Hooray, for Gyros! We love you so! Seasoned meat and pita are ubiquitous across the Mediterranean and Middle East. Gyros, kofta, shawarma, etc. Some are made with beef, some chicken, some lamb, and some a combination. This recipe can be made with any of the above meats.
For the tzatziki
3 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cucumber, grated
Juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pita sandwich
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1 cup of tomatoes, sliced
Fun optional garnishes: feta cheese, kalamata olives, pickled banana peppers
For the Meat
1 pound ground lamb (ground chicken, turkey, or beef also work)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup mint, chopped (optional)
For the spice blend
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice
Optional additions: 1 teaspoon coriander OR 1/2 teaspoon of clove OR 1/2 teaspoon of ground sumac
(Another option is to use a pre-mixed spice blend, like a harissa blend or a ras el hanout)
Step 1: Make the tzatziki (can make a day ahead)
Peel and grate cucumber using the large holes on a box grater. If you do not have a box grater, just dice the cucumber finely. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let it sit 15 minutes in a bowl. After 15 minutes, squeeze all the water out of your cucumber.
Next add yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper to the cucumber bowl. Mix all the ingredients and taste. Add a bit more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if needed. Set aside in your refrigerator.
Step 2: Chop veggies & pickle your onions
Before you make your lamb, chop your tomato, cucumber, onion, and any other toppings you are planning to use. Set aside.
To kick this dish up a notch we suggest "quick pickling" your onions. To do this take 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and place in a bowl. Mix with a pinch of salt and pepper. If you like you can also add a pinch of any or all of the spices listed in the ingredients list above. Mix until the salt has mostly dissolved. Then put your onions in the bowl. They should be very thinly sliced. Mix them (easiest to do with your hands) and pack them down in the bowl. You should be trying to press them down enough that they are mostly submerged in the vinegar mixture. Leave and let sit for at least 30 minutes. You can do this the day before and put them in the fridge. Mix them from time to time and press back down again.
Step 3: Make Gyro Meat
Add ground meat of choice, chopped onion, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, cumin, cinnamon, or allspice, and any other additional spices to a bowl. Mix (ideally with your hands) to make sure everything is well incorporated, but don't over mix, which will make the kebabs tough.
Shape little meatballs or patties. In a large pan, heat olive oil to medium-high. Add meat in batches. You don’t want to crowd the pan too much. Turn them frequently, browning on all sides until fully cooked. This should take about 5-7 minutes per batch. Set aside.
Please note we are suggesting an oven-top version of this dish for simplicity, but for more authenticity, you can also grill these. To grill, either place patties directly on the grill or pack them around a metal skewer and place on the grill.
Step 4: Prep pita and serve
Before serving, you want to “freshen up” your pita. This can be done by placing in a 300F degree oven for a minute on your grill if grilling. A more exciting pro tip is to place them in the warm pan where you just cooked the meat. This allows the pita to warm AND soak up some of the delicious juices and spices.
Assemble by breaking the meat into pieces on each pita. Top with chopped veggies, pickled onions (removed from vinegar mixture), and tzatziki. Enjoy!