Braised leg of lamb is an incredibly simple yet amazingly delicious way to cook this cut of meat.
A low and slow braise with just a handful of ingredients transform the lamb into fall-apart tender and juicy pieces that shred easily and can be enjoyed in a variety of different recipes.
Let’s take a quick trip back to last year around this time.
I was prepping to make this cranberry goat cheese stuffed butterflied leg of lamb.
Somehow, messages got crossed and Ulysses picked the leg of lamb I had on the grocery list even though I had mentioned in passing I had already procured one and didn’t need that item any longer.
Well folks, this is why he doesn’t do the grocery shopping on the regular.
Suffice it to say, we had over 10 pounds of lamb leg costing somewhere around $150 in the freezer.
That extraneous boneless leg of lamb would then sit in said freezer for the next 10+ months as I pondered what to do with such a huge cut of meat and no planned holidays or gatherings to serve it at.
Last week I gave up on finding the perfect occasion and decided to just thaw the damn thing with the idea of braising the lamb slowly in the oven and figuring out the rest later.
I actually cut off a chunk and used it in this lamb korma recipe but that still left me with a solid 4 pounds of leg of lamb!
So here we are with this straightforward, simple braised leg of lamb recipe.
Part of me feels like an idiot for waiting so long to make this considering the amazingly delicious outcome.
But, the other part of me buys into the whole “fate” thing and realizes it was probably meant to be this way for a reason.
And if that reason was simply that it made a ton of leftovers for Ulys to take up to work for the week (he’s away M-F with a new position) without wasting half our Sunday together meal prepping for him, that’s good enough for me.
BRAISED LAMB AS AN EVERYDAY MEAL
Even with all the lamb recipes on this site from skillet lamb ragu to BBQ lamb ribs and everything in between, I still sometimes fall victim to the mentality of lamb only being for “special” occasions.
This braised lamb is here to knock those kind of thoughts right out of your mind though and set things straight.
Lamb is not and should not be just a special occasion meat!
Braising it in the oven using this simple recipe creates the most tender, fall-apart, juicy shredded lamb you can imagine.
It’s up to you how you want to enjoy it from here.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “BRAISE” LAMB?
Simply put, braising means to pan sear then slow cook in liquid.
This can be done in a pot or Dutch oven like we’re using for this recipe or even a slow cooker.
The outcome of braising not only transforms the meat being cooked (in this case the leg of lamb) but also the cooking liquid. See this article for an in-depth look at braising.
The lamb becomes tender, juicy and either falls off the bone (for bone-in cuts) or melts apart into succulent pieces (for boneless cuts).
This braised veal brisket is another perfect example of just that!
The liquid, in this case the broth, simultaneously becomes a deeply flavored version of itself.
The flavor of the lamb in this recipe seeps into the liquid and vice versa while everything sort of caramelizes and deepens in flavor together over the span of cooking time.
It’s sort of a harmonious, symbiotic cooking method with the tastiest of outcomes!
HOW TO SERVE BRAISED LEG OF LAMB
Once the leg of lamb is braised, there are variety of ways to use it. It’s a lot like brisket in that the tender, shredded meat can be used in endless variations.
Here are some simple serving ideas:
- Serve “roast style” like you would this Instant Pot venison roast with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and other root vegetables.
- Spoon the shredded lamb and juices over some mashed potatoes like mashed purple sweet potatoes or goat cheese and spinach mashed sweet potatoes. Serve alongside a simple vegetable like air fryer mushrooms or sautéed Swiss chard.
- Add to a wide flat noodle pasta like pappardelle or tagliatelle with your favorite tomato sauce for a cozy lamb ragu vibe.
- Make lamb tacos!
- Use the lamb as a pizza topping. I’m envisioning something like this carnitas pizza – yum!
- Use shredded braised leg of lamb in these Greek brown rice bowls instead of ground lamb.
- Make lamb sandwiches and top with fun condiments such as fermented vegetables, pickled garlic scapes or spicy rosemary tomato peach chutney.
- Stir into a vegetable soup like Tuscan kale soup or mung bean soup for some extra protein.
