Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb (The Greek Way)

Feb 10th, 2013 | By | Category: Easter, Featured, Garlic, Greek, Greek Wine, Herbs, Lamb, Lemon, Olive Oil, Roasting

IMG_8298Greeks know their way around lamb and we unabashedly cook it well and I mean well done. Do not confuse well done with dry, hard to chew meat. You are not going to experience this here.

I treat a leg of lamb much like a lamb shank, brown the meat then place in a roasting pan with aromatics, seasoning and some braising liquid. The fat from the lamb leg melts way, the connective tissues break down and the braising liquid helps transform the muscular leg of lamb into a succulent, flavourful meat that is cooked well, juicy and very flavourful.

The flavour profile is classic Greek with the generous use of garlic, thyme, oregano, rosemary and some bay leaves as well. The lamb is studded with slivers of garlic, sweet paprika balances the lemon juices and some olive oil and white wine bring the pan juices together.

While the lamb is roasting I baste it with pan juices, flip the leg to evenly cook and prevent any dryness and this foolproof recipe will please those who love lamb and even gain some new fans!IMG_8301

Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb

(serves 8-10)

1 leg of lamb (bone in) or 2 short-cut legs of lamb (6-8lbs.)

1 head of garlic

fine sea salt

fresh ground pepper

approx. 2 tsp. garlic powder

approx. 2 tsp. sweet paprika

2 medium onions, peeled & quartered

1 cup dry white wine

2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

10 sprigs of fresh thyme

2-3 tsp. dried Greek oregano

2-3 bay leaves

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

hot water

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Peel the skins off the garlic clove and slice them into slivers. Stick a paring knife into the lamb and make a hole, then slip a sliver of garlic. Repeat and insert as many slivers of garlic as you can.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 550F and place the rack in the middle position. Drizzle your lamb with some olive oil and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan that just fits the leg. Place in your pre-heated oven and roast uncovered for about 10-15 minutes or until browned, then flip the leg and roast for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove the lamb from the oven and reduce the heat to 350F. Place the quartered onions around the lamb, add any remaining slivers of garlic, add the herbs (thyme, bay, rosemary, oregano) and squeeze in the lemon juice and pour the wine into the pan. Add the olive oil and enough hot water to cover  third of the lamb.
  4. Cover and place the lamb back in the oven for 2 hours (add more hot water if needed), baste the lamb once an hour. After two hours, flip the leg of lamb (add more water if necessary and adjust seasoning of liquid with salt and pepper).IMG_8288
  5. The total cooking time for the lamb is approx. 3 hours, the leg of lamb shoulder be a deep brown and the bones will be exposed and the meat should show signs of separating from the bone.
  6. Remove the lamb from the oven, baste with liquid and allow to rest. Serve with Greek roast potatoes or pair with roast potatoes tossed in leg of lamb drippings.
  7. Pair with a Papaioannou Estate Agiorghitiko red Nemea.

*TIP: Have some peeled potatoes (quartered) to roast in another roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pour enough pan juices from the lamb leg to come up a third of the way on the potatoes and toss to coat. Taste, adjust seasoning and crank your oven up to 450F and place the potatoes in the oven to roast for 35-40 minutes or until fork-tender (the lamb will stay warm covered in the roasting pan on the stove-top).IMG_8303


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67 Comments to “Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb (The Greek Way)”

  1. Rosa says:

    It looks so scrumptious and I bet it is exquisitely tender!



  2. It was Greek roast lamb that made me realise that I really don’t like rare lamb! It has so much more flavour cooked like this.

  3. Well I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with that! Looks amazing!! :)

  4. Karen says:

    This sounds great. I have a leg of goat in the freezer and will use this recipe for it.

  5. Kalimeras Peter; this is one great looking dish :) And I owe you a BIG thank you for recommending CanonS100 Powershot camera, I love it, so kind of you. Will be off to Istanbul shortly, will be thinking of you with the food!

  6. Joan Nova says:

    Like the old Carly Simon song … “nobody does it better”!

  7. Brenda says:

    Bravo sou.

  8. Adele Forbes says:

    I cook for a family during the summer months in the mountains of NC and this recipe made me so happy to see when I came across it. Thank you so very much for sharing, this recipe will def be on their table this next season.

