This Middle Eastern slow-cooked lamb is a showstopper! This is an excellent recipe to make for a special occasion for a weekend dinner. The slow-roasting will take time, but trust me it is so worth it! Serve the Pulled Lamb with vermicelli rice, fresh Jerusalem chopped salad and Greek yogurt.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Slow cooked boneless lamb shoulder or leg is typically considered a special occasion dish. But it doesn’t have to be! This recipe is fancy without being fussy; and impressive without being complicated. It goes well with many Levantine sides and salads. You can even shred the meat and make lamb sandwiches for lunch or a picnic.
Lamb is well-suited for slow-roasting because its rich marbling and fat content results in tender and flavorful meat when cooked slowly. The slow roasting process allows the fat to render, keeping the meat moist and enhancing its natural taste. The low and slow cooking method also allows the connective tissue in lamb to break down, contributing to a tender and succulent texture.
The star of the show is the lamb. For best results, use a fresh cut of meat from a butcher. Frozen is fine too if that’s all you have access to. The rest of the ingredients are quite standard and you should already have most if not all.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Lamb. Traditional Middle-Eastern lamb dishes will often be made with bone-in shoulder or leg of lamb. That can be quite intimidating, especially for new cooks, so in this recipe, I am using a de-boned lamb leg roast. You can certainly use bone-in instead of de-boned if that’s your preference. Lamb shoulder is more tender, so if you can get that, go for it. But it can be more difficult to find shoulder cuts as leg cuts are much more widely available. Keep in mind that leg of lamb is not as moist as shoulder. If you like lamb, try my Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb or my Qidreh (Palestinian spiced lamb and rice).
- Aromatics. I like to place several aromatics at the base of the roasting dish, including whole garlic heads that have been cut in half, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme and onions.
- Spices. To give this slow-cooked pulled lamb its Middle Eastern flare, I use a dry rub that includes salt, pepper, garlic powder, and 7-spice (cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper and all-spice). You can use a 7-Spice blend or make your own (use it in other recipes like chicken kafta, beef kofta and Maqluba chicken and rice). I also like to add some cardamom as it has a wonderful flavor that complements the lamb nicely.
- Chicken stock and Wine. I like to add some chicken stock and white wine to the bottom of my roasting dish to help steam the lamb and prevent burning. You can also just use water or vegetable stock.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to make Slow-Cooked Pulled Lamb
I recommend you read through the steps first before starting so you know what to expect.
Step 1. Prepare the roasting pan. To a roasting pan or braising dish, add the quartered onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Drizzle with olive oil.
Step 2. Season the lamb. In a small bowl, combine salt, black pepper, garlic powder, 7-spice and cardamom. Rub the entire surface of the lamb with the dry mix, making sure to really get in any crevices. Place the lamb on the aromatics with the fat side up. Drizzle a little olive oil and rub all over.
Step 3. Sear. Preheat your oven to 500F/260C. Place the pot or roasting pan in the oven for 20 minutes. This will help brown the aromatics and add more depth of flavor.
Step 4. Slow Roast. Lower your oven to 300F/150C. Add the chicken broth and optional white wine to the roasting dish, cover with foil or lid, and place it back in the oven to slow roast for 5 hours undisturbed.
Step 5. Broil. After 5 hours, the meat should be quite tender. Remove the lid or foil, baste the lamb with some of the juices and crank up the oven to broil on high for 10-15 minutes. You want the top of the lamb to brown slightly. Don’t burn it!
Step 6. Rest and Serve. Let the lamb rest for 10 minutes before you transfer it to a serving platter or shred it. Serve your beautiful roast lamb with your favorite sides (see below for serving suggestions)
- Score the fat cap. If your cut of meat came with a fat cap (not all cuts do), don’t remove it! Score the fat cap with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern so that the dry rub can penetrate the fat.
- Don’t rush the process! Yes, this recipe will take your time! But most of the time is actually inactive, meaning the oven is doing the work so while the lamb cooks, you can get on with the day! Don’t be intimidated by the 4-hour slow roast time.
- Keep an eye out for burning. If the liquid in the roasting pan evaporates too quickly, you might end up scorching or burning the meat. You can check on the lamb by peeking under the lid and seeing if you need to add more liquid about halfway through the slow roast.
- Don’t throw away the cooking juices. You can decant the roasting juices if you like and let the fat rise to the top and spoon it away. The remaining roasting juices can be added to this Middle Eastern shredded lamb to add moisture and extra flavor.
