Halifax Donair & Sweet Sauce Recipe

A good East Coast style Donair is one of my favorite comfort foods. The problem is, it can be hard to find a good Donair shop in your neighborhood, especially if you do not live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So I set out to recreate the Halifax Donair and I feel this recipe is a perfect representation of it. I didn’t make this recipe on my own, I have some friends that are well connected to the best Donair shops in the area and they guided me with their recipes.

Halifax Donair Recipe

Why is Angry BBQ making a Donair recipe? It actually makes a lot of sense. If you have gone to any respectable Donair shop, you will notice the Donair meat is on a vertical spit rotating in front of electric heat elements. Well most quality gas grills are setup with a rotisserie attachment. This is the perfect accessory to cook your Donair meat just like the restaurants. If you do not have a rotisserie attachment, don’t worry, I’ll show you how to do this in your oven.

Donair on Vertical Spit
Donair on a Vertical Spit

What is a Donair?

Lets start off with a little history on the Donair. According to previous research by the Canadian Media Outlet Globe and Mail, the Donair (previously called a Donair Kebab) started in Berlin by a Turkish restaurant owner. Shortly after the Greeks invented their version called the Gyro (lamb meat). The Greek Gyro was the version that John and Peter Kamoulakos from Bedford, Nova Scotia initially served their patrons in the 1960’s. Quickly they learnt the locals were not keen to eat the lamb based Gyro, so the brothers modified the recipe using ground beef with a sweet sauce. The rest is history as the “Halifax Donair” became extremely popular. Now you can find an East Coast Donair at many restaurants across the US and Canada.

Halifax Donair Recipe
Donair with Sweet Sauce

What is Donair Meat?

Donair meat is ground beef with various ingredients such as black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, seasoning salt, bread crumbs, paprika, onion salt, garlic powder and basil.

The method of preparing the Donair meat and cooking it is somewhat unique and adds to the overall flavor. The ground beef and spices are mixed with an electric mixer with a dough hook. This ensures the spices are mixed properly and gets the meat at the right consistency. The Donair meat is then formed into a log formation and put on a vertical spit. If you are cooking it at home, you can put it on a rotisserie spit and gas grill, or cover in tin foil and cook in the oven.

What is donair Sauce?

The traditional Halifax style Donair uses a “Sweet Sauce”. The sweet sauce really compliments the Donair meat in the pita by adding a sweet garlic flavor. Donair sauce usually consists of evaporated milk, white sugar, white vinegar, garlic powder and corn starch. The corn starch is added to help thicken the sauce. We go over the sauce in detail below.

Donair Sauce in Bottle
Homemade Donair Sweet Sauce

How to Make a Donair

Lets start making the Donair. Below are the lists of equipment, ingredients and instructions to make an authentic Halifax Donair.

Servings: 10

Total Time: 4 hours

Equipment You Will Need

  • Small Sauce Pan
  • Fine Mesh Metal Strainer
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Electric Mixer with Dough Hook (Kitchenaid or Similar)
  • Gas Grill With Rotisserie or Oven
  • 2 Long Skewers (If Using Oven)
  • Catch Pan (Catch Drippings for Rotisserie)
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Tin Foil
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Deli Meat Slicer (Optional but great for making thin slices of Donair meat)

Halifax Donair Sauce Recipe

First off, you will want to make the sauce. It is easy and can stay chilled the in the fridge for days. You can also use the Donair sauce with other foods such as fries, burgers, chicken fingers, donair pizza etc.

Donair Sweet Sauce Recipe Ingredients

Donair Sweet Sauce Ingredients
Donair Sweet Sauce Ingredients
  • 1 Can (12 ounce) Evaporated Milk
  • 4 TBSP White Vinegar
  • 1-2 TBSP Corn Starch (Use as needed for thickening)
  • 1/2 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar

Donair Sweet Sauce Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients into a sauce pan except the corn starch. Mix well.
  2. Place the sauce pan on low/medium heat and stir frequently.
  3. When the sauce is warm and seems well mixed, start adding some corn starch to thicken the sauce. You want the same consistency as ketchup.
  4. Cool the sauce down and refrigerate. I put my sauce into a squeeze bottle for easy application.
Donair Sweet Sauce in pot
Sauce mixed well in pot

Halifax Donair Meat Recipe

Now it is time to start working on the Donair meat. This process is not that challenging or time consuming. You will need to make sure your ground beef is thawed and have your Kitchenaid mixer ready with the dough attachment.