You get the picture. The options are endless!
INGREDIENTS TO OVEN BRAISE LEG OF LAMB
Ok, now that you get the idea of how versatile this braised lamb recipe is, let’s talk about what you’ll need to make it.
- 4-5 pound leg of lamb (I used boneless but can also be done with bone-in)
- avocado oil
- yellow onion
- garlic cloves
- garlic powder
- broth (beef or chicken)
See how simple that is? Besides the lamb, it’s just a few spices, onion, garlic and broth. I know you have all those ingredients!
A large Dutch oven is the best pot to use when braising but any large heavy-duty pot will do. I recommend 7qt or larger for this size leg of lamb.
The leg of lamb I had was actually butterflied by the butcher at the time of purchase so I cut it into smaller pieces to be able to brown it easier and fit in the pot better.
HOW TO MAKE SLOW BRAISED LEG OF LAMB
Start by bringing the lamb to room temperature and preheating the oven to 325°F.
Add the oil to the Dutch oven or pot and place over high heat.
While that’s heating up, trim any excess fat off the lamb and season with the salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and garlic powder. Rub the seasonings all over, coating all sides of the meat.
Place the seasoned lamb into the pot and sear until browned on all sides. Work in batches if necessary if you had to cut your leg of lamb into smaller pieces.
Searing the leg of lamb essentially locks in all the juices and helps achieve those crispy bits at the end of cooking. It’s a must before roasting or braising.
Once browned, turn off the heat and add the chopped onions and minced garlic to the pot along with the broth.
Cover the pot with a lid and transfer to the oven. Braise the lamb in the oven for 2.5 hours. After that amount of time, remove the lid and braise another 30-45 minutes.
Check the lamb during this last 30-45 minutes to make sure the liquid hasn’t completely evaporated. If it has, add a touch more broth as necessary.
Once the lamb is fork tender and falling apart (if you’re using a bone-in leg of lamb the bone should easily pull out by this point) and the top of the meat is starting to turn golden and crisp up, remove from the oven.
Shred the lamb in the pot using two large serving forks and discard any large pieces of fat.
Keep the shredded lamb in the pot to reabsorb the juices once shredded and serve as desired.
HOW TO COOK LAMB SO IT’S TENDER
But, it’s also incredibly important when using bigger cuts like leg of lamb. There’s nothing worse than a dry, overcooked or tough roast no matter what the meat.
Braising lamb is the best method for incredibly tender meat whether it’s a bone-in or boneless leg of lamb like this or another large cut like lamb shoulder.
It’s why these apple cider braised lamb shanks are consistently my favorite Sunday meal to make in the fall and why this simple braised leg of lamb has now become my go-to all year round recipe.
I think my favorite part of this recipe is the crispy bits of lamb achieved by searing and then braising with the lid off for the last half hour of cooking.
They’re reminiscent of carnitas and thoroughly enjoyable when that caramelization hits your mouth.
It’s like little pockets of flavor explosion with the added bonus of a texturally appealing bite.
I think most people (unfortunately) associate braising with the dreaded pot roast.
But, I’m hopeful that this braised leg of lamb recipe helps shift the paradigm on this cooking method and encourages you to make this meat. Not only for a holiday but for everyday!
MORE LAMB RECIPES TO ENJOY:
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 4 pound boneless leg of lamb (or up to 5 pound bone-in leg of lamb), room temperature
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 5 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup broth (beef, chicken or lamb)
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Trim the lamb of any excess fat. Combine the salt, coriander, cumin, garlic powder and pepper in a small bowl and rub the seasoning mixture all over the lamb.
- Place avocado oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Once hot, add the lamb and brown on all sides.
- Add the onions, minced garlic and broth to the pot. Cover and transfer to the oven.
- Cook for 2 hours and 30 minutes then remove the lid and braise for another 30-45 minutes, adding a touch more broth if needed during this time.
- Remove the pot from the oven and shred the lamb in the pot using two large forks. Discard bone if using bone-in lamb. The shredded meat will soak up any remaining juices. Serve the lamb as is or store for later use.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 499Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 169mgSodium: 410mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 47g
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.