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Gyro (food)

This article is about the Greek dish. For other uses, see Gyro (disambiguation).
"Gyros" redirects here. For the moth genus, see Gyros (moth).
File:Pita giros.JPG
Gyros sandwiches in Greece, with meat, onions, tomato, french fries, and tzatziki sauce rolled into a pita
Type Meat or sandwich
Course Main dish
Place of origin Greece
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Meat: Pork; occasionally chicken, lamb, or beef
Sandwich: gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, pita
16x16px Cookbook:Gyros  16x16px Gyros

A gyro ([ˈʝiro];[note 1] Greek: γύρος, gyros [ˈʝiros], literally 'turn') is a Greek dish of meat roasted on a vertical spit and usually served in a pita bread with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.

To make gyros, pieces 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 always remains moist and crisp. 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, crisp shavings when done. It is generally served in an oiled, lightly grilled piece of pita, rolled up with various salads and sauces.


The name comes from Greek γύρος ('turn'), a calque of the Turkish döner meaning "turn",[1] the name formerly used in Greece and spelled ντονέρ [doˈner].[2] The word 'ντονέρ' was criticized in Greece for being from Turkish,[3] and the word 'gyros' was coined to replace it.[2]

The Greek pronunciation is [ˈʝiros], but the pronunciation in English is often, incorrectly, /ˈr/ or, occasionally /ˈɡɪəroʊ/ or /ˈjɪəroʊ/.[4] The final 's' of the Greek form is often reinterpreted as a plural in English, leading to the formation of the singular "gyro".


Though grilling meat stacked on a skewer has ancient roots in the Eastern Mediterranean with evidence from the Mycenaean Greek and Minoan periods,[5][6][7] grilling a vertical spit of stacked meat slices and cutting it off as it cooks was developed in the 19th century in Ottoman Bursa.[8]

Unlike tacos, gyros form part of the sandwich family and are differentiated from other hand-held semi-folded foods by their complete over-wrap but unsecured lower flap.[9]


Greece and Cyprus

File:Gyros C5878.jpg
Rotisseries with Greek pork gyros

In Greece and Cyprus, the meat is typically pork or chicken; with veal gyros occasionally found, referred to as "doner" (ντονέρ). In Athens, and most of Greece, a "pita gyro" will contain tzatziki, tomato, onion and fried potatoes in addition to the meat. However some places offer alternatives to the classic ingredients: tzatziki sauce as a dressing for other meats, whereas the chicken dressings vary from shop to shop, but are most often a variant on mayonnaise mixed with mustard, called "σως" (sauce) in Greek.

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 is crisp and has larger size, and is split like pocket bread. 'Arabic' pitas are crisp, and the flattest and largest. Gyros are also served in sandwich-type bread in northern Greece.

It is said that in Thessaloniki one will find the biggest pita and gyros;[by whom?] there, an order will typically include tomato, onion, fried potatoes, mustard and/or ketchup and an optional sauce, most commonly tzatziki or ktipití (a feta cheese and hot pepper dip), in addition to the meat. "Russian salad" (a mixture of diced pickles and mayonnaise) and "Hungarian salad" (a mixture of mayonnaise and diced bacon) are also popular.

On the 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 alternatives.

In Kos, a Greek island in the Aegean sea, the locals wrap chicken and add fried potatoes to gyros.

In other Greek cities, like Patras, where gyros are not as popular, the wrap is often prepared and then put in a toaster or toasted under a press, like a panini, a popular grilled sandwich throughout Europe. In 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.


Merída (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 baking paper, or a regular platter or a bowl of rice. A 200 gram 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 grams to even 450 grams.


Gyros in Australia is typically based on lamb, but chicken, beef, or a combination is often available. The Australian gyros generally represents what is commonly known as souvlaki pita in Greece. In addition to this, the usual fillings that include onions, lettuce, and tomato extra filling may be used as supplements. These may include bulgur (cooked wheat), hummus, cheese and tabouli. The usual sauce is tzatziki. Sauces such as barbecue sauce and chilli sauce may also be used at the request of customers. Additional meats and sauces however are considered heretical by purists.[citation needed] The pita bread, which is significantly thinner than donner kebab bread while also not having a pocket may be quickly toasted before the dish is assembled or the entire dish may be toasted in a sandwich press after assembly.

Different names are favoured in different regions of Australia. In South Australia they are known as yiros, a romanised rendering of the modern Greek pronunciation. In New South Wales they are known as yeeros/yiros in Greek shops. In Queensland they are called souvlaki predominately but also "gyros" or kebabs, while in Western Australia they may be referred to as kebabs. In Victoria (which has a large Greek population), they are generally known as gyros or souvlaki. In Tasmania, they are generally called kebabs or souvlaki. In slang vernacular across Australia they are also commonly known as a "lamb sandwich", "lambwich", or "trusty late night lamb sandwich" in reference to their consumption after a late night out.

