Let me share with you the hell I went through late Sunday night, so you never have to experience it. I was out all day Saturday and had lunch at a Greek restaurant. I had a gyro meat salad with no bread. I woke up at 2:30 AM with a screaming headache that lasted for several hours. I suspected the gyro meat had gluten in it, but the last time I researched this I came to the conclusion that gyro meat didn’t have gluten. It seems I researched this question incorrectly.
Traditional recipes for gyro meat do not have gluten. However, many Greek restaurants today are not making their gyro meat on-premise using traditional recipes. Like many other modern restaurants, they use food service companies. So it doesn’t matter what the traditional recipes for gyro meat call for. The only thing that matters is what the food service companies are selling to these restaurants.
Commercial Gyro Meat
Three of the major suppliers of gyro meat in the USA are Kronos Products, Olympia Foods, and Grecian Delight. Grecian Delight posts its gyro nutritional information on its website. Bread crumbs are listed as the 3rd ingredient. Interestingly, their gyro meat also has MSG. Kronos doesn’t post their nutritional information, so I contacted the company and confirmed that their gyro meat is not gluten-free. Olympia Foods states on its site that its gyro meat has wheat and soy.
If you find yourself stuck at a Greek restaurant, your safest bet is to get kabobs or a Greek salad. I confirmed with Kronos that their kabobs are gluten-free. What you don’t want to do is get the falafel, which also contains wheat. Another thing I learned today during my research is that the hummus you thought had olive oil might be using soybean oil. And the Tzatziki sauce has a number of questionable ingredients.
Look For the Posters
Have you ever noticed those posters of women holding a gyro? That is a sign that the gyro meat was purchased from a food service company and not made on-premise.
Photo by Milo Tobin. If you see this poster or this one or this one, the gyro meat absolutely has gluten in it.
If a restaurant makes its own gyro meat on-premise, it is highly unlikely that you’ll see a food service poster. At that point, you can ask the proprietor if they use gluten. Assume they do.
Gluten is NOT Necessary For Gyro Meat
If you search online for gyro recipes, the majority do not include wheat or soy, or MSG. Why do food service companies add breadcrumbs? Perhaps the bread makes the meat pack together better for shipping? Or maybe it is just a cost issue. Fluff up the expensive ingredients of beef and lamb with dirt-cheap bread.
This post explains why I cook 99% of my own meals. We are being poisoned one meal at a time with toxic ingredients. Fortunately, I have solved the gyro meat riddle at home with two recipes.
If you operate a Greek restaurant in the Seattle area that makes your gyro meat on-premise and without gluten, please leave a comment on this post, otherwise, I’m boycotting all of you. I prefer hunger to a massive headache.
Sep 4, 2012 — 5:26 pm
Too bad about the headache bro. Out of curiosity (and maybe you posted on this but I can’t remember it) how has your response to gluten evolved since you cut it out?
I know some people become sensitive and others, like me, don’t feel anything (although if I had a bunch of it who knows). And probably most people fall along a ‘curve’ of sensitivity. I wonder why this is?
Sep 4, 2012 — 5:38 pm
@Aaron – My response to gluten has actually gotten worse. When I was doing a daily assault of gluten, I think my body found others ways to distribute that stress. Skin issues and carrying extra weight. By removing it completely, my body is far more sensitive. Kind of like how alcohol really affects you the first time or after a long absence.
Sep 5, 2012 — 6:31 am
“This post explains why I cook 99% of my own meals. We are being poisoned one meal at a time with toxic ingredients.”
If only more people saved a lot of money by eating out less and started becoming creative artists in their own kitchen.
When I am out with friends and they are firing themselves up with all kinds of crappy foods, I can happily refrain from that junk knowing that my fridge is full of delicious whole foods that waiting to be cooked by yours truly.
Sep 5, 2012 — 7:14 am
@Stephan – Sometimes I get the response that “it was the only food available”. My response is to say that I have enough body fat to survive one meal without food.
Sep 5, 2012 — 7:56 am
@MAS – Shitty food doesn’t need to be the link to being sociable in an environment of people. You can be sociable by using other virtues of yours.
Sep 29, 2012 — 8:58 am
very useful!! Thanks for the info. I also think that I notice getting glutenized more now that I have cut gluten out completely (and my health has improved SO much that more subtle problems are now noticeable). Have you tried NAET treatments? It has helped reduce my sensitivity – now I get muscle & headaches instead of being sick for three days.
