Easy Greek Chicken Gyros made at home!
Greek Chicken Gyros are easy, flavorful, make ahead and healthy – winning! The combination of juicy Greek lemon chicken, creamy cucumber dill tzatziki, fresh crisp veggies, and tangy feta wrapped in warm pita bread is out of this world. While the chicken marinates, you can prep the tzatziki, chop the veggies and whip up some lemon rice or Greek pasta salad, so all you have to do is cook the chicken at dinner time. These chicken gyros are excellent for meal prep, make ahead lunch/dinners, entertaining and leftovers – instructions included.
WHY I LOVE THIS CHICKEN GYRO RECIPE
Greek cuisine is one of my all-time favorites. I never get tired of the fresh Mediterranean flavors and feeling completely full and satisfied from healthy food such as hummus and veggies, souvlaki, or gyro flatbread pizza.
Of course, gyros are one of the most popular Greek foods and what I make most often with my Greek chicken recipe, so I thought it was past time that I bring you this fabulous Greek chicken gyro recipe. It is every bit as delicious as your favorite Greek restaurant – and then some. Here are just a few reasons to love this chicken gyro recipe:
- Easy. Marinate the chicken, whip up the tzatziki and chop some veggies.
- Prep ahead. Everything can be prepped in advance so all you have to do is cook the chicken at dinner time or warm the chicken.
- Meal prep or make ahead. You can cook the chicken ahead of time then divide the ingredients between containers for meal prep or have everything ready to go at lunch or dinner time.
- Versatile. You can serve chicken gyros as chicken gyros or make Greek chicken salad, wraps, pasta, rice/grain bowls with the same ingredients.
- Family friendly. Everyone can assemble their own chicken gyros with their favorite ingredients.
- Healthy. This chicken gyro recipe can be devoured guilt free and you’ll love every bite.
- Easy to double. You can double or triple the recipe for entertaining, for purposeful leftovers or to freeze.
- Freezer friendly. Both the chicken and pitas are freezer friendly for easy make ahead dinner.
- Great for entertaining. You can prep everything ahead of time then just grill while your guests chat it up and then everyone can assemble their own chicken gyros. This makes YOUR life easier and THEIR chicken gyros perfect for them!
What are gyros?
Gyro is pronounced Yee-Roh not Jy-Roh (sorry if I just burst someone’s bubble). A gyro is a Greek pita sandwich traditionally made using pork, chicken, lamb, or beef, that is cooked on a slowly-rotating, vertical spit in front of an upright rotisserie. This cooking style is where gyros get their name as gyros means “turn” in Greek. The meat is thinly sliced then served wrapped in a pita with tomatoes, red onions and tzatziki sauce.
This simple combination is so enticing because both the chicken and the tzatziki sauce are super flavorful and you get layers of texture in every bite.
What is the difference between gyros and chicken souvlaki?
Chicken gyros and chicken souvlaki are very similar in flavor and both can be served in pitas with tzatziki so they are easy to confuse. The main difference between the two is the cooking method:
Traditional gyros are cooked as a turning vertical cone of meat and then the meat is thinly sliced off. Souvlaki, on the other hand, is cooked horizontally on a spit over flames, so basically, our modern-day kabob. Some souvlaki are served on the skewer, but they can also be taken off the skewer and made into a souvlaki pitas with tzatziki.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GYRO AND DONER KEBAB?
At first glance, a gyro and doner kebab can look almost identical, especially because the most popular way to serve both of them is in a pita sandwich or wrap. Both gyros and doner kebab are popular street foods consisting of a marinated cone of stacked sliced meats (most often lamb) that are roasted on a rotating spit then thinly shaved off to order. Where they differ, however, are the seasonings (AKA flavor!) and toppings:
- Seasonings: The Greek gyro is primarily seasoned with a blend of lemon juice, oregano and garlic with a few additional herbs for a strong, bright lemon/oregano flavor. Doner kebab is seasoned with cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, and cinnamon to create a warm, earthy, smoky, pungent flavor.
