Traditional East Coast Donairs

I recently read a post from a fabulous blogger, who inspired me to write about our east coast donairs and swap recipes 🙂  Head on over the Happiness Stan Lives Here and check out all his awesome creations!

WARNING – this is not exactly a healthy recipe, actually it’s really only the sugar-laden sauce that’s not so healthy, but everyone needs a cheat meal now and then, am I right?! I also rarely post meat recipes so this one’s for my husband and all you meat-eaters out there!

I wanted to give you a little taste of this east coast delicacy that my husband craves from time to time. He’s an east coast boy through and through and often asks me to make this since we cannot get it anywhere out west.  This is a legit donair recipe with actual donair sauce, not that tzatziki sauce that anyone west of Atlantic Canada tries to pawn off as donair sauce – no, no this is the real deal.  So a little tip to all you westerners that say you serve “traditional east coast donairs”,unless you are dousing it with the sauce below, it’s not a donair, it’s a gyro! There. Glad I got that out of my system.

It took me a long time to warm up to donairs. I wasn’t a big fan since I rarely eat beef.  To this day I usually opt for a chicken schwarma or a slice of veggie pizza when I’m out looking for food at 3am (Pizza corner anyone??)  But after making it myself I have warmed up to it.  Now you can enjoy it at home too without having to travel across the country for it!East Coast DonairsPrint Recipe

Makes about 10-12 donairs

For the meat
3 lbs lean ground hamburger, triple ground (ask your butcher to run it through the meat grinder a couple more times)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1-2 tsp cayenne red pepper
2 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
Generous amount of salt and pepper
**Don’t be shy on the spices!**

Donair Sauce
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder

Alternative Super Thick Donair Sauce
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder

You will also need:
Pitas – Lebanese pitas are the best, you can also use naan bread
Diced tomatoes
Diced onions
Shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 300F.  Mix all the spices together in a bowl until well incorporated. donairs Using a large cutting board or butcher’s block, add the spices to the meat evenly.   Knead for about 10 minutes, really get the spices mixed in!  Pick it up and throw it down on the board at least 10 times. donairs2 This will give you the same type of texture that you get in the donair shops. Shape 2 loaves.  Place on a broiler rack or baking sheet with a rack.donairs3 Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Internal temperature must be at least 160F. Remove from oven and let cool.  Once it’s cooled, wrap in tin foil and refrigerate until ready to use. At this point the meat can be frozen for when that 3am craving hits.  It’s best to make the meat the night before and refrigerate it before preparing your donairs.  This makes it easier to slice thinly.donairs5To make the sauce, mix evaporated milk with the sugar and garlic powder until dissolved.  Slowly add the vinegar and stir only 3 or 4 times until it begins to thicken, don’t over mix! Cover and refrigerated for at least an hour or overnight. If you use the alternative recipe, simply add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well – this time it’s OK to over mix!  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.donairs4Once you’re ready to prepare your donairs, thinly slice the meat (the thinner, the better). We found that an electric knife works best, or you could use a serrated knife. Next, fry up the meat in a frying pan for a few minutes until nice and crispy.  Meanwhile, preheat another large frying pan, and quickly run the pita under water on each side.  Place in the heated frying pan for a couple of minutes a side until softened.donairs donairs2To assemble your donairs, slather your pita in donair sauce and top with donair meat, tomatoes, onions, mozzarella and more sweet sauce!  DO NOT try to eat this gracefully.  It’s tradition, you must use your hands only!  Yes, you will have sauce dripping all down your face; that’s just all part of the experience. Enjoy!donairs7


  • trixfred30 July 27, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Excellent work! They do really look like the genuine article

  • The Primitive Palate July 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Here in Germany these sandwiches are super popular. There are little street vendors everywhere…but here they are spelled Doner.

    • thehappyhealthfreak July 28, 2014 at 8:58 am

      It’s funny how they are so similar yest spelled differently!
      Yes, street meat and pizza is a common late night delicacy in Canada too 🙂

  • Cauliflower Garlic Fingers ~ GF, Low-Carb, DF Option - The Happy Health Freak January 19, 2015 at 8:01 am

    […] east coast for 6 years.  I was introduced to many Atlantic Canadian late-night delicacies, such as donairs and garlic fingers.  Both are sooo delish but oh so bad for you.  Garlic fingers are often served […]


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