Sep 29, 2012 — 4:43 pm
@Yuri – No I haven’t looked into NEAT treatments. I actually had to look it up when you commented. My intolerance doesn’t sound as bad as yours. Maybe someday I’ll look into it.
Jul 5, 2013 — 12:27 pm
Thanks for this posting. I’ve just be thinking about the pita, now I’ll worry about the meat as well. While I’m not sure if gluten is a problem for me I’ve eliminated it trying to control what i think is polymorphous light erruption or just red itchy as heck rashes due to the sun and/or possibly sun/skin lotions.
Even the most skinny of us can go without meals when needed, but as you get closer to 6% bodyfat for males, it does get more dangerous or harmful. If your abs are completely showing, you probably have 6-8% bodyfat.
Aug 20, 2013 — 2:41 pm
I bet your headache was from the MSG not the gluten.
Aug 20, 2013 — 3:35 pm
@Donna – You would be wrong. I eat pho with MSG and have zero problems.
Dr. C. Reichert
Apr 17, 2014 — 7:10 pm
I am a physician with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Like many with gluten sensitivity, I also am lactose intolerant. The first time I went to a local Greek restaurant I asked the owner if the gyro meat was gluten-free. He said he didn’t know, as it is delivered by a food service. I asked if there was a label on the container that might help answer my question and he said no. Since it was meat, I took a chance and ordered the Greek salad. I was sick afterwards, but I wondered if that was because of the dairy based tzatziki sauce. About six months later I decided to give it another try, and I really am paying the price with stiff joints, bloating, and malaise. It was at that point I researched this topic on the internet and found your excellent information. I am going to send it to the restaurant owner. The current epidemic of gluten sensitivity is only going to get worse, and your article may help spare someone else this problem.
Apr 17, 2014 — 7:17 pm
@Dr. C. Reichert – Interesting that I posted this almost 2 years ago and not a single gyro place has contacted me to tell me they are using gluten-free meat. Seems there is a market here for someone to be first to market with GF gyro meat.
May 23, 2014 — 7:19 pm
Got to say just since i have been made aware of the possible glutten sensitivity / with migrains and tias in the past 6 weeks i have been watching what i eat the conections are unreal!! I got so sick from gyro meat now i undetstand why thanks
Sep 7, 2014 — 8:27 pm
The first word of your post title says it all. It’s commercial. That means the product needs to be competitively priced, stable for storage and shipment, and easy for the consumer (in this case, the restaurateur) to use.
All commercial gyro meat is minced, pressed, and cooked before shipping, no matter what combination of beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. Those big cones of meat can be thawed and eaten as is, unappetizing as that prospect is. The restaurant just needs to brown and slice it. To get it all to hold together in that neat block, however, it needs starch. Just like mixing bread and milk together as a panade for your meatballs or meatloaf, the bread crumbs, wheat, corn, soy, or generically-named “food starch” is required to get the whole minced mess frozen, shipped, and standing upright on a vertical roaster. The grains also provide low-cost mass in place of an all meat product.
A home-style gyro, served in your neighborhood, Greek taverna, is thinly sliced pork, marinated, each slice of whole, raw pork (almost exclusively), built layer upon layer on the spindle. It’s time-consuming and costly. Roasted and sliced, this yields much smaller, separate pieces on your pita. If your gyro comes in deliciously-browned, cohesive strips, that’s a sure sign it’s commercial food service. For the real thing, search the net for “authentic gyro” images. There are some mouth-watering examples. If you find a restaurant serving in this style, give them your unflagging support. They take pride in their establishment in the face of rapidly rising food costs
Yes, I know this was an old post, but Greeks love to eat with other people. If we can’t eat with you, then we want to cook for you and serve you. If we can’t eat or cook, then we just talk about it and plan our next meal together.
Sep 7, 2014 — 9:19 pm
@Andrew – Thanks for the info. After your comment, I read the Wikipedia page on gyro meat. Having only had gyro meat in the USA, I was unaware that pork was used.
Looks like gyros first arrived in the USA in 1965.
May 12, 2015 — 7:26 pm
It’s for more profit of course. My father used to own a few grocery stores. When they made sausages they would add bread crumbs for more profit.