- Toppings: Another main distinction between doner kebab and Greek gyros are the toppings. While they both can be garnished with lettuce, red onions and tomatoes, Greek gyros are always finished off with tzatziki sauce – a yogurt-based sauce seasoned with cucumbers, garlic and dill. Doner kebab can be finished with tzatziki, but more often it is finished with a yogurt-mayo sauce that doesn’t contain dill or cucumber, simply lemon juice and garlic. It can also be served with tahini or chili sauce instead. Doner kebab also often contains hummus and tabbouleh.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GYROS AND SHAWARMA?
At first glance, a gyro and a shawarma can look almost identical, so how are they different? Like the doner kebab, both are popular street foods made of marinated meat cooked on a rotating spit then thinly shaved off to order. Again where they differ are seasonings and toppings:
- Seasonings: As previously discussed, the Greek gyro is primarily seasoned with a blend of lemon juice, oregano and garlic with a few additional herbs for a strong, bright lemon/oregano flavor. Shawarma is seasoned with cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves to create a warm, earthy, smoky, pungent flavor.
- Toppings: Another main distinction between Greek gyros and Chicken Shawarma Wraps are the toppings. While they both can be garnished with lettuce, red onions and tomatoes, Greek gyros are always finished off with tzatziki sauce – a yogurt-based sauce seasoned with cucumbers, garlic and dill whereas Chicken Shawarma Wraps can also be finished with a yogurt sauce but it doesn’t contain dill or cucumber, simply lemon juice and garlic; but shawarama can also be finished with hummus, or tahini. In fact, in Israel, shawarma is almost always served with tahini because yogurt sauce would violate the Jewish dietary restriction of not eating milk and meat together. Chicken Shawarma Wraps are also often served with pickled mangos known amba and pickled turnips.
WHAT IS CHICKEN GYRO MADE OF?
I’ve kept this chicken gyro recipe quite traditional (except added lettuce and cucumber) but exceptionally flavorful. These chicken gyros are made with the most flavorful marinated Greek chicken that can be grilled or cooked on the stove (a readers’ favorite recipe all on its own), then topped with fresh, cool, zingy tzatziki sauce, crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, zippy red onions, fresh cucumbers, and tangy feta all cocooned in warm pita bread.
For this gyro recipe, I went with Greek chicken because it is easy, economical, accessible, approachable, kid friendly and delicious! I used the same Chicken recipe I used in my Chicken Souvlaki, Greek Chicken Salad and Greek Pizza, because I am obsessed!
The Greek Chicken marinade combines lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, oregano, paprika, onion powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper. The dance of flavors ensures our Greek chicken – and consequently our Greek Chicken gyros – aren’t flat/one note but seeping with a symphony of zesty, fresh and earthy flavors.
Both the lemon juice and balsamic tenderize the chicken as well as infuse it with FLAVOR. With one bite, your obsession will begin.
Can I Use Chicken Breasts or Thighs?
You can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs in this Greek chicken gyro recipe, you will just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. I chose chicken breasts because they are leaner but chicken thighs are inherently juicier and reheat better.
Tzatziki sauce is a chilled garlicky Greek yogurt, dill cucumber sauce, dip or spread. It is lusciously creamy, tangy, super flavorful and a MUST for Greek chicken gyros.
Tzatziki is made with Greek yogurt, drained cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, fresh dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It is easy to make with the only trick being to drain the cucumbers first. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Cucumber: You can use either ¾ of an English cucumber or 1 slicing cucumber – which is the most common cucumber you see at the grocery store. I recommend peeling and seeding whichever cucumber you use, so it really doesn’t matter which one you choose.
- Greek yogurt: You must Greek yogurt in tzatziki sauce verses regular yogurt because Greek yogurt is much thicker. You may use either Greek whole-milk yogurt, low-fat or non-fat yogurt in this tzatziki sauce recipe and all will produce excellently thick, creamy results.
