Lebanese Gyros

May 4, 2010  •  Category: ,


I have been to Greek restaurants ….once or twice, in Dallas. To say that my knowledge of Greek food is limited is an understatement. (I am learning now  through visits to Kalofagas. ca, Kopiaste, History of Greek Food,Tobias Cooks and En Direct d’Athènes).

There is a Greek church in Dallas and when they hold their three-day festival in the fall, traffic stops at four street corners and people go nuts! From what I hear, thousands line up for hours  to gorge on the food, eating till they drop. Greek food is very popular.

In fact, for  the longest time, when middle-eastern folks were opening  small cafés, they would advertise it as Greek food. (Confusing).

One time, years ago, propelled by curiosity, I spotted a package in the middle-eastern grocer that said  GYRO meat. It was in the freezer section. I thought ” I am going to find out about this famous Gyro for myself!”. Inside were little rectangular pieces of a brown substance with the texture of the sole of a shoe. I could not tell if it was meat or a synthetic material. I fried it and still the taste was inconclusive. I decided right then and there that this could not possibly be authentic Greek food; and that I would either eat the real thing, or nothing! (I threw away the package!)

All I know is that this Gyro sandwich is a very popular one in the US. In fact, my friend Phoebe would sell thousands of these at her Egyptian church festival  and use the processed meat I mentioned earlier; she has told me time and again that it was an amazing money maker for her church.

The other day, a well-intentioned friend brought me some Gyro bread.

I was perplexed: What do I do? Feed it to the ducks? Get a recipe and make  the real thing?

Since I am Lebanese and a tad lazy, I opted for a  Lebanese kaftasandwich, open-faced, with Lebanese yogurt salad and Lebanese-style herbs.What is Kafta?

Kafta is our all-purpose meatloaf, eaten baked or grilled in a kebab, or  served  in  pita sandwiches for a mezze (appetizer). It is ground lamb with chopped onion, chopped parsley and the usual seasoning of allspice and cinnamon.

If eaten as a sandwich, it is placed on aparsley, onion and sumac mixture. Served with  tomatoes, yogurt sauce or  laban w khyar.

NOT FANCY. More like street food, or food you buy at the butcher in Beirut, already cooked  and eat at home.

MAKE THE KAFTA and the Herb salad at the same time:

INGREDIENTS: For the kafta:

  • 1 pound of ground lamb
  • 1 onion
  • a handful of parsley
  • salt, pepper, allspice and cinnamon (1 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon), Aleppo hot red pepper (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes, drained of their juices (optional)

For the herb salad:

  • 1 bunch of Italian or flat-leaves parsley
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon of sumac powder

For the yogurt dressing:

  • 2 cups of lowfat yogurt
  • several Persian cucumbers or several sticks of celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
  • a dash of dried mint


  1. Using a food processor, chop the onions for both the meat and the herb salad.
  2. Place the onions for the herb salad in a bowl. Take the other half of the onion and fry in a little oil for 10 minutes.
  3. Chop the parsley in the processor;  take all the parsley minus 1/4 cup or so and add to the onion salad in a bowl. Add the sumac and mix well with a spoon.
  4. Add the meat and the fried onion to the remaining parsley  and process for a few minutes, adding the spices, until the mixture is pasty and hold together well. Add the tomatoes last (if using) and process a few seconds.
  5. Place the breads on a cookie sheet lined with foil; Drop a generous portion of the meat mixture on the bread, spreading it with the help of a plastic wrap placed over it. Heat the oven to 400F.
  6. Bake the meat covered breads in the oven or on a grill for about 10 minutes until the meat is cooked.
  7. While the meat cooks, prepare the yogurt dressing:  chop the cucumbers, mash the garlic, add it to the yogurt with a dash of mint.
  8. Serve the gyros with the herb mixture on top and some yogurt; serve tomato slices on the side if you like.

