Gyros vs Shawarma: Unveiling the Delicious Differences

gyros vs shawarma
12 min reading time

Are you a fan of Mediterranean cuisine? Do you often find yourself torn between ordering a gyro sandwich or a shawarma wrap? While these two dishes may seem similar, they have their own unique flavors and cooking techniques that set them apart. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the mouthwatering world of gyros and shawarma to help you make the perfect choice for your next meal.

Gyros and shawarma are both popular street foods that have become staples in many cuisines around the world. From the traditional gyro of Greece to the authentic shawarma of the Middle East, these dishes offer a tantalizing taste adventure that satisfies the most discerning palate.

Join us as we explore the origins, meat and seasonings, cooking techniques, bread and accompaniments, regional variations and influences, taste comparison, and best places to enjoy gyros vs shawarma in the United States.

Core Findings:

  • Gyros and shawarma are popular Mediterranean street foods with their own unique flavors and cooking techniques
  • Discover the origins, meat and seasonings, cooking techniques, bread and accompaniments, regional variations and influences, taste comparison, and best places to enjoy gyros and shawarma
  • Whether you prefer the Greek flavors of a gyro or the Middle Eastern spices of a shawarma, both dishes offer a tantalizing taste adventure

The Origins of Gyros and Shawarma

Gyros and shawarma are two beloved dishes that have become cultural staples in Greece and the Middle East, respectively. Both dishes have a long and rich history that has helped to shape their unique flavors and cooking techniques.

The Greek gyro is said to have originated in the early 1920s, when immigrants from Greece and the Middle East brought their love for grilled meats to the United States. Originally a street food in Greece, the gyro was typically made with pork or lamb meat, which was roasted on a vertical spit and then sliced into thin strips. Over time, the gyro has evolved to include additional ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce.

Similarly, the Middle Eastern shawarma has its roots in the Ottoman Empire, which spanned across the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Europe. The dish was originally made with lamb and was cooked slowly on a spit for hours over an open fire. As the dish evolved, chicken and beef were also used, and different spices and seasonings were added to enhance the flavor. Today, shawarma is enjoyed all over the world and is served in a variety of different ways, including as a wrap or sandwich.

While the Greek gyro and Middle Eastern shawarma may have originated in different parts of the world, they share many similarities in their preparation and cooking techniques. Both dishes use meat that is cooked on a rotating spit, which helps to keep the meat tender and flavorful. Additionally, both dishes are typically served with a variety of vegetables and sauces, which help to balance out the richness of the meat.

The Meat and Seasonings

When it comes to gyros vs shawarma, the type of meat is a key differentiator. Traditional gyro meat is typically made with a mixture of lamb and beef, while authentic shawarma is made with marinated chicken, lamb, or beef.

The seasoning blends also contribute to the unique flavors of these dishes. The traditional gyro seasoning typically includes oregano, garlic, onion powder, and paprika, while the authentic shawarma seasoning typically includes cumin, coriander, cardamom, and turmeric.

A mixture of lamb and beefMarinated chicken, lamb, or beef
Oregano, garlic, onion powder, and paprikaCumin, coriander, cardamom, and turmeric
Tender textureAlso tender texture
Served thinly slicedServed thinly sliced

The meat preparation process also differs between the two. Traditional gyro meat is typically packed onto a large vertical rotisserie and cooked for hours, while authentic shawarma is often cooked on a rotating spit over an open flame.

Regardless of which you prefer, both gyros and shawarma offer a delicious medley of flavors that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

The Cooking Techniques

The cooking techniques used in preparing gyros and shawarma play a crucial role in achieving their signature flavors and textures. While the methods may vary slightly depending on the region and establishment, here we highlight the most common practices.

Vertical Rotisseries

The most iconic image of both gyros and shawarma is the rotating spit of meat slowly cooking over an open flame. This vertical rotisserie cooking method allows the meat to cook evenly on all sides, while the fats and juices that drip down baste and flavor the meat below. The vertical rotisserie is a common sight in Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants alike, and is undoubtedly a defining characteristic of both dishes.

Open Flames

Another popular cooking technique used in preparing gyros and shawarma is the use of open flames. This method involves cooking the meat over an open flame, rather than on a spit. The flames sear and char the meat on the outside, while keeping it juicy and tender on the inside. This approach is commonly used in outdoor settings, especially when cooking large quantities of meat at once.

