Gyros (food)

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Pita giros.JPG
Gyros in Greece, with meat, onions, tomato, lettuce, fries, and tzatziki rolled in a pita
TypeMeat or sandwich / wrap
Place of originGreece
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsMeat: beef, veal, mutton, pork, or chicken
Gyros plate
Gyros preparation

Gyros or sometimes gyro (/ˈjɪər, ˈʒɪər-, ˈɡɪər-/; Greek: γύρος, romanizedyíros/gyros, lit.'turn', pronounced [ˈʝiros]) is a Greek dish made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Like shawarma and al pastor meat, it is originally derived from the lamb-based doner kebab.[1][2] In Greece and Cyprus it is normally prepared with pork or sometimes with chicken, whilst beef, chicken, and lamb are common in other countries. It is typically served wrapped or stuffed in a pita, along with ingredients such as tomato, onion, fried potatoes and tzatziki.


The earliest known photo of doner kebab (meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie) by James Robertson, 1855, Ottoman Empire

Grilling a vertical spit of stacked meat slices and cutting it off as it cooks was developed in Bursa[3] in the 19th century Ottoman Empire, and called doner kebab (Turkish: döner kebap). Following World War II, doner kebab made with lamb was present in Athens,[4] introduced by immigrants from Anatolia and the Middle East.[2] A distinct Greek variation developed, often made with pork and served with tzatziki, which later became known as gyros.[5]

By 1970, gyros wrapped sandwiches were already a popular fast food in Athens, as well as in Chicago and New York City.[6][7][8] At that time, although vertical rotisseries were starting to be mass-produced in the US by Gyros Inc.[6] of Chicago, the stacks of meat were still hand-made.

According to Margaret Garlic, it was she who first came up with the idea to mass-produce gyros meat cones, after watching a demonstration by a Greek restaurant owner carving gyros on the What's My Line? television show. She convinced her husband John Garlic, a Jewish former Marine and then Cadillac salesman, of the idea. After obtaining a recipe from a Greek chef in Chicago, the couple rented a space in a sausage plant in Milwaukee and began operating the world's first assembly line producing gyros meat from beef and lamb trimmings, in the early 1970s. The Garlics later sold their business to Gyros Inc., which along with Central Gyros Wholesale, and Kronos Foods, Inc, also of Chicago, began large-scale production in the mid-1970s.[8]


The name comes from the Greek γύρος (gyros, 'circle' or 'turn'), and is a calque of the Turkish word döner, from dönmek, also meaning "turn".[9] It was originally called ντονέρ (pronounced [doˈner]) in Greece.[5] The word ντονέρ was criticized in mid-1970s Greece for being Turkish.[10] The word gyro or gyros was already in use in English by at least 1970,[6] and along with γύρος in Greek, eventually came to replace doner kebab for the Greek version of the dish.[5] Some Greek restaurants in the US, such as the Syntagma Square in New York City—which can be seen briefly in the 1976 film Taxi Driver[11]—continued to use both doner kebab and gyros to refer to the same dish, in the 1970s.[12]

In contrast to other areas of Greece, in Athens, the skewered meat dish souvlaki is known as kalamaki, while souvlaki is a term used generally for gyros, kalamaki, and similar dishes.[13]

The Greek pronunciation is [ˈʝiros], though English speakers frequently mispronounce it as /ˈr/ on account of its spelling. Better pronunciations for the dish would be /ˈjɪəroʊ/ or /ˈɡɪəroʊ/.

In Greek, "gyros" is a nominative singular noun, but the final 's' is often interpreted as an English plural,[14] leading to the singular back-formation "gyro".[15]

In some parts of Australia, the word appears as "yiros" /ˈjɪərɒs/, derived directly from the Greek [ˈʝiros].[16]


In Greece, gyros is normally made with pork, though other meats are used in other countries.[5] Chicken is common, and lamb or beef may be found more rarely. Typical American mass-produced gyros are made with finely ground beef mixed with lamb.[8]

For hand-made gyros, meat is cut into approximately round, thin, flat slices, which are then stacked on a spit and seasoned. Fat trimmings are usually interspersed. Spices may include cumin, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and others.[citation needed] The pieces of meat, in the shape of an inverted cone, are placed on a tall vertical rotisserie, which turns slowly in front of a source of heat or broiler. As the cone cooks, lower parts are basted with the juices running off the upper parts. The outside of the meat is sliced vertically in thin, crisp shavings when done.[5][17]

The rate of roasting can be adjusted by varying the intensity of the heat, the distance between the heat and the meat, and the speed of spit rotation, thus allowing the cook to adjust for varying rates of consumption.[citation needed]

In Greece it is customarily served in an oiled, lightly grilled piece of pita, rolled up with sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, lettuce, and french fries, topped with tzatziki or, sometimes in northern Greece, ketchup or mustard.[18][19][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prichep, Deena; Estrin, Daniel (7 May 2015). "Thank the Ottoman Empire for the taco al pastor". Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Simopoulos, Artemis P.; Bhat, Ramesh Venkataramana Bhat, eds. (2000). Street foods. Basel: Karger. p. 6. ISBN 9783805569279. OCLC 41711932.
  3. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147
  4. ^ "Sports Illustrated". Vol. 3. Time, Incorporated. 1955. p. 116 – via Google Books. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e Kremezi, Aglaia (2010). "What's in the Name of a Dish?". In Hosking, Richard (ed.). Food and Language: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking 2009. Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Prospect Books. pp. 203–204. ISBN 978-1-903018-79-8 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b c Glaser, Milton; Snyder, Jerome (7 December 1970). Spit and Image. New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. Retrieved 18 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "The Gyro, a Greek Sandwich, Selling Like Hot Dogs". The New York Times. September 4, 1971. p. 23. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c David Segal (July 14, 2009). "The Gyro's History Unfolds". The New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  9. ^ Babiniotis, Λεξικό της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Martin Scorsese (director) (1976). Taxi Driver (Motion picture). Columbia Pictures. Event occurs at 0:06:05.
  12. ^ "(unknown title)". New York. 1971. vol. 4. Retrieved 2018-01-28. doner kebab, also known as a gyro, the by-now-familiar compressed seasoned lamb cooked on a vertical rotisserie, slices of which are served as a sandwich on Greek pita bread
  13. ^ Gatsoulis, Joyce-Ann (2006). Night+Day Athens. ASDavis Media Group. ISBN 9780976601302 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "GYRO | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". Retrieved 2019-07-14.
  15. ^ Francis, Jay (January 9, 2009). "Greek 101". Houston Press.
  16. ^ "Australian Word Map, Macquarie Dictionary". Macquarie Dictionary. April 17, 2021.
  17. ^ Albala, Ken (2011). Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313376269 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Kraig, Bruce; Taylor Sen, Colleen (9 September 2013). Street Food around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781598849554 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ "A guide to ordering "gyros" in Greece". Itinari. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  20. ^ "Great Street Food in Thessaloniki: A Round-the-Clock Guide". Greece Is. Retrieved 12 December 2019.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of gyros at Wiktionary