These vegan eggplant gyros are made with savory pan-fried strips of seasoned eggplant, wrapped up in warm pita bread with creamy dairy-free tzatziki.
Every now and then I have to post a vegetarian version of a meat-based dish that I've never actually tasted. It's a bit of a conundrum. See, part of why I know what I'm doing when it comes to vegetarian cooking is because I've been cooking vegetarian meals for a long time.
But the reason I've been doing it so long is because I gave up meat at a pretty young age. So, lots of the dishes I'd like to make-over are dishes I've never in fact tried.
Take gyros for example. I know some parents who are pretty good at getting their kids to eat stuff that might be considered a little exotic, but lamb just wasn't happening on my dinner plate when I was a kid. So I never tried a gyro.
I've gone out for Greek food and been served sandwiches with names like "veggie pita." That, along with some Googling, is about as much as I know about what gyros taste like.
Setting authenticity aside, you should probably make these, for a few reasons.
First, they were delicious. They tasted, to me, what I always imagined a gyro would taste like, you know, except for the lamb part. They do have all of the seasonings you'd normally find in a gyro. Second, despite having never tasted a gyro, I apparently nailed it. My husband (who has had an authentic gyro) confirmed that what I created was, in fact, a gyro, only better, because it was made with eggplant.
I've had tzatziki sauce, so I can say with confidence that if you're missing dairy tzatziki, this will do the trick for you. In fact, I think I like my vegan tzatziki better than the conventional version.
That's saying a lot. This stuff is super creamy and packed with garlic and dill flavor. With it slathered all over my eggplant and veggies, I felt like I could no longer claim not to know what a gyro tastes like!
FAQ & Tips for Making Perfect Eggplant Gyros
- Do I need to salt my eggplant? Only if it's been hanging around for a few days and/or shows browning when you cut it open. In this case, salting will remove any bitterness that may have developed.
- If you do find that you need to salt your eggplant, just place the strips in a colander and sprinkle them liberally with salt. Let them sit for about 30 minutes, then rinse well and pat try.
- Why does this recipe use so much oil? Eggplant soaks up oil like crazy when it cooks! You may try to cut back on it, but do so at your own risk and make sure you've got a good nonstick cooking surface.
- Can this recipe be made gluten-free? It can, if you can find gluten-free pita bread and use gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce.
For the Vegan Tzatziki
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours
- ¾ cup unflavored soy or almond milk, plus more for thinning
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- ¼ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
For the Eggplant Gyro Filling
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium eggplant, 1 pound, cut into ½ inch thick stips
- 1 medium onion, sliced into strips
For Finishing the Gyros
- 4 pitas
- 1 tomato, diced, OR ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ large cucumber, diced
- 2 scallions chopped
- A few mint leaves, optional
Prepare the Vegan Tzatziki
Place the cashews, milk, lemon juice, and garlic into a bleder or food processor and blend until smooth. Thin with additional milk until the desired consistency is reached. Add the dill and salt. Pulse to blend. Taste test and add more salt if you like.
Prepare the Eggplant Gyro Filling
Stir the lemon juice, soy sauce, thyme, oregano, cumin, paprika, and black pepper together in a small bowl.
Generously coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant. Cook for about 4 minutes, flip and cook 4 minutes more, until the strips are tender and beginning to brown. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the onion. Cook about 3-4 minutes more, until the eggplant and onions have some nice dark spots. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the skillet and flip everything a few times to incorporate. Allow to cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, about 4 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Assemble the Eggplant Gyros
Divide eggplant among pitas and top with cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, mint, and tzatziki. Serve.
Recipe and photos updated on July 17, 2017. I think this version is better, but if you're looking for the original, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your eggplant is any larger than 1 pound (assuming you're doubling the recipe or only using part of a larger eggplant), or has a significant amount of seeds, consider salting it before marinading. This will draw out any excess bitterness that the seeds develop as they age. You will likely have more tzatziki than you need. It should keep in the fridge for a few days. You can also seal it up and freeze it, or use it for another batch of these later in the week, or as a salad dressing.