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Donair

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This homemade East Coast donair recipe is a keeper! Spicy fried meat, shredded lettuce, fresh tomato and onion wrapped in soft pita bread and generously coated in a sweet sauce. You'll love it!

As a proud Canadian, I tend to enjoy Canadian foods. You know, like butter tarts, maple syrup and poutine.

Donair, while distinctly Canadian (namely Halifax, Nova Scotia), had me really skeptical. I'm not really into the idea of eating meat carved off a stick.

Then Kevy came home one day and said "We're gonna figure out how to make donair!"

After a few rounds of testing, I can proudly say I love me a kick-ass donair. And you will too!

This donair recipe is dedicated to Canadiana.

Homemade halifax donair held together by a cocktail skewer.
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Tips + Tricks

No.1 --> Chill the donair meat overnight after cooking! While this step isn't explicitly necessary, it makes slicing the homemade donair loaf much easier.

No. 2 --> Beat your meat! Seriously, though. It's important to work the air and chunks out of the meat. A dense, compact loaf is what makes this recipe really authentic.

No. 3 --> Donair vs doner vs gyro. Which is it? Donair is the Anglicized version of doner. While all 3 are traditionally made with spit-roasted meat, a gyro is made with a tangy tzatziki sauce.

A wrapped donair in front of a plate of chopped veggies.

Key Ingredients

Meat: Donair can be made with a number of different types of meat, but after some testing, we settled on a 2:1 mix of extra lean ground beef to ground pork.

Spices: The magic of a donair is really in the spices. This dense, flavorful meat loaf is generously spiced with pepper, cayenne, oregano, onion, garlic, salt, and even sriracha powder!

Donair ingredients.

How To Make Donair Meat

  1. Preheat the oven to 250f.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the extra lean ground beef and ground pork until fully combined. Then add the bread crumbs and again mix till combined. Finally, add the spices and give it one last mix until completely combined. I find it easiest to use my hands and a big bowl, but a stand mixer and a paddle beater would work well too!
  3. Form the donair meat into a rough log and place it on a large piece of plastic wrap.
  4. Close the plastic wrap and twist the ends shut, then firmly bang the loaf on the counter. This is done to remove air and make a compact loaf. Then roll the loaf in the plastic wrap until log-shaped. I like to flatten the ends of my loaf so the ends don't get overcooked.
  5. Place the log on a broiling rack and cook in a 250f oven for approximately 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 160f.
  6. Remove donair meat from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating for a few hours or overnight.

How To Make Donair Sauce

Halifax donair is known for its deliciously garlicky-sweet sauce. This yummy sauce recipe has only 3 ingredients:

  • sweetened condensed milk
  • white vinegar
  • garlic powder

To make the sauce:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk well to combine. The sauce will look slightly runny, but then it will thicken up again.
  3. Apply to your donair liberally!

PS> this sauce is so good on pizza and burgers! So good.

How To Make A Donair

  1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of bacon grease or cooking oil.
  2. Add 2 inches of water to a large saucepan with a lid. Place a wire mesh cooling rack or splatter screen over top of the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Thinly slice the chilled donair, then place the slices into the skillet. Brown the donair meat on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare a pita by placing it on the rack of the stockpot. Recover the stockpot with the lid and allow the pita to steam for 15-30 seconds or until warmed through and completely pliable.
  5. Spread a dollop of sweet sauce on the prepared pita, then top with the fried donair meat and add desired toppings - see below for topping ideas!

Smoked Donair

Yes, ya'll, it's me! Of course I've tried smoking this recipe.

Spoiler: IT'S INCREDIBLE!

Here's how I smoke donair:

  1. Preheat my smoker to 225f.
  2. Prepare donair loaf as per recipe.
  3. Place the donair directly on the middle rack of the Traeger. I like to place a foil-lined pan underneath to catch any drippings, for an easier clean-up.
  4. Smoke the donair at 225f for 3-4 hours or until internal temperature reaches 160f.
  5. Finish the donair as per recipe.
Two donair loaves on a traeger timberline.

