I'm trying to replicate the spice mix used for Döner Kebab. I am interested in spice combinations from any area. However, I am most interested in which spices are used to prepare it around western Germany or more specifically near Ruhr University.

I've looked far and wide and tested many concoctions of herbs, spices and ingredients. I've pinned down a few spices that to me makes very tasty, nearly authentic Döner Kebab at home: onion, rosemary, and marjoram (or oregano as a possible substitute, but preferably not). Possibly a bit of cumin but not a lot.

I'm already familiar with the meats and process used; I'm particularly interested in just the primary flavoring ingredients, so that I can finally pin down the most authentic flavor possible.

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    That's a very specific ask. Not of much value to the global community. Middle eastern meat spices are typically an onion variety (onion, onion weed, garlic, etc. - whatever grows locally), cumin, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mint. And also coriander, vinegar, lemon juice, sumac etc.
    – TFD
    Aug 22, 2012 at 11:47
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    Wow, you've buried the question in a wall of text. I'll edit it to try and fix, feel free to revert my changes if you don't approve.
    – derobert
    Aug 22, 2012 at 12:24
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    Thank you derobert. true. @TFD I've found my mix of "flavors" through reviewing mediterranean spices. The Döner Kebabs in Germany are among the most popular foods in Germany. Some say even more then Currywurst, etc. The answer to this question is extremely valuable, to myself and many others. Please bear in mind that I am very interested knowing other spice combinations used to season Döner Kebab. Not only in the specific area I mentioned, since Döner Kebabs are now enjoyed through out the world in many areas.
    – Theorian
    Aug 23, 2012 at 0:53
  • I'm a bit surprised at your list of spices, as from my experience with Moroccan cuisine, I don't think of rosemary or majoram as the least bit middle eastern, although I have no experience with Turkish cuisine. I'd recommend starting with a few different varieties of or recipes for ras el hanout. I expect coriander, cardamon, ginger and mace/nutmeg are likely part of the mix. Coriander seed in particular has a strong scent. Aug 28, 2012 at 19:29
  • Theodore Thank you, good information. I've seen many variations and the spices you've listed give me something to think about. I found that these spices did render a pretty decent flavor and these were spices very common to the area. Yet, indeed, the reason I am asking here is because I just don't feel that I have it quite pinned down. Thank you for your input, very helpful.
    – Theorian
    Aug 29, 2012 at 4:54

5 Answers 5


There is no standard spice mix for Doner Kebabs. This generally applies to any food in any part of the world. There can be a common mix, but as you have experienced, they can be quite specific to certain areas of the world

A major factor for noting a common spice mix is the global food supply industry. What happens in general is that food retailers buy bulk spices from their local food wholesaler. In many regions there is little competition for food wholesaling. Food wholesalers pre-mix ingredients for popular food items in suitable sizes. So in one location, other than a few "independent" or "food artisan" places, everyone seem to taste the same

I have seen this with some hilarity in my own country. We have one main food wholesaler for each of the two main geographic areas our country is divided into. For Easter, hot cross buns have a strong spice flavour, but most bakeries seem to just use the local food wholesalers pre-mixed spice. The two main food wholesalers spice mixes have entirely different flavour profiles. So people travelling into the other region think that the hot cross buns are a bit bland. Both are fine, but just quite different

For Doner Kebabs, this could be just a single source of dry spice mix, or maybe they all get pre-assembled gyros from a specialist meat supplier whom uses their own spice mix? As the popularity of Doner Kebabs rises, other meat suppliers getting into making gyros may just copy this spice mix for lack of knowledge or originality. The latter is common in many western countries

So a polite ask at your local Doner Kebab vendor to whether they make their own gyro, or buy a spice mix from a wholesaler may solve the problem?

  • Very good info. However it doesn't directly answer the question. So I'm voting for you up at least. Unfortunately, I dont live in the area any more. I can only go from memory but I can tell you, with some certainty, I am close to the flavor I am looking for. I do however have a friend who lives there. I'll ask him.
    – Theorian
    Aug 27, 2012 at 11:36

In the UK I have come across a Doner Kebab Mix that you can buy from local shops or eBay. You may be able to get some information or ideas from that mix. It is very good and better than the kebab i get from my takeaway.

Search eBay for Doner Kebab Mix or Seasoning.

  • This is probably the best direct answer this question has gotten yet
    – Theorian
    Aug 29, 2012 at 4:45
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    This is a great answer in fact but unfortunately didn't include spice blends from the UK area. Here is what I found on ebay based on Davids recommendation: What's in the Doner Kebab Mix: There is no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives in the Doner Kebab Mix. Ingredients: Salt, Oregano, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Red Chilli Powder, Black Pepper, Ground Cinnamon, Thyme, Marjoram, Sage, Ground Coriander, Ground Nutmeg, Parsley, Ground Clove, Ground Pimento, Ground Ginger.
    – Theorian
    Aug 29, 2012 at 4:47

From what I can find from various sources in German, a typical "Döner spice blend" includes a lot of black pepper and salt, followed by oregano or marjoram, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and cinnamon. Additionally, most retail products include an instant broth powder, and a fair dose of MSG or related "flavor enhancers".