NOTE: I added some diced and drained tomatoes to the meat; this is done when the kafta is served in a pita bread for an appetizer;  however, the classic kafta does not have any tomatoes. (You can also add dried tomatoes).


66 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Joanne says:

    You did the right thing. Two things I love. Kefta. Gyros.

    In short, you have made me drool (as usual).

  2. peter says:

    Alot oft the Gyro you see being served in N.America is of the ground meat variety. In Greece, the Gyro offered up are thin slabs of pork, chicken or lamb that is marinated and then piled up on the vertical “Gyro”.

    Your sandwich looks delish and I take this over any ‘mystery mmeat|” Gyro offered up by a Greek trying to pass off Donair as Gyro. I will exhale now…

  3. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:

    This looks so good. I wish I live near to you so I could try all your delicious food.

  4. OysterCulture says:

    Your sandwich sounds delicious. I’ve been reading up about kafta also being a Syrian dish. I used to have a lot of those “mystery” gyros sandwiches when I was in college in Iowa, and I thought I was being very international – probably not too good for me but it was a great way to get exposure to a new cuisine, even if it was a bit like Taco Bell to Mexican.

    I look forward to trying your kafta – sounds delicious!

  5. kim says:

    I’m vegetarian, but your yogurt sauce is calling me to dip…or jump right into it!

  6. momgateway says:

    There is something about gyros and kafta that’s so addicting…it must be the aalspice and cinnamon…your kafta look great!

  7. Christine @ Fresh says:

    I laughed when I read “Since I am Lebanese and a tad lazy…” This looks like a great sandwich! I like that the sandwich is stuffed with hearty ingredients.

  8. A Canadian Foodie says:

    I love kafta! I love Lebonese food… but I am sure you have figured that out by now. What a great idea. …. and you, lazy? Me thinks not! The sandwich is definitely a keeper, and the story a charm.

  9. Barbara Bakes says:

    I love going to our local Greek festival. I’m sure I’d love your Lebanese gyros. It looks delicious.

  10. Evel@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    Yumm…I ll stick wit the kafta

  11. SYLVIA says:

    This looks lushes with meat and It is great to make on a busy day, my family would think I am a culinary genius. I always make gyro with ground turkey,and serve it with tartors sauce,my son will love these with meat. This is great for backyard pool party. food this easy than swimming party will become a habit, If I only had a short cut for cleaning up.

  12. Laura says:

    Your kafta looks awesome. I think my parents call this “kufta.”

  13. Sushma Mallya says:

    oh that looks so delicious…..very nice click

  14. 3hungrytummies says:

    It is always so exciting learning about a new cuisine. You have done well with such a delicious dish!

  15. Sook says:

    Love your version of gyro! I tried gyro last year for the first time. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it but I loved it so much, that’s all I order whenever I go to a Greek restaurant. 🙂 Yours looks delicious!

  16. MaryMoh says:

    This looks very delicious. A Saudi friend of mine have been telling me a lot about the wonderful Lebanese food. I would love to try. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Devaki says:

    Dear Joumana – You always make me chuckle especially when you say things like ‘taste like the sole of a shoe” because I can totally relate!

    You lamb kabab with the cucumber yogurt dressing is wonderful. So lovely with the herb salad. I love how you always make meals that one just knows would be delicious and so very honest.

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  18. Rosa says:

    OMG, that looks to die for! I’m drooling…



  19. Ivy says:

    Joumana this looks delicious and in Greece if you want to eat a similar dish with minced meat on a skewer, this is called Kebab. Served with a yoghurt sauce like yours, it is called Kebab Giaourtlou.

  20. Happy Cook says:

    That looks so so delcious. when you spread the meat and put them in the oven, is it a opened or do you cover them when you bake or fold them?

  21. Priya says:

    Mouthwatering gyros..

  22. Grapefruit says:

    Looks delish – a bit like the turkish kufta. I’m craving some right now!