- Fresh dill: Dill adds the quintessential flavor to Greek tzatziki sauce and should not be omitted or substituted. I recommend starting with one tablespoon fresh chopped dill, then adding more to taste.
- Garlic: I use 3 minced garlic cloves for a garlicky tzatziki recipe but you are welcome to add more or less to taste – or start with less and add more.
- Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice is preferred, but you may substitute with bottled lemon juice. I suggest starting with one tablespoon and add more to taste for a tangier tzatziki sauce – OR add some lemon zest.
- Red wine vinegar: If you don’t have red wine vinegar, you may substitute with white vinegar or additional lemon juice to taste.
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil adds wonderful body and flavor but is not essential to homemade tzatziki sauce if you are trying to save a few calories.
- Salt and pepper: Salt helps remove excess moisture from the chopped cucumber. Both salt and pepper add needed flavor – you can use more or less to taste.
Veggies & Feta
You are welcome to use as many, as little of the veggies as you like or customize them to your liking. Here is what I recommend for Greek chicken gyros:
- Romaine lettuce. Use the inner leaves so they are fresh and crunchy.
- Tomatoes. Please use ripe tomatoes for the best flavor and texture.
- Cucumber. Cucumbers are usually reserved for the tzatziki sauce but I like to use them in both the sauce and the gyros for their fresh, satisfying crunch. You can use an English Cucumber or slicing cucumber – whatever you use for the tzatziki.
- Red onions. You’ll want to thinly slice the red onions for the best texture and even flavor. Use more or less to taste.
- Feta cheese. This rich, creamy, salty, tangy cheese adds SO much flavor! It is sold by the block or in crumbles. I always have a large container of feta crumbles in my fridge from Costco, so that I can add it to everything Mediterranean!
- Bell peppers. You can use red, yellow or orange bell pepper – whatever you have on hand. They are also delicious sautéed for a minute or two OR use roasted red bell peppers – yum!
- Olives. Kalamata olives boast a dark, rich intensely fruity flavor and are a delicious addition to Greek chicken gyros if olives are your thing.
- Chickpeas. Roasted chickpeas tossed in some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne add a fun flavor/texture pop.
- Artichoke heart. I love their tanginess! Make sure to rinse and drain if you purchase them in oil.
- Sun–dried tomatoes. Same as above -rinse before using. I also like to chop them into bite-size pieces.
- Avocado. Their luscious creaminess is always a welcome addition.
I recommend Greek style pita bread for this chicken gyro recipe. It’s soft, just the right thickness and lays flat because it doesn’t have a hollow inside for stuffing. If you can’t find hollow pita bread, then the pita pockets can work, but they tend to easily tear. You’ll know if the pita bread has a pocket or not because it will usually says “pocket” in the name verses “pita flat bread” or “authentic pita bread.”
HOW TO MAKE GREEK CHICKEN GYRO RECIPE:
STEP 1: MARINATE GREEK CHICKEN
- HOW LONG DO I MARINATE MY GREEK CHICKEN? You will want to marinate the Greek Chicken for 4-8 hours. You can get away with marinating it for less time, but the longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become.
- CAN I THE CHICKEN MARINATE OVERNIGHT? You don’t want to marinate the chicken longer than 8 hours because lemon juice can actually constrict the protein fibers and make your chicken tough and chewy.
STEP 2: MAKE TZATZIKI
- Peel, slice and seed your cucumber.
- Add cucumber to your food process and pulse until finely chopped.
- Drain diced cucumber with a sprinkle of salt for 15 minutes. The salt helps the cucumber release moisture. Draining the diced cucumbers prevents the tzatziki from becoming watery.
- Add all Tzatziki ingredients to a medium bowl, stir to combine and chill until you’re ready to assemble the chicken gyros.
STEP 3: CHOP VEGGIES
- At any point while the chicken is marinating and tzatziki is chilling, chop the lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.
