Gyro sandwich with meat, onions, tomato, and tzatziki sauce in a
(most often , from
(giros) "turn") is a Greek
consisting of meat
, and tzatziki
sauce, and is served with pita
may also refer to the
, which consists of the same
Eastern shawarma and Mexican tacos al pastor are similar to
gyros, and all derived from the Turkish döner kebab which was invented in Bursa in the 19th
To make gyros, slices of meat are placed on a tall vertical spit,
which turns in front of a source of heat, usually an electric
broiler. If the meat is not fatty enough, strips of fat are added
so that the roasting meat remains always moist and crispy at the
same time. The rate of roasting can be adjusted by varying the
strength of the heat and the distance between the heat and the
meat, allowing the cook to adjust to varying rates of consumption.
The outside of the meat is sliced vertically in thin, crispy
shavings when done. It is generally served in an oiled, lightly
grilled piece of pita, rolled up with various salads and sauces.
The pita and gyro themselves are the only obligate ingredients; the
remaining condiments to be added always being at the discretion of
the customer, even down to the amount of salt and pepper used. An
order of "ap' óla
", "with everything", means that every
available add-on is to be included, including generous peppering
with red paprika
Gyros served in the United States usually use a ground processed
meat, pressed into large cones for cooking. Ground processed meat
was also used in Greece until the 70s, but it was banned after
several cases of food poisoning attributed to substandard storage.
After a period of total ban, gyros was reallowed in Greece, albeit
only in the form of raw meat sliced in thin strips.
The name comes from Greek
("turn"), a calque
of the Turkish name
("turning roast"); the
dish was formerly called ντονέρ [don'er] in Greece as well.
The Greek pronunciation is , but in English, the pronunciation is
usually or occasionally . Sometimes the spellings "yeeros",
"yiros", or "year-o" are used to approximate the Greek
pronunciation, giving in English. The omission of the "s" at the
end of gyros is a common form of hypercorrection
in the English language, as
seen with the word bicep
originally introduced to Greece from Thessaloniki, and specifically from the district of Toumba. There are several stories regarding Gyros's
origin: One says that the first "gyrádiko" was "Giorgos"
who brought gyros to Thessaloniki in 1970 ; another story says that
gyros was first introduced in the 1950s in Piraeus by a cook
Greece and Cyprus
Greece and Cyprus, the meat is
typically pork but can occasionally be lamb, chicken, or
beef. In Athens, and most of
Greece, a "pita gyro" will contain tzatziki, tomato, onion and fried potatoes in addition to the meat.
some places offer different alternatives to the classic
ingredients. A pita gyro with pork will be served with
as a dressing
the chicken dressings vary from shop to shop but are most often a
variant on mayonnaise
Pitas are available in at least three types: 'plain', 'Cypriot
', and 'Arabic' in some chain
restaurants, however in most places only 'Plain' is offered.
'Plain' pita is around 20 cm in diameter and the thickest of
the three. 'Cypriot' pita are the same size but somewhat thinner,
and are split like pocket bread
'Arabic' pitas are crispy, and the flattest and largest. Gyros are
also served in sandwich
A typical sandwich could cost from 1,50 €
the most expensive (2007 rates).
and size vary somewhat from place to place and from shop to shop,
but it is said that it is in Thessaloniki that one will find the biggest pita and gyros;
there, an order will typically include tomato, onion, fried
potatoes, mustard and/or
ketchup in addition to the meat.
"Russian salad" (a mixture of diced pickles
and mayonnaise) and "Hungarian salad" (a mixture of mayonnaise and
diced, fried bacon) are also popular.
island of Crete, pork meat
is the most popular filling although in some of the larger cities
(notably the city of Chania) there are
also chicken (and even falafel)
alternatives. Those in Crete usually
enjoy plain strained yogurt in lieu of
tzatziki, and many stands offer "Russian
Kos, a Greek island in the Aegean sea, the locals wrap chicken and add fried potatoes to
This variation usually costs around 1 Euro
(regional prices may vary)
In other Greek cities, like Patra
, where gyros
are not as popular, the sandwich is often prepared and then put in
a toaster or toasted under a press, like a panino
, popular grilled sandwich throughout Europe. A
sandwich there can cost the same price as in Thessaloniki.
Kalamata it can sometimes be eaten in Thrakópsomo
(bread baked on embers), a thick round loaf
of country style bread, cut in two halves and stuffed with a double
serving of Gyro meat.
