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 (we suggest beef here). Or, if you want a super quick, delicious meal, try our lamb merguez sausage!
For the tzatziki
3 cups plain yogurt
1 cucumber, grated
Juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pita sandwich
1 cucumber, sliced
3 tomatoes, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
Fun optional garnishes: feta cheese, kalamata olives, pickled banana peppers
For the kofta
1 pound ground beef (ground chicken, turkey or lamb also work)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
For the kofta 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 raw el hanout)
Step 1: Make the tzatziki (can make 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 pita veggies
Before you make your kofta, chop your tomato, onion, pepper and any other toppings you are planning to use. Set aside.
Step 3: Make kofta
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 kofta 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 a oven top version of this dish for simplicity, but 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 few minutes or on your grill if grilling. A more exciting pro tip is to place them in the warm pan where you just cooked the kofta. This allows the pita to warm AND soak up some of the delicious juices and spices.
Assemble the pita by placing a couple kofta in each. Top with chopped veggies and tzatziki. Enjoy!