Deconstructed Gyro Salad

One of my favorite recipes is Stovetop Pork Carnitas (updated and renamed in Well Fed as Citrus Carnitas). It requires very little effort, but makes a huge pile of meat that lasts for days and can be re-mixed with other ingredients to make lots of tasty stuff. The cooking technique creates lovely caramelized bits – and caramelized bits are one of the best things on the planet. And, it uses cumin. That cumin thing would be enough of a reason on its own.

So that got me thinking: what other meats could I cook this way?

Say hello to Deconstructed Gyros. (This is one of the recipes I created for my gig as the US Wellness Meats Featured Chef this month. I will never get over saying that.)

Like the carnitas, the cooking part of this recipe takes about 2-3 hours, but at the end of that waiting period, you will be rewarded with caramel-brown, lemony, crispy lamb that practically falls apart when you look at it. Isn’t that worth a few hours of bubbling atop the stove? And the seasonings! The cumin is rich and earthy, the mint adds just the right bite, and the lemon juice creates a deep, layered flavor while it slyly tenderizes the meat.

This deconstructed salad delivers all the flavor of the original by keeping all of the good stuff – bright, fresh, crisp vegetables, plus a creamy, lightly-seasoned sauce – and dumping the dairy and gluten.

Deconstructed Gyro Salad

Serves 8-12 | Prep 5 minutes |  Cook 2-3 hours | Alert 15 minutes | Whole30 compliant

Lamb “Gyro”:
  • 3-4 pounds lamb shoulder roast (you can sub beef chuck if you don’t like lamb)

  • 2 tablespoons dried mint leaves

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin

  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper

  • 1 tablespoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder

  • 1/2 tablespoon salt

  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper

  • 2/3 cup lemon juice

  • water

  • Diced tomatos. red onion, cucumber

  • Shredded lettuce

  • Fresh parsley or mint (or both!), minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint

  • 1/4 cup homemade mayo

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 1/2 teaspoon za’atar (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper

  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • salt and black pepper, to taste


With a sharp knife, cut the lamb shoulder into 3- to 4-inch chunks. You don’t want them bite-sized. Place the lamb pieces in a large ziplock bag.


In a small bowl, rub the mint and oregano leaves between your palms to crush them. Add the cumin, Aleppo pepper, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper; mix with a fork until blended. Add the spice blend to the bag, zip it closed, and shake assertively until all the lamb pieces are coated with the spices.


Place the lamb in a large, deep pot. Pour the lemon juice into the bottom of the pot, then add water to just cover the meat.


Place the pot on high heat and bring the water to a rip-roaring boil. When it’s rolling, reduce the heat to keep a steady, strong simmer with the pan uncovered. The liquid should bubble a fair amount, but should not be a vigorous boil. While it’s cooking, it will look like uninspired soup. Do not be discouraged! As the water evaporates, the acidic qualities of the lemon juice tenderize and flavor the meat.


At about the 2-hour mark, check the pot. The water should be much lower and maybe even almost gone. Allow all the water to cook out of the pan and watch as the meat magically fries and caramelizes in the fat and fruit juice.


Carefully turn the hunks of meat — without shredding them — to brown all sides, then remove the hunks to a plate and let them rest for 5 minutes before eating.


While the meat rests, make the dressing. In a small bowl, crush the dried mint with your fingers, then add mayo, parsley, za’atar, Aleppo pepper, and garlic. Blend well with a fork. Drizzle in the lemon juice, mixing with the fork, then taste and season with salt and pepper.


Arrange the raw vegetables on the plate, add the lamb, drizzle with the dressing, and sprinkle with minced, fresh herbs.

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  • Lea says:

    Cannot wait to try this recipe!!! Thank you!

  • Patrick N says:

    Oh man, if we hadn’t just polished off almost a week’s worth of lamb gyros, I would make this tonight! Sounds delicious.

  • Emily Rose says:

    Okay, I really MUST finally try your paleo mayo recipe this weekend. It magically transforms into so many exciting dips and sauces! I have never been a regular mayo fan, but I have a sneaking suspicion this stuff will make for many fun culinary adventures.

