Shawarmas and gyros are sandwiches available at specialty fast food outlets across North America. The meat for these sandwiches is usually shaved from a large cone of meat that roasts all day, cooking in its own juices. Both sandwiches consist of meat and other toppings served on pita bread, but there are key differences between a shawarma and a gyro.
Shawarma is a street food that is found in almost every Middle Eastern country, while the gyro is a Greek sandwich. There is some controversy over which country invented the shawarma, and it is sometimes attributed to Greek origins because of its similarity to the gyro. According to Gulf News, shawarma originated in Turkey as a type of kebab.
Shawarma is made with lamb, while the gyro is a loaf-like meat that is a mixture of lamb and beef. Shawarmas can also be chicken and sometimes goat or fish. The giant cone of shawarma meat is piles of meat that are packed down, while the gyro meat is a processed blend of meat that is formed into a loaf and roasted. The shawarma meat is shaved, small and chunky when served in a sandwich, while the gyro meat comes in long, thinly sliced strips.
Traditional Greek spices are used in gyros, including garlic and oregano, and these seasonings are incorporated into the loaf of gyro meat. Shawarma meat is marinated in a variety of seasonings for as long as a day. Shawarma seasonings include traditional Middle Eastern seasonings such as allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon, dried lime, vinegar and cardamom. The seasonings used in both meats vary depending on the restaurant or chef that is preparing them.
Each sandwich has its own sauces that are optional when ordering a gyro or shawarma. The shawarma comes with tahini, which is made of sesame seeds, or hummus, which is a chickpea sauce. The gyro can come with a tzatziki sauce, which is a spiced yogurt sauce. Lettuce, tomatoes and onions are available for both types of sandwich. Pickled turnip is a staple shawarma topping, and it is easily identified as the bright pink sticks throughout the sandwich.