(portion) is an alternative way of serving gyros,
where instead of putting the meat into a pita or bread, it is put
on an aluminum foil box, or a sheet of λαδόκολλα (baking paper), or
a regular platter. A 200 gr portion of gyros, with tomato, french
fries, sliced onions, one or more of the sauces and the pita,
usually cut in pieces, comprise such an order. The portion of gyros
can vary from 150 gr to even 450 gr in more remote places.
Gyros in Australia
are typically based on
lamb, chicken or beef, or a combination of those meats. In addition
to the usual fillings of onion, lettuce and tomato, extra fillings
may include bulgur
(cooked wheat), hummus
. The sauce is usually a yogurt sauce such as
tzatziki, but chilli sauce (often Thai sweet chilli sauce) can also
be used. The pita bread may be quickly toasted before the dish is
assembled or the entire dish may be toasted in a sandwich press
after assembly. The Australian dish has two to three times as much
filling as is used in Greece - which can surprise Greek
In Australia, the names gyros, souvlaki, döner kebab
are sometimes used interchangeably; all terms are
in use depending on the vendor, the national group, or community in
Different names are favoured in different regions of Australia.
Australia they are
known (both in the singular and plural) as yiros, a
rendering of the normal modern Greek pronunciation into the Roman
alphabet. In New South Wales they are known as doner kebabs or
kebabs in Turkish or Lebanese shops or
yeeros/yiros in Greek shops. In Queensland and Western Australia they are called kebabs.
Victoria (which has a large Greek population), they are
generally known as gyros or souvlaki.
Tasmania, they are generally called kebabs or
In most cases gyros
tend to be made
of thicker pieces of meat than that of döner kebabs
are usually made using thin shards of meat. Also different meats
often vary on the region of Australia with beef and chicken being
often used in Queensland while in Melbourne and Tasmania beef is less common, with lamb used
Brazil, the names
gyros or döner kebab are not used; the name in
Brazilian Portuguese is churrasco grego or "Greek
Churrasco grego is a very popular food in São
Paulo Downtown. Churrasco grego
meat is essentially beef
and it is served with bread for R$1,00. There are also some kebab
houses with more options of lamb, beef, pork or chicken kebab with
regions of Canada, gyros are
commonly referred to as donairs, a
phonetic approximation of the Turkish döner, and made
using a combination of beef hamburger (instead of lamb), bread
crumbs and spices, which are seared, topped with tomatoes, onions,
and a sweet sauce consisting of sweetened condensed milk and garlic
powder (instead of the traditional cucumber/yogurt
tzatziki). This is especially popular in and around
Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John's,
Newfoundland and is claimed to have been invented in Halifax in
1971 when Greek gyros were not very popular.
with heavy Greek populations, such as the Danforth
area in Toronto, and the Mile-End, Park-Extension and Chomedey
areas in and around Montreal, they are still commonly sold as
gyros. They are also common in Edmonton as a popular late night snack.
meat and sauce is also available as a type of
name gyros is not commonly used in France, a similar
and very popular fast food is sold under the name sandwich
grec (Greek sandwich), kebab, chiche kebab
or döner kebab (or shawarma in Lebanese and
As a street
, it is served optionally with chips (french fries) stuffed
into the sandwich on top of the meat and salad.
Iran and other Persian-speaking countries like Afghanistan a variation of gyros is available called kabab
Torki ("Turkish kebab") and is a popular fast food in certain
major cities like Tehran and Isfahan.
While the meat is prepared in a similar
fashion as gyros (using beef or lamb) and sliced from a rotating
spit, the preparation of the sandwich is different. After having
been sliced from the spit, the meat is then chopped up and mixed
with onions and green peppers on a grill. It is not generally
served with any kind of sauce.
Arabic-speaking countries and Israel, the gyro is
called shawarma and is usually made of chicken or
can be served in a pita, or in a
(a pita without a pocket which holds more food). The
meat is not commonly prepared in strips like American gyros, but
chopped into smaller chunks and usually served with tahini
sauce. As commonly practiced in the early
1900s, Arabs used finely sharpened fillet knives to preserve the
meats natural tenderness and avoid depleting it of natural
The Turkish döner kebab
is similar to the gyro in terms of
cooking. Lamb, beef or chicken, and even fish, are used, but not
Kingdom, the name gyros is not widely known; the
Turkish döner kebab is more common, and the general term
kebab is more common still.
These kebab shops were initially primarily owned by Turkish
Cypriots, and use dry, hard "pocket" Cypriot pita in place of the
typically doughy, more naan
(Mainland) pita. The small pocket pitas are difficult to fill
without breaking, and so the dish is usually served as a loose
assortment in a polystyrene container. Tzatziki/Cacik
rare, and replaced by generic garlic and/or chili sauce.
were introduced to the United States via Chicago between 1965 and 1968.
