Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Carne Diem
Origin: Canadian, North American
Method: Smoker/Grill, StovetopJump to Recipe
These stuffed pitas are a staple in Halifax and the Maritime region of Eastern Canada. This Canadian gyro consists of an all-beef loaf, cooked, sliced, and fried and then stuffed into a pita with toppings and a sweet and tangy Donair sauce. For our Halifax Style Donair recipe, we smoke the meatloaf for that extra bit of flavor.
Famous at local restaurants like King of Donair, these Canadian beef Gyros with a sweet sauce have exploded in popularity on the East coast of Canada. In this homemade donair recipe we show you step by step how to make these Halifax style donair kebabs with a homemade donair sauce.
If you are looking for a spicier meatloaf, then be sure to check out our Spicy Cheese Stuffed Smoked Meatloaf.
Table of contents
History of the Halifax Donair Kebabs
These Canadian style gyros were the brain child of local restauranteur Peter Gamoulakos in the 1970's. He quickly discovered that the traditional style gyros were not selling well, so he adjusted the kebabs to suite the locals tastes. Lamb was replaced with ground beef and the traditional tzatziki sauce was replaced with a new sweet donair sauce. These changes were a hit, and quickly become a regional favorite.
Making the Smoked Donair
Ingredients for Canadian Style Donair
Prepare your spice mix by mixing 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons oregano, and 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and cayenne. We learned the secret of using baking soda to get that perfect texture from our research in making our Cevapi-Balkan Style Kebobs, with Ajvar, the the technique works great here too.
Combine the spices and mix with the water until smooth. This will help the spices distribute more evenly.
You will need 2 pounds of ground beef for this recipe. Try not to go too lean with the meat. 85/15 ground beef has given us the best results.
Add the ground beef to the spice mixture and work the spices through the meat with your hands. You really want the spices to be evenly distributed so don't take any shortcuts on this step.
Forming the Donair
Form the meat into a loaf and then throw the meat onto the counter about 15 times, kneading as you go. In theory this helps the meat attain the proper texture. We are not 100% convinced of this but it is fun so we do it anyway. Feel free to skip this step if your spouse is not as cool as mine and yells at you for throwing beef around the kitchen.
If you choose to slam you meat on the counter you need to do it with force. Pretend you are The Rock circa 1997. Throw it down with authority.
After pounding the meat into submission form into a loaf. At this point we prefer to wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate overnight so the flavors can develop but you can proceed to cooking if you want.
Cooking your Halifax Style Smoked Donair
Preheat your oven or smoker to 350 degrees. Cook at 350°F for about 45 minutes then rotate the meat and cook for an additional 30 minutes. You want the internal temperature of the Smoked Donair to be at least 155 degrees before removing the loaf from the smoker.
Remove the meat from the smoker or oven and rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Making the homemade donair sauce
Donair sauce is basically a sweet and tangy sauce consisting of sweetened condensed milk, vinegar, and garlic. You can also make it with evaporated milk and add some sugar but we have found that using sweetened condensed milk has given us better results.
To make the sauce simply combine the 12 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk with ½ cup of distilled white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Using an immersion blender or hand blender, beat the mixture until well combined and smooth. The sauce should thicken some as you blend it. When you have reached your desired consistency cover the sauce and place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. The sauce should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks if needed.
Finishing the Halifax Style Donair
Prepare your toppings by slicing your onion and tomatoes.
Remove your Halifax Style Smoked Donair and Donair sauce from the refrigerator.
Slice the Donair into about ¼ inch thick slices.
Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Fry the slices of Smoked Donair for about 1 minute per side or until nicely browned and warmed back through.
Warm your pita bread in the oven or microwave then fill with slices of the Halifax donair kebab, tomato, onion, and top with the homemade donair sauce. Roll up and enjoy!
Have extra pita bread? Give these recipes a try:
- Grilled Souvlaki (Greek Chicken Skewers)
- Cevapi-Balkan Style Kebobs, with Ajvar
- Smoked Lebanese Chicken Shawarma
- Smoked Beef and Lamb Gyros
- Grilled Shish Taouk: Lebanese Chicken Kebab
Frequently Asked Questions
A specialty of Eastern Canada, the donair is a local take on a Greek Gyro. This Canadian version is made with ground beef and served with a sweet Donair sauce.
Leftovers are best reheated by slicing and frying in a skillet. Leftovers can also be wrapped if foil and reheated in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.
Typically the Canadian donair sauce will keep in the refrigerator or about 2-3 weeks. It may keep as long as a month, but if the sauce begins to turn yellowish in color it should be discarded.
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Halifax Style Donair-Canada's Gyro
- 2 Pounds Ground Beef
- 4 Tablespoon Water
- 2 teaspoon Salt
- 2 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 2 teaspoon Oregano
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne
- Onion Slices for serving
- Tomato Slices for serving
- Pita Bread for serving
- 12 Ounce Sweetened Condensed Milk
- ½ Cup White Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- Combine the spices with the meat and mix them together well. Add the spice mixture to the meat and work the spices through the meat with your hands.
- To help develop the proper texture of the meat, forcefully throw the meat down on the counter about 15 times, kneading each time.
- Form the meat into a loaf and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Prepare your grill or smoker for indirect cooking and heat to 350 degrees. Cook the Donair until it reaches an internal temperature of about 160 degrees. Remove the loaf from the smoker and allow to cool, or cover and refrigerate it overnight.
Making the Donair Sauce
- Combine the sweetened condensed milk, vinegar, and garlic powder in a bowl. Mix with an electric mixer until combined and thickened. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Finishing the Smoked Donair
- Remove the meatloaf and Donair sauce from the refrigerator. Slice the Donair into ¼ inch slices.
- Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Fry the slices of Smoked Donair for about 1 minute per side or until nicely browned and warmed back through.
- Warm the pita bread and fill with the sliced Donair, tomatoes, onion, and Donair sauce.