Most products will have some additives to help keep the ingredients free flowing (dextrose or similar), but you won't need that to replicate the dish.

Additionally, I'd expect to see some sweet or piquant Hungarian paprika in most recipes, though in the German sources I spotted, it wasn't always in the off-the-shelf blend itself; I imagine people like to feel like they are "customizing" the seasoning by adding their own preferred levels of some ingredients.

This is pretty consistent with my memory of experiences eating Döner in Hessen, though the last time I had Döner Kebab was circa 1992 and I haven't eaten meat for a very long time. I am fairly certain that a substantial quantity of MSG is used at most German Turkish shops.

If you want to get a close approximation of the dish, consider searching for recipes for Iskender kebap. I'm not 100% sure that yogurt is part of the marinade for Döner, but it's a closely related dish and the seasoning appears similar.

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    Red pepper flakes and sumac are also common and important ingredients. Oct 25, 2016 at 10:43
  • Excellent point; I see sumac in at least a few German recipes, and some other variety chili flakes may be used instead of or in addition to piquant Hungarian paprika.
    – JasonTrue
    Oct 25, 2016 at 21:36
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    Pul Biber. While it doesn't seem to be common, also experiment with Urfa Biber ;) Oct 26, 2016 at 8:09

You've got two questions, with 2 different approaches: What is the "authentic" spice mix used in your local region? and What is the spice mix that most appeals to you (or your eaters/customers)?

I'm in NYC, and there are easily 100's of gyro, kebab & shwarma food trucks, plus a host of "authentic" and "fusion-style" Middle Eastern/N. African/W. Asian restaurants, as well as all the immigrant families who cook at home but shop at both US-style and foreign-style supermarkets. Everyone uses their own different mix of spices, sometimes even just depending on their mood, the weather, today's meat, or as TFD points out, what's available at the shops/wholesaler.

If you want to know what your favorite guy uses, and you're not a competitor, go ahead and ask. If you want to know what "tastes like Mom used to make" uses, you'll need to ask some immigrant cooks.

Otherwise go through your earlier experiments (if it's valuable info, I'm sure you made notes) and figure out what best suits your tastes (and your eaters/customers).

  • Also great info but doesn't directly answer the question either. I'm literally looking for the primary flavoring components of the two groups of people you mentioned in your area. I'd love to know.
    – Theorian
    Aug 27, 2012 at 11:38
  • Do you have anyone local who cooks and is from that part of the world? You can just ask. But really it's going to come down to experimentation & personal taste. TFD's comment way back in the OP pretty much lists many of the main spices/flavors, and then there are regional/personal differences in how the herbs & spices are applied (dry rub/marinade, toasted & broiled w/ meat, added to sauce, etc.). It's not a math problem, there really is no universal answer.
    – MandisaW
    Aug 28, 2012 at 14:07
  • My question is not a question of whether or not it can be answered. I don't need advice on that. What I need are some answers to the original question. I saw that he mentioned some spices, but nothing definitive here. I think I stated very clearly that there is indeed a variation of spices in different areas. That is the very reason why I am asking the answers to include geographic information along with spice blends that are used in their respective areas.
    – Theorian
    Aug 29, 2012 at 4:45

The question is a very valid and when stated simply, it amounts to , what is the defining ingredient in a Doner Kebab ?

The answer is , seven spices , it is a mix dominated by cinnamon ,cloves , cardamom ,black pepper, + , dill , marjoram and or thyme or what ever you feel like as there is no fixed formula beyond the first four ingredients .

Cinnamon , cloves and cardamom were used long before refrigeration to mask any off flavors that would develop during the marinating period which traditionally extended for few days in an attempt to break down the meat and allow the flavor of the spices to penetrate during the meat being immersed in a bath of salt and vinegar . You can take a short cut these days and obtain a "Shawarma" spice mix , either online or at your nearest middle eastern store .

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    Whatever version of kebab you are describing (and there are tons of them, first the originals from the Middle east and then the adjustments which were made when it transformed to a Western street food dish), it is not the one popular in Western Germany. Cinnamon, cloves and cardamom have no place in it.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 15, 2016 at 12:31
  • I didn't know I was supposed to identify the Donner kebab spices used in west Germany , I also thought that Germany was re united so many years ago and it is now called Germany , my apologies.
    – user51462
    Oct 25, 2016 at 10:35
  • Geographically, Western Germany stayed Western Germany since the Reunification did not add any territories west of what was west before. Oct 25, 2016 at 13:08

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