  23. Angie's Recipes says:

    GYROS! Wow I just love it….I must find a chance to try Lebanese one!

  24. Robyn says:

    Still, it sounds like MY kind of food. Street food is often the best food! I really love your blog by the way… I don’t suppose you can provide the recipe for gyro bread too?

  25. tigerfish says:

    I must admit I don’t have Greek food as often as I would like to. Worse when it come to Lebanese food. Thanks to your blog that I’m learning more. 😀

  26. delices eyes says:

    Je ne connais pas bien la cuisine grecque, mais je vais m’y pencher car je craque devant tes photos….
    Bonne journée

  27. grace says:

    i love gyros. correction: i love authentic gyros. 🙂

  28. deana says:

    Beware of meats like that… no matter how exotic they may seem… they are probably just BAAADDDD! As for Kafta, one of my favorites. If your readers have never tired Aleppo pepper, they are in for such a treat! Wonderful recipe!

  29. slamdunk says:

    That gyro looks great.

  30. Heavenly Housewife says:

    I dont know much about greek food either, but I know that I like it. I am looking at the picture and the recipe and I just know that this is absolutely delicious!

  31. Trissa says:

    These gyros are packed with so much flavour – thanks for the recipe.

  32. Von says:

    My knowledge of greek food is worse than yours- I’ve never even been to a Greek restaurant. This looks delicious though =] I’ve never had kafta either…….
    But this looks really good- I’ll try it one day!

  33. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Your version of gyro sandwich sounds delicious! The herb salad is a great flavor addition!

  34. 12th Man says:

    That’s what this country is missing: good street food. In Germany you could get a mean doner-kabob on just about any big city street. Small towns as well, now that I think about it. Or a shwarma plate. Ahhh!

  35. Sasa says:

    I don’t know anything much about Greek food either, but a Greek friend gave me a cookbook recently so I hope to try a few things…
    I like the fusion thing you’ve got going on here ;P

  36. Lisa says:

    I remember this great place in Times Square that had the most amazing gyros. I haven’t had a gyro as good since they closed. Yours conjure up memories of them. They look absolutely mouth watering!

  37. recettes gourmandes says:

    halala, comme j’adore cette recette,persil et toute ses odeurs , c’est trop bon et trop belle photo, bravo et bonne continuation.

  38. Noor says:

    Ya Salam this looks good. I will makeNthis recipes for sure..

  39. Margaret says:

    There is a little GYRO drive thru’ near my MOM in LOUISIANA (??) and they serve some really good ones. Shaving the meat off that HUGE cone. Thanks for a recipe for the Lebanese one. Very similar – well to this American, anyway.

  40. Tracy says:

    This looks insanely good…

  41. Miriam says:

    J….wow….street food made at home?…i have found something similar at some of the labanese joints here in bahrain…but hvn’t tried them myself….i just loved the pics…i didn’t have any lunch today n’ i actually feel like i can even get an amazing aroma from the pics here…that’s how hungry i’m now…;)….hope n’ wish ur shifting is a lot less stressful than mine is turning out to be….:)…good luck to u too…

  42. fimère says:

    j’aime bien les recettes libanaises ta version de sandwich libanais me tente beaucoup
    bonne journée

  43. Mary says:

    Your food always looks so beautiful. I’ve been a victim of bad gyros in the past, but yours have convinced me to give them one more try. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  44. Delishhh says:

    Come on over and pick up your award! http://delishhh.com/ Love your blog!

  45. Stella says:

    Feed it to the ducks-your’e so funny!
    I love kefta-it’s so good and these look wonderful. Cauldron boy would probably drool a bit if he saw this post-this type of food is his true weakness.
    By the way, a lot of the Lebanese places here advertise as Greek. This isn’t the most open minded neighborhood when it comes to food (or anything else for that matter), so I think they kind of have to in order to get people to walk in and try it, as everyone knows a bit about Greek food…

  46. Cathy at Wives with says:

    We have a great Greek festival in late summer and I always look forward to the great food, especially the gyros. I love the thin slices of lamb and all the garlicy sauce. Thanks for this delicious recipe. I look forward to trying your version.

