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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Gyros At Home

September 1st is National Gyro Day, and the first thing you need to know is that gyro is pronounced YEE-ro, not JY-ro.

A gyro is a Greek lamb sandwich on pita bread, roasted on a vertical spit and served with tomato, onion, and tzatziki, a yogurt-cucumber sauce (recipe). Other condiments and sauces can be added or substituted.

While lamb is traditional, chicken or pork can be used; outside Greece, you can find beef, lamb or another sausage, even veal. In addition to slices of meat, the meat can be minced and shaped into small patties.

The word “gyro” comes from the Greek word for “turn,” referencing the meat that is turning on the spit (see the photo towards the bottom of this article). A deboned leg of lamb is grilled on a rotating vertical spit and shaved off the leg in thin slices for the gyro.

Eating food off of pita bread or wrapping food in pita is an Ancient Greek tradition; the pita is served as an edible plate. The tradition continues today—although you’ll also get a piece of foil or kitchen parchment to hold the pita from a street vendor, and a plate in a restaurant.

Gyros, per se, originated in Greece, following the döner kebab of Turkey. Grilling stacked meat on a vertical spit and cutting cooked slices to serve is a technique developed in the Turkish city of Bursa in the 19th century.

Döner kebab literally means “rotating roast.” The sliced meat and other sandwich fixings were served on pita or other flatbread. Other relatives include shawarma from the Middle East and tacos al pastor from Mexico.

The reason Americans eat “gyros” and not “doner kebabs” can be traced to the larger amount of Greek immigrants to the U.S. in the 20th century. They set up gyro stands and introduced a welcome fast food to the nation.

The word gyro/gyros was in use in English at least by 1971 [source].

Most people eat gyros made by food vendors, but for National Pita Day, try making your own at home. The recipe below is adapted by one from Maria Benardis, award-winning author, chef and founder of Greekalicious, Sydney, Australia’s first exclusively Greek cooking school.

But for Maria’s recipe you don’t need a spit: Roasting the lamb is just as delicious.

If you don’t like lamb or don’t want to roast a whole leg, you can use any of the following:

  • Grilled or roasted beef, chicken or pork
  • Lamb sausage or other sausage variety
  • Grilled portobello mushrooms
  • Grilled fish fillet

  • Traditional condiments: lettuce, onion, tomato, tzatziki
  • Cilantro or parsley
  • Feta cheese
  • Black olives (pitted), pickles, pepperoncini
  • Shredded red cabbage or yogurt-based slaw
  • Tahini sauce (recipe)

    This recipe is more layered than your typical gyro. A salty feta crust forms on the lamb with some heat from the red chili flakes.

    Instead of the standard tzatziki yogurt-cucumber-garlic-dill sauce, Maria makes a herbed yogurt sauce which eliminates the cucumber but adds basil, mint and parsley. (It’s also a delicious dip.)


    Gyro Patties
    [1] Gyros made from chopped meat patties, with the traditional tzatziki sauce (yogurt and cucumber). Here’s the recipe from The Little Spice Jar (photo © The Little Spice Jar).

    Pork Gyro
    [2] Pork gyros served American style, with fries. Sometimes, a smaller number of fries are tucked into the pita, alongside the meat (recipe by Sam Sifton, photo © Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times, food stylist Maggie Ruggiero, prop stylist Rebecca Bartoshesky).

    Steak Gyro
    [3] Steak gyros. Here’s the recipe from Le Creme De La Crumb (photo © Le Creme De La Crumb).

    Maria also adds the baby potatoes to the gyro, but we prefer to serve them on the side. You can replace them with an all-American side of fries.
    Ingredient For 8 Servings

  • 8 pocketless whole wheat pita breads
  • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby arugula, washed and patted dry
    For The Lamb

  • 2-pound leg of lamb, de-boned
  • Salt and freshly-cracked pepper
  • Extra olive oil for drizzling
  • 16 bite size potatoes

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/giro stand Eaeeae Wiki 230
    [4] A traditional lamb gyro is made from lamb roasted on a vertical spit (photo © Eaeeae | Wikimedia).

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/lamb sausage gyro kevineats 230
    [5] A lamb sausage gyro from Kevin Eats (photo © Kevin Eats).


    For The Feta Mixture

  • 6 ounces Greek feta, cubed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions or shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
    For The Herbed Yogurt Sauce

  • 1-1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup dill fronds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt, to taste

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 355°F (180°C). Place the lamb and potatoes in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

    2. PLACE all ingredients for the feta mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth and thick. Coat the lamb well with the feta mixture. Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the lamb and the potatoes. Add enough water to the baking dish to just cover the base.

    3. COVER the baking dish with aluminum foil and place it in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 300°F (150°C). Bake for at 2 to 2-1/2 hours until the lamb is cooked through to 155°-160° on a meat thermometer for medium, 160° for well done. Because ovens vary, it is important to use a meat thermometer! Uncover and cook for a further 30-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.

    4. COMBINE the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a food processor and blend until all the herbs are chopped and the sauce is smooth and thick. Place in a bowl and refrigerate. When the lamb is ready…

    5. SLICE the lamb thinly. Warm the pita; if you like, you can lightly brush each side with olive oil and place the bread on a hot grill or in a grill pan for warming and grill marks.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Place some yogurt sauce in the center of the pita, arugula and slices of tomato and onion. Top with some lamb and some more yogurt sauce. Serve flat, with an optional side of roasted potatoes.
    Find more of Maria’s delicious recipes at Greekalicious.com.au.



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