Both the Gyro and Doner Kebab consist of meat cooked on a skewer and wrapped in a warm piece of bread with fresh toppings and sauce. But while the two dishes look alike, their origin and ingredients differ and result in two dishes that are delicious in unique ways. The best way to determine which you prefer is to understand what makes them different!
If you have ever walked by a restaurant or street cart where meat is being cooked on a skewer and sliced fresh, you know you are in for a treat. The smell carries, the meat sizzles and the finished dish is sure to satisfy.
This style of cooking meat was made popular thousands of years ago. The fat on the stack of meat will drip down the vertical rotisserie, marinating the entire skewer as it cooks, giving the meat incredible flavor.
While you may have seen and experienced meat cooked this way in a variety of different places, there are several fast food dishes that specifically call for meat cooked in this manner. Two of the most popular are gyros and döner kebabs.
These dishes are both related but have been adjusted in different regions to meet the locals’ tastes.
If you are wanting flavorful meat in a delicious sandwich, it’s helpful to know what makes each dish unique so you are sure to order the right meal for your craving.
What is Döner Kebab
Doner Kebab is a Turkish dish made with strips of beef and lamb meat cooked on a skewer and then sliced onto a piece of warm pide bread. The meat is then topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a special Turkish sauce.
What is Gyro
Gyro is a Greek dish. It is made of beef and lamb cooked together on a skewer and sliced into pieces of pita bread. It is topped with red onions, lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki sauce.
One of the main differences between Doner Kebabs and gyros is where they came from. It is believed both came from the Ottoman Empire, but they have evolved since then.
During the Ottoman Empire stacking meat on a vertical spit and slowly cooking it over an open fire really became popular.
As the meat cooks on the outside of the stack, it is sliced off, leaving a fresh layer of meat to be cooked for the next guest. The searing of the outside edge gives each bite incredible flavor while the spinning motion evenly distributes the heat and the melting fat, making each piece perfectly moist.
It was this cooking method that led to the creation of the doner kebab. The doner kebab became very popular in Turkey and has remained a traditional dish there.
Greece was also part of the Ottoman Empire and adopted this cooking process. Greek chefs put their own spin on the Doner by incorporating more Greek spices and ingredients. The result is the Greek gyros.
The doner and gyro are definitely related, coming from the same region of the world and the same idea, but each region has its own special ingredients that make the dish different.
Ingredients: Similarities and Differences
From the sliced meat and bread to the spices and sauce on top, the ingredients in doner kebabs and gyros are not the same.
Traditional doner kebab is made with ground lamb or beef and sometimes chicken. Gyro is more often made with meat shavings of lamb or chicken, which is slightly easier on the stomach. Some chefs may use beef and pork as their choice of meat in gyros
For döner, the meat is seasoned with a special Turkish seasoning mix. Most often it includes cumin, garlic, coriander, oregano, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. The cumin and smoked paprika make the meat slightly spicy while the garlic and salt give it a strong flavor.
The seasoning for gyro meat is milder. It features Greek herbs like rosemary, oregano, and thyme.
Both dishes are served on warm bread, but even the bread is slightly different. Gyros are served on Greek pita bread, which is naturally empty inside and makes a perfect pocket for meat and toppings.
Pide bread is a Turkish bread made for döner. It is slightly thicker and holds the meat and toppings more like a taco shell.
Gyro and döner are both delicious when served with tomatoes, lettuce and onions but the sauce is the final distinguishing ingredient.
Gyro is topped with a tzatziki sauce which is made with yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, and dill.
Döner is topped with a mixture of yogurt and garlic that is similar to mayonnaise. Döner may also include cucumbers as a topping.
As mentioned earlier, both of these dishes feature meat that is cooked on a rotating spit but the preparation of the meat differs.
Döner is made with ground or minced meat that is heavily spiced and mixed with onions and then formed into a cone. The cone is left to chill for some time so the fats in each meat can fuse together and the meat won’t fall apart as it cooks.
Gyro may also be made with ground meat, but more authentic gyro is made with thin strips of lamb and chicken layered together in an inverted cone on a long skewer. The thin slices of meat are seasoned with Mediterranean spices and then left to marinate and form a dense cone of meat.
Both dishes are cooked in the same way. The skewer is placed in a vertical broiler and rotates. As the outer layer cooks it is sliced into thin slices and placed on the waiting bread.
Preparing the meat is fairly simple, which has made both dishes popular street food sold in food trucks all over the world.
The preparation of the meat gives the dishes different textures. Doner meat is compressed enough to form a solid slice of meat, but because it is made up of several different kinds of meat the texture is softer.
Gyro meat has more of a typical meat texture because it is made up of thin pieces of meat.
When döner and gyros are served they look very similar–mostly because they both contain lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a white yogurt sauce that does a good job of distracting from the meat and bread.
Upon closer inspection, you will notice the differences. Gyros are most often served like a wrap. The pita bread forms a perfect pocket for the meat and toppings.
While lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are the most popular toppings, you may see gyros filled with more sliced vegetables and even french fries.
Döner kebab may be served on a Turkish flatbread called pide bread or lavash but it may also be served on top of french fries or a bed of lettuce with some sliced vegetables.
The subtle differences in how these similar dishes come together result in surprisingly different flavors.
Doner meat has a strong, complex flavor, because of the use of many different spices and garlic and the naturally aromatic flavor of beef and lamb.
Gyros have a lighter flavor because of the fresh Mediterranean herbs and the flavorful tzatziki sauce.
Which is Better?
Both gyros and Döner kebab are very popular in their region and have spread to surrounding countries as well. In the United States, they are so often confused for one another that most people assume the doner is a gyro.
Doner is known for its delicious spicy Turkish flavor and strong garlic sauce while gyros have a lighter, fresher taste and feel of Mediterranean herbs and spices.
No matter which one you choose, you are in for a treat!
Check out this list of 31 Delicious Sides for Gyros or Doner Kebabs.