  • Jette Gad says:

    Melissa-lovely woman-you are killing me :)
    As if your book isn’t enough (I might or might not be on a mission to try E-V-E-R-Y recipe in that book) -now I’ll have to try this as well…
    What I really want to say is THANK YOU so much…

  • I’m for sure doing this. The raw veggies are lovely. Delish.

  • Melissa says:

    that looks divine! I really wish I had some of that for lunch today :-)

  • Debi says:

    Melissa –
    I am new to your site and just ordered your book. I was wondering can this be modified with pork or beef? I’m not a lamb fan.

  • Erica says:

    This is so wonderful! I have most of a half a lamb in my freezer and we LOVE gyros! So excited to try this. Though our shoulder came in chops, not a roast, I should be able to just cut those up for this. Thanks for recipe!

  • Linnea says:

    It is for recipes like this I really appreciate that I am married to the butcher. Yes, I have my very own “Sam the butcher” who brings me home whatever I desire to try out new recipes.
    This is going to be heading towards the top of the list and printed out and put into my Well Fed by its sister Citrus Carnitas

  • Jacey says:

    You are my hero for posting this! I really miss Gyros …

    So excited to try this.

  • TrainWreckaBecca says:

    I’ve got a lamb roast in the fridge that I am so making this with!! My partner and I are on Day 6 of our first Whole 30. I have made several of the recipes in your book ~ YUM! The only recipe that received a so-so reception from my tater lovin’ man was the jicama hash. I think that was because of our relative unfamiliarity with the veggie. The second time we used the jicama in your “Potato Salad.” I must admit it was a surprising hit! Delightful, tasty, easy recipes ~ Thank you, Melissa.

    • Andrea says:

      For a die-hard potato lover I’d sub turnips for the jicama in the hash recipe…

      I’m working my way through Well Fed as well…my only problem is being an empty-nester with a husband working over seas…it takes me days to get through a recipe of leftovers even when I half them!
      Today I made the Blue Ribbon Country Captain Chicken…Oh my! I usually offer to share my dishes with my parents so I don’t have to eat the same thing all week…but not this one, I’m keeping it ALL!
      I haven’t tried lamb yet…I have a little aversion to the way it smells but I’m thinking this dish will push me to just go for it!

      • Mel says:

        WOOT! Glad you liked the Country Captain Chicken.

        You can make this gyro recipe with beef if you don’t like lamb. Use a cheap-ish cut that you would usually braise. It will be delish!

    • Mel says:

      Congrats on Day 6 of your Whole30. And yeah, I can see not feeling the jicama if you’re expecting it to taste like potato — try it again and add ground beef. My husband loves it that way.

  • Sophie says:

    I’m so glad I found your site! My husband and I are adopting a paleo lifestyle (just stocked up on tons of veg and awesome spices), and I can already see your recipes are going to be a big reason we’ll stick with it! I was seriously just lamenting today about not having another gyro…but duhhhh….it’s the meat that’s the best part! Screw the pita. :)

  • Chris says:

    1) thanks for fixing the ebook. A3 double pages + counter space = used to be a pain.

    2) stealth paleo. I have a 17 yo who insists I feed him regularly. He loves loves loves hot plates. Despite being incredibly smart, he hasn’t realised the volume of vegetables he’s consuming with each meal. music = can I have some more? YAY.

  • Gaby says:

    Made the stovetop carnitas for dinner a few weeks ago… amazing! This recipe looks just as good. Congrats on your US Wellness “appearance”!

  • Taryl says:

    Oh wow YUM! That looks phenomenal!

    Now I’m craving lamb and it’s almost midnight. Bummer 😉

  • Meredith says:

    Wow-I just bought lamb last night and I have to say I’m gonna make this instead of what I was originally planning…
    Thanks for your great posts and positive words. :)

  • This looks great and I’m really intrigued by your dairy-free dressing!

  • keturah says:

    yum! I cannot wait for this..I miss gyros! You could also use your tahini sauce for another tasty treat. :)

  • magnolia73 says:

    Can I scale this down and prepare a pound of lamb similarly? Cooking for one…

  • Adrianne C says:

    Tonight I tried the Pork Carnitas from Well Fed since I saw mention of it here. Coming from someone who really doesn’t like pork (unless in bacon form) I have to say OMG. These pork bits were beyond what any words can describe.

