The classic New York street food, Halal Cart Chicken, turned into a healthy, easy-to-make, salad topped with a yogurt-based garlic lemon sauce. This recipe uses rotisserie chicken and easy-to-find ingredients!
I love Middle Eastern flavors, especially when paired with chicken. I came across a recipe idea for this Halal Cart Chicken Salad in Bon Appetite’s most recent issue, and I had to give it a shot.
Let me tell you. This halal cart chicken recipe is SO easy and SO delicious, It’ll be on my regular rotation for quick-and-easy meal prep recipes.
This recipe is intended to be a riff of the traditional halal cart chicken you’d find in NYC. We use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, and dress it up in toasted spices and savory olive oil. You can take it a step further by returning it to the pan for additional browning.
The end result is a flavorful, warmly spiced chicken salad that’s refreshing, and topped with an addictive garlic lemon sauce. The sauce itself is worth making for salads, bowls, and dips.
So what is Halal Cart Chicken?
Okay, full disclosure here: I’m not a NYC native. So what I know is basically what I’ve both seen from visits, and what I’ve gleaned from online and print articles.
Halal Cart Chicken is a Middle Eastern-inspired street food that has made it’s way into NYC. It’s spiced, seared chicken, served on top of bed of yellow rice, topped with tomatoes, greens, and drizzled in a white sauce.
How to Make Halal Cart Chicken Salad:
To keep this dish low carb, and a touch healthier than the standard street food, we’re nixing the rice and putting the chicken on a bed of crunchy iceberg lettuce.
If you like your carbs, I highly recommend toasting up some pita chips and crumbling them on top of the salad. Alternatively, you could cook up yellow rice and toss it in the salad.
1. Shred The Chicken
The first step in this recipe is to shred the chicken. if you can’t find rotisserie chicken, you can absolutely use regular chicken and shred it (slow cooker chicken would work great)! Set the shredded chicken aside in a medium bowl.
Note: If you decide to cook your own chicken, keep in mind that rotisserie chicken is typically pre-seasoned, and therefore you may need to increase the amount of spices or salt you’re using.
2. Toast the Spices
Next, you briefly toast the spices in a small saucepan in a quarter cup of olive oil (I promise it’s not as much as it sounds).
Why are we toasting the spices, you ask? Can’t we just mix everything together? Sure, you could. But here’s the thing: When you toast the spices first, you awaken the aromatic oils in the spices which really enhances the natural flavors.
The process of toasting spices in the saucepan should only take 30 seconds to a minute (depending on how high you have it – I recommend no more than medium heat because it can burn).
Make sure to watch the spices and don’t walk away. Trust me, burning spices are pungent and will probably set off your fire alarm.
As soon as the spices are toasted, remove from the heat. Scrape the spices in a small bowl, and whisk together with the mashed, roasted garlic and lemon juice.
3. Toss the Chicken with the Spices
Stir and mix with your hands, as needed. Set aside.
4. Make the Garlic-Lemon Sauce
To make this recipe, I like to use homemade roasted garlic. If you’ve never roasted garlic before, check out my recipe for whole roasted garlic.
Alternatively, there are a plethora of recipes on the internet for garlic confit and roasted garlic cloves!
The Garlic-Lemon sauce is so easy – just whisk all the ingredients together. Time permitting, allow the mixture to rest in the refrigerator for approximately an hour. This helps the flavors to meld. Give it a whisk before serving.
This sauce will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container. I do not recommend freezing it as the consistency may be altered.
5. Put the Salad Together
Chop the iceberg lettuce into medium chunks, drizzle the garlic lemon sauce on top of the lettuce, layer with chicken, and finish with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and more garlic lemon sauce.
Seriously, this couldn’t get any easier!
Feel free to add other toppings you’d like. Traditional halal cart chicken may not call for cheese, but I like to throw some feta on top.
Halal Cart Chicken Tips
- This dish is a super easy meal prep recipe. To make ahead for the week, I recommend preparing the chicken and sauce according to the recipe.
- When you are ready to enjoy the salad, proceed to chop up the lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber. I find that cut tomatoes and cucumbers get a bit mushy as they sit, and iceberg lettuce begins to brown a bit.
- The chicken is good for approximately 4 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- If you don’t think you’ll eat the chicken within 3 to 4 days of making it, you can freeze the chicken in an airtight container for up to a month.
- To defrost, remove from the refrigerator and allow to defrost overnight. Alternatively, you can use the defrost function on your microwave to get the process rolling!
- I don’t recommend freezing the garlic lemon sauce… and definitely do not freeze the veggies!
For Crispy Chicken:
- If you prefer a bit of crisp or char on your chicken, start by toasting your spices in a medium skillet (instead of a saucepan).
- Toast the spices for approximately 30 seconds, then add your chicken and let sit. Do not stir or move around the pan. Allow the chicken to continue cooking for another couple of minutes until a char begins to form.
- Give it another toss, and allow the char to form on other areas of the chicken. Remove from the pan and toss with the lemon juice and roasted mashed garlic.
Other Ways to Enjoy Halal Cart Chicken:
- In a wrap.
- On a bed of yellow, spiced rice.
- In a burrito bowl.
- On a bun, topped with cheese and garlic lemon sauce.
Halal Cart Chicken Salad with Lemon Garlic Sauce
- 1 medium skillet
- 2 cups (1 pound) shredded chicken, from one rotisserie chicken
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, use half if Morton's
- 2 roasted garlic cloves, mashed into fine paste (substitute raw garlic cloves, finely minced)
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from approximately 1 regular lemon)
Lemon Garlic Yogurt Sauce
- 1 cup (226 g) plain whole milk Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey, substitute sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeeze lemon juice (from approximately 1/2 regular lemon)
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, use half if Morton's
- 3 roasted garlic cloves, mashed into fine paste
- 1 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 cup cucumber (optional) peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch thick slices
- 1 cup pita chips (optional)
- Place the shredded chicken in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the extra-virgin olive oil and add the oregano, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and smoked paprika. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Transfer the spices to a small bowl, and whisk in 2 mashed roasted garlic cloves and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour the mixture on top of the chicken and toss to combine. Taste and adjust salt. Set aside.
Lemon Garlic Yogurt Dressing
- In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, remaining 3 roasted garlic cloves (mashed), 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Cut the lettuce into wedges, and top with onion, tomato, chicken, cucumbers (if using) and crushed pita chips. Drizzle the yogurt sauce on top, and season with pepper. Enjoy! Serve immediately.
- if you want to make the chicken ahead of time, you may do so and freeze it. The chicken can be defrosted in the refrigerator overnight.
- The dressing can be made up to five days in advance if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You may need to give it a stir to combine.
- Traditional halal cart chicken is served simply with rice, tomatoes, and pita. While cucumbers and other toppings aren't traditional, they work lovely in this recipe!