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Souvlaki vs. Kebab: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 7, 2023
Souvlaki is a Greek dish of small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer, while kebab is a broader term for meat cooked on skewers or a spit, particularly in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Key Differences

Souvlaki typically consists of small, marinated cubes of meat, often pork or chicken, threaded on skewers and grilled, while kebab encompasses a wide variety of grilled meat dishes, originating from Middle Eastern countries, often featuring larger cuts of meat, sometimes ground, and can be cooked on skewers or a spit.
In Greece, souvlaki is often served in a pita wrap with garnishes like tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce, whereas kebabs are commonly served on a plate or in bread, with accompaniments varying widely by region, including rice, vegetables, and different sauces.
While souvlaki is traditionally associated with Greek cuisine and has specific ingredients and preparation methods, kebab, particularly the doner kebab, has become a global street food favorite, adapted to include a range of seasonings and serving styles.
The term souvlaki comes from the Greek word "souvla" meaning skewer, emphasizing the cooking method, while kebab is derived from Arabic and Persian, where it has ancient roots and is deeply integrated into the food culture with many regional variations like shish kebab and kofta kebab.
Souvlaki is usually made with meat that is evenly cut and often eaten straight from the skewer or served with bread, in contrast, kebabs can vary from finely ground meat shaped around the skewer to chunks of meat, and even vegetables added between meat pieces.

Comparison Chart


Greek cuisine.
Middle Eastern cuisine, with variations worldwide.

Meat Cut

Small, marinated cubes of meat.
Can be cubes, slices, or ground meat.

Serving Style

Often served in pita with vegetables and sauces.
Served on plates, in bread, or with rice and salads.


Typically tomatoes, onions, tzatziki.
Varies widely, from vegetables to various sauces.

Cooking Method

Grilled on skewers.
Grilled on skewers or a spit.

Souvlaki and Kebab Definitions


Marinated meat typically served with pita bread.
She wrapped her souvlaki in a warm pita with tzatziki.


Skewered and grilled meat, common in Middle Eastern cuisine.
I can't wait to have a lamb kebab with some hummus.


A quick Greek street food often eaten on the go.
We grabbed a souvlaki to eat while walking through Athens.


Can refer to various forms, including shish kebab and doner kebab.
For dinner, let's make shish kebab with bell peppers and onions.


Small pieces of pork or chicken cooked on a skewer.
He prefers pork souvlaki with a squeeze of lemon.


A versatile dish that can be cooked over an open flame or grill.
At the barbecue, everyone wanted a taste of the spicy chicken kebab.


A traditional Greek dish dating back to ancient times.
They served authentic souvlaki at the cultural festival.


Ground meat or chunks of meat prepared with a mix of seasonings.
The kofta kebab was so tender and full of herbs.


Grilled meat skewers popular in Greek cuisine.
I ordered chicken souvlaki with a side of Greek salad.


Often includes vegetables and spices alongside the meat.
The beef kebab was seasoned with a blend of aromatic spices.


A Greek dish consisting of pieces of seasoned meat roasted on skewers.


Shish kebab.


A Greek fast food consisting of pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer, variously also called kalamaki or kebab or, in sandwich form, gyro or shawarma.


A wrapped pancake dish filled with meat, salad and some kind of sauce or dressing, commonly called a kebab.


Made of lamb


What meats are used in souvlaki?

Typically pork or chicken, but lamb and beef can also be used.

Is souvlaki served with sauce?

Yes, usually tzatziki sauce.

How is souvlaki different from gyros?

Souvlaki is skewered meat, while gyros are meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie.

Can souvlaki be a full meal?

Yes, especially when served with pita, vegetables, and fries or rice.

What is a kebab?

A broad term for various grilled meat dishes from Middle Eastern cuisines.

What's a popular type of kebab?

Doner kebab and shish kebab are quite popular.

Are kebabs always spicy?

Not necessarily, the spice level varies by regional recipe.

What is souvlaki?

A Greek dish of marinated, grilled meat served on skewers.

Can I find kebab in different cuisines?

Yes, many cuisines have their own versions of kebabs.

What is the main difference between souvlaki and kebab?

Souvlaki is specifically Greek, while kebab has many regional varieties.

What sides go well with kebabs?

Rice, salads, or flatbreads are common.

Is souvlaki gluten-free?

The meat itself is, but pita bread and some marinades may contain gluten.

Do kebabs use specific types of meat?

Beef, lamb, and chicken are common, but variations exist.

Is souvlaki considered fast food in Greece?

Yes, it's a popular fast-food option.

What are common spices in kebabs?

Cumin, paprika, turmeric, and coriander are often used.

Can kebabs be baked instead of grilled?

Yes, though grilling is traditional for the charred flavor.

How do I make kebabs at home?

Skewer your choice of meat and vegetables and grill them.

Are kebabs considered healthy?

They can be, depending on the ingredients and preparation.

Can souvlaki be vegetarian?

Yes, it can be made with vegetables instead of meat.

What drink pairs well with souvlaki?

A crisp white wine or a cold beer complements souvlaki well.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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