Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (2024)

We decided to tackle one of Canada’s most beloved, late night, drunken foods — the donair.

If you’re Canadian, you definitely know what a donair is. If you aren’t Canadian (or if you are but somehow don’t know what a donair is), then here is a quick history lesson! This magical food is an old school dish from Turkey where it goes by the name of doner kebab. It’s traditionally made with spiced minced lamb that is cooked, shaved thinly, and then placed into a pita or other flatbread along with veggies and some sort of sauce — similar to a gyro or shawarma, but so much better in every way.

In the early 1970s a Halifax man named Peter Gamoulakos created a version of the doner kebab which became what we know today as a donair. He swapped the minced lamb for ground beef (lamb is expensive, yo) and developed a sweet-garlic sauce that would soon be the base for millions of drunken messes.

Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get to making a homemade donair! The most intensive part of this recipe is making the donair meat, which actually doesn’t take that much work. There are many different spice blends that people use to make donair meat — we chose to go with a supposedly authentic blend. If you think that we’re wrong, feel free to let us know by commenting below.

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Donair Meat Recipe

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • ½ tsp black pepper

  • ½ tsp Italian seasoning*

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • ½ tsp onion powder

  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

*This reddit comment suggests swapping out the Italian seasoning for Za’atar — this apparently makes the donair meat that much better.

Can’t find Za’atar at your local grocery store, and want to try it? Buy it here! Sumac is in this spice blend and it’s absolutely delicious.

Making the donair meat is super simple. All you have to do is to combine all the above ingredients in a bowl and mix them all together. You don’t want the meat to have the texture of ground beef — after you’re done combining the ingredients, it should almost be a meat paste. The best way to accomplish this is to knead the sh*t out of it. Go hard. Squeeze it, slam it against the counter, rip it apart, and repeat.

Once you feel like the meat has been adequately kneaded, and the spices have been incorporated, grab it and shape it into a giant ball of meat. Then take it and slam it hard against the counter, or toss it back and forth between your hands forcefully. Flatten the ball, fold it in half, reshape it, and do it again. This will make everything smooth and hom*ogeneous. This recipe is great for when you want to let a little anger out!

tl;dr: smack that meat.

🥙 Mediocre Tip: We highly recommend wearing gloves.

Now that you’re done playing with your meat (lol), you have to make a decision. You can either shape it into a loaf and then bake it, or you can flatten it out into a thin meat sheet and cook it. Either way is acceptable, it’s up to you on how you want to do it.

If you go for the loaf method, you’re going to want to bake it at 350°F for about an hour. If you opt for the thin meat sheet like we did, bake it at 350°F for 10-15 minutes. We went with the meat sheet method, as it’s a lot faster and we were hangry.

🥙 Mediocre Tip: To make a flat sheet of meat, put your ball of meat on a tray lined with parchment paper. Put another piece of parchment paper on top of the meat and roll it out — this prevents the meat from sticking to your rolling pin. Remove the top layer of parchment paper before baking!

Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (2)

While the meat is baking, you have time to make your sauce and prepare your vegetables!

Donair Sauce Recipe

  • 12 oz can sweetened condensed milk*

  • 2 tsp garlic powder

  • 4 tbsp vinegar

*You can use a can of evaporated milk and ¾ cup white sugar instead for the sauce. We actually recommend using evaporated milk instead, as you can control the amount of sugar to your liking, depending on how sweet you like your sauce.

Like many things in life, donair sauce preference is incredibly personal and subjective. Our measurements for garlic powder and vinegar gave us a donair sauce that we like the taste of. Adjust these amounts to suit your own taste buds!

Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (3)

Assembling Your Donair

Before assembling, you’ll need to prep your vegetables. We recommend using iceberg lettuce, white/sweet onions, and roma tomatoes. Simply chop off the end of the iceberg lettuce and thinly slice to get nice strips of lettuce, then chop up your tomatoes, and dice or slice your onions. Now you have the components of an amazing donair!

Sidenote: This article claims that lettuce in a donair is sacrilegious. On the East Coast, lettuce isn’t a thing you put on donairs, but in Western Canada, our donairs come with lettuce! For a truly authentic Halifax Donair experience, omit the lettuce (lest you be heckled by all the East-Coasters).

Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (4)

Like cheese? Shred or thinly slice some mozzarella cheese for your donair! (Although, as above, this is an Alberta thing. If you want the true OG Halifax donair experience you should only be using tomato, onion, and sauce.)

🥙 Mediocre Tip: This is optional, but once the meat is done cooking slice it into thin strips and fry them in a pan. You don’t want to go crazy here — you just want to make them a little crispy. You can fry them in butter, vegetable oil, or some of the beef fat that was released from the baking process. Whatever fat you choose, just make sure to go on a medium-high heat and stop frying when the edges of the meat strips get crispy, but not burnt.

Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (5)

When assembling your donair, go generous on the donair meat and toppings — don’t skimp out! If your donair isn’t t h i c c c, you’re doing it wrong.

🥙 Mediocre Tip: Make sure that your pita bread is pliable. You want to be able to fold this bad boy without the pita tearing. You can steam the pita by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and baking it in the oven at a low heat for a few minutes, or you can do the same thing in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. Anything to make sure that the bread doesn’t rip with all dat meat inside. Additionally, if you find yourself failing to find the perfect pita, we suggest making your own! They’re super simple to make and they taste 1000 times better.

Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (6)

Eat your donair over a plate, or wrap the bottom in aluminum foil so everything doesn’t drip everywhere. You’ll probably make a bit of a mess, it’s fine. You’ll live.

Our Mediocre Thoughts

👨‍🍳 Trevor: Donairs are awesome. Drunk and need a snack? Donair. Hungover and need a snack? Donair. Just want a snack? Donair. Donairs are literally the answer to everything.

👩‍🍳 Brittany: I just really wanted a f*cking donair.

Our Final Review

Taste: 5 wicked good pitas out of 5 🥙🥙🥙🥙🥙

Presentation: 2 drunken messes out of 5 🍺🍺

Affordability: 1 Newfie on pogey out of 5 💰

Disclaimer: We don’t hate Newfies, we just like to make jokes at their expense every once in a while.

If you’re missing the East Coast, this donair recipe will take you back home (minus the lettuce and cheese, of course). Our review is simple because donairs are simple. They don’t look amazing, but they’re delicious. AND they’re affordable. Make your own donairs and put all the money that you’ll save into a high-interest savings account, because CPP won’t be around by the time you need it. (Just kidding, it’ll probably still be there.)

If this post did not quench your thirst for donair knowledge, you should check out Donair Academy by Fring Frang. It is literally the best possible thing you can do with your time right now. Seriously, it’s better than going on a date, watching Queer Eye, or sleeping in. Just go play it and bask in the glory of an early 2000s themed point and click game. You can even make your own custom donair photos:

Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (7)

Share your love of donairs in the comments below!

Recipe Review, Hangover Food, Canadian Food

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Halifax Donair Recipe: Learn How to Make the Meat & Sauce! | Mediocre Chef (2024)
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