What to Serve with Pulled Lamb to Complete a Meal
For a Middle Eastern-inspired menu, pair it with:
- Cinnamon-scented vermicelli rice
- Jerusalem chopped salad with cucumbers and tomatoes, Tahini Salad or Authentic Fattoush
- A big dollop of Greek yogurt or mint yogurt sauce
- Cilantro chimichurri works great with the lamb too!
- Mint chimichurri sauce (with pomegranate molasses)
- Mast-o Khiar (Persian cucumber yogurt dip)
- Turkish Cacik (yogurt, cucumber and mint dip)
Or you can do a full roast dinner and serve the lamb with roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables and a rich gravy.
Lamb is important to the Middle Eastern diet for cultural and historical reasons, as it has been a traditional and significant source of protein for centuries in the region. Additionally, lamb is well-suited to the arid climate, where sheep farming is more sustainable compared to other livestock.
Lamb is often considered a special occasion food in Middle Eastern cultures due to its cultural and symbolic significance. It is associated with celebrations, feasts, and gatherings, symbolizing hospitality and generosity. The expense and effort required for raising and preparing lamb make it a luxury item, further contributing to its association with special occasions and festive meals in Middle Eastern traditions.
Yes, you can certainly prepare It one day before you plan to serve it. I would recommend you warm it gently before serving. Another option would be to shred the meat completely after you’ve cooked it, store it in an airtight container in the fridge, and reheat the shredded lamb before serving as needed.
Store leftover meat in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. I recommend eating it within a day though.
Yes, you can do that. It will take longer for the meat to tenderize, so the full 8-hour cycle at low temperature will be necessary. You will have to transfer the cooked lamb to a baking tray to broil it at the end.
I do not recommend rushing the process by pressure-cooking the meat.
Lamb shoulder, cut from the upper part of the front leg, boasts more marbling and connective tissue, resulting in a richer taste and greater tenderness when slow-cooked. It excels in methods like braising. On the other hand, lamb leg, sourced from the back leg, is leaner and milder in flavor, making it well-suited for quicker roasting or grilling. Lamb leg is often appreciated for its tenderness and is typically carved into slices for a more traditional presentation, whereas lamb shoulder, when slow-cooked, can be shredded for dishes like pulled lamb sandwiches. The choice between the two depends on preferences but also availablity.
If you make this Pulled Lamb (Middle Eastern Slow cooked lamb) or any other Main Dish on Urban Farm and Kitchen, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe.
Pulled Lamb (Middle Eastern Slow Cooked Lamb)
- Dutch oven, Braiser or roasting dish with tall sides
- 2 Red onions - Peeled and quartered
- 2 Whole garlic bulbs - Cut in half horizontally or broken into garlic cloves
- 5 Sprigs of rosemary
- 10 Sprigs of thyme
- 3-5 Bay leaves
- 1 ½ tablespoon Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon Baharat (7-Spice blend) - You can use equal parts ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon Garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Fresh cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Ground cardamom - Optional but recommended
- 4-5 lbs Boneless lamb shoulder or leg - see note
- 2-3 tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 cup Chicken stock
- ½ cup White wine - Optional (replace with more stock)
- Prepare the roasting pan. To a roasting pan or braising dish, add the quartered onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.
- Season the lamb. In a small bowl, combine salt, 7-spice, garlic powder, black pepper and cardamom. Rub the entire surface of the lamb with the dry mix, making sure to get in any crevices (If your lamb came wrapped in mesh, remove the mesh and open it like a book to season all over). Roll it back up and secure it with twine or the mesh it came with. Place the lamb on the aromatics with the fat side up. Drizzle a little olive oil all over the lamb and the aromatics.
- Sear. Preheat your oven to 500F/260C. Place the pot or roasting pan in the oven for 20 minutes. This will help brown the aromatics and add more depth of flavor.
- Slow Roast. Lower your oven to 300F/150C. Add the chicken broth and optional white wine to the roasting dish, cover with foil or lid, and place it back in the oven to slow roast for 5 hours undisturbed.
- Broil. After 5 hours, the meat should be quite tender. If not, slow roast for another hour. Remove the lid or foil, baste the meat with some of the lamb juices and crank up the oven to broil on high for 10-15 minutes. You want the top of the lamb to brown slightly. Don’t burn it!
- Rest and Serve. Let the lamb rest for 10-20 minutes before you transfer it to a serving platter. Serve your roast lamb with your favorite sides. Feel free to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the roast.