Unraveling the Distinct Differences: Shawarma vs Gyro

Shawarma vs. Gyro: Unraveling the Differences

Shawarma and gyro are two delicious street foods that have gained popularity worldwide. These wraps are often enjoyed with a variety of fresh salad vegetables, rich sauces, and delicious meats, making them a go-to choice for food enthusiasts. While shawarma and gyro may appear similar, there are distinct differences between the two that are rooted in their cultural origins, seasoning, and choice of meat.

Origin and cultural significance

Shawarma, which originated in the Middle East, represents the vibrant flavors and spices commonly used in the region. It typically features lamb, chicken, or turkey as the main meat component, seasoned with a blend of turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and other Middle Eastern spices. The flavors and aromas of shawarma reflect the culinary traditions of the Middle East, making it a popular street food in the region.
The gyro, on the other hand, has its roots in Greece. The term “gyro” means “to turn” in Greek, referring to the method of cooking the meat. Traditionally, gyro consists of thinly sliced lamb or beef cooked on a vertical spit. The meat is seasoned with oregano, rosemary, thyme, and other herbs commonly used in Greek cuisine. The gyro’s simplicity and emphasis on the quality of the meat reflect the Greek culinary heritage.

Meat selection and seasoning

One of the main differences between shawarma and gyro is the choice of meat and its seasoning. Shawarma typically utilizes lamb, chicken, or turkey as the primary meat option, while gyro primarily features lamb or beef. However, it is worth noting that chicken and pork have recently gained popularity as gyro meats.
The seasoning used in shawarma is influenced by Middle Eastern spices and flavors. Turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and curry are some of the common spices used to marinate the meat, giving it a rich and aromatic flavor. These spices contribute to the vibrant and distinct flavor profile of shawarma.
Gyros, on the other hand, rely on a different set of herbs and spices characteristic of Greek cuisine. Oregano, rosemary, thyme and other Mediterranean herbs are used to season the meat, creating a savory and earthy flavor. The emphasis on herbs in gyro preparation highlights the simplicity and natural flavors of the meat.

Fillings and Garnishes

Another aspect that sets shawarma and gyros apart is the selection of fillings and accompaniments. Shawarma is known for its rich and varied selection of fillings. In addition to spiced meat, shawarma wraps often include hummus, tahini, and pickled vegetables or mangos. Shredded red cabbage, carrots, onions, and various other vegetables may be added to provide a textural contrast and enhance the overall flavor profile.
The gyro, on the other hand, keeps the fillings relatively simple. The typical gyro wrap consists of shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and thin slices of red onion. The star of the show is the famous creamy and tangy tzatziki sauce, which adds a refreshing and delightful element to the overall flavor. The simplicity of the gyro’s fillings allows the quality and flavor of the meat to shine through.

Preparation and cooking techniques

The preparation and cooking techniques for shawarma and gyro are also different. Shawarma is typically prepared by grilling seasoned chunks of meat on a vertical rotisserie. The slow rotation allows the meat to cook evenly and retain its juiciness and tenderness. However, in the absence of a traditional rotisserie, an indoor grill can be used as an alternative.
Gyros, on the other hand, are thin slices of marinated meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The slices of meat are then wrapped in a warm pita bread, accompanied by the chosen fillings and sauces. The vertical rotisserie cooking method imparts a distinctive flavor and texture to the gyro meat, resulting in tender and flavorful slices.

Bottom line

In conclusion, shawarma and gyro may seem similar, but they have distinct differences in origin, meat selection, seasoning, fillings, and cooking techniques. Shawarma, with its Middle Eastern heritage, offers a combination of bold spices and a variety of fillings that create a robust and flavorful experience. Gyro, originating in Greece, focuses on the simplicity of quality meat seasoned with Mediterranean herbs and accompanied by a few essential fillings.
Both shawarma and gyro have their own unique charm and are enjoyed by food lovers around the world. Whether you prefer the vibrant flavors of the Middle East or the simplicity of Greek cuisine, these delicious wraps are sure to satisfy your cravings and provide a delightful culinary experience.


What are the main differences between a shawarma and a gyro?

The main differences are in their cultural origins, seasoning, choice of meat, and fillings. Shawarma, which originated in the Middle East, uses lamb, chicken or turkey seasoned with Middle Eastern spices. Gyro, on the other hand, comes from Greece and typically features lamb or beef seasoned with Mediterranean herbs. Shawarma is known for its varied fillings such as hummus and pickled vegetables, while gyro keeps it simple with shredded lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki sauce.

Can I use different meats in shawarma and gyro?

Yes, you can use different types of meat in both shawarma and gyro. Shawarma is traditionally made with lamb, chicken or turkey, but you can also find variations with beef or even pork. Similarly, while gyro is primarily made with lamb or beef, variations with chicken or pork have recently gained popularity.

What spices are used to season shawarma and gyro?

Shawarma is seasoned with Middle Eastern spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and curry. Gyro, on the other hand, is seasoned with Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, and other Greek culinary staples. These different spice profiles contribute to the unique flavors of each dish.

What are the typical fillings in shawarma and gyro?

Shawarma is typically stuffed with a variety of ingredients, including hummus, tahini, pickled vegetables or mangos, and shredded red cabbage, carrots, and onions. Gyro, on the other hand, keeps the fillings relatively simple with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, thin slices of red onion, and the signature tzatziki sauce.

Can I make shawarma and gyros at home?

Yes, you can make both shawarma and gyro at home. Shawarma can be made by marinating and grilling chunks of meat, while gyro is made by marinating and thinly slicing cooked meat before assembling it in a warm pita. There are several recipes available online that provide step-by-step instructions for making homemade shawarma and gyro.