Donair is a popular Canadian takeout meal that can be easily made at home. Similar to Gyro, but made with all beef, served in pita and topped with veggies.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of a book to review in this post. All opinions are my own.
I like to try to come up with catchy sounding names that make my food sound really delicious. I’ll add descriptive words like “roasted”, “caramelized” or “spicy”. However, try as I might, I could think of anything to add to “Donair”, so I just let it stand on it’s own. After all, if you’re from Canada, you already know and love donair – no further catchphrases needed. If you’re not from Canada, let me catch you up.
A Donair is very similar to a Gyro, but different. The Canadian Donair is an essential Halifax food, where it originated in Canada. It came from the Doner Kebab, which orignated in Germany, whereas the gyro originated in Greece. In Halifax a donair is made of seasoned ground beef and dressed with onions, tomatoes and a sweet garlic sauce in a thin, Lebanese style pita. In other parts of Canada (like Edmonton, where I’m from) a donair might have lettuce and pickles too, and the sauce could be sweet, tzatziki or garlic. Since moving to the US, hubby and I have switched over to gyros, because donairs are just not available. However, every time we eat one, we complain to each other that gyros are just not the same as donairs (and don’t get me wrong, my local gyro place is very good). Enter Marie Porter.
Marie is a Canadian living in the US, just like me. And, like me, she missed the food of her home country. So she wrote a book – More Than Poutine. A book filled with recipes hailing from Canada. When I received a copy of the book to review, I leafed through excitedly. It included all of my Canadian favorites including some that I didn’t even realize were distinctly Canadian. But I was most excited to try the donair recipe because I had never even considered making it at home. I thought they could only be made on one of those rotisserie things. Nope. It turned out even better than I had hoped, and my whole family loved it.
My favorite thing about this recipe is that it is totally make-ahead friendly. Actually, it’s essential that is is made ahead, because the cooked meat needs to be refrigerated for several hours before slicing. But consider this: a donair party. You have a big pile of donair meat just waiting to be crisped up in a skillet, a pile of warm pitas and a buffet of toppings – onions and tomatoes of course, but also pickles, lettuce, olives and a variety of sauces. Everyone gets to make their own however they like it. I don’t think anyone would say no to that party.
- 1 medium onion
- 3 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 Tablespoon corn starch
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- vegetable or canola oil
- 8 large pitas (use gluten free pitas to make this recipe gluten free)
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced or chopped
Sweet Sauce (see notes)
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Heat oven to 375°F (160°C). Peel and chop onion, pulse in food processor until pureed. Scoop onion puree into the center of 2-3 layers of paper towels, cheesecloth or large coffee filters. Gather the edges, and squeeze out all the liquid from the onions. Return onion solids to the food processor and discard the liquid.
- Add 1 pound of the ground beef, corn starch, garlic powder, pepper, oregano, cayenne, salt and paprika to the food processor and process until it forms a paste. Add another 1 pound of beef and process again until smooth. Add remaining beef, and process again until smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor to ensure that everything is smooth. Form the mixture into a log and place onto a broiling pan/rack. Bake for 2 hours, flipping loaf over at the halfway point.
- After 2 hours, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap cooled loaf in plastic, chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Add a little (a couple of teaspoons) of vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Slice donair meat into 1/4" thick slices, add to pan and reheat until desired texture (If you like crispy edges, cook a little longer than you would if you don't).
- Brush or spray pitas lightly with water. Heat in a hot skillet until warmed through.
- Pile the reheated meat onto the heated pitas. Top with onions and tomatoes. Drizzle generously with sauce. Wrap in wax paper, parchment paper or foil to hold it together while eating. Serve immediately.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, vinegar and garlic powder. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
***Recipe courtesy of Marie Porter from More Than Poutine – Foods From My Home and Native Land
Marie’s cookbook is perfect for expats like myself who miss the foods from Canada, but it’s also great for Canadians who still live in Canada that want to cook some of their favorite foods from scratch, or non-Canadians who want to learn more about Canadian cooking.
Donair Nutrition Notes:
Please note that the above nutrition info is for 1/8 of the meat recipe only. It does not include any sauce, toppings or pitas. The type and amount of sauce and toppings you use, and the type (white vs. whole wheat) and size of pita you choose will greatly affect the final nutrition info of your donair. The donair meat is gluten free, but to make sure your meal is gluten free, use a gluten free pita too.