I’ve noticed a lot of people are creeped out by gyro meat. They don’t get how it’s made and all they see is questionable looking lamb and beef on a spinning stick and won’t give it a chance. My mom is one of those people. But gyros are so delicious. The combination of juicy well seasoned meat with burnt ends, and that tangy tzatziki sauce in a warm pita. Mmm mm!
One of the best moments on my honeymoon was my first real Greek gyro in Santorini. Yes, I mean that. It was so friken good. Mouth is now watering.
Anyways, after doing a bit of research, I tried a recipe using only chicken thighs and by creating our own vertical rotisserie in our oven at home, we were able to enjoy a healthy version that also tastes like indulgent comfort food. And while it may look like a labor intensive recipe it is super easy! Try it for your next game day party! The reviews in our house were top notch.
Photo Cred to my awesome sister and nurse/photographer Lisa Effren Photography
- 2lbs boneless chicken thighs
- 4 cups of Greek yogurt
- 2-3 lemons
- Fresh dill
- Fresh Parsley
- 1/2 cup or so of Olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced into 1 thick slice
- Tomatoes, diced
- Lettuce, chopped
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
- White onion, sliced very thin for toppings
- 1 wooden skewer
- Seasonings: 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp coriander, 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp cayenne pepper for heat, lots of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
(You can adjust the seasoning amounts as you see fit. These are rough estimates of what I used because I didn’t measure. But don’t be scared of new seasonings. I thought the cinnamon was a bit weird myself. Just trust me, somehow it all blends together for a delicious chicken)
This recipe will make 8 good-sized pitas.
Start by marinating your chicken in a bag or bowl–whatever is easiest for you. Add your chicken thighs, 2 cups of yogurt, juice of 1-2 lemons and olive oil. Then add your seasonings *cumin, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, white pepper, cayenne, salt & pepper) and incorporate well. Let it sit for an hour.
Set your oven to 400 degrees. If you have a fancy oven like my Mom with a convection roast option, use that but put it at 375 degrees. We had to play around with the temperature a bit. You may have to pull a few racks out of the oven and place it on the bottom level to make sure it can fit. I suggest testing it out before you put all the meat on the stick.
Set up a tray with parchment paper, and use a thick onion slice on the bottom of the wood skewer. Then take each chicken thigh and place it through the stick. Keep rotating which way you put the chicken so you are evening out the level. (Photos below of what it should look like)
I made the mistake of trying to be fancy and placed the top of the onion over the chicken. It was a mistake because it made the stick too top heavy and it fell over. 😦 Don’t worry, we used more sticks to prop it up which worked just fine. Don’t be stupid like me- don’t place the onion on top. When you are finished, put the tray in the oven and then make your tzatziki sauce.
Shred one cucumber into a bowl lined with a paper towel. When finished, pick up the paper towel and squeeze all the water out of the shredded cucumber. Add the juice of one lemon, roughly 2 tbsps of fresh chopped dill and parsley, crushed garlic and heavy on the salt & pepper.
Place it in the fridge and let the flavors meld for 30 minutes or until your chicken is done. It’s good to do a taste test here and see if it needs more salt–it likely will.
After an hour and a half to two hours in the oven, your chicken should look like this. Don’t be scared by the blackened edges because they are delicious. The juicy chicken is on the inside.
Take the tray out and let it set for 5-10 minutes while you prep your other ingredients. Put your pitas in the warm oven and take your tzatziki, tomatoes, onions and lettuce out of the fridge.
Slice your chicken as shown below.
Get your gyro bar set up and let everyone dig in! You can use whatever toppings you like but the crunchy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, thinly sliced white onions and the tangy fresh tzatziki are the perfect combination in my humble opinion!
Fold, bite and enjoy with a nice cold beer!