If you are a bit familiar with Turkish cuisine, you know the world-famous döner kebab, the irresistible, juicy enormous kebab cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Here is an easy homemade version of Turkish Doner Kebab Recipe that tastes as good as the real thing.
There are zillions of kebabs in Turkey, such as Adana kebap, Turkish chicken kebabs and Turkish kofta kebab to name a few. So it won’t be wrong to call it “the country of kebabs”. Among all the kebabs, the most famous one is doner kebab.
When you walk around Taksim Square, Istanbul, you can't miss the delicious smell of it. You'll find döner shops everywhere in this city and in every Turkish city.
Döner is really a special street food for us. If you want a really good one, it's not going to be very cheap. There are places for all kinds of budgets. But, it's better to not go for the cheapest ones. They don't use the best meat and aren't as tasty. So, spending a little more is worth it for great döner!
What Is Turkish Doner Kebab?
In Turkish, "döner" is pronounced as "dœ-ner." The 'ö' resembles the 'i' in 'bird' or 'u' in 'turn.' The 'er' at the end is pronounced quickly, similar to the 'er' in 'spare,' but much shorter and crisper.
Döner is a special kind of kebab in Turkey. To make it, you stack meat and fat on a tall stick (vertical spit) to make a big cylinder shape. This stick is then set up to cook the meat vertically. It turns slowly so that the outside of the meat cooks nicely.
As the meat cooks, the outer part gets crispy and brown. Then, they shave off these cooked parts into thin slices called yaprak döner. These slices are often put into a sandwich or a wrap made with a soft bread called lavash.
What makes an authentic Turkish döner kebab really good? It's a few important things:
- Quality of the Meat: Usually, it's lamb or beef. Good quality meat makes a big difference.
- Meat and Fat Balance: The right mix of meat and fat is key. It makes the döner juicy and tasty.
- Slow Cooking: Cooking the döner slowly makes it tender and flavorful.
Today, many places serve döner with different sauces and sides. But if the döner is really good quality, you don't need anything else. That's why the traditional shops in Turkey sell plain döner. No extra sauces or sides, just the delicious meat in a wrap or sandwich.
Turkish döner kebab comes in a variety of styles, depending on the type of meat used, how it is cooked and how it is served. Here's a breakdown:
Type of Doner Meat:
- Beef & Lamb Doner (Et Döner): This is the most authentic type of döner. It's made either with lamb or with a mix of beef and lamb. This includes specific parts of the animal like the shoulder or leg, and often includes tail fat (kuyruk yağı) for extra flavor.
- Ground Beef (Kıyma Döner): A more budget-friendly option, this version uses ground beef. It's more common in casual eateries and offers a different texture and taste compared to the traditional beef and lamb mix.
- Chicken (Tavuk Döner): A lighter option, made entirely with chicken thighs or breasts. It's a popular choice for those who prefer poultry. Check out our chicken doner recipe if you want to go with chicken.
- Mixed Doner (Karışık Döner): Some döner kebabs combine different types of meat, such as chicken and beef, offering a unique blend of flavors.
Based on How It's Cooked:
Yatik Döner (Cağ Kebabi): 'Yatık' means horizontal in Turkish. This doner is cooked horizontally. Unlike classic döner, this one is made with lamb meat only and doesn’t contain any ground meat. Yatık doner is not as common as the other two doner kebabs in the country, probably because it requires really good quality lamb meat, which is not easy to access everywhere.
Bodrum Döner: It is a unique take on the traditional Turkish döner kebab, distinguished by its inclusion of vegetables. In this version, layers of döner meat are interspersed with various vegetables on the vertical spit, allowing the meat and vegetables to cook together, infusing flavors. You can see a mouthwatering video of it here.
Based on How It's Served:
- Portion (Porsiyon): Thin döner slices served on a plate, often with a salad and bread on the side. Sometimes, French fries might accompany too.
- Pilav Üstü: This is döner served over a bed of pilav (Turkish rice), a delicious and filling combination.
- Ekmek Arası: Literally meaning "in bread," this is döner served in a sandwich form, usually in a halved classic Turkish bread loaf called somun ekmek.
- Tombik / Gobit: A round bread similar to pita bread loaded with döner meat and salad.
- Dürüm: Döner meat, lettuce, onions and pickles wrapped in a thin flatbread called lavash bread, similar to a wrap. It's convenient for eating on the move.
- İskender Kebap: A special serving of döner laid over cut pieces of pide bread, topped with tomato sauce made with tomato paste, melted butter, and often served with yogurt on the side. Check out our iskender kebab recipe if you want to try this traditional dish.
Making Turkish döner at home is a fun and rewarding experience. Here's what you'll need for our recipe:
- Onion Juice: Take an onion, puree it, and then sieve it to get the juice. Make sure to use only the juice, not the pulp. This adds a subtle flavor without the texture of the onion.
- Ground Beef: We use ground beef with about 15% fat for juiciness. You can also use a mix of lamb mince and beef mince for a richer flavor.
- Doner Kebab Spice Mix: It includes black pepper, ground cumin, oregano (or thyme), garlic powder. And there is an optional spice called isot pepper (Urfa biber). This is a special Turkish pepper that adds a unique smoky taste. If you can't find it, paprika is a good substitute, though it has a milder aroma.
- Yogurt: Adds a slight tang and moisture.
- Milk: This is used to have a moist result.
- Butter: You'll need this for cooking the döner in a pan. It adds richness and helps brown the meat beautifully.
