Saturday, January 11, 2014

Recipe for Ground Beef Gyro Meatball Lettuce Wraps with Tzatziki and Tomatoes

Ground Beef Gyro Meatball Lettuce Wraps with Tzatziki and Tomatoes
All the amazing flavors found in Gyros, without the pita bread!

(Today's pick for the month of Daily Phase One Recipes is these flavorful Ground Beef Gyro Meatball Lettuce Wraps with Tzatziki and Tomatoes that I first posted in 2012. I've made these meatball lettuce wraps many times since then, and still love this recipe when I'm craving Greek food.  You can see all the recipes from the month by clicking the link Daily Phase One Recipes.  Check after the recipe for Phase One Flashbacks from this day in 2012 and 2013.)

This recipe is for everyone who loves the complex flavors of Greek Gyros (pronounced yeer-ohs), but it's especially for my brother Mark.  When the idea first popped into my head to make a lettuce wrap with Gyro flavors, I immediately thought of Mark and his love of Greek food.  It might have been a good thing that I had that image of him enjoying this in my mind, because it took Jake and I five tries to get the seasoning for the Gyro meatballs just right.  When I came back to the kitchen from taking photos and Jake sheepishly admitted he had eaten quite a few of the meatballs, I knew this final version was a keeper!

It's impossible to completely duplicate the flavor of Gyro meat at home, since it's cooked on a spit with a heating element behind the meat, and crisp pieces are shaved off to be made into Gyros.  I found lots of recipes online for Gyro meat, but it was the Gyro Meat recipe from The Spice House that Jake and I thought had the best flavor.  I'm a big fan of The Spice House, so I happened to have the Greektown Billygoat Seasoning which gives the meat mixture that "Greek" flavor.  If you don't have it you can probably use another brand of Greek seasoning or see the list of spices in The Spice House mix (in the recipe below) and just mix those spices individually to get the same flavors.  We made our version of the Greek meatballs with slightly less Greek seasoning than the recipe called for, since it's fairly salty, but the combination of flavors was fantastic.  (And for the record, no one at The Spice House has given me any of this seasoning or knows I'm writing about it, although I have met the owner a few times and like her a lot!)

Coarsely chop 1/2 of an onion and then chop it in the food processor until it's finely chopped.  Add the Greek seasoning, ground cumin, and garlic powder and buzz a couple more times so the seasonings are well combined.

Mix the onion-spice mixture into the lean ground beef.

We used a plastic tablespoon to scoop out the meat and rolled it into 20 smallish meatballs.

We cooked the meatballs in a stove-top grill pan over medium-high heat.

While meatballs cook, chop up some cherry tomatoes to go in the lettuce wraps.

You'll also need Tzatziki sauce, which you can buy (or use my recipe and make the Worlds Greatest Tzatziki Sauce.)

We used iceberg lettuce, two leaves together for each wrap, and put three meatballs into each one.

Then put a generous amount of Tzatziki sauce and some chopped tomatoes over the meatballs, fold over the lettuce and eat!!

Ground Beef Gyro Meatball Lettuce Wraps with Tzatziki and Tomatoes
(Makes 6-7 lettuce wraps; recipe for the meatballs adapted from the Gyro Meat recipe from The Spice House.)

1 lb. extra lean ground beef (I used beef with 7% fat)
1/2 onion, finely chopped in food processor
1 T Greek seasoning (I used The Spice House Greektown Billygoat Seasoning, see note after recipe.)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
olive oil, for brushing grill pan
1 large head iceberg lettuce
Tzatziki sauce, about 3/4 cup (I love homemade Tzatziki, but you can use purchased Tzatziki as well.)
3/4 cup chopped cherry tomatoes

Coarsely chop the onion; then put it in the food processor and pulse until onion is finely chopped.  Add the Greek seasoning, cumin, and garlic powder and pulse a few more times until the seasonings are well blended with the onion.  (You can also do this by hand, but it's easier in the food processor.)

Put the ground beef into a bowl, add the onion-spice mixture, and use your clean hands to mix the spices into the meat.  Then use a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon to scoop out the meat and form into meatballs.  (I got 20 meatballs.)

Brush a stove-top grill pan or frying pan with olive oil, then heat the pan over medium high heat and cook the meatballs, turning often, until they are well browned and completely cooked through (about 10-12 minutes.)  

Cut out the core of the lettuce and cut the lettuce head into two halves, then break the leaves apart, making each lettuce cup out of two leaves.  Put three meatballs into each lettuce cup, top with Tzatziki sauce, and sprinkle over chopped tomatoes.

The Gyro meatballs were great after they had been in the fridge overnight.  I wouldn't recommend microwaving them; I just heated them in a mini-frying pan on the stove.

Greek Seasoning Note:  The Spice House Greektown Billygoat Seasoning contains "coarse flake salt, granulated garlic powder, Tellicherry black pepper, onion powder, Greek fancy oregano and powdered lemon peel."  I particularly love this blend, but I think most brands of Greek seasoning have similar ingredients.

South Beach Suggestions: 
As long as the meatballs are made with lean ground beef, this is a great low-glycemic main dish for any phase of the South Beach Diet.