    It was all I could do to not stand over the pan and eat them with the tongs. OK, I ate two pieces this way but quickly put the rest in the fridge. Thank you so much!

  • Ahoutsma says:

    Just finished this lamb dish for dinner. It was so yummy! Thank you for all the work you put into your blog and recipes. This is my second year on and off paleo/whole 30. I am so happy to have found a true foodie. Your recipes are amazing! The best paleo/whole 30 versions I have found.

  • jj says:

    My gyro loving husband is going to love you for this one!

  • Laura Maxwell says:

    Have you tried this with leg of lamb? I’ve got one in the fridge and figured I could sub that in. BTW LOVE, ADORE Well Fed!

    • Mel says:

      It should work with leg of lamb, although you might want to use less water because it’s not as tough as shoulder. You might have to play around with it a little.

      • Tricia says:

        I just made this with leg of lamb last night, and followed the instructions to the t. IT IS AMAZING. Seriously. Go make this right now.

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  • Lisa says:

    OMG! I made this for my family tonight and WOW! It is so delicious. Normally they ask suspiciously if this is a “paleo” meal and give it the hairy eyeball. They wolfed it down.
    BTW: I love your cookbook, too. I am working my way through every single recipe.
    THANKS for your blog!

  • Haley says:

    Will definitely try this!

  • Laura says:

    This looks awesome. Probably not what you intended, but Gyros or Souvlaki is standard “drunk” food in Melbourne, Australia where I’m currently living. On more than a few occasions, I’ve gone across the street from my house to the 24-hr gyro place and ordered one without the wrap and found myself in a 10-minute convo with the restaurant owner trying to explain that I don’t “do” bread. I may just start doing my own.

  • Shawndra says:

    Dude this was flat out magical! I made it with beef brisket and had to use the crock pot for the meat because of my work hours… still somehow caramalized on the outside! I will be feasting all freaking week, I am so stoked!

  • Nia says:

    Just off the stove…omg! I should have made double. My husband is napping right now, but I might wake him to let him taste the deliciousness!

  • I really want to have this right now! I am a new follower!

  • April says:

    I have a bunch of beef roasts in the freezer from a grassfed steer we bought. I have used up all the other meat and just do not want to do those roasts. Thanks for this idea – I am definately making this!

  • Dana says:

    Question: How make-ahead-able is the meat? I would like to serve this for Easter dinner, but I’m wondering if I can do the “heavy lifting” the day before without sacrificing the yumminess.

    • Mel says:

      I made this in advance for our dinner party, and it worked great. Here’s what I did:
      1. Followed the recipe above, just as it is.
      2. Put the cooked lamb in the fridge, covered until an hour before we wanted to eat.
      3. Put the cooked lamb in a 13X9 baking pan covered TIGHTLY with foil and popped it in a 300F oven.

      It reheated great and was still tender and juicy.

  • Madeline says:


    I rarely leave comments online, but I must thank you for this tasty recipe! I’ve made it three times. My family is in love! We are cooking it tonight for Easter. The best lamb dish I have ever had, by far. This coming from someone who used to loathe meat!!


    Bravo, girly!

  • Dana says:

    This was fabulous! Smelled wonderful while it was cooking (though a bit overpowering for a kitchen without an extractor fan! ;). Then the surprise of the lemony flavor was delightful. All of my Easter dinner guests loved it.

    And it was a terrific way to start the second week of my Whole30!

    Thanks so much!!

    • Mel says:

      Hope you had a wonderful Easter celebration — and so glad this lamb recipe was part of it. It’s one of my favorites, too. Congrats on your Whole30!

  • Potato says:

    Made this once before and it was amazing. Would there be any difference at all if I used a different part of the lamb? (i.e lamb leg)


    • Mel says:

      With leg of lamb, you might want to use the spices on the meat and grill it — I’ve never made leg of lamb with the braising technique above. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

  • Tessa says:

    I used a beef bottom round and my pressure cooker, and this was amazing! I love how simple ingredients come I together to make something so flavorful! Recipes like this make our paleo trial easy!

