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Souvlaki literally means 'little skewer' and is a Greek meat dish made from marinated cubes of meat, often pork or chicken, that are grilled over a fire. It is one of the oldest fast food dishes in Greek cuisine.

What is souvlaki?

Souvlaki (Greek spelling σουβλάκι, pronounced ‘soe-VLA-kie’) means ‘little skewer’. It is a Greek meat dish made from marinated meat cubes – often pork or chicken – that are grilled on a skewer over a fire. It is one of the oldest fast food dishes in Greek cuisine

Origins of Greek dishes, from baklava to dolmades, are much discussed but there is general agreement about souvlaki. A similar dish of meat and pita bread was eaten by the ancient Greeks. 

There are different versions of souvlaki. The fixed ingredients are meat and pita bread. Red sauce (tomato), a double wrap (diplopito) or a double portion of meat (dikalamo) can also be added.

In Greece, the term gyros is often used when referring to souvlaki. Confused? The difference is in how the meat is cooked. Souvlaki consists of cubes of grilled meat on small skewers; gyros meat is grilled vertically in cone form on a huge skewer.

Did you know?

If souvlaki are served on a simple wooden skewer, it is then called kalamaki.

How to make souvlaki?

Marinate cubes of meat – chicken, or pork – in oil, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic and Greek oregano. After marinating, thread onto skewers and grill over a fire, on the barbecue or in the grill pan. Coat pita bread with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and briefly grill. Remove the pieces of meat from the skewers and put into the pita. Finish off with slices of fresh tomato, raw onion and tzatziki (yogurt sauce). Some chefs add fried potatoes.

How to eat

Straight from your hand, with some extra oregano and a squeeze of lemon. As with a gyros sandwich, make sure you don’t get stuck without a napkin because it’s almost impossible to eat this dish without making some mess!

Difference between gyro and souvlaki

Gyro and souvlaki are well-known to lovers of Greek cuisine. A gyro is made with meat (pork, chicken, beef or lamb) cooked on a vertical spit similar to kebab. It’s then carved off and served wrapped in pita bread, along with some combination of tomatoes, onions, fried potatoes (sometimes even french fries), and tzatziki sauce. Souvlaki is simply small pieces of meat or vegetables grilled on a skewer and typically served with or inside pita bread, with sliced tomatoes and onions, fried potatoes, or rice as sides.

Please consider

Would you like to expand your pita sandwich souvlaki to a full meal? A Greek salad or a small portion of spanakopita (spinach pie) will complete the dish. 

Also try

Food grilled on skewers is a worldwide phenomenon. In Indonesia they serve skewers with peanut sauce (satay) and in Japan they eat yakitori

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