Seasoning and Marinades

The seasoning and marinades used in preparing gyros and shawarma also play a significant role in their flavor profiles. While gyros typically use a blend of herbs and spices, such as oregano, thyme, and garlic, shawarma is more likely to incorporate Middle Eastern spices like cumin, coriander, and sumac. Both dishes also rely on marinades to tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor. Ingredients like lemon juice, yogurt, and vinegar are common marinade components.

The Bread and Accompaniments

When it comes to enjoying a gyro sandwich or shawarma wrap, the bread and accompaniments play a crucial role in enhancing the overall taste experience.

A gyro sandwich typically features a pita bread that is soft and fluffy, with a slightly chewy texture. The bread is usually warmed and opened up to create a pocket, which is then filled with slices of tender, seasoned meat, shredded lettuce, juicy tomatoes, tangy onions, and a dollop of creamy tzatziki sauce. The tzatziki sauce, made with yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and herbs, adds a cool, refreshing contrast to the warm meat and bread.

On the other hand, a shawarma wrap usually features a thinner, flatter bread, such as lavash or tortilla. The wrap is filled with slices of carved meat, pickled vegetables, and a sauce that can range from tangy to spicy to garlicky, depending on the chef’s preference and regional variation. Some common accompaniments to a shawarma wrap include hummus, tahini sauce, and hot sauce.

Comparing the Bread and Accompaniments

Gyro SandwichShawarma Wrap
Soft, fluffy pita breadThin, flat lavash or tortilla
Tender meat, shredded lettuce, juicy tomatoes, tangy onionsCarved meat, pickled vegetables
Creamy tzatziki sauceHummus, tahini sauce, hot sauce

As you can see, the bread and accompaniments vary quite a bit between a gyro sandwich and a shawarma wrap. While the gyro offers a more substantial and flavorful bread, the shawarma allows for a greater variety of sauces and toppings. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on your personal preferences and the flavors that you crave.

Regional Variations and Influences

gyros vs shawarma

Gyros and shawarma have become staples in many parts of the world, each with its unique regional twists and influences. Let’s explore some of the variations that have shaped these beloved dishes.

Greek Gyro Variations

In Greece, a gyro typically consists of marinated pork, chicken, or lamb, sliced off a vertical rotisserie and served with tomatoes, red onions, and a refreshing tzatziki sauce. However, there are some variations of the traditional gyro:

Gyro VariationDescription
Souvlaki GyroSouvlaki (grilled skewered meat) is added to the traditional gyro fillings.
Kebab GyroChicken kebab meat is used instead of the traditional lamb or pork.
Vegan GyroThe meat is replaced with grilled or roasted vegetables, and vegan tzatziki is used.

Middle Eastern Shawarma Variations

The Middle Eastern shawarma is typically made with marinated chicken, beef, or lamb, served in a wrap with vegetables and sauces. Here are some variations of the traditional shawarma:

Shawarma VariationDescription
Falafel ShawarmaFalafel balls are added to the wrap.
Shawarma Rice BowlThe shawarma meat is served over rice with vegetables and sauces.
Lamb ShawarmaLamb meat is used instead of chicken or beef.

It’s fascinating to see how these dishes have evolved based on the ingredients available and cultural influences. So, whether you prefer the classic Greek gyro or the spicy Middle Eastern shawarma, you’re sure to find a version that tickles your taste buds.

Gyros vs Shawarma: Taste Comparison

When it comes to taste, gyros and shawarma offer distinct flavor experiences that appeal to different palates. While both dishes feature succulent meat and flavorful spices, there are notable differences that set them apart.


A traditional gyro contains seasoned lamb meat that is slow-cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The meat is thinly sliced and served in warm pita bread, along with onions, tomatoes, and a generous drizzle of tzatziki sauce.

The Greek gyro is known for its bold, savory taste, with the seasoning blend featuring garlic, oregano, and lemon juice. The meat is incredibly tender, thanks to its vertical rotisserie cooking method, which allows the juices to permeate the surface and keep the meat moist.


Shawarma, on the other hand, is a Middle Eastern dish that features marinated chicken, beef, or lamb that is slowly roasted on a spit or flame-grilled. The meat is then thinly sliced and served in a wrap, along with pickles, tomatoes, onions, and a variety of sauces, such as tahini and garlic sauce.

