor of whatever you’re cooking. I like to think about marinades in two categories: quick marinades, and slow marinades. Quick marinades are 30 minutes or less. This category would include a simple soy sauce, honey, garlic, lime marinade for steak or a quick lemon juice, garlic, spices marinade for shrimp. The quick marinades are all about coating and seasoning right before cooking, and they are more likely to include an acidic component (which will begin to ‘cook’ meat and fish, think ceviche). 

Slow marinades are similarly about getting flavor into the food, but also about chemical processes and tenderizing. Meat (and veggies!) are really just a web of interconnected molecules. Some of them are tougher than others, some of them are lined up, and some of them are holding more moisture. I like to think about marinating as a box of legos. When you first open the box you have a big pile of mismatched pieces, some long ones over here, some short ones over here, some wheels over here. Marinating is the process of taking those legos, and sorting them so that we can easily build the final masterpiece (cooking). 

For this marinade I use greek yogurt. The texture of the yogurt and the tangy flavor it brings are excellent additions to this dish. More importantly, because the yogurt is a cultured milk product it’s full of lactic acid which helps to break down the proteins in the chicken, giving us a super juicy end product. The same could be said for brining or using buttermilk.

Spice Up That Rice

You know those delicious boxes of rice from the grocery store? Yes, they’re super easy, but they also cost a pretty penny…and they’re made up of ingredients you have at home. Next time you’re in the store take a look at the back of the box, and you’ll recognize nearly everything in there. This rice takes that grocery store yellow rice and pumps it up a notch. 

Toasting rice ahead of time is an easy way to enhance the natural flavor of the rice, and decreases the cooking time. Adding the spices in while we toast the rice will make sure that every grain is flavorful and coated in the deliciousness. Finally, cooking the rice with stock instead of water gives a richer more rounded flavor profile to the finished rice.

Sear and Deglaze

In my opinion, deglazing is one of the most important kitchen skills. It’s one of the tricks you pick up along the way that turns the kitchen in a much less stressful place. All of those browned bits on the bottom of the pan that used to be a pain in the ass to clean up, now become a pan sauce, or an additional flavor layer. 

For this dish we’re trying to imitate the street carts of NYC. Those guys are all cooking on flat tops, but if you spend enough time watching them make their chicken shawarma, you notice they’re being tricky tricksters and constantly deglazing their cooking surfaces. As the chicken browns on the flat top, they spray it with water, and scrape off the brown fond from the griddle. We’re going to do the same thing, only we’re going to do it in our pan…and we’re going to use chicken stock because why not?! (And because chicken stock will thicken up a bit and give us an amazing sauce to finish cooking the chicken in.)

All Hail The White Sauce

The white sauce might be the most important part of this dish. It’s a closely guarded secret and every street cart has their own little twist on the theme. I’ve tried for years to make it without the mayo (surprise, I’m not the hugest fan of mayonnaise), but it’s impossible. Turns out there’s nothing super special about the sauce, it’s basically just pumped up mayonnaise with a couple of spices, fresh herbage, and greek yogurt. I add in a little bit of fresh garlic because I love that raw garlic spice, but you can leave that out if you have a hot date coming over.

Halal Cart Chicken and Rice

This chicken is just like the halal carts in NYC. Super juicy, super flavorful, and super easy to make.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Marinade Time10 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: cart, Chicken, halal, nyc, shawarma, white sauce


  • Large bowl for marinating
  • Large thick bottomed pan (should be able to fit the chicken)



  • lb Boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • tbsp Canola oil For cooking the chicken (can be vegetable or corn)
  • ½ cup Chicken stock


  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • ¼ tsp Red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp Black pepper
  • ½ tsp Onion powder
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • ¼ tsp Dried oregano
  • 5 tbsp Greek yogurt


  • cup White rice
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • cup Chicken stock
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • ½ tsp Garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp Cumin
  • ¼ tsp Kosher Salt
  • Couple twists of black pepper

The Sauce

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt Any fat percentage
  • 6 tbsp Mayonnaise Use a little more if you like mayo
  • ½ tbsp White sugar
  • 2 tbsp White vinegar
  • 1 tsp Lemon juice More if you want a little extra zing!
  • ¼ cup Fresh parsley
  • 1 Garlice clove optional, but recommended, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

The Salad

  • ½ Head of iceberg lettuce sliced into ribbons
  • ½ Large white onion Thinly sliced
  • 3 Vine tomatoes Scooped and diced (see the video)



  • 10-12 hours before cooking prepare and marinade the chicken. Place all of the chicken pieces into the bowl, combine spices in a separate small bowl, then cover the chicken in the spices (use tongs to keep your hands raw chicken free). After the chicken is evenly coated in the spices add in the greek yogurt and coat the chicken pieces evenly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to cook. I left mine for 10 hours, it was delicious, 10-12 hours should be perfect but you can also leave it overnight. The longer the chicken marinades the more flavorful and juicy it will be.
  • When you're ready to cook the chicken place a large pan on the stove and turn it on to a medium high heat. Put 1-2 tbsp of a neutral oil in the pan (canola, peanut, vegetable) and get it hot. When the pan is hot place in your chicken, you should be able to fit it all in the pan at once.
  • Cook the chicken on the first side until it is nice and browned and crispy. This should take about 5 minutes but keep an eye on it, everyone's stove is different! It will most likely be a little sticky on the bottom of the pan, that's all good just do your best to get it flipped over intact to cook the other side. Don't worry if your first side comes out a little dark, the yogurt marinade is full of lactose..which is basically milk sugar so it's going to carmelize.
  • After cooking the second side for 4-5 minutes remove the chicken from the pan and immediately add in ½ cup of chicken stock (you can use beer or water if you don't have any stock). Using a wooden spoon scrape off all that delicious brown stuff from the bottom of the pan, and reduce the liquid to a simmer.
  • While the liquid is simmering, chop up the chicken into small bite size pieces (less than an inch). When the chicken is chopped add it back into the pan and continue to cook it until it's cooked all the way through and the liquid has evaporated, about 5-10 minutes. Stir the chicken occasionally to get it coated in that pan sauce.
  • That's it! Serve it up with rice, and white sauce! Enjoy!


  • In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium low heat. Once the butter is melted add in the rice and spices. Toast the rice for 3-4 minutes or until it starts to brown, stirring once in a while to make sure nothing is burning.
  • Once the rice begins to brown, add in the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Once boiling cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Check on the rice after 15 minutes and continue to cook if it isn't done (it should be done).

The Sauce

  • For the sauce, simply combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together. Give it a taste for salt, pepper, and lemon. The sauce can be made ahead of time, I like to make it when I start to marinade the chicken. Refrigerate is made ahead of time.

The Salad

  • Doesn't get much simpler than this. Slice the iceberg into ribbons about 1-2cm thick. Dice up the tomato and scoop out the innards, no one wants a soggy goopy salad. Thinly slice up the white onion.