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Shawarma vs. Gyros

I'm talking beef shawarma, not chicken. I ask this because I had my 1st Shawarma sandwich yesterday and it really did remind me of a gyro in terms of how it's sliced of the cone-shaped spit. Like a gyro, it was served on pita, but without the onions, and I thought the meat was a tad milder than a gyro...also accompanied with a yogurt sauce ( but not a tzsisiki-no cucumbers!) , and lettuce and tomato.

I must surmise that it didn't have the lingering after-effects ( cramping, onion breath, guilt, sudden weight gain, shame) that I have often experienced after consuming a gyro...however I'm certain it still packed the same caloric punch as a gyro..

which do you prefer/

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  1. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but the best shawarma I've ever had was in Amsterdam. It was a beef/lamb mix and the store had a variety of sauces. I opted for a slightly spicy garlic paste and loved the combination of the heat, garlic, hot juicy meat and cold veggies. Throw in some fantastic frites and it was quite a meal.

    I've never been a big fan of gyros, mainly because I'm not a huge fan of lamb on its own. The meat just overpowers me in a typical gyro.

    1. Shawarma by a mile. Gyros is generally just too salty for me. Predominant flavors are simply salt and garlic. Very monotonous.

      1. I like both, but I eat Gyros more often(about once a week), because of the lack of availability of great Shawarma where I live, and in the suburbs.

        1. The Shwarma vs Gyro divide is basically Middle East vs Greece. Personally, I prefer Shwarma because of the possible toppings and spicy sauce that they serve with it in Israel. I also am a firm believer in Shwarma being lamb based, though these days it's a bit of a generic meat mix.

          1. I know gyros can be made differently but I live very close to a small town that has been dominated by Greeks that came over to work the sponge trade and their growing community. Gyros here are a seasoned lamb forcemeat that is shaped into the cone and cooked on the vertical open spit grill. My experience with shawarma is that is has been a mixture of solid meats that are pressed into the cone shape and cooked the same way as the gyro. When you view slices of shawarma there are layers of individual meats as opposed to the forcemeat nature of the gyro. Like I said gyros may be made exactly as a lamb shawarma in other parts of the world.

            4 Replies
            1. re: scubadoo97

              that is my experience, too, about forcemeat vs. slices. and i like the gyro flavoring. sometimes shwarma seems too bland for me.

              1. re: alkapal

                When I first encountered gyros, back in the dark ages, I seem to recall the big cone was actually slices of real lamb piled together on the spit, and the ground mystery meat came later when the things got popular and were dumbed down. Am I right or is this a false memory? If I'm right, then "authentic" gyro is perhaps more like the above descriptions of shawarma.

                1. re: johnb

                  maybe you are right, johnb. the slices melded together on the cone, so that when a section was shaved/sliced off to serve, it seemed like it was a coherent whole, didn't it?

                2. re: alkapal

                  I'm with you, alkapal. Much prefer spicy gyros, especially lamb gyros, over shawarma.

                  Kind of a side issue, but there's pita, and there's pita. I HATE dry pita. There's no better way to ruin either gyros or shawarma than by serving them with one of those thin little mass-produced dry pita pockets. Gyros should be wet and messy.

              2. interesting thread...another nut in the pile would be Doner, the turkish greek/middleastern hybrid...not so force-meaty as gyro, but served on fluffy bread with lettuce, tomato, chilies, et al......mmmmmmm ...doner kabab...makes me want to fly to germany...in a head to head, however, i'm going to have to side with detroit -style lebanese chicken schwarma with garlic sauce, turnip pickles, and tomatoes panini-ed within a split pita...

                1 Reply
                1. re: sixelagogo

                  I love doner kebabs, they would be my first choice, then a gyro, then shawarma.........

                2. The edge goes to shawarma.

                  Other recent topics have discussed the differences in spicing. In the US I find that gyros tend to be garlic heavy (marination and/or sauce) and use herbs like rosemary or oregano. After Much practical study :-) I believe the best shawarma has a lot of allspice in the marinade and usually isn't that garlicky.

                  Shawarma is usually served on pita with slivered red onions and a tahini based sauce. Gyros are more likely to come on slightly puffy Greek style flatbread with tzatziki sauce.

                  If well made, this is a very tough choice!

                  1. I m not sure what this debate is about. When I have ordered Shawarma in a restaurant, it comes out as thin slices of unadulterated lamb. Nothing from a cone-shaped object. Nothing pre-formed and pre-seasoned like the gyro places you see all over America.

                    When I was in Poland, I twice saw places that had stacked fairly large cuts of lamb on a spit, all crispy on the outside with fat dripping off. They shaved it off with large blades. So far superior to what we can generally get in the US.

                    1. guys shawarma is a very different story from the gyros .
                      the gyros simply kills the flavor of the meat besides who would eat meat with yougort !!

                      now shawarma is a different story , if you once visited an arabian country you will really understand the meaning of shawarma .

                      shawarma : chicken , beef or the best lamb meet made very well on fire or barbecue ( which is better ) and you can add any salad pickles or ( THENA - which is very important / homos which has the same importance ) .

                      shwarma can be eaten in normal sandwitch ( not the best but 1000 times better than gyros )
                      or in baggete which is incredibly delicious and my favorite
                      or in a roll which is amazin as well.

                      * sorry for the bad english
                      ** and remmember : you didnt eat shawarma if you didnt come to eat it an arabian country OF THE MIDDLE EAST

                      1. I'm not getting what the argument is. I've had both many, many times, all over the US and world; and other similar foods called varying names by whatever country or culture. They are just basically the same thing with spicing and condiments that vary. I'm talking about authentic versions, not those pre-made, frozen, gyro meat patties or sliced loaves like Kronos or Parthenon.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: JMF

                          There was a thread a while back where the two terms are used interchangeably in Canada, but they're two different things in the U.S. Gyros here are basically heavily processed lamb bologna, whereas shawarma is thin slices of meat on a spit. A lot of Greek places are replacing their spit gyros with this horrible zero-prep gyro strip stuff which looks and tastes terrible, so I tend to favor shawarma when it's available.


                          1. re: JMF

                            I think that a lot of discussion about the Gyro/Shwarma/Donor gets overly confused because there really aren't any specific ingredients that absolutely have to be present for an "authentic" version of the dish. It's the cooking style of the meat that is the most important.

                            In their native tongues (Greek/Arabic/Turkish) all three words imply being spit roast. After that regional variations come into play for the meat, bread, and condiments used. Then you factor in what happens in diaspora communities (such as the ground meat gryo cones) - that will also make things different.

                            For personal preference, then that involves questions of individual taste like spice, yogurt vs. tahina, fresh vegetable condiments vs. pickled ones, etc.