The flavors of shawarma are more complex, with the spice blend including cinnamon, paprika, and cumin. The meat has a smoky, charred taste from the grilling process, and the additional toppings and sauces provide a burst of different flavors in every bite.

In terms of taste, choosing between gyros and shawarma comes down to personal preference. Gyros offer a savory, herbaceous flavor that is comforting and satisfying, while shawarma delivers a multi-layered taste experience that is bold and exciting.

MeatLambChicken, beef, or lamb
SeasoningsGarlic, oregano, and lemon juiceCinnamon, paprika, and cumin
Cooking MethodVertical rotisserieSpit or flame-grilled
Serving StyleWarm pita breadA wrap
ToppingsOnions, tomatoes, and tzatziki saucePickles, tomatoes, onions, and tahini or garlic sauce
TasteSavory and herbaceousMulti-layered and bold

The Best Gyros and Shawarma

Are you craving for the Best Gyros and Shawarma in the United States? Look no further as we’ve scoured the country to bring you the most delicious and authentic places to satisfy your cravings for these tasty treats.

The Best Gyros

When it comes to the best gyros in America, one establishment that stands out is The Gyro Shack, with several locations in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The Gyro Shack prides itself on using only high-quality ingredients, including hand-carved, fresh meats and locally grown produce. Their authentic Greek gyro sandwiches are made with a secret spice blend and served with homemade tzatziki sauce.

If you’re in New York City, you can’t miss The Halal Guys, a food cart that has become a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike. The Halal Guys’ gyros and chicken are cooked to perfection, then wrapped in warm pita bread and topped with their famous white sauce and hot sauce. It’s no wonder that they’ve expanded their business to multiple locations around the world.

Another notable place for gyros is Chicago’s Zeus Restaurant. Zeus has been serving up delicious Mediterranean cuisine for over 40 years. Their traditional gyro sandwich comes with sliced lamb and beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a drizzle of yogurt sauce, all wrapped in warm pita bread.

The Best Shawarma

When it comes to shawarma, one place that stands out is Mamouns Falafel, with locations in New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Mamouns Falafel has been serving up authentic Middle Eastern food for over 40 years, and their shawarma wrap is a customer favorite. Their marinated chicken is cooked on a rotating spit and served in a warm wrap with hummus, lettuce, tomato, and a drizzle of tahini sauce.

For the best shawarma in California, head to Falafel’s Drive-In in San Jose. This family-owned establishment has been serving up Middle Eastern food for over 50 years, and their shawarma sandwich is a local favorite. The tender, marinated chicken is served with lettuce, tomato, and a garlicky sauce in warm pita bread.

Another notable place for shawarma is Detroit’s Bucharest Grill. Bucharest Grill has been serving up tasty Romanian and Middle Eastern street food since 2005. Their shawarma is made with marinated chicken or beef, fresh vegetables, and garlic sauce, all wrapped in warm pita bread. Make sure to grab some of their famous seasoned fries on the side!

EstablishmentLocationSpecialty Dish
The Gyro ShackIdaho, Washington, OregonGreek gyro sandwich
The Halal GuysNew York CityGyro and chicken platter
Zeus RestaurantChicagoTraditional gyro sandwich
Mamouns FalafelNew York City, New Jersey, ConnecticutShawarma wrap
Falafel’s Drive-InSan Jose, CaliforniaShawarma sandwich
Bucharest GrillDetroitShawarma sandwich

These are just a few of the best places to enjoy gyros and shawarma in the United States. Whether you prefer the Greek flavors of a gyro or the Middle Eastern spices of a shawarma, there’s no denying that these dishes are some of the most delicious and satisfying foods out there.


As we come to the end of our gastronomic journey, we hope you have gained a deeper appreciation for the delicious differences between gyros and shawarma.

From their unique origins to the tantalizing taste experience, both dishes have cemented their place as beloved street foods around the world.

Whether you prefer the savory Greek flavors of a gyro or the rich Middle Eastern spices of a shawarma, there is no denying that both dishes offer a tantalizing taste adventure.

So, why not embark on your own culinary adventure and try a gyro or shawarma from one of the many establishments that serve these dishes with pride and passion?

Ultimately, the choice between gyros and shawarma is a matter of personal preference, but what is certain is that both dishes have a special place in the hearts and stomachs of foodies around the world.

So, next time you are in the mood for a mouthwatering snack, why not try a gyro or shawarma and experience the unique flavors and cultural heritage of these iconic dishes.

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