Donair Meat Ingredients

Donair Meat Ingredients
Donair Meat Ingredients
  • 2.5lbs Ground Beef (Thawed)
  • 1/2 TBSP Black Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 TBSP Oregano
  • 1.5 TBSP Seasoning Salt (I use Lawry’s)
  • 1/2 TSP Paprika
  • 1/2 TSP Cumin
  • 1 TSP Onion Salt
  • 1 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 TSP Basil
  • 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs

Donair Sandwich Ingredients

Donair Sandwich Ingredients
Donair Sandwich Ingredients
  • 2 Tomatoes Chopped
  • 1 White Onion Chopped
  • 1 Cup of Shredded Mozzarella
  • 1 Cup of Chopped Lettuce
  • 10 Greek Pitas

Donair Meat Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients into the mixer bowl. Attach the bowl to the mixer and connect the dough hook.
  • Turn the mixer on to 4-5 speed setting. Use a spoon to help move the meat around the dough hook if needed.
  • Let the mixer run for about 5 minutes. We want the ingredients mixed well and have the ground beef somewhat mashed.
Donair Meat and Ingredients in Mixer
Mixer with Dough Hook
Donair Meat Mixing Complete
Mixing Complete – Notice Meat Texture
  • Once the mixer is done, remove the meat and start packing the meat into a log shape. I roll mine on the counter and try to make sure it is packed tight and has no air in it.
  • Cover the log in tin foil and wrap tightly.
Donair Meat Rolled Into Log
Donair Rolled Tight Into Log

Donair Meat Rolled Tight In Tin Foil
Wrapped Tight in Foil
  • Refrigerate for 1 hour minimum. This allows the meat to cool and set in place.
  • I use my gas grill rotisserie for the actual cook. Now is a good time to setup the grill and warm to 350F. You can substitute the grill and use your oven at 350F.
  • If using the rotisserie, remove the wrapped foil from the meat and pierce the rotisserie spit through the center of the log. Attach rotisserie holders. If using the oven, keep the meat in the foil and pierce the two long skewers through the foil and meat. Make sure the skewers are long enough to extend through both sides of the Donair meat. They will be used to hang the meat above the catch tray.
Rotisserie Spit In Donair Meat
Rotisserie Spit in Donair
Catch Pan in Gas Grill
Rotisserie Setup with Catch Pan
Donair on Spit and Rotisserie
Donair Set on Rotisserie
  • Place a catch tray or pan in the grill or oven, below the area that the meat will cook.
  • Place the meat in the grill and start the rotisserie motor. Cook for about 1 hour or until the meat reaches 160F.
Donair Meat Fully Cooked
  • If using the oven method, place the meat on top of the catch tray with the skewers holding the meat above the pan. Cook for about 1 hour or until the meat reaches 160F.

Donair Pita Assembly

  • Once the meat is cooked to temp. Remove and let it cool.
  • I typically steam my pita bread before I build the sandwich so the pita will not tear. I do this by lightly boiling water in a small pot and lay a fine mesh strainer above the pot. Lay the pita on the strainer for about 20 seconds on each side.
Homemade Pita Steamer
Pita Steamer
Pita on Pita Steamer
Pita on Steamer
  • Cut the Donair meat into thin pieces. Try your best to cut them as thin as possible. I will sometimes let the Donair meat cool completely and use my Deli slicer to make very thin cuts.
  • (Optional but worth it) Heat a frying pan to medium high heat. Fry the thin cuts of Donair meat for a couple minutes on each side to crisp the meat.
Donair Meat Cut on Deli Slicer
Deli Slicer
Donair Meat Cut Thin
Donair Meat Cut Very Thin is Best
Fry Donair Meat on Pan to Crisp
Fry the Donair Meat to Crisp
  • Build the Donair by adding several pieces of the meat, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cheese. Then add a liberal amount of the Donair Sweet Sauce we made earlier.
  • Wrap the Donair in foil to keep everything tight and neat.
Donair Sandwich Loaded
Load Donair with Toppings and Place on Foil
Donair Wrapping in Foil
Wrap the End of the Donair First
Fold Foil Over Side of Donair
Fold the Side Foil and Roll
Halifax Donair Recipe

Enjoy the Halifax Donair and eat while it is still hot.

