Shawarma vs. Gyro – Differences You Must Know

Do you like having a nice filling meal after a night out? Are you into Mediterranean flavors? If so, then you need to try shawarma and gyro.

Stay tuned to find out why shawarma and gyro are not the same. You will also learn the benefits and downsides of each food!

What Is Shawarma?

Shawarma is a Levantine dish that consists of meat sliced thinly. The meat is then stacked in a cone and simmered in a vertical rotisserie. In the beginning, it was just lamb, but it is now a combination of chicken, turkey, or beef.

Although it was traditional, shawarma is now a popular street food, particularly in Egypt and the Middle East. The word derives from the Turkish word for turning, which refers to how you prepare the meat. This method of preparing meat has been around since the 19th century.

As a fun fact, the concept of shawarma inspired the Mexican dish of al pastor, which was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. There are other variations of shawarma, but the main dish is prepared the same in the standing rotisserie. You might find a combination of meat or single meat used.

This dish is prepared by slicing the meat and stacking them on a tall skewer, which can be up to 20 inches high. In some cases, you can include pieces of fat for added flavor. The rotisserie slowly turns in front of a fire to roast the outer layer and cook the meat.

Once the meat is ready, you cut it using a long, flat knife. Shawarma includes spices like cardamom, cumin, turmeric, paprika, and cinnamon. This dish usually comes with a flatbread, including pita or laffa.

In many regions of the Middle East, shawarma comes with a garlic sauce but might also be tahini and lemon. Some places might also serve shawarma with vegetables, including red bell peppers and eggplant. In Israel, you cannot combine dairy and meat, so this dish only comes served with tahini.

Nutrition Facts

One serving of chicken shawarma with tomato, feta, and tzatziki sauce on a wrap (174 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 240 calories
  • 16 g protein
  • 8 g fat
  • 27 g carbohydrate
  • 2.96 g fiber
  • 2.99 g sugar
  • 80 mg calcium
  • 2 mg iron
  • 299 mg potassium
  • 510 mg sodium
  • 50.5 mg cholesterol

Is Shawarma Healthy?

Shawarma is a Levantine dish that consists of meat sliced thinly. The meat is then stacked in a cone and simmered in a vertical rotisserie. Originally, shawarma contained lamb, but now it is often a combination of chicken, turkey, or beef.

If you are looking for the best shawarma meal, you might want to go with chicken. This lean meat is high in protein and low in fat. You can get a lot of energy and feel full without added fat.

When it comes to other types of meat, shawarma might not be as healthy. When you eat lamb or beef, the dish tends to be high in sodium and fat. In some cases, the fatty part of the meat is also added to the shawarma again.

Often, shawarma comes with pita and sauces. These two can add more calories, fat, and carbohydrates. To keep things healthier, you might want to serve the meat on its own with some fresh vegetables on the side.

In terms of serving size, the shawarma meat does not have to have many calories, protein, fat, or carbohydrates. The problem comes from the fact that many times the portion you get from a takeout place is much larger than it should be. Controlling the portion size at home is another way to keep your meal healthier.

If you choose to make shawarma at home, pick leaner meat, like chicken or turkey. You should also try to use less sodium, as it can cause fluid retention, heart problems, and risk for chronic illnesses. Try to use very little oil, as the cooking method does not require any additional fat.

The two sauces in shawarma are not particularly bad for you. The yogurt sauce can be healthy when you make it with Greek yogurt, and if it is tzatziki, this is usually also a low-fat choice. The tahini sauce can be higher in fat and contains a good amount of protein.

Overall, you can make your shawarma meal more nutritious by choosing leaner meat. You can also cut down the portion and change the side dishes. Shawarma can be a healthy meal once in a while, but not every day.

What Is A Gyro?

The word gyro often refers to food of Greek origin. The dish consists of meat cooked in a vertical rotisserie and served in stuffed pita bread with tomatoes, tzatziki, and other vegetables. Usually, it has pork, but you can also use lamb and beef.

The cooking process is very similar to shawarma and uses a doner kebab, a Turkish method of roasting meat. This method was introduced in Greece, the Middle East, and then across the globe. By the half of the 19th century, gyros were becoming a popular, everyday item in Greece.

Gyros made their way to the United States thanks to Greek immigrants in the 1970s. Although Greeks prefer to use pork, they have begun introducing other meats for tourists. In the United States, gyros usually contain ground beef and lamb mixed.

When serving the dish, the meat is cut thinly into flat slices that you stack and season. In some cases, you might include fat trimmings in the cooking process for more flavor. Spices like oregano, cumin, thyme, and others are also common in gyro.

Usually, gyro comes in pita bread filled with tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, and tzatziki. Traditionally, fried potatoes are also part of the meal, although this practice varies. Sometimes, you might also get mustard and ketchup on the side.