Phase One Flashbacks:

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

Ten More Recipes with Greek Flavors:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Very Greek Grilled Chicken from Kalyn's Kitchen
American Greek Salad from Kalyn's Kitchen
Lentil and Barley Greek-Style Salad from Kalyn's Kitchen
Greek-Seasoned Grilled Pork Chops with Lemon and Oregano from Kalyn's Kitchen
Greek Red Pepper and Feta Turkey Meatball Salad from The Perfect Pantry
Slow Roasted Greek-Style Leg of Lamb from Farmgirl Fare
Greek Turkey Meatball Sandwich from Cookin' Canuck
Kale Greek Salad from We Are Not Martha
Whole Wheat Greek Orzo Salad from Pinch My Salt
Greek Burgers and Tzatziki from Andrea Meyers
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Joanne said...

I haven't had a gyro in a LONG time but I'm going to try to adapt these seasoning for bean "meat"balls! Sounds totally craveable.

Jeanette said...

I was just thinking about making some Greek flavored meatballs last week served with tzatziki, lettuce and tomatoes in a corn tortilla for my kids. Love this carb free version you made!

vanillasugarblog said...

Now those are heavenly!
Love this, printing this for sure!

Kalyn said...

So glad people are liking this. I can tell it will be a frequently made recipe for me!

Liz said...

looks so easy and delicious YUM gonna make this tonight!

Chelsea @ Chelsea Eats Treats said...

Wow those look great! I always wanted to recreate gyro flavors at home but it never came out well. I'll be trying this for sure!

Kalyn said...

Thanks Liz. Chelsea, it was hard to nail it. We tried a lot of seasonings for the meat that were ok, but didn't make us think about Gyro meat. This one was great though!

Pam said...

Well, it looks like I need to get those spices.

Kalyn said...

Pam, you will love it; just remember it's on the salty side. Perfect Greek flavors.

JanS said...

Can't wait to try the gyro meatball recipe! The only addition I will probably make is some diced or thinly sliced raw onion on top.

Kalyn said...

Yes, I think some thinly sliced raw onion would be great on this!

Dennis said...

This one looks so yummy. I'll be trying this one soon for sure.

Deborah said...

This is seriously a brilliant idea. Love all of these flavors, and I'll be trying this one for sure!

Kalyn said...

Deborah, so glad you like it. I could not give up on the idea; that's why we tried it so many times.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I made Greek meatballs several years ago and added in some chopped dill into the mixture. Gave it a lovely aroma when the dill was grilled. Just a contrast to the fresh dill in the tzatziki. I ate mine with pita bread, but I don't know why I didn't think to make lettuce wraps with them. Might have to make these again!

Barbara Bakes said...

Such a great idea. Loved the article.

donugene said...

HI Kalyn, would it be possible to cook the meatballs in the oven? If so how long ? I am not a great cook at the age of 56 years young but working on it. Any suggestions are appreciated. Love your blog
Don in Seattle

Kalyn said...

I like the idea of some dill in the meat!

Thanks Barbara; it was a fun surprise when they asked me.

I'm sure you could cook the meatballs in the oven, but I'm not sure they would be quite as good. The browning of the meat is one thing that adds flavor. I really don't know how long it would take; I'd recommend to start checking them after about 20 minutes on 400 and cut one in half to be sure when you think they look done.

Anonymous said...

Awesome recipe and thanks for the kind words. Between healthy eating and lots of bike riding I have lost 38 lbs since Feb. 18th!! Thanks for your help with good choices. Love ya. Mark

Kalyn said...

Thanks Mark, love ya! And 38 pounds, wow!

donugene said...

Thanks Kalyn I will give it a try

Don in Seattle

sushi.latte said...

Kalyn, My husband is Greek, born and raised in Piraeus. When he makes his sauce (pronounce Jah-jeekee), he finely shreds the cucumber and strains the water out of it. He uses about half a bulb of garlic, which is probably too much for a lot of Americans, although it's for a large container of Greek Yogurt. Other ingredients that he adds is Olive oil, pepper, lemon juice,capers and dill. Greeks love their Olive oil. He seeds his cucumber the same as you. Sometimes he leaves the dill out, sometimes he adds oregano instead, sometimes he adds Cavendar's Greek Seasoning... it's all in how you like it.
Hope this helps!

Kalyn said...

Don, hope you enjoy.

Fun hearing an authentic Greek take on Tzatziki, and I have actually been to Piraeus!

Jamie said...

Wow! Yay for your brother! Fantastic! And we LOVE gyros and the flavors and this is such a great recipe, Kalyn! And love that it is eaten in lettuce wraps instead of heavy bread.

Kalyn said...

Jamie, he has now lost 38 pounds; so proud of him! Glad you like this.

Barb said...

Another home run recipe Kalyn! I have some ground lamb in the freezer so I think I'll use it in this recipe. Kalyn IMHO your recipes are some of if not THE BEST on the web, and I thank you for them.

Kalyn said...

Barb, I think it would be delicious with lamb, and thanks for the very nice feedback!

LP @dishclips said...

