Recipe: Better Donairs

Recipe: Better Donairs
By Jenny Osburn | The Union Street Cafe Cookbook |

Fellow Nova Scotians and donair lovers around the globe, I give you a donair for the days ahead! For nigh is the time when we turn our attention to the impact our food choices make on health, both ours and the planet’s. But we will not suffer as we smarten up, no, we will find ways to turn our appetite for too much sugar, refined starch, meat, and highly-processed “food” into a desire for deliciousness made by humans, maybe even someone we know. Someone like ourselves.

I haven’t yet tested whether you can make a delicious donair without any meat at all, but here is a recipe that incorporates healthy, good-for-you lentils without anyone noticing. There is also the option to lighten up the sickly sweet (but seriously addictive) classic donair sauce with a little yogurt, which will also fly under the radar of most donair lovers. If donair sauce isn’t your thing, or you are ready to say goodbye to the sugar entirely, serve these with a sauce made of half mayo and half yogurt with a clove or two of garlic grated in.

Better Donairs

Start the day before you plan to serve the donairs for the easiest slicing!

1 C dried green or brown lentils
1 lb. ground beef (not too lean, grass-fed if you can find it!)
2 tsp salt
4 tsp dried oregano
8 cloves grated Garlic
1/2 C grated onion
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp flour (you can omit this for a gluten-free version)

For the donair sauce:

1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk
½ C vinegar
2 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt
1 cup plain yogurt, optional

To serve:

2 Tbsp sunflower oil
10 whole wheat pitas
2 tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, place the lentils and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, until very tender. Drain and let cool a bit, then process to a paste in the food processor.

Combine the lentil paste, ground beef, salt, oregano, garlic, onion, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and flour in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. If using a mixer, mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed for two minutes, until the mixture is sticky. If mixing by hand, knead together well, then forcefully throw the ball of meat back into the bowl about 30 times, until sticky and cohesive.

With wet hands, shape the meat mixture into a log roughly 3 inches wide and 12 inches long. Place it on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the centre of the log reads at least 165°.

Let cool and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

For the donair sauce, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, vinegar, garlic and salt until well-combined. Whisk in the optional yogurt (if using).

When ready to serve, slice the donair meat as thinly as possible. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add one tablespoon of the oil. Add the sliced donair meat and heat, flipping the slices gently until they are warmed throughout. Remove the meat to a plate and keep warm.

Warm the pitas one by one in a lightly oiled frying pan on high heat for 30 seconds or so and pile them as you go to keep warm. Top the pitas with the sauce, donair meat, tomatoes and onions, and enjoy!

Jenny Osburn is the author of The Union Street Café Cookbook. Her second collaboration with Laura MacDonald of Deep Hollow Print, The Kitchen Party Cookbook, is now available! Find more recipes at and see what she’s up to on instagram at jenny.osburn