Homemade Doner Kebab

Doner kebab made with lamb and drizzled with tzatziki sauce

The Spruce / Anita Schecter

  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Cooling time: 90 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
1:26

Click Play to See This Doner Kebabs Recipe Come Together

If you're familiar with the Greek gyros at your favorite takeout place, then you've eaten a derivation of a doner kebab. (It's also spelled döner kebab or doner kabob.) Doner kebabs are just one type of kebab, of which there are hundreds worldwide. Originating in Turkey, they're traditionally made of lamb, although today it's common to find them with a mixture of lamb and beef, or even exclusively beef.

Whatever the type of meat, it's thinly sliced and pounded flat, and then stacked on a vertical spit to cook rotisserie style. (Doner comes from a Turkish word which means to turn or to rotate.) As the outer layers of the meat cook, it's shaved off and served in a pita or other flatbread with vegetables and sauce. The edges of the meat get deliciously charred and crispy, while the rest is glisteningly fatty and moist. Doner is the "mother," as it were, of Arabic shawarma, Mexican al pastor, and the popular Greek gyro. Doner kebabs are especially popular in Germany, which has a significant Turkish population.

Although the shaved meat can be served on a platter with rice and cooked vegetables, it's most popular as a sandwich eaten as street food. You might find tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, red onion, cucumbers, or pickles inside the pita, and the sauce might be a yogurt-based tzatziki or tahini.

Making a traditional doner kebab at home can be a bit tricky, although it's still possible if you have the setup for a slow-cooking, vertical-rotating spit. For most home kitchens, however, some improvisation will be required. This recipe aims to capture the flavors of the doner kebab more than the rotisserie cooking method. Rather than being a traditional recipe, it is a contemporary interpretation of the popular street food, modified to be friendly for home cooks.

As such, ground lamb or a combination of beef and lamb gets seasoned and cooked in a loaf pan. Allow it to cool, slice it thinly, and crisp it up in a pan. Then pile it into a pita stuffed with vegetables and slather on the sauce for all the deliciousness of doner kebab at home.

Ingredients

  • For the Kebab:
  • 1 pound ground lamb (or 1/2 pound each of ground lamb and ground beef)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled and finely minced)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil (for the skillet, plus extra for the pan)
  • For the Sandwich:
  • 4 rounds of pita (or naan or flatbread)
  • 1 cup assorted lettuce
  • 1 large tomato (sliced)
  • 1/2 seedless English cucumber (sliced)
  • 1/4 large red onion (peeled and sliced)
  • Tzatziki sauce or tahini sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, egg, garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt, and black pepper.

  4. Place the mixture into an oiled 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and cook in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown.

  5. You can slice the loaf immediately if you like but, for best results, cool completely, wrap in aluminum foil, and refrigerate until firm.

  6. To reheat, add a little olive oil to a large skillet, slice the loaf very thinly and crisp up the slices in the hot pan for a few minutes.

  7. Assemble the sandwiches with pita, warmed and toasted through. Spread on some tzatziki or tahini sauce, add lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, and top with more sauce.

  8. Serve and enjoy.

Are Doner Kebabs Healthy?

In 2017, street food doner kebabs made from frozen meat came under scrutiny in the European Union for containing phosphates. (It is important to note that phosphates occur in many processed foods, not just frozen kebab meat. This includes hot dogs and hamburgers.) As a 2010 Dutch study noted, phosphates occur naturally in food. However, it found that foods with added phosphates tend to be linked to higher incidences of cardiovascular disease. A 2017 study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Food Technology and Biotechnology concluded the same. While the E.U. ultimately overturned this restriction on phosphates, some people choose to use caution in the amount of processed meats they consume. When you make your food from scratch, whether it's kebabs, hamburgers, or sausages, you are in full control of exactly what goes into your food.

What Are Different Types of Kebabs?

Doner kebabs are just one of the many types of kebab that are found across the Middle East, western Asia, and South Asia. Kebabs loosely refer to some type of meat cooked on a stick, whether that's a large rotisserie spit or an individual bamboo or metal skewer. There are iterations everywhere from Japan (yakitori) to India. Just a few include:

  • Shish kebabs are also of Turkish origin and refer to cubed meat, traditionally lamb, that is grilled.
  • Seekh kebabs are popular in South India and are made of minced spiced lamb, beef, or chicken. Typically, they are cooked in a tandoor, or oven.
  • Chuan are Chinese kebabs originating in the country's Uyghur communities. They live in the northeastern part of the country, closest to the border with Kazakhstan and Mongolia. These kebabs are traditionally made of cubed, grilled lamb.

Tips

  • When frying the sliced meat, make sure your pan is quite hot. This will help create a nice char that mimics the magic of the original rotisserie method.
  • If you crave more heat, pair this with muhammara, a spicy and flavorful red pepper dip popular throughout Turkey and Syria.