In most cases yiros or souvlaki tend to be made of thicker pieces of skewered or pan fried meat rather than the meat which is used in doner kebabs that is usually made using thin shards of meat from a broiler rotisserie. Different meats are often used which vary on the region of Australia. Beef may be used as a substitute for lamb in Queensland and occasionally chicken may be ordered, in Victoria and Tasmania lamb is more popular.


In Brazil, the names gyros or doner kebab are used but the dish is also known as churrasco grego (Greek barbecue). Churrasco grego is a very popular food in downtown São Paulo and Brasília. There are also some kebab houses with more options of lamb, beef, pork or chicken kebab with pita.[10]


Main article: Doner kebab § Canada

Greek-style gyros are the most common in Canada. Most Greek immigrants settled in Toronto and Montreal. By the early 1980s, Greek-owned hamburger restaurants that served gyros opened in many areas in Toronto. This coincided with the increasing popularity in the northern United States. They are most prominent in areas of heavy Greek populations such as the Toronto Danforth area, and the Mile-End, Parc-Extension and Chomedey areas in Montreal. They are also common in Edmonton as a popular late night snack.

In Atlantic Canada, a similar dish is the donair (from the Greek pronunciation of the Turkish döner), made using a mixture of minced beef, bread crumbs and spices, which is seared, topped with tomatoes, onions, and a sweet sauce consisting of sweetened condensed milk and garlic powder. 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.[11] Donair meat and sauce is also available as a type of pizza.


While the 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 Israeli restaurants). As a street food, it is served optionally with french fries stuffed into the sandwich on top of the meat and salad.


In Hungary they prefer to use the name gyros instead of doner kebab, even in the Turkish or Arabian restaurants. They are mostly made from chicken or veal, but you can also find lamb, pork or turkey gyros. In the city core, there is a gyros restaurant almost on every corner, and they operate mostly 24/7. In Budapest there are Greek, Iranian, Turkish, and Kurdish restaurants where you can eat it as a takeaway fast food in pita, or as a meal on plate. French fries in the gyros is rarely used, mostly in Greek restaurants. You can choose from various sauces.


In Iran, a similar food to gyros and doner kebab is available called kabab Torki ("Turkish kebab") and is a popular fast food in certain major cities like Tehran and Shiraz. 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.

Middle East

In Arabic-speaking countries and Israel, the dish most similar to gyro and doner kebab is called shawarma and is usually made of chicken, beef or lamb. The shawarma can be served in a pita, or in a lafa (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 meat's natural tenderness and avoid depleting it of natural juices.


Main article: Doner kebab § Turkey
File:Iskender kebap.jpg
"Döner", a Turkish variant

The Turkish döner kebab is similar to the gyro in terms of cooking. Lamb, beef or chicken, and even fish,[citation needed] are used, but not pork.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the word gyros is not widely known; the Turkish doner kebab is more common, and the general term kebab is more common still .[citation needed]

These kebab shops are often owned by Turkish Cypriots, and typically use dry, hard "pocket" Cypriot pita rather than the doughy, more naan-like Turkish (mainland) pita bread. Tzatziki/Cacik and "Tarama" is still available but usually replaced by garlic and/or chilli sauce.

United States

A gyro platter in a to-go container from a diner in NYC.
File:Gyro meat.jpg
American gyro meat, unwrapped

Gyros were introduced to the United States via Chicago between 1965 and 1968.[12][13][14][15]

Several people claim to have brought gyros to Chicago and been the first to mass-produce them. George Apostolou claims he served the first gyros at the Parkview Restaurant in 1965. In 1974, he opened a Script error: No such module "convert". manufacturing plant called Central Gyros Wholesale. Peter Parthenis claims he mass-produced them at Gyros Inc., in 1973, a year before Apostolou.[12] In 1968, at The Parthenon restaurant, Chris Liakouras developed an early version of the modern vertical rotisserie gyros cooker, and popularized gyros by passing out samples free to customers.[16] The vertical broiler was later refined by Tom Pappas and others at Gyros incorporated. Pappas would go on to develop the modern commercial recipe for gyros in the United States, substituting compressed meat for slices of beef, lamb and pork, or beef and lamb (for Halal distribution).[17] They achieved success as an independent manufacturer of gyros in Florida during the early 1980s, and popularizing it in the southeastern US (Orlando Sentinel, 1981). They have since spread to all parts of the country, but the gyro is still identified as part of Chicago's working class cuisine.

The name gyros is most commonly used in American and Greek-American restaurants and stores. Doner kebab and shawarma may be seen in Middle Eastern-style establishments.