Tip: You can prepare your own doner kebab spice mix and use it in all kebab dishes. Just combine salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, isot pepper / Urfa Biber in a jar and keep it in a dry place.
How To Make The Recipe
Follow these steps to make a delicious homemade Turkish döner kebab:
Prepare the Onion Juice:
- Start by pureeing an onion in a food processor.
- Strain the puree through a sieve into a large mixing bowl, collecting just the juice.
Mix the Ingredients:
- To the mixture of ground beef, döner kebab seasoning, salt, yogurt, and milk, add onion juice.
- Use your hand to mix everything thoroughly until well combined.
- Shape the mixture into a log.
Chill the Meat:
- Place the meat log on a piece of baking paper and wrap it tightly.
- Let it rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours to firm up.
- Afterward, transfer it to the freezer and leave it there for 8 hours or overnight.
Slice the Döner:
- Remove the döner log from the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
- Using a sharp knife, while holding the döner log with baking paper, carefully slice it into large, thin slices.
Cook the Döner:
- Heat a teaspoon of butter in a non-stick pan over high heat.
- Place the döner slices in a single layer in the pan, cooking each side until nicely browned.
- Cook the döner in batches, ensuring not to overcrowd the pan.
Once you've cooked your Turkish döner, there are several delicious ways to serve it:
- Döner Sandwich or Wrap: Place the cooked döner slices inside a pide bread or wrap them in a lavash to make döner dürüm. Add fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.
- Döner Plate: Serve the döner slices on a plate accompanied by Turkish pilav or bazlama bread, grilled vegetables, and a side of fresh shepherd salad, coban salatasi. This makes for a more substantial and sit-down meal.
- With Sides: Although not traditional, you can offer a variety of sides like cacik dip, ezme salata, Turkish eggplant salad, piyaz salad and roasted onions. And of course, the best drink to serve with döner is ayran, Turkish yogurt drink.
Döner Around the World
Roots in the Ottoman Empire
Döner, a popular dish worldwide, has its roots in the Ottoman Empire. It originated several centuries ago, with Ottoman chefs innovating the method of grilling meat vertically on a rotisserie. This technique allowed the meat to cook evenly while retaining its juices, leading to the creation of the döner kebab we know today.
In Turkey, it is known as döner, nobody in the country uses the word kebab when talking about this delicious food. The classic Turkish döner features thinly sliced meat, often lamb, beef or chicken seasoned with only salt and pepper. It is served with bread or rice and lettuce salad (with red cabbage and grated carrots) or sumac onions.
Döner was introduced to Germany by Turkish immigrants, particularly in Berlin, during the 1960s and 1970s. It quickly gained popularity and became a fast-food staple across the country.
In Germany, it transformed into the "Döner Kebap," often made with beef, veal, chicken or turkey and served inside a bread pocket with salad and sauces. This adaptation became a fast-food favorite, especially in Berlin.
In Greece, a similar dish known as "Gyros" emerged. Gyros typically uses pork or chicken and is served in a pita wrap with tzatziki or yogurt sauce, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes feta cheese. The method of cooking the meat on a rotisserie is similar to Turkish döner, showcasing the shared culinary influences across the Mediterranean.
In the Middle East
In the Middle East, "Shawarma" is a close relative of Turkish döner. Shawarma, which is famous in Israel and Arabic countries, often uses chicken or lamb. It is served with garlic sauce, tahini, pickles, vegetables, hummus dip and sometimes fries.
A classic shawarma seasoning is made of ground coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and cinnamon. On the other hand, a classic doner kebab seasoning contains fewer spices.
As always: If you make this recipe, let us know what you think by rating it and leaving a comment below. And post a pic on Instagram too—tag @give_recipe so we can see!
Turkish Doner Kebab Recipe
Learn to make delicious homemade Turkish döner kebab with our simple recipe.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Turkish
- 1 large onion
- 1 kilo/2lb ground beef (15% fat)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon isot pepper (or paprika)
- 4 tablespoons yogurt
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons butter to cook döner
- Puree the onion in a food processor. Sieve its juice into a large mixing bowl. We just need the juice.
- Put the ground beef, döner kebab seasoning, salt, yogurt and milk in the same bowl. Combine them well using your hand. Give it a log shape.
- Transfer it on a baking paper and wrap it tightly.
- Let it rest in the fridge for 2 hours. Then transfer it to the freezer and let it sit there for 8 hours or overnight.
- Remove it from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes. Hold the döner log with a piece of baking paper and carefully make large thin slices using a sharp knife.
- Heat one teaspoon butter in a non stick pan over high heat. Line sliced döner pieces in a single layer and cook both sides until nicely brown.
- Cook döner in batches and never overload the pan.
The chilling and freezing times are not included.
Once you've cooked your Turkish döner, there are several delicious ways to serve it:
Döner Plate: Serve the döner slices on a plate accompanied by Turkish pilav or bazlama bread, grilled vegetables, and a side of fresh shepherd salad, coban salatasi. This makes for a more substantial and sit-down meal.
With Sides: Although not traditional, you can offer a variety of sides like cacik dip, ezme salata, Turkish eggplant salad, piyaz salad and roasted onions. And of course, the best drink to serve with döner is ayran, Turkish yogurt drink.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 420
- Sugar: 1.8 g
- Sodium: 893.7 mg
- Fat: 29.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 4 g
- Protein: 32.7 g
- Cholesterol: 125.2 mg
Keywords: doner kebab, turkish doner kebab