Several people claim to have brought gyros to Chicago and been the
first to mass produce them. George
claims he served the first gyros at the Parkview
Restaurant in 1965. In 1974, he opened a 3,000-square-foot
manufacturing plant called Central Gyros Wholesale
. Peter Parthenis
claims he mass produced them
at Gyros Inc.
, in 1973, a year before
Apostolou. In 1968, at The Parthenon restaurant, Chris Liakouras
developed the vertical rotisserie gyros
, and popularized gyros by passing out samples free to
They have since spread to all parts of the country.
The name gyros
is most commonly used in American and
Greek-American restaurants and stores. Doner kebab
may be seen in Middle Eastern-style
States, gyros is usually made from lamb or a combination
of beef and lamb.
Chicken gyros are sometimes seen as well.
The bread served with gyros in the U.S. resembles a Greek 'plain'
pita. The traditional accompaniments are tomato, onion, and
sometimes called "cucumber
"white" sauce. Some establishments use plain sour cream
in lieu of tzatziki
sauce. Such sandwiches are often served in
While many Greek restaurants in America make gyros in a traditional
way from sliced meat arranged on a vertical rotisserie, many
others, particularly fast-food restaurants, use prefabricated gyros
loaves, made of ground meat pressed into a cylinder and cooked on a
rotating vertical spit, from which thin slices of meat are shaved
as they brown.
Some restaurants sell pre-formed, frozen strips of gyros meat,
grilled or pan-fried individually, to prevent waste.
Vertical gyros broiler
The principal difficulty in making gyros at home is access to the
vertical broiler, a professional-oriented machine whose cost and
complexity are geared towards restaurants rather than the home.
Conceivably an electric or gas-fired barbecue broiler can be
modified to accommodate vertical roasting, provided the gyros is in
direct "eyesight" of the fire element. The purpose of the vertical
layout is to keep the lower parts of the rotating cone always
doused in the flavourful liquid fat drippings from higher up. This
and the standard top-heavy conical shape of the gyros assures two
kinds of cooking: the higher parts are more directly grilled by
their closer proximity to the heat, whereas the lower ones are
partly fried in the resulting drippings. The hot metal-plate
collector beneath the spit serves to collect the shavings and give
them the finishing touch as they lay in sizzling drippings. A good
serving of gyros contains shavings from all parts of the roast, top
to bottom, this offering a variety and richness of taste.
Meat choice and preparation
The meat can be any kind of boneless beef
or even chicken
or any blend thereof, provided it can be cut into approximately
round, thin, flat slices (about the thickness of slices meant for
and about the width of a
45 rpm vinyl single
). The kinds of
cuttings used for making Mexican fajitas
(e.g. skirt steak
) can be a useful
guideline for procurement and dressing. The slices are then pierced
at their center through a metal vertical spit: smaller slices go to
the bottom of the spit and larger towards the top. As each slice is
threaded into place, it is sprinkled with the spice mix (see next
paragraph). Fat trimmings can be layered in between if the meat is
too lean. The juice collected when slicing onions can also be
sprinkled in at this time. Leftover trimmings are then shoved in
between slices, so that nothing is wasted.
A typical spice mix consists of: 3 tbsp salt
tbsp sweet paprika
, 1 tsp
, 1 tsp white pepper
, 1 tsp black pepper
, 1 tbsp dried parsley
, 2 tsp garlic
, and 1 tbsp of dried oregano
This is the base mixture, to which small
amounts (a pinch
each) of other powdered
spices can be mixed (e.g. cinnamon
definitely some allspice
). Some of these
more potent spices can be added or omitted to taste. They should
all be mixed well and stored in a closed container overnight for
their flavours to blend. Some of this spice mix is then
sprinkled on each meat slice as it takes its place
on the spit. It is best for the prepared spit to spend a night
standing in a refrigerated space, so that the meat is infused with
the spices and onion juices.
Depending on the overall quantity of gyros and the number of meals
to be served, roasting and eating of gyros can be a long or a short
affair. An experienced rossiteur
can accelerate or delay
the rate of cooking by altering the intensity of the fire, the
proximity of the meat to the heat source, and the speed of the spit
rotation. At any rate, gyros ready to serve the very hungriest is
available within minutes after roasting starts, and the
in charge can fill as many orders as requested
with fresh, sizzling portions for hours on end if need be.