STEP 4: COOK CHICKEN
- When ready to cook, let chicken sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. This will ensure the chicken cooks evenly.
- You can grill the chicken or cook it on the stove top per recipe instructions.
- Once the chicken is cooked, wait 5-10 minutes before slicing so the juices can redistribute throughout the chicken.
STEP 5: HOW TO SERVE CHICKEN GYROS
- Now the fun part! Warm the pitas in the microwave by stacking together and covering with a damp paper towel.
- Top warm pitas with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, thinly sliced chicken, feta and a generous amount of tzatziki sauce.
Tips for Making chicken Gyros recipe
- Marinate chicken. The longer you marinate the Greek chicken, the more flavorful it will become!
- Don’t over-marinate chicken. On the other hand, don’t marinate chicken for longer than 8 hours or it can become tough and chewy.
- Freeze chicken in marinade. You can add the Greek chicken to the marinade ingredients and freeze. When you’re ready to use, the chicken will marinate as you defrost the chicken.
- Freeze chicken. You can also freeze cooked Greek Chicken for easy meal prep or use-as-you-go individual chicken gyros.
- Prep the Tzatziki with the chicken. The tzatziki is very best after being refrigerated for at least one hour so the flavors have time to meld; so make tzatziki right after you add the chicken to the marinade.
- Don’t skip the tzatziki! Tzatziki is a key component in Greek chicken gyros and adds TONS of flavor! Its creamy consistency is also needed to marry all of the ingredients together. If you don’t want to make your own tzatziki you can use store-bought.
- Drain cucumbers. Don’t skip seeding and draining the cucumbers for lusciously creamy tzatziki.
- Customize chicken gyro ingredients. The vegetable ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions- you can use add/swap any ingredients for your favs such as bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.
- Warm pitas. Use pita flatbread and not pita pockets. Warm pitas are softer and roll easier without tearing.
- You don’t have to make a gyro! Turn these gyros into a deconstructed chicken gyro salad, grain bowl or flatbread, or pizza.
What Should I serve with Chicken Gyros?
Chicken Gyros are practically a meal in themselves stuffed with protein and veggies! Still, they are fantastic with:
- Greek Lemon Rice
- Greek pasta salad
- Simple green salad
- seasoned potatoes or fries
- crusty bread
- Hummus and pita bread and/or veggies
- fruit such as grapes or fruit salad
- roasted asparagus, roasted broccoli or roasted cauliflower
- sautéed lemon garlic Brussels sprouts
IS CHICKEN GYRO good for you?
Chicken Gyros are can be part of a well-balanced diet. They are stuffed with chicken, veggies, and healthy tzatziki sauce. The chicken breasts are a lean protein low in fat and sodium with zero carbohydrates; the veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals and the tzatziki sauce is high in protein, packed with calcium and also an excellent source of potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12.
If you’re looking to make your Greek chicken gyro recipe even healthier, use whole wheat pita bread, flatbread like Flatout Flatbread or low carb tortillas.
How long will chicken gyro last in the fridge?
The marinated, cooked chicken can stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days and is ready to use when needed! The fresh components should be stored separately so the tomatoes don’t make the rest soggy and stay as fresh as possible.
Can I Prep chicken Gyros in Advance?
Chicken gyros make excellent meal prep if you want to prep them ahead of time and serve later. If you are meal prepping for at home, then you can easily keep all of the ingredients and store in separate containers in the refrigerator.
If you are meal prepping for on the go lunches, I consolidate the ingredients. I prefer warm Greek chicken, so I divide the chicken from the fresh ingredients. Here’s how:
- Divide chicken between desired number of containers. Don’t close containers until chicken has cooled.
- Combine lettuce, red onions and feta together in bag and combine tomatoes, and cucumbers in their own separate plastic bags (so they don’t make other ingredients soggy) and place bags on top of chicken. Store tzatziki in a bag or small container.
- When ready to serve, warm chicken in the microwave and then assemble gyros.
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