This dish has become a fast-food classic, with many takeout restaurants and food trucks offering it for convenience. While you can make gyros at home, it always comes with pita bread and vegetables. This meal is not complete if it does not come as a sandwich.

Nutrition Facts

One gyro (390 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 651 calories
  • 46.4 g protein
  • 18.6 g fat
  • 72.2 g carbohydrate
  • 3.9 g fiber
  • 6.08 g sugar
  • 179 mg calcium
  • 5.69 mg iron
  • 74.1 mg magnesium
  • 441 mg phosphorus
  • 792 mg potassium
  • 714 mg sodium
  • 72.5 µg selenium
  • 11.7 mg vitamin C
  • 97.5 mg cholesterol

Is Gyro Healthy?

A gyro can be a healthy meal, but it depends on the preparation method and the meat. You will likely obtain all nutrients you need from just one pita sandwich. However, remember that sauces and additives can also increase calories.

Traditionally, the gyro has pork, which can be higher in fat. In making pork gyro, more of the fatty parts are included. Adding oil will also increase the fat content.

A gyro with lamb might be a healthier choice because this meat is lower in cholesterol and has a lot of protein. In this case, less fat is part of the dish because the meat itself is very lean. However, you have to watch the sodium content.

The next factor you have to take into account is the fact that gyro always comes with pita bread. One slice of pita bread contains about 5 g of protein and 6 g of fiber, which is pretty nutritious. However, it also has about 33 g of carbohydrates and a little fat.

You can choose whole grain pita bread for added fiber and lower carbohydrates. Either way, be sure to know that this is enough carbohydrate for a meal. You might also want to limit the sauces you use, as they might contain sugar too.

Pairing your gyro with vegetables is a great way to make the meal more balanced. On one hand, tomatoes, lettuce, and red onions are low in calories and contain many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The more vegetables you include, the healthier the meal.

Using tzatziki to make the meal more complete is also not a bad idea. In general, this dip or sauce is healthy, although you should look out for added sugars. You can dip only a bit to save calories too.

What Are The Key Differences Between Shawarma and Gyro?

The main difference between these two foods is the type of meat. Shawarma tends to use lamb, chicken, or turkey. In the case of gyro, the meat is usually pork, lamb, or beef.

Both meals might be prepared similarly, but their origin is not the same. Shawarma is a mainly Middle Eastern dish, ranging from Egypt to Lebanon and Iraq. Gyro is 100% Greek and was introduced in the United States by these immigrants.

Although the flavors might seem similar, both dishes are seasoned differently too. Shawarma uses turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin. Gyros are mostly seasoned with oregano, thyme, rosemary, and dill.

The way the meat is served is also a bit different. While shawarma can be served with bread, you can also eat the meat by itself. Gyro is always a sandwich using a pit stuffed with meat, sauce, and vegetables.

In terms of sauces, both can be served similarly but not always. Shawarma is often served with tzatziki or hummus. Gyro always comes with tzatziki on top.

The filling of both foods is also different. In shawarma, you might see pickled vegetables, cabbage, carrots, and onions. With a gyro, it will always be tomato, lettuce, and red onions, although it can contain kalamata olives.

Finally, the nutrient density in both foods is not equal. Because shawarma is often made with leaner meat, it contains less fat and calories. Gyros are higher in calories, fat, and carbohydrates due to the meat of choice but also because of the pita bread.

Main DifferencesShawarmaGyro
OriginMiddle EastGreece
IngredientsLamb, chicken, turkey, and sometimes beefPork, beef, and lamb
Aroma and FlavorAromatic, sweet, and spicyAromatic, floral, sweet, and savory
SeasoningTurmeric, cinnamon, cumin, curry, cloves, and paprikaOregano, thyme, rosemary, and dill
Cost$6.99 to 8.99 per portion$6.33 to 8.50 per portion
Calories per portion240 calories651 calories

Is Shawarma or Gyro Healthier?

Generally, shawarma is a healthier choice than the gyro. On one hand, it can be prepared with lean meat and served without bread. When you choose chicken or turkey, the meal will be healthier.

As you can see, gyro has a higher caloric and carbohydrate content. However, this is because gyro is served in pita bread as a sandwich. Your meal is complete with only a gyro as it contains all veggies, protein, and carbs you need.

Since both meals do not taste the same or contain the same meat, the choice is ultimately yours. If you want something Middle Eastern, then shawarma is a good option. For those that want something Mediterranean, a gyro will be the way to go.


After reading this article, you will see that shawarma and gyro are not the same things. You can choose either one depending on the flavor profile you want. Be sure to choose the right one next time.

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*image by oieraso/depositphotos

*image by fudio/depositphotos

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