let me start off with the obvious: i am not from greece, turkey, or any another country with a long and storied tradition of cooking meat vertically and cramming it into delicious sandwiches. that said, the best chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce i ever had was either the one i had in berlin, germany (which apparently has quite a brisk ‘doner kebab’ business, as this type of wrap is known there) or the one i ate in vianden, luxembourg. my point is, let’s not allow concerns about authenticity to stand in the way of getting a delicious and reasonably healthy dinner on the table tonight.
and as a bonus, we don’t even need to rig up a vertical meat cooking device. a large skillet will be just fine for this version with chicken. it’s actually a pretty simple recipe, in terms of technique.
now, if you’ve skimmed ahead to the actual recipe and noted that the ingredient list is a bit on the long side, just think of this recipe like tacos: cook a bit of meat with some spices, chop some veggies, add cheese and warm carbs, then enjoy! we’ve got this, right??
in case the taco analogy didn’t persuade you and you’re more of the weekend meal prep type (can you teach me how to be so organized and realistic about time?!), then may i point out how well this recipe takes to advance prep? to get a head start, you could:
- chop the yellow onion and green pepper,
- trim, pound, and slice the chicken,
- combine the salt through pepper for the chicken (i’d leave the lemon and garlic until you started cooking),
- put together the tzatziki sauce (without the cucumber, which will get watery),
- and cut up the lettuce, red onion, and feta
and then once it was time to actually make dinner, it would practically be done.
i’ve learned over the years that my ambition when meal planning for the week tends to exceed my energy when it comes time to actually prepare what i planned but this is one recipe that i have made repeatedly over the past few years because it’s just so good. it’s especially nice because my husband and i can each customize our own gyros to our particular tastes (all the chicken and all the crushed red pepper for my husband and all the everything to the point where i’d need a flexible titanium pita if i expected the wrap to hold all of the fillings for me).
all of this is to say, i do hope you try this chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce because it really is delicious and very manageable, even on a weeknight. just remember: tacos.
- 1 pound (454 g.) boneless, skinless chicken breast
- zest and juice of half a lemon
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch of hot smoked paprika, if you have it
- ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup plain 2% greek yogurt
- ¼ cup light sour cream
- ½ cup cucumber, seeds removed and cut into small dice (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced vertically (so you get half moon shapes)
- 1 green pepper, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- (4) 6” pitas (the thick ones that aren’t presplit are ideal; plain naan also works)
- 1 plum tomato, diced OR a large handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters, if they are large
- 2 oz. (1/2 cup / 57 g.) feta cheese, crumbled or diced
- 1 cup purple cabbage or crunchy lettuce (such as iceburg), thinly sliced
- ½ cup raw red onion, thinly sliced
- a few fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces
- crushed red pepper or hot sauce, optional and to taste
- trim the chicken, place it in a strong zipper top plastic bag, then pound or roll it so that it is uniformally ½” (1.25 cm) thick. slice it into ½” (1.25 cm) strips. in a medium bowl, combine the lemon, garlic, and spices then toss the chicken strips in the spice mixture to coat them. let the chicken rest in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- in a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the tzatziki sauce and stir well to combine thoroughly.
- put 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium. add the chicken to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the strips are cooked through. transfer chicken to a medium bowl and cover bowl with a plate to keep chicken warm.
- add the remaining teaspoon olive oil to the same large skillet. sauté the yellow onion and green pepper for about 3 minutes, until soft. add the garlic, oregano, and cooked chicken strips and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant and chicken is hot.
- just before you’re ready to serve, heat the pitas. a toaster oven works well for this. since they are thin, the pitas just need a couple of minutes at 400° F. you could also use a conventional oven or, in a pinch, a microwave for a few seconds. be very careful if you use a top loading toaster as the thin pita will burn quickly.
- either set all of the ingredients out buffet style and let everyone construct their own gyro or assemble them all, dividing the ingredients between the 4 gyros (and adjusting quantities to taste).
pretty much all of this is very flexible so feel free to adjust the quantities indicated to match your preferences.
cucumbers – in the winter when all of the cucumbers are meh, i use the english (plastic wrapped) variety as they are seedless. in the summer when there are lovely local cucumbers to be had, i use those and seed them (or not, honestly).
if you have leftovers, store each component separately for up to one day (in the refrigerator). the tzatziki will get watery from the cucumber but a quick stir brings it all back together.
originally inspired by skillet chicken souvlaki from cooking light years ago. more recently, i started seasoning the chicken with the blend deb uses on her chicken gyro salad over at smitten kitchen.