Lamb Kleftiko

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Lamb Kleftiko is a traditional Greek recipe for unbelievably tender and succulent lamb. Simply marinate then sit back and let your slow cooker, Instant Pot or your oven do all the hard work!

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Platter of tender slow cooked Greek Lamb with two forks pulling apart

Published 2017, updated 2019 in collaboration with ‘Lamb – Try It Love It’

Lamb is very popular in Greece but I was not a fan when I was little! Thankfully we live to grow, and I have rediscovered Lamb Kleftiko from the perspective of an adult and grown to appreciate this very simple dish.

Slow cooked Greek Lamb kleftiko served on a platter with potatoes

What is Kleftiko?

Kleftiko is a traditional Greek recipe for tender slow cooked lamb. The name translates as ‘bandit’s lamb’, meat that was stolen and cooked in a pit to avoid detection. 

These days, it is simply seasoned lamb that’s slow-cooked with potatoes until it is so tender it falls off the bone. The meat is sometimes enclosed in parchment paper or foil to mimic the thieves (kleftes) method of cooking.

This Greek lamb recipe is simply tailor-made for the slow cooker, especially when it is hot out and you want to give your oven – and yourself – a break. You can literally put it on in the morning, forget about it for most of the day and have an amazing dinner waiting for you several hours later.

And I am very glad to report it is equally easy – and just as tasty – to make in an Instant Pot for a fraction of the time. My thanks to the many readers who kept asking me to adapt this recipe for the pressure cooker!

Close up on crockpot lamb being pulled by two forks

Here’s What You Will Need

This recipe uses on-the-bone lamb shoulder which is a cut that needs to be cooked slowly until it becomes fall-off-the bone tender.

Be mindful that your lamb joint needs to fit in your slow cooker / Instant Pot when buying it – you may be somewhat limited as to what size you use.

You can also use butterflied leg of lamb which has the bone removed or lamb shanks. This might work better for smaller crock pots and pressure cookers.

Add my killer lamb marinade, made up of herbs, lemon juice & zest, garlic, anchovy paste and olive oil for maximum yumminess. The cooking juices from the lamb will be so tasty if you use this marinade… Use a gravy/fat separator to remove some of the oily residue and mix it with the shredded lamb or reduce it slightly and use as gravy.

oregano, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest with platter of raw lamb on the side

How to make Lamb Kleftiko

Take a look at this step by step tutorial – please note you will find the full recipe, including ingredients in the recipe card at the end of this post.

Start by making the lamb marinade a day ahead of cooking this recipe. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and then rub over your lamb shoulder. Season liberally with salt and pepper, transfer to a suitable lidded container and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.

Mixing lamb marinade and adding to lamb shoulder

The following day, heat a large pan and sear the lamb for several minutes on each side. You might need to press down on it so it browns evenly. Set the lamb aside and give the potatoes and onion a turn in the same pan until the start to colour a little.

Searing lamb in a pan for Klefiko and sautéing potatoes collage

Deglaze the pan with a splash of the white wine and transfer to the slow cooker. Add the lemon slice, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and fresh thyme and top with the seared lamb. Pour in the stock, remaining wine and vinegar. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours – no peeking!

Preparing lamb for slow cooker collage

Test the lamb – it should feel very tender if pierced with a knife. The internal temperature should be 62°C/ 145°F (medium rare), 71°C/160°F (medium), or 76°C/170 °F (well done). 

Leave the lamb to rest for 10 minutes loosely covered with foil before shredding or slicing to serve.

Leg of lamb on a platter with slice carved

Oven Roasted Lamb Kleftiko

I have employed my favourite trick of using a roasting bag for to cook this lamb joint in the oven – it replaces the parchment paper without any of the fuss.

You will need an extra large roasting bag, such as those used for turkeys. Please be very careful when opening it as you can easily burn yourself with the steam.

If you can’t find a roasting bag that’s a suitable size you can use parchment paper or foil to create a sort of enclosed tent to cook the lamb in. Use the instructions for the homemade pastrami to see how to make this. 

