Pinoy Shawarma Rice with Garlic Yogurt Sauce

This Pinoy-style shawarma rice comes with buttery yellow rice, a veggie side salad, and garlic yogurt sauce. Best lunch break meal ever.
4 servings
20 Mins
Active Time
30 Mins

This Pinoy shawarma rice is the dish of your lunch break dreams assembled in the comfort of your own kitchen. No meat on a shawarma spit required, either—we cheat a bit by using pan-seared beef tapa. Expect the classics with everything else: steaming hot, turmeric-yellow rice; the crunchy side salad of tomatoes and cucumbers; the drizzle of creamy garlic yogurt sauce. Prep a big batch and you're set for lunch the entire work week.

What's in Pinoy shawarma rice?

This recipe has four components:

  • Beef tapa. Because no home cook has a vertical shawarma rotisserie in their kitchen, we're using beef tapa (hence Pinoy shawarma rice). We treat sliced sirloin in a sweet, garlicky soy marinade with a quick dash of ground cumin.
  • Yellow rice. Basmati rice is ideal for its nutty aroma and firm grains, but other long-grains like jasmine will work, too. Turmeric, melted butter, and kasubha all make your rice yellow. If you want extra Pinoy points, use margarine.
  • Veggie Side Salad. Thinly sliced tomatoes and cucumbers tossed in rice vinegar makes for a bright, refreshing side.
  • Garlic Yogurt Sauce. The best part of shawarma rice. Just stir in some minced garlic and garlic powder into plain (preferably Greek) yogurt.
What is Kasubha?
Kasubha, also known as safflower or Philippine saffron, is a coloring agent used in Filipino cooking to impart a yellow hue. While similar in appearance, it should not be confused with Spanish saffron. Kasubha comes from a different plant, and has a milder flavor and aroma.

Beef Tapa

  • 500g beef sirloin, tapa cut
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • ½ tsp ground cumin

Yellow Shawarma Rice

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp kasubha (safflower)
  • 2 cups long-grain rice, like jasmine or basmati, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water

Tomato-Cucumber Side Salad

  • 3 native tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2 large Japanese cucumbers, seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Garlic Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of salt

Marinate beef: In a large bowl, combine the beef with the soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and cumin. Set aside and let marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour.


Make yellow rice: Melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Once foaming, add turmeric and kasubha to the butter and cook, 3 minutes. Add long-grain rice and stir until grains are toasty and evenly coated with butter, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover pot and cook rice as usual.


Make side salad: Add tomatoes, cucumbers, rice vinegar, and olive oil to a mixing bowl. Toss until vegetables are well coated. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Make garlic yogurt sauce: Combine yogurt, garlic, and garlic powder in a small mixing bowl (or in the plastic cup the yogurt came in). Season with salt and pepper. Taste to adjust seasoning, then transfer sauce to a squeeze bottle.


Cook beef: Heat pan over high heat. Add beef and sear until a crust forms, 2 minutes. Flip to sear the second side, another 2 minutes. Remove beef from pan and let rest on a chopping board for 5–7 minutes. Using a sharp knife, slice the beef into small bite-sized pieces (about 1cm squares).


Assemble and serve: Divide turmeric rice between bowls. Top rice with chopped beef, then add a spoonful of salad on the side. Drizzle garlic yogurt sauce over everything; the iconic zigzag motion is required. Serve immediately.

This recipe has been updated with new ingredients and an improved procedure in 2024. The original recipe was published in 2015.

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