  • Andi says:

    Help! The water wasn’t even half way boiled out when 2 hours was up, but I didn’t have more time so I just dumped it out and tried brown the sides. I didn’t see any magical carmelizing going on, is this because of the water? Did it need to boil more intensely? The lamb was very dry, drowning in that delicious sauce you couldn’t really tell how dry it was though. I’d love to try this again, just need some guidance! (I’m just now getting into cooking, so my knowledge is limited.) Thanks!!!

    • Mel says:

      Without being in the kitchen with you, it’s impossible to know what went wrong.

      1. How deep was the pot? Sounds like you had too much water to cook off in the alotted time and with that much water, the water-to-acid ratio was off, so the acid didn’t tenderize the lamb.

      2. What cut of lamb did you use?

      3. How much lamb did you use?

      If you can answer these questions, we might be able to figure out what to change next time.

      • Andi says:

        It was a boneless roast, 4 lbs, I had it cut up into about 6 pieces, in a big soup pot that had about 3.5 in of water. Maybe smaller pieces to just fit in the bottom of the pot? I’ll have to mess around with it next time.

        Thanks for the amazing recipes, I’m on day 18 of Whole30.

  • Ann Ketz says:

    This was fantastic! One of the only instances when I’m secretly glad that my young children didn’t like something new … because that meant more leftovers for me!

  • Steph says:

    We enjoyed this lots. Mine also took a bit longer to cook off, and in the end I couldn’t turn the lamb without shredding it. I also browned it in my toaster to get it a little crispy, which is how I like my gyro meat. Oh, and since my lamb shoulder had substantial bones, I just threw them in and gnawed on them at the end, like the refined and delicate lady I am.

    I made the sauce with some spoonfuls of tahini cuz I’m like that. All delicious. Looking forward to the leftovers!

  • Laura says:

    Sadness! I tried this with beef and it turned out not-really-great. Kind of dry and it most certainly does NOT want to fall apart. What did I do?! Could cooking it at too high a heat have done this? It wasn’t at a rip-roaring boil, but was simmering pretty vigorously, even though I kept turning down the heat. In fact, it was just about out of water at a little over an hour and a half. The flavor is good, though, despite my sad technique.

  • Laura says:

    It was beef shoulder. I can tell you — since I’m eating some now — that it does have a fair amount of fat. But I’ll keep my eye out for fattier pieces next time. There was only a tiny selection at my store.

  • Laura says:

    Oh, I never thought of doing it in the oven. It’s worth a shot. I should tell you, I’m not really in charge when I cook. I can follow the same recipe, exactly the same every time, and it comes out different every time. I live alone so I’m always cooking for myself and I just have never gotten that magic touch of intuitive cooks. So great websites with easy, approachable recipes like yours are a fabulous resource. Particularly when the chef, herself, personally responds to pleas for help! Thanks so much!

    • Mel says:

      I think most cooks would say that everytime they make something, it comes out a little differently… that’s the fun of it! It’s part science, but also part art, so little differences show up. YAY!

  • Josephine says:

    I just have to comment as I making this recipe for about the 10th time since I discovered it last year – it is always AMAZING! I always hated lamb as a kid, but using your method of cooking, it always turns out so so tender and delicious. Life-changing stuff 😉 Thank you!

  • Laney says:

    Looove your site! This will be my first recipe I’ve tried of yours, I couldn’t find dried mint leaves anywhere so I’m using fresh……Carnitas tomorrow! Yum!

  • Holly says:

    didn’t even have the right cut of lamb and it still turned out Ahmazing.

    the whole clan ate it!
    2 adults, 4 young kids –

    We had been missing our Greek 20 days into Whole30 and this hit the spot!
    Can’t wait to make it again and again!

  • Sheda says:

    I THINK I’M IN LOVE! I could barely stop “taste testing” the lamb it was so good. And I think I’m going to put this dressing on everything. This recipe is definitely going on my favorites list.

    • Mel says:

      Glad you like it! This is a good one to make often because you can do so much with the leftover meat. Happy cooking to you!