Platter of Greek roast lamb with potatoes and rosemary

Cooking in an Instant Pot

Follow the same instructions and method to cook this in a pressure cooker. It will need 45 minutes on high pressure and then allow about 25 minutes for natural release.

The meat will deliciously succulent when cooked – this method is more suited for slicing the lamb rather than shredding it.

Serving Suggestions

This recipe would make a great easy Easter lamb roast maybe with some spanakorizo as a side dish.

You could shred it pulled-pork style if you wished to – would be delicious served in pita wraps with some tzatziki. Or you can serve it with the potatoes, lemon wedges and a Greek salad for the full experience!

By the way, most people recommend red wine as a good match for lamb. I prefer white wine or ice-cold beer simply because I am quite contrary 😉

A platter of slow cooked Greek lamb and potatoes on a blue platter

HAVE YOU MADE MY LAMB KLEFTIKO RECIPE? Please leave a rating, post a photo on my Facebook page, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #supergoldenbakes and make my day!

Blue patterned platter with slow cooked Greek Lamb Kleftiko and potatoes

Greek lamb kleftiko

Kleftiko is a traditional Greek recipe for unbelievably tender and succulent lamb. Simple and easy to make in your slow cooker, Instant Pot or your oven.

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Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Greek

Keyword: Greek Lamb Chops, Kleftiko, Lamb kleftiko

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 7 hours

Marinate: 10 hours

Total Time: 7 hours 5 minutes

Servings: 4 people

Calories: 602kcal

Instructions

  • Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a small bowl and rub over the lamb. 

  • Season the lamb liberally with salt and pepper transfer into a lidded container and store in the fridge overnight.

  • Take the lamb out of the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the slow cooker (this will speed your cooking time considerably) while you prepare the lamb.

  • Heat a large non-stick frying pan and sear the lamb over high heat on all sides until nicely browned. Set aside.

  • Add the potatoes and onion to the pan and fry, stirring, over high heat until the potatoes are starting to colour a little. Deglaze the pan with splash of the wine. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Transfer the potatoes to your slow cooker. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon slices and bay leaves.

  • Top with the seared lamb. Pour the wine, stock and vinegar over the lamb.

  • Cook on low setting for 7-8 hours, or until the lamb is tender if pierced with a knife and falling off the bone.

  • If you wish to brown the lamb for some colour (this is optional) place under a hot grill for about 5 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes, loosely covered.

  • Shred or carve the lamb into portions and serve over the potatoes sprinkled with a little feta cheese, garnished with the fresh herbs and with extra lemon wedges on the side.

Instant Pot method

  • Follow steps 1-5 and cook in your Instant Pot for 45 minutes at high pressure. Allow around 25-30 minutes of natural release. 

  • If you wish to brown the lamb for some colour place under a hot grill for about 5 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Oven method

  • Follow steps 1-5. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F).

  • Place the potatoes and onion on in a large (turkey) roasting bag and top with the lamb. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon slices and bay leaves. Place on a heavy deep roasting tray.

  • Add 60ml (1/4 cup) of white wine or stock and seal the bag. Add a small hole to allow some steam to escape.

  • Cook for 3 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and very carefully open the roasting bag – the steam can give you a nasty burn so protect your hand! 

  • Return to the oven for another 30 minutes to brown if needed. Check the internal temperature with a digital thermometer. It should be 62°C/ 145°F (medium rare), 71°C/160°F (medium), or 76°C/170 °F (well done). Leave the lamb to rest for 10 minutes loosely covered with foil before slicing to serve.

Video

Notes

The cooking juices from the lamb can be transferred to a fat/gravy separator to remove some of the oil. Mix with the shredded lamb or simmer for 30 minutes at low temperature until slightly reduced to use as gravy with the sliced lamb.
You can use butterflied leg of lamb instead of lamb shoulder, cut into large pieces if needed.

Nutritional Info

Calories: 602kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 134mg | Sodium: 375mg | Potassium: 1769mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 100IU | Vitamin C: 83.8mg | Calcium: 181mg | Iron: 7.1mg

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