Halifax Donair Recipe
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

East Coast Halifax Donair Recipe

The most underdog comfort food ever, the Donair. This recipe is identical to the Donairs you buy in Halifax. The donair meat is full of spice and we also include a recipe for the most have sweet sauce.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time1 hr
Resting Time1 hr
Total Time4 hrs
Course: Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Keyword: Donair, donair sauce, east coast donair, halifax donair, kebab, sweet sauce
Servings: 10
Calories: 600kcal
Author: AngryBBQ Team
Cost: 20

Equipment

  • Small saucepan
  • Fine Mesh Metal Strainer
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Electric Mixer with Dough Hook (Kitchenaid or Similar)
  • Gas Grill with Rotisserie or Oven
  • 2 Long Skewers (If Using Oven)
  • Catch Pan (Catch Drippings for Rotisserie)
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Tin Foil
  • Mixing bowl
  • Deli Meat Slicer (Optional but great for making thin slices of Donair meat)

Ingredients

Donair Sweet Sauce Recipe Ingredients

  • 12 ounce Evaporated Milk
  • 4 TBSP White Vinegar
  • 1-2 TBSP Corn Starch Use as needed for thickening
  • 1/2 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar

Donair Meat Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs Ground Beef Thawed
  • 1/2 TBSP Black Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 TBSP Oregano
  • 1.5 TBSP Seasoning Salt I use Lawry’s
  • 1/2 TSP Paprika
  • 1/2 TSP Cumin
  • 1 TSP Onion Salt
  • 1 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 TSP Basil
  • 1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs

Donair Sandwich Ingredients

  • 2 Tomatoes Chopped
  • 1 White Onion Chopped
  • 1 Cup Mozzarella Shredded
  • 1 Cup Lettuce Chopped
  • 10 Pitas Greek

Instructions

Donair Sweet Sauce Recipe Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients into a saucepan except the corn starch. Mix well.
    Donair Sweet Sauce Ingredients
  • Place the saucepan on low/medium heat and stir frequently.
    Donair Sweet Sauce in pot
  • When the sauce is warm and seems well mixed, start adding some corn starch to thicken the sauce. You want the same consistency as ketchup.
  • Cool the sauce down and refrigerate. I put my sauce into a squeeze bottle for easy application.
    Donair Sauce in Bottle

Halifax Donair Meat Recipe Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients into the mixer bowl. Attach the bowl to the mixer and connect the dough hook.
    Donair Meat and Ingredients in Mixer
  • Turn the mixer on to 4-5 speed setting. Use a spoon to help move the meat around the dough hook if needed.
  • Let the mixer run for about 5 minutes. We want the ingredients mixed well and have the ground beef somewhat mashed.
    Donair Meat Mixing Complete
  • Once the mixer is done, remove the meat and start packing the meat into a log shape. I roll mine on the counter and try to make sure it is packed tight and has no air in it.
    Donair Meat Rolled Into Log
  • Cover the log in tin foil and wrap tightly.
    Donair Meat Rolled Tight In Tin Foil
  • Refrigerate for 1 hour minimum. This allows the meat to cool and set in place.
  • I use my gas grill rotisserie for the actual cook. Now is a good time to setup the grill and warm to 350F. You can substitute the grill and use your oven at 350F.
  • If using the rotisserie, remove the wrapped foil from the meat and pierce the rotisserie spit through the center of the log. Attach rotisserie holders. If using the oven, keep the meat in the foil and pierce the two long skewers through the foil and meat. Make sure the skewers are long enough to extend through both sides of the Donair meat. They will be used to hang the meat above the catch tray.
    Donair on Spit and Rotisserie
  • Place a catch tray or pan in the grill or oven, below the area that the meat will cook.
    Catch Pan in Gas Grill
  • Place the meat in the grill and start the rotisserie motor. Cook for about 1 hour or until the meat reaches 160F.
  • If using the oven method, place the meat on top of the catch tray with the skewers holding the meat above the pan. Cook for about 1 hour or until the meat reaches 160F.
    Donair Meat Fully Cooked

Donair Pita Assembly Instructions

  • Once the meat is cooked to temp. Remove and let it cool.
  • I typically steam my pita bread before I build the sandwich so the pita will not tear. I do this by lightly boiling water in a small pot and lay a fine mesh strainer above the pot. Lay the pita on the strainer for about 20 seconds on each side.
    Homemade Pita Steamer
  • Cut the Donair meat into thin pieces. Try your best to cut them as thin as possible. I will sometimes let the Donair meat cool completely and use my Deli slicer to make very thin cuts.
    Donair Meat Cut on Deli Slicer
  • (Optional but worth it) Heat a frying pan to medium high heat. Fry the thin cuts of Donair meat for a couple minutes on each side to crisp the meat.
    Fry Donair Meat on Pan to Crisp
  • Build the Donair by adding several pieces of the meat, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and cheese. Then add a liberal amount of the Donair Sweet Sauce we made earlier.
    Donair Sandwich Loaded
  • Wrap the Donair in foil to keep everything tight and neat.

Nutrition

Calories: 600kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 1804mg | Potassium: 601mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 517IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 238mg | Iron: 4mg
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1 thought on “Halifax Donair & Sweet Sauce Recipe”

  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious! I served it to family and everyone enjoyed it so much we went for seconds even though we were full already. The meat was spiced to perfection.
    Thanks, I will definitely be making this again.

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