  • Lisa says:

    I was very impressed with this recipe! I work in a cardiology office and one of the physicians is a paleo follower. He and the other staff members were impressed with how good the food tasted! Thank you for sharing this recipe and giving something that can feed a crowd! (Not to mention, having the recipe taste D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!)

  • Jenni says:

    This looks so yummy! I miss gyros so much. I have a citrus and grape allergy. Do you have a reccomendation on what if anything I can use to substitute? I have often used apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar for recipes. I also have herb I fused rice wine vinegar I can use.

  • Renee says:

    I had a boneless leg of lamb and not enough time to make as directed. I massaged the spices into the lamb and let it sit for about an hour. Right before putting it on a really hot grill, I squeezed lemon juice on each side, then grilled 5 minutes each side and 5 more on indirect heat. Nice crust, medium rare inside, so so good!

  • jjINnj says:

    Tried this recipe tonight.

    would heartily suggest a post-sear de-glaze with apple cider vinegar and water, then thicken with some coconut milk and a pinch each of salt and baking powder.

    i thought the lamb was tasty, but this rich brown glaze is amazeballs. great recipe!

  • Johanna says:

    OH MY GOD. I must have that.

    • Mel says:

      Just stopped by your blog.

      1. LOVE the name and header graphic. SO CUTE!

      2. Congratulations on Whole30-ing!

      3. This deconstructed gyro can so be yours. Go for it :-)

      • Johanna says:

        Thanks for stopping by! My friend Emilie designed the header for me, she’s super talented :)

        I’m just wrapping up the Whole30, but the food has been so good that I don’t think we will change much about how we’ve been eating, at home at least. You have awesome recipes, I’m sure I’ll be borrowing some! I’m a sucker for Gyro so this one will be right at the front of the list! I wonder if the lamb could be done in a crock pot?

        • Mel says:

          You can make it in a slow cooker, but I recommend you skip the water and just use the citrus juice. Enjoy!

          • Al says:

            I’m interested in the trying the slow cooker. Any other suggestions besides citrus only? Recommend high or low? Cook time? I’m new to Paleo and really enjoy your recipes-thank you!

  • Becky says:

    So amazing!!
    Thanks for this wonderful recipe!!

  • Mel says:

    Al, to make this in the slow cooker, I’d say it’s probably 10-12 hours on low — or half that time on high.

  • Kathy says:

    I have a leg of lamb, is that the same as a shoulder roast? If not, will it work in this recipe?

    • Leg of lamb isn’t quite as fatty, so I would recommend using the same spice rub, but use a different cooking method: either roast it in the oven or grill it. It will get tough and overdone if you use the cooking method in this recipe.

      To roast a 5# leg of lamb: Bake at 450F for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 400F and roast for 55 to 60 more minutes for medium rare. The internal temperature should be at least 145F when taken with a meat thermometer. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

  • Tara says:

    Holy flavor overload!! love. I’m going to double the dressing next time…. mmm

  • Gen says:

    I have to try this! Though I wonder if it would work with ground lamb? Since that is what I have in the freezer, I am going to give it a try and see how it works!

  • Tara Gutman says:

    Hi!! Have everything ready to go but it’s already 9:30pm. If I put the lamb in the zip lock with the seasoning, can I leave it overnight and cook it tomorrow when I get home?

  • Amy F says:

    I made this yesterday using eye of round roast and while the flavor was amazing, the beef was a little tough. It took 4 hours to get all the water to evaporate. I’m not sure if I used too much water, had it on too low, or used the wrong cut of beef. On the up side everyone said they would eat it again, including the picky teenager. The sauce/dressing was perfection with it.

  • Lynne Andress says:

    Would the mint be peppermint or spearmint?

  • Andrea says:

    This is my FAVORITE recipe! I love it. I crave it. Its incredible! (And I feel great after eating it!) Thanks for sharing it. It got me through a few Whole30s. Just wanted to pass along my invention for making the homemade mayo SO much easier (and you’ve got everything you need to make it in your kitchen!)

    • That’s a great idea! I know people have traditionally had trouble making it work with a Vitamix, so that seems like a solution to the problem! I’ve started using my stick blender, and it’s perfect every time. So great that the recipe is versatile enough for every kitchen! Congratulations on Whole30-ing!


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