We’re still touring through California, but for those of you hungry for a recipe, here’s a treat we did just before leaving…

One of my favorite lunch foods (when I’m not strictly following lunch.foodmayhem.com) is street meat.  I’m talking about lamb shawarma from a cart.  One of my favorites in Manhattan is the guy in front of Food Emporium on 14th Street, near Park Ave South.  However, he’s always gone when I get home!  So I had to take matters into my own hands and make my own–a difficult task when you don’t own a spit.

Lamb Gyro in Pita 2

Don’t think this is the first time I’ve attempted it.  I’ve tried several times in the past, most recently using Alton Brown’s recipe.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Alton, but his recipes are rarely authentic and his gyro recipe plain ole stinks.  So, this time, I went totally back to the drawing board and did lots of research.  I finally found a recommendation in Wikipedia, which closely resembles a mix of the various blogs and forums I found.  The final spice mixture is below, and we all felt it was extremely authentic.

In addition to choosing the right spice mix was coming up with a cooking technique that was feasible at home, with no rotisserie spit.  I ended up forging a cube of tightly packed meat.  It was glorious in it’s meaty insanity.  But the logistical benefits were strong: it was able to be cooked on a flat surface.  First we tried it on the grill, then the oven, and finally we found the best approach was to cook on a flat, cast iron skillet over low heat.  Then as outside surfaces char, slice those off and continue cooking the inner parts.

Gyro Sandwich with Hot Sauce and Yogurt Sauce

To be honest, this recipe is a lot of work, and for the $5 it costs at a cart, I recommend going that route.  But if you want honest, damn good street food at home, this recipe works!  This recipe is closer to shawarma in taste, but gyro and shawarma are basically the same thing with slightly different sauces (I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but it’s true).  How do I know that for sure?  Some quotes from around the event:

“This is like a dream come true.” – Janny

“I should grab that cube of meat and run down the hall!” – Tim

“buuuurrrrppppp!!!!” – Lon

On to the recipe…

Spice Mix Recipe

Toss together all of the following:

  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch (1/8 tsp.) ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • pinch ground allspice
  • pinch ground fennel seed
  • small pinch (1/16 tsp.) ground coriander seed

Lamb Gyro Recipe
~makes 7 gyros

Shredded Lamb Shawarma


  • 1 pound 14 ounces freshly ground lamb
  • The fat trimmings when grinding the lamb (ask your butcher for this or do it yourself, like I did)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons spice mix (above) (plus a bit extra for sprinkling)
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 yellow onion


1. Combine ground lamb, spice mix, and bread crumbs in a large bowl.  Combine well with fingers.

Lamb Patties

2. Divide lamb mixture into four even amounts, form into 4 x 4 inch patties (should be thick).

Fat Layered on Patties

3. Lay a thin layer of the lamb fat on top of three of the patties, sprinkle some extra spice mix on top.  Then stack them atop each other, using the fourth (uncovered) patty as the top of the stack.

Gleaming the Cube

4. Shape the block into a cube and press it tightly.  Wrap in saran wrap extremely tightly, continuing to keep pressure on.  Store in the refrigerator for 24 hours (or at least over night).

Skillet Cooking a Shawarma Cube

5. Heat a seasoned (with oil) cast iron skillet over medium heat and begin unwrapped lamb cube on one face.  Place the half onion on top of the cube.

Shredded Lamb Shawarma with Onion

6. Cook each side until thoroughly charred.  Remove onion and rotate cube to an uncooked side, replace onion and repeat.  Do this until the lamb has cooked on all sides.  Using a long knife (preferably a long slicer) shave a thin piece of the edge off and allow to continue cooking on a separate part of the skillet.  Continue this on all sides until entire block is cooked and shaved.  This took quite a while for us.

Lamb Gyro in Pita

7. Serve with homemade pita or store bought (the best is Kontos brand) and your favorite sauces (such as hot sauce or a tzatziki).

posted by Lon at 02:34 PM Filed under Mediterranean, Middle Eastern. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.