I assume there are no utensils required for this dish, which is a big plus. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the lettuce. Every time I try to use Iceberg as a wrap, it tears and splits and I never get a large leaf. I know it all goes down the same, but I usually give up and just throw stuff on top and it looks like a salad. Is there a magic trick or any advice you could give about preparing the head to provide wrap-worthy leaves? Thank you in advance for all your recipes and these meatballs will be made soon, as they sound super yummy! :-)

Lisa said...

Awesome recipe! This is a keeper for sure. I even ordered the same Greek seasoning on line & only made a couple of modifications because of hubby ( used 1 tablespoon of onion powder to 1.5 lbs ground beef in lieu of fresh onion). Instead of meatballs, I made long tubular like patties since hubby insisted on grilling these on the BBQ himself & wanted to put inside his greek flat bread & wanted to make it easier for him to cook. Nice Tzatziki sauce too. I made a half of recipe & had a bunch left over. Will use it for sure & am looking for a falafel recipe. You don't feel deprived using the lettuce cups but had to admit I tried it with 1/2 a piece of some great flat bread and OMG! These meatballs would make a great hors de houvres with the tzatziki as a dip on the side or served in mini lettuce cups or mini-pita wedges on the side. Thank you for sharing another wonderful recipe & for introducing me to The Spice House's amazing greek spice.

Kalyn said...

Anonymous, I'm on a trip so sorry for being slow to reply about the lettuce. I cut the iceberg in half and then peel off double leaves. I think doubling it is what makes it work for me. I usually don't wash it, but if it needs washing I keep the halves intact while I wash.

Lisa, thanks. So glad you enjoyed it. I love the idea of making long patties for easier grilling. There is a baked falafel recipe on the blog that you might like; just enter "falafel" into the search.

Wildflower said...

Just have to ask, how do you make such perfect little lettuce wraps? I try to get my lettuce to look like that, but it always ends up with a hole somewhere and then stuff falls out.:(

Kalyn said...

I think doubling the lettuce helps a lot, plus using a dish with sides helps them to stand up.

Leesy said...

OMGoodness I think I have died and gone to GYRO Heaven!! What a GENIUS Idea!! I am soooo pinning this and posting to my blog MotherHOOD on blogspot giving you all the credit and kuddos of course!

I will be trying soon we have gyros at least 1/2X's a month this will be on the menu! ty for sharing! :-)

i'm stephanie. said...

hi there! love all your south beach friendly recipes.

do you think that this would work with ground turkey breast? that's what i have in my fridge! thanks. =)

Kalyn Denny said...

I don't think you'll quite get that Gyro flavor with turkey but it will probably still be good.

i'm stephanie. said...

made it with the turkey and it was delicious! my kids loved them too.


Kalyn Denny said...

Stephanie, so glad and thanks for reporting back so others will know too!

aMUSEingComedy said...

I just made these, but I used ground turkey and Cavendar's seasoning blend. YUM! I also baked them in the oven at 375 for ten minutes, flipped them, then about five minutes more. I wrapped 2 balls each in a Trader Joe's low carb whole wheat wrap with tzatziki (my own recipe), lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and thin sliced red onion. Everyone loved them. Thanks for the idea!

Kalyn Denny said...

So glad you enjoyed them; your version sounds great!

Carolina Girl said...

This is a delicious meal! My and husband and I both loved it, and it was so filling!

ThePeanutRoaster said...

I love the recipe but i was wondering why you didn't use minced lamb. Do you think it would be ok if I used minced lamb?

Kalyn Denny said...

You can definitely use lamb. I used beef to keep the saturated fat lower.

Kathleen said...

These were delicious....I baked mine @ 400 degrees for about 20 min. Thanks for the wonderful recipe !

Maritza Encinas said...

Kalyn, these were so delicious! My husband I loved them, just made them for lunch. I had them in the lettuce cups and he had his in pita bread. It's a winner.

Amy said...

These were great! I baked them at 350 and served them with a greek salad. My husband and son loved them! This will be a great easy and quick week night supper. Oh, I added a bit of cayenne pepper for some extra spice.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm definitely going to try these with turkey meatballs. I love that Greek seasoning from The Spice House, too. (I'm so glad we discovered it when we visited Chicago years ago.)

Kalyn Denny said...

Lydia, I absolutely love this recipe; hope you enjoy!

French Cooking for Dummies said...

What a great healthy twist on the traditional gyro! I love it :)

Mandy said...

I made the Greek meatballs with tzatziki the other night. So good!

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Those look so good!

Jamie Broussard said...

I made this for dinner and it was just want I wanted. So delicious!

I've been a big fan of your Greek meatball recipe for years, but I like this just as much, and it's a little bit less of a fuss to cook. ALSO, I was thinking about what gives it that gyro flavor, and I definitely think it's the addition of cumin and lemon!

A few tips/changes:

I do not have a grill pan, but I cooked the meatballs in my regular cast iron skillet, and still got a nice char. I made the meatballs more nugget-shaped for easy flipping.

I didn't have a Greek seasoning mix, so I added salt, pepper, lemon zest, a bit of lemon juice, and a dried Italian herb mix that had a lot of oregano. Turned out great!

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