The Gyro is a Greek street dish that many Americans favor. You pronounce it yee-roh. A gyro is roasted meat served in a pita, usually with tomato, onion, and tzatziki, a cold, creamy sauce made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and spices.
Spiced gyro meat is roasted on a rotating vertical rotisserie and sliced off in thin, crispy shavings as it cooks. In Greece, gyros are made predominantly of pork; in America, it is a blend of lamb and beef. If lamb is not available, you can still make superb gyros with all beef. Lamb is not critical, but it rounds out the flavor in gyro meat recipes. It is delicious! I highly recommend using it in equal parts with beef if you can get it. If red meat is not your favorite, try a chicken gyros recipe.
The key to homemade gyros is in the flavor and tenderness of the meat. You want to cook it at a lower temperature, so it stays juicy and does not dry out. Then slice it thinly and crisp the edges. You will be surprised by the similarity in taste to that of your favorite gyro establishments.
Making gyro meat at home is more like making a meatloaf unless you own a rotisserie. This method is for adventurous cooks with average kitchens wanting to make a gyro without the extra equipment. You process the ground lamb, beef, or meat combo in a food processor to create a puree or paste, which will then be baked, sliced, and seared. One of the most notable things about gyro meat is that it is thinly sliced. Aim for 1/8” or thinner. This is much more easily accomplished once the meat is cool. You will achieve a crisp outer layer like a rotisserie gyro by searing the meat.
Tzatziki (tuh-zee-kee) sauce is almost as essential to the Gyro as the meat. Tzatziki is a creamy cucumber yogurt dip or sauce made from simple ingredients, including strained yogurt (or Greek yogurt), cucumbers, garlic, and sometimes fresh herbs such as dill or mint. The sauce is simple and only takes minutes to make it. I like to use English cucumbers here because they are seedless, plus the skin is thin, so you do not have to peel them. If using regular cucumbers with waxy skin, peel them completely and discard the large seeds. Tzatziki needs to sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving; ideally, it should rest overnight. The flavors meld and get better as it sits.
You will want to buy or make the soft, thick Greek pita bread for gyro sandwiches. Flatbread can be substituted. Greek pita bread is an effortless dish to prepare. Greek pita is a plain, non-enriched dough left to proof and then pan-fried in a skillet until fluffy and golden brown. If you wonder if it is worth making pita bread at home, my answer is yes!
Arrange warm meat slices, slivered raw onion, sliced tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce on warm pita bread. Fold the pita bread in half (like a taco) and enjoy.
An outstanding gyro balances hot and cold ingredients with Mediterranean flavors. If you experience gyro cravings, you are in luck and can now enjoy them without having to leave the house!
- 1 Pound ground beef
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup red onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- oil as needed for frying or grilling
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup Greek yogurt, strained
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, sliced, and finely diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
- 4 rounds flatbread or pita
- 4 lettuce leaves
- 1 medium tomato, sliced or diced
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
- In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
- Blend the yogurt with the sour cream in a separate bowl using a whisk. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well.
- Add the cucumbers and chopped fresh dill. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving and garnish with an additional sprinkle of fresh dill.
- To make the meat mixture, thoroughly combine the ground lamb, salt, black pepper, cumin, nutmeg, oregano, garlic, red onion, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.
- Divide into four equal portions and shape into oblong patties about 3-inch wide by 6-inch long by 1/2-inch thick. Notice that the patty is shaped more like asausage (long and thin) rather than a hamburger patty. This is intentional to ensure the patty fits in the flatbread. Refrigerate for one hour.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Alternatively, heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat.
- If grilling, brush the grill or grill pan with oil. If pan-frying, add a dollop of oil to the pan. Grill or pan-fry the patties for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through with crispy edges.
- To assemble the sandwiches, spread tzatziki sauce down in the center of a flatbread round or pita pocket.
- Add a lettuce leaf, some sliced tomato, and a few thin onion slices.
- Add the patty and fold the bread over the lamb. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches. Serve and enjoy.
Written by Vicki Hayman, MS, University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Educator