Greek Beef Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

I loved my year living in Argentina. One block from my apartment in downtown Buenos Aires was a Shawarma restaurant. I’d hardly call it the culinary apex of my time there, but I ate there weekly (so I guess that’s at least 50 shawarmas). Since that time (more than 10 years ago) I have not eaten a single shawarma or gyros. I’m definitely ready to try one again. (The main difference between a shawarma and gyro are the spices used, but the overall principle is exactly the same)

After a month of technical problems; finally a photo.

Gyros sold in restaurants are cooked using a vertical roaster, and the meat is layered in a specific way (often a combination of lamb and beef) to produce the best results. These homemade gyros don’t have the traditional appearance, but Chris Kimball’s goal was to duplicate the flavors (but not necessarily the traditional appearance).  Since I knew that my two boys wouldn’t eat lamb, I used the ground-beef-version that Cook’s Illustrated developed.  Another trick this recipe also uses is to thicken regular American yogurt by draining for 30 minutes.  These are topped with feta cheese.

Overall, they take about an hour of active preparation. The results were 4-stars, and this all-beef-version is tasty, but not very Greek. The patties didn’t really fill the pita, so only about 1/3 of my bites had meat. But they were a nice reminder of my very fond memories of my time living in Buenos Aires.


  1. I uses about 1-1/2 pounds of ground beef, which was the smallest package sold in my supermarket. I was going to make 18 patties with the extra meat, but my 10-year-old son was helping me and had already figured out how to divide the meat to yield 12 patties.
  2. I didn’t drain the cucumbers properly, as I wasn’t sure why I was adding lemon juice only to let it drain away. But then I read the accompanying article afterward, and saw that I was supposed to reduce the liquid.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $8.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original is here.  The descriptions of how I cooked them today are given below:

Tzatziki Sauce:

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 medium cucumber,
3/8 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon juice (1 lemon)
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves or dill (but if you use dried mint or dried dill, reduce the amount to 1/2 teaspoon.)

Beef Patties:
4 to 6 pita breads
1/2 medium onion , chopped coarse (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon of dried oregano)
3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 3 teaspoons)
1-lb 80% lean ground chuck
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large tomato , sliced thin
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 1/2 cup)

  1. To make the Tzatziki sauce, line a strainer with three paper coffee filters (or three layers of paper towels) and place over a bowl. Add yogurt to strainer, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate while draining for 30 minutes. In my case no actual liquid fell to the bowl, but the paper towels were completely soaked.
  2. Meanwhile, peel, seed, and finely dice the cucumber, which should yield 1/2 cup. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice in colander set over bowl and let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Discard drained liquid and combine yogurt and cucumber in clean bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pressed garlic and mint (either  .
  4. Cut the top quarter off the pita bread, and tear into 1-inch pieces. Stack pitas and tightly wrap with aluminum foil. Preheat your oven to 350-degrees to warm your pita bread.
  5. Dice the onion. Add onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and pita bread pieces to food processor, and process for 30 seconds. Empty mixture into a large bowl, and add ground beef.  Using your hands, mix until combined. Divide mixture into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a small ball, then flatten each into a round disk about 1/2″ thick.
  6. Put foil-wrapped pita bread in oven for 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef patties until well browned, about 4 minutes. If you have a splatter screen use it to reduce the mess. After you flip the patties, reduce the heat to medium and cook until well browned, about 5 more minutes.  Place patties on paper towel-lined plate to absorb some of the excess grease.
  8. To assemble, evenly spread 1/4 cup of Tzatziki sauce inside each pita. Evenly distribute patties among pitas, then add a few tomato slices, 1/2-cup shredded lettuce, and 2-tablespoons crumbled feta cheese.

3 Responses to Greek Beef Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

  1. Linda says:

    Perhaps a simple solution to obtain meat in every bite: form the meat into a longer cylinder shape rather than a pattie.

    For summer enjoyment, may I recommend an alternate method of cooking? Try forming the cylinders on a flat skewer (chill to set the meat to the skewer) and cook via the outside grill – sure adds wonderful flavor!

    I’ve been following your blog for some time now and appreciate your trials and comments; I too have been using CI recipes for years and have enjoyed most of what I have tried.

    What happened to your vanilla experiment?

    Keep up the good work!

    • Yes, your grill suggestion sounds like much better than Chris Kimball’s skillet.

      The Vanilla Experiment still needs work. The beans stopped adding potency in December, and still about 40% weaker than McCormicks. I want to add more beans (for a double dunk) to see if that imparts more potency. They are sitting on my shelf still, waiting for things to calm down around the house.


  2. Michael says:

    This one was a rare drastic failure. It was so greasy and the patties fell apart.

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