  47. clém' says:

    hummm so delicious!!
    I love it!
    Kiss & have a good day! 😉

  48. Namitha says:

    such a scrumptious meal !!

  49. Barbara says:

    You’re absolutely right, Joumana! Those Greek festivals are marvelous fun and the food is scrumptious.

    The Greek restaurant I go to has the meat on a huge skewer and they slice it off to make gyro sandwiches. But I really like your idea of kafta with that wonderful yogurt sauce. My mouth is watering!

  50. Magdalena says:

    I like gyros, but I do not eat this very often here, you know why? I have bad memories: gyros and kebaps appeared in Poland around 15 years ago, and it still continues. For example in Krakow, my hometown, you can find them everywhere in the center of the city. The quality is very poor, they use the worst quality meat. Lamb is a very rare meat in Poland: instead, they use chicken…
    I have never tried gyros like this. I love lumb, and I am sure that I would love to taste your gyros. It looks completely different and I am sure, it taste delicious.

  51. joseph hedary says:

    i never thought of kafta as a gyro replacement, and now i see it can be, and yes it is better than this commercial gyro that is usually very fatty, but you have to remember it is sold for about $1.80 a pound wholesale, about the same price for commercial ground beef, i dont know how they can do that, i am sure if it was quality meat they would have to charge more, to me when i think of gyro, i think of the real stuff shawarma, i think of gyro as commercial shawarma, i personally will not eat it or serve it in my restaurant, because of the fat contents, we serve it at our vegas restaurant, because it’s easy and people want it, now kafta will be an excellent replacement for people at home because this way you can control the fat content. the only thing is i am still learning how to spice shawrma, they sell a spice mix for that and by adding extra ground cardamon you get a good flavor, i am not about to give out all i have learned about shawarma, it’s a trade secret that no one is willing to share, but if you would like to share i like to hear your take on it and thank you for helping openning people’s eyes on lebanese food, it surely has been a battle for me here in fort worth texas since 1976 teaching people one at a time about our food and how healthy it is, and gyro is like the worst excuse for a healthy meal.

  52. Faith says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! You are brilliant. Hubby and I love gyros but we have the hardest time finding a good place to buy them (and an even harder time trying to make them at home). I’m printing out your recipe…and I’m so excited to make it! 🙂

  53. lisa says:

    Your sandwich sounds wonderful and super flavorful! I love the yogurt dressing. I have seen gyro everywhere, but actually have never given it a try. I’m going to bookmark this– can’t wait to bite into it!

  54. [ec_vancouver] || js says:

    That looks mighty tasty!

  55. yasmeen says:

    Such a filling wrap,yum 😀

  56. Nadia says:

    I remember attending those Greek Festivals in Rhode Island when I was little. My parents would take us and we would eat like mad.

    Street food is the best, a kafta sandwich is the ultimate comfort to me, along with shawarma, falafel, the list goes on.

    Also, I know what mystery meat you are talking about. I had it once at my aunt’s house in Dallas and your kafta seems like a much better option.

  57. Nathalie says:

    J’aime beaucoup la cuisine grecque … elle est d’une grande richesse et excellente pour la santé … Les pauvres ont beaucoup de malheurs en ce moment.

  58. gourmandelise says:

    Elle semble très bonne cette recette colorée!

  59. TomPier says:

    great post as usual!

  60. Amy @ cookbookmaniac says:

    you have inspired me to look through my greek AND lebanese cookbooks. this sandwich is mouthwatering!

  61. Maggie says:

    My Baba always said, ” greek food is cheap lebanese food.” haha..sorry, but I could not resist

  62. Lailac says:


  63. shadi nassar says:

    i love lbnannnnnnnnn lebanon……..

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