Doner Kebab Meat – beef or lamb

This is a homemade recipe for the mystery Doner kebab meat you see rotating on vertical rotisseries in kebab shops. It’s a miniature version but what it lacks in size is made up in flavour – and authenticity!! Use to stuff into beef or lamb Doner Kebabs OR Gyros.

Carving Doner Kebab Meat

How many times have you walked past a Doner kebab shop and glanced at those giant punching bag-sized kebab meats rotating round and round, and wondered how long has that meat been out for?? I wonder if it’s really meat, or 90% fillers??

Well wonder no more!! Shops might use fillers, but WE don’t need to!

Doner Kebab Meat recipe – beef or lamb

This homemade version of rotisserie Doner Kebab Meat can be made with either lamb or beef. While beef is a firm favourite here in Australia, in Turkey (the home of Doner Kebabs) they are made with both lamb and beef. Both are delicious, I couldn’t choose a favourite!

Though this is a miniature version of the giant ones you see in the shops and we’ve adapted the cooking method for home kitchens, the end result is so similar to the real deal it is going to amaze you!

Stand it upright, carve it up thinly and fry it up gently to get golden edges. Your house is going to smell like a kebab shop!

Homemade rotisserie Doner Kebab Meat
Beef Doner Kebab ready to be eaten
Plate of carved homemade Doner Kebab Meat

What is Doner Kebab meat made of?


Ahh, you’ve always wondered, haven’t you??  Here’s what you need. Bacon* is the surprise secret ingredient for this homemade version – more on this below!

* Note: I’ve received many emails/messages questioning the inclusion of bacon in this recipe. I acknowledge 100% that this is a non-traditional addition you would obviously NEVER find in a Muslim country (because Muslims do not eat pork for religious reasons). It’s added for the extra fat, because home cooks cannot get meat fatty enough to get the desired result. Without bacon, you will be disappointed with the results, unless you hunt down extra fatty meat – I’ve provided directions in the recipe card.

Doner Kebab Meat ingredients
  • Beef or lamb – get 15% fat for best results. If you inspect those kebab shop meats closely, you will see they are DRIPPING with fat!! Ours is not as fatty, but when we tried it with lean meat, it just wasn’t the same. Also remember, the flavour of meat is all in the fat. Mix lamb fat into lean beef, and you’d swear you’re eating lamb!
  • Streaky Bacon* – the secret ingredient, as discovered by Kenji at Serious Eats whose Gyros recipe we used as a base for ours. It doesn’t make the meat taste bacony, but it adds salt into the meat and most importantly, it adds fat. It is key, do not skip it! (Or if you do, do not complain if disappointed with the recipe outcome )
  • NON-PORK SUBSTITUTES for bacon – two options to replicate the purpose of bacon in this recipe:
    • If your meat is already sufficiently fatty, use turkey bacon; OR
    • Add duck fat or goose fat + extra 100g/4 oz meat + 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Spices – a mix we figured out ourselves by sampling the meat from our favourite kebab shops; and
  • Onion and garlic – essential flavour base!

* Note on BACON and authenticity – As doner kebabs are mainly from Muslim countries, bacon might seem out of place given pork is not consumed for religious reasons. The reason it is included is to make this recipe accessible for home cooks. Traditional doner kebab meat is made with loads of animal fat. When you watch You Tube videos of the layered version of kebab meat, they thread a layer of meat (like chicken) then they literally COVER that layer with chopped fat then thread chicken on, and again fat. SO MUCH FAT!  Using bacon is a shortcut method and more accessible to ordinary home cooks – my butcher doesn’t sell buckets of chopped fat!

How to make Doner Kebab meat

And the best part – how to make it! It is easy. Once you get your head around manhandling a giant block of meat!

How to make Doner Kebab Meat (beef or lamb)

In a nutshell, the meat is pureed in a food processor which transforms it into a “paste” which gives it the unique carvable meat texture (as opposed to, for example, Meatloaf where ground/mince beef is just shaped by hand and has a more “crumbly” texture).