Donair Toppings

There are donair purists out there, and I know they're going to yell at me for this, because a traditional donair has sweet sauce, donair meat, white onion and diced tomato.

Personally, I like to play a little fast and loose with the "rules" on this one! Here's some ideas:

  • sliced or diced white onion
  • diced tomato
  • shredded mozzarella, or even smoked mozzarella
  • shredded lettuce
  • diced cucumber
  • crumbled feta
  • olives

More awesome main dish recipes:

Batch + Storage Information

Batch:

This recipe as written gives 1 donair loaf which is enough for about 8 large pita wraps. As previously mentioned, the step-by-step photos were of a double batch!

Storage:

Your cooked or smoked donair meat can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days before being reheated and enjoyed.

OR!

It can be prepared by cutting into thin slices and frozen in a vacuum-sealed package for up to 3 months. We like to package enough sliced meat for 4 servings, this is enough for one meal for our family. Then I portion half of the sweet garlic sauce into a small ziplock bag and keep them together in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal!

Homemade donair wrapped in peach paper.

Variations + Substitutions:

  • change up the meat! Some people use ground veal, some use all beef, this recipe is really open to adjustments.
  • don't like it too spicy? Like it spicier? Add or subtract the cayenne and sriracha powder to your tastes.
  • Gluten-free? Swap the bread crumbs for a gluten-free bread crumb.
Overhead view of the wrapped pita filled with donair.

Smoker - Kevy and I purchased a TRAEGER TIMBERLINE 1300 in June 2019. Our life has changed! It's such a great machine - we've run thousands of pounds of pellets through it and would buy it again and again! Check out all the great SMOKED RECIPES we've developed.

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📖 Printable Recipe

Homemade halifax donair held together by a cocktail skewer.
Yield: 8 Donair

Donair

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Assembly Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Nothing beats a donair! A soft, steamed pita stuffed with spiced fried meat, a garlicky cream sauce, and fresh veggies. Yum!

Ingredients

For the donair loaf:

  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry sriracha powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

For the donair sauce:

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (300 ml/10 oz) OR 1 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

To make donair wraps:

  • 6 - 8" pitas
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • diced tomato
  • shredded lettuce
  • diced white onion

Instructions

Make the donair Meat:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250f.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the extra lean ground beef and ground pork until fully combined. Then add the bread crumbs and again mix till combined. Finally, add the spices and give it one last mix until completely combined.
  1. Form the donair meat into a rough log and place it on a large piece of plastic wrap.
  2. Close the plastic wrap and twist the ends shut, then firmly bang the loaf on the counter. Roll the loaf in the plastic wrap until log-shaped.
  3. Place the log on a broiling rack and cook in a 250f oven for approximately 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 160f.
  4. Remove donair meat from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating for a few hours or overnight.

Make the donair sauce:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk well to combine.
  3. Apply to your donair liberally!

Build a donair:

  1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of BACON GREASE or cooking oil.
  2. Add 2 inches of water to a large saucepan with a lid. Place a wire mesh cooling rack or splatter screen over top of the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Thinly slice the chilled donair, then place the slices into the skillet. Brown the donair meat on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare a pita by placing it on the rack of the stockpot. Recover the stockpot with the lid and allow the pita to steam for 15-30 seconds or until warmed through and completely pliable.
  5. Spread a dollop of sweet sauce on the prepared pita, then top with the fried donair meat and add desired toppings.

Notes

Batch:

This recipe as written gives 1 donair loaf which is enough for about 8 large donairs.

Storage:

Your cooked donair meat can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days before being reheated and enjoyed.

It can be sliced and frozen in a VACUUM-SEALED package for up to 3 months. Portion half of the donair sauce into a small ziplock bag and keep them together in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal!

variations + substitutions:

  • change up the meat! Some people use ground veal, some use all beef, this recipe is really open to adjustments.
  • don't like it too spicy? Like it spicier? Add or subtract the cayenne and SRIRACHA POWDER to your tastes.
  • Gluten-free? Swap the bread crumbs for a gluten-free bread crumb.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 413Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 773mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 33g

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Homemade donair pinterest graphic.

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