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History of the Gyro

pronounced "yee-roh" or "hee-roh", is a tale of culinary evolution and cultural fusion. This beloved Greek dish has a fascinating journey from its ancient origins to its worldwide popularity today.

Ancient Greece

Ancient Beginnings:

The roots of the gyro can be traced back to Ancient Greece. In ancient times, Greek cooks would prepare skewered or grilled meats, typically beef, lamb, or goat. This method of cooking meat is known as "kebabs" or "souvlaki," where thin slices of meat were stacked and roasted on a vertical rotisserie or skewer.

Meat being grilled over wood on skewers

Ottoman Influence:

During the Ottoman Empire's rule in Greece, which lasted for centuries, culinary traditions from the Middle East and Asia Minor influenced Greek cuisine. The Ottoman introduced the concept of cooking meat on vertical rotisseries. The Turkish dish "diner kebab" became particularly popular, consisting of seasoned meat cooked on a vertical spit and served in flatbreads.

Food wrapped gyro

The Birth of the Gyro:

In the early 20th century, Greek imigrants began arriving in the United States, bringing with them their culinary traditions. These immigrants adapted the Ottoman diner kebab to their tastes and ingredients, using lamb or beef mixed with herbs and spices. They replaced traditional Middle Eastern flatbreads with Greek pita bread, and the gyro as we know it today began to take shape.

Commercial Gyro Production:

In the 1960s and 1970s, the gyro gained widespread popularity in America. Greek-American entrepreneurs like John Garlic and John Paps opened businesses specializing in gyro production and equipment. They played a significant role in mechanizing the process of cooking and slicing gyro meat, making it easier for restaurants to serve this dish.

Desk globe with a travel bag and magnifying glass held in a human hand

Global Popularity:

The gyro's appeal wasn't limited to the United States. It spread to other countries, especially in Europe, where variations on the dish became popular. Different cultures adapted the gyro to their own culinary traditions resulting in unique versions of the dish in places like Turkey (done kebab), Lebanon (shawarma), and beyond.

food wrapped gyro on a cutting board with garlic

Gyros Today:

Today the gyro is a beloved street food and restaurant item enjoyed by people worldwide. IT's typically made by stacking thin slices of seasoned meat on a vertical rotisserie and cooking it slowly as it rotates. The cooked meat is then shaved off and served in a pita bread or flatbread, often accompanied by tomatoes, onions, and a yogurt-based sauce like tzatziki.

The gyro has come a long way from its Ancient Greek origins, thanks to centuries of cultural exchange and adaptation. It's a testament to how culinary traditions can evolve and thrive, transcending borders and cultures to become global favorites. Whether you enjoy it as a classic Greek dish or a variation from another part of the world, they gyro remains a flavorful symbol of cultural fusion. Thanks for reading our short history of the gyro and learning more about the food we eat.


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