Then roll it into a log shape using foil – this holds the shape while suspended over a pan using skewers (without it, the meat sags when raw) – then cook it in the oven. Whip off the foil at the end to brown it, stand it upright and carve!!

Carving homemade Doner Kebab Meat - oven or rotisserie

Carving and pan frying

The texture of the cooked meat is such that it can be carved thinly – just like in kebab shops!

Shave it quite thinly and once you’ve cut off as much as you want/need, pan fry it gently to get a blush of gold on it. This is a magic touch that really transforms the meat because once you carve off the outer browned layer, the meat inside is just pink. It’s the same special finishing touch we do with Mexican Carnitas!

How to carve Doner Kebab Meat
Close up of Homemade Doner Kebab Meat

And here’s a close up of the Doner Kebab Meat being pan fried. Just lightly pan fried, not to crisp it, just to get a hint of gold on it like they do in Kebab Shops to freshen up the meat.

It only takes a minute or so because it’s so thin.

Golden pan fried Doner Kebab Meat

Doner Kebabs

And here is a big fat juicy Doner Kebab! Wildly popular here in Australia, particularly after a late night out at the pub with mates!

Made with Lebanese bread or other thin flatbreads, smeared with hummus, topped with Doner Kebab Meat, lettuce, tomato, onion and sauces such as yogurt, garlic and chilli sauce. Optional extras include cheese (which I think is a blasphemy!) and tabbouleh.

Beef Doner Kebabs ready to be eaten

Imagine it over CHARCOAL!!

I’ve had to make do with a boring old oven to cook this. I would LOVE to to make this over charcoal one day! Imagine it on a spit, rotating slowly over hot coals….that smokey flavour would be to die for!

One day, one day…

Hand picking up Beef Doner Kebabs

Doner Kebab vs Gyros vs Shawarma

Gyro, shawarma and doner kebab all have the same meaning. Those words all translate to “turning” or “rotating meat” and they refer to the rotisserie cooking technique.

Which word is used depends which part of the Mediterranean or Middle East you’re in. Gyros is Greek. Shawarma is Israel and Arab countries (spicing is much stronger). Doner Kebab is what they call it in Turkey.

While there are of course some differences in the finished dish (type of flatbread, sauces used) and the seasonings used for the meat, they are similar in spirit!

As for what animal meat it is, it varies. Chicken, beef, lamb and pork are all used to varying degrees, depending on the country. Also whether it’s layered (like in Chicken Doner Kebab) or smooth meat style (which is what I’m sharing today) also varies depending where you are.

One thing’s for sure. I’m yet to meet a Doner Kebab/Gyros or Shawarma that I haven’t loved!

Shawarma vs Doner Kebab vs Gyros

Recipes I’ve shared

Here in Australia, Doner Kebabs is common though you will find Gyros in ethnic areas. In America, it’s the other way round – Gyros is the common version. Harder to find Doner Kebabs!

Nowadays, you’ll find both all around the world. Last year, I had some amazing Doner Kebabs in the heart of Paris of all places!

Excellent large format food to make ahead

Two more big things this homemade Doner Kebab Meat has going for it:

  1. Excellent for making ahead – it stays 100% fresh because the meat is so juicy (ahem! Fatty…… ). Cook the log through, cool, fridge or freeze, then reheat in the oven; and
  2. Excellent for feeding a crowd – this makes lots! 1 kg / 2lb probably serves 8 people – shaved meat goes further. Maybe 6 if you stuff very generously. Fry the slices on a BBQ so you can cook lots at the same time, though you can also just pan fry it a bit in advance then reheat in the microwave (I did this, and it worked perfectly).

And if that’s not enough to convince you to make this, then just do it to get a kick out of how it is a dead set replica of the kebab shop meat. Or your favourite gyros cart. Depending on where you live! – Nagi x

PS I honestly cannot stress enough how your house is going to smell just like your local neighborhood kebab shop!!

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