In the United States, gyros are typically made from ground compressed meat. The compressed meat typically comprises lamb or a combination of beef and lamb, and frequently additional ingredients including soy and monosodium glutamate (MSG).[18] Chicken gyros are sometimes seen as well. As of 2011, there is a gyro made from a wheat-based plant protein, manufactured exclusively by U.S. based company, Taft Foodmasters, LLC. The bread served with gyros in the U.S. resembles a Greek 'plain' pita. The traditional accompaniments are tomato, onion, and tzatziki, sometimes called "cucumber", "yogurt", or "white" sauce. Some establishments use plain sour cream in lieu of tzatziki sauce. Such sandwiches[clarification needed] are often served in luncheonettes or diners.

While some Greek restaurants in America make gyros in a traditional way from sliced meat arranged on a vertical rotisserie,[citation needed] most, particularly fast-food restaurants, use mass-produced gyros loaves, of finely ground compressed meat compressed at 400 kPa (60 PSI)[17] pressed into a cylinder and cooked on a rotating vertical spit, from which thin slices of meat are shaved as they brown. Some restaurants even sell pre-formed, frozen strips, also formed of compressed ground gyros meat, grilled or pan-fried individually, to prevent waste.


Meat-free vegan and vegetarian versions of gyros are also popular, and can be made at home or ordered at vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Seitan is generally used in place of meat; tempeh, tofu, and meaty mushrooms may also be used. Tzatziki sauce can be made with silken tofu, blended nuts (such as raw cashews), and vegan yogurt (such as soy, coconut, almond, etc.).


Gyros are cooked on a vertical broiler, formerly using charcoal in a "cage", now either gas or electric. As the cone cooks, lower parts are basted with the juices running off the upper parts.

The meat can be beef, veal, pork, lamb, chicken, or a mixture. The meat is cut into approximately round, thin, flat slices, which are then stacked on the spit and seasoned. Flat trimmings are usually interspersed.

Spice mixes generally include salt, hot and sweet paprika, white and black pepper, dried parsley, garlic powder, and oregano. Additional spices are sometimes added (e.g. cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, anise, coriander, fennel, allspice, sumac).

The rate of cooking can be changed by altering the intensity of the fire, the proximity of the meat to the heat source, and the speed of the spit rotation.

See also


  1. ^ The Greek pronunciation is given here; however, the word is commonly pronounced in English several different ways, including: /ˈr/, /ˈɪər/, or /ˈʒɪər-/.


  1. ^ Babiniotis, Λεξικό της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας
  2. ^ a b Aglaia Kremezi and Anissa Helou, "What's in a Dish's Name", "Food and Language", Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 2009, ISBN 190301879X
  3. ^ Γιάκωβος Σ. Διζικιρικής, Να ξετουρκέψουμε τη γλώσσα μας 'Let Us De-Turkify our Language', Athens 1975, p. 62, proposes substituting 'γυριστό' for 'ντονέρ', but the New York Times was already using the word gyro in English in 1971 (4 Sept. 23/1) according to the OED, 1993 online edition, s.v.
  4. ^ "Jack in the Box rolls Greek gyro in 600 units", Nation's Restaurant News, December 21, 1992. article
  5. ^ Ancient Greeks Used Portable Grills at Their Picnics
  6. ^ To Vima (in Greek), 6-2-2011 (picture 2 of 7)
  7. ^ Wright, Clifford A. (1999). A Mediterranean Feast. New York: William Morrow. pp. 333.
  8. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147
  9. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1026
  10. ^ "Brazil Cuisine". Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  11. ^ "CBC and donairs: two of my favourite things," The View From In Here (blog) 14 March 2006
  12. ^ a b Segal, David (July 14, 2009). "The Gyro's History Unfolds". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-15. A dapper man with a gray mustache, Mr. Tomaras, 73, was narrating a tour of Kronos Foods, the world's largest manufacturer of gyros (pronounced YEE-ros, Greek for "spin"), the don’t-ask mystery meat that has been a Greek restaurant staple in the United States since the mid 1970s. 
  13. ^ Zeldes, Leah A (2002-09-30). "How to Eat Like a Chicagoan". Chicago's Restaurant Guide (Chicago's Restaurant Guide). Archived from the original on 2002-10-01. Retrieved 2002-09-30. 
  14. ^ "Exploring Chicago". University of Illinois at Chicago. Archived from the original on 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  15. ^ "Greektown, a Chicago Neighborhood Guide". Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  16. ^ Zeldes, Leah A. (August 27, 2009). "Opaa! Chicago Taste of Greece flies this weekend". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved Aug 28, 2009. 
  17. ^ a b "How Gyro Meat Is Made (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. 
  18. ^ thunder::tech :: an integrated marketing agency. "Greek Gyro Cones : Gyros & Specialty Meats : Greek Food Products : Grecian Delight®". 

External links