  9. Ian says:

    Cooking this smells fantastic, you will drive your neighbours crazy.

    Eating it is just perfection.

    Many thanks

    Takes me back to Crete

  10. Seamus O'Brien says:

    Kalafagas, great work loved it.

  11. Mike says:

    I made this recipe yesterday and it has got to be one of the most delicious meals I have ever cooked in my life! Absolutely amazing! The flavor is rich and complex and the meat just fell off the bone. I will never make lamb any other way! Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. Dina says:

    I have a 7.5 pound leg of lamb… is the cooking time still 3 hours? If the liquid dries out should I add more? Can I roast potatoes in the pan?

  13. katerina says:

    yeia sas peter! I’m going to try your recipe for sunday and have never been the one ‘in charge’ of the lamb before, so I feel some pressure! Your recipe looks wonderful, but since I am cooking for 14 people, will 8lbs be enough lamb? there will be many other things to eat as well but I am worried about how much meat to have and what the cooking time will b e… thanks in advance..

  14. Selena Gibson says:

    I made this last weekend and it is the best lamb I have ever tasted. Even my husband who has a swallowing disorder had no problem eating it and also loved it. I was a bit worried about the amount of garlic required but this was not a problem at all. Highly recommended.

  15. Nina says:

    Hi Peter. Can I use a lamb shoulder with this recipe? If yes, are any changes required to the recipe? Thanks.

  16. Kim Bryan says:

    ” fat from the lamb leg melts way, the connective tissues break down and the braising liquid helps transform the muscular leg of lamb into a succulent, flavourful meat that is cooked well, juicy and very flavourful” –Wow! This description caught me off guard. It’s like telling us to try your recipe without telling it directly. You persuaded me. The Greek way of lamb slow roasting is surely interesting. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  17. margaret sackor says:

    this is the best recipe of all time my boyfriend really like it,thank u very much

  18. Kenneth Wesley Livingston says:

    Lamb is my absolute favorite meat. Can’t wait to try this along with the potatoes. Would love to pair it with the recommended “red”; but, unfortunately, the high tannin content mandates that I make another selection. (tannin = severe cluster headaches.) Nevertheless thanks for a promising recipe.
    -Woodland Hills CA-

  19. Melanie says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe, it’s amazing!

    I grew up in Vancouver where just about every Greek restaurant serves this dish, but when I moved to Montreal thirteen years ago I was disappointed to discover it is rarely served here. So after a few disastrous attempts trying various methods on my own, I gave up and resigned myself to roast lamb being a treat when I vacation back home.

    Also, I followed the recipe as posted with two minor changes.

    1) I used a boneless lamb leg roast from Costco as that’s all I could find in my little suburb
    2) I cooked it at 300 degrees for 2 hours, flipped the roast and then cooked for 2 hours more

    A bone in leg would probably be even better, but I thought I’d mention my success with the boneless in case anyone wonders if it’s a good substitute. I think it is because I’ve made this twice now and it’s absolute perfection, and the potatoes are sweet, sticky roasted goodness that hubby and I can’t get enough of, so THANK YOU!!!!!

    • BK says:

      Thank you Melanie for posting that you tried this with a boneless piece of meat and that it worked! I could also only get a boneless piece and was worried that it wouldn’t be able to use this recipe.

  20. I saved this recipe a long time ago, but just got around to making it today (15-08-2013). I used a 2.2 kg short cut bone-in leg of lamb. I used equivalent amounts of seasonings and braising liquid (mainly because the roast pan I needed was quite large. I reduced the searing time to 10 minutes per side and then roasted at the lower temperature (with lid on) for 40 minutes + 40 minutes, basting between, When I went to flip the leg over for a final 40 minutes, I was alarmed that the internal temperature was up about 170F. So I only roasted an additional 20 minutes.

    The meat was well-done (happy to see from your comments that it was supposed to turn out that way) and the meat was moist and tender. My potatoes were incredible, too.

    I’ve gathered lots of ideas about what to do with the leftovers, but here’s my question: What can I do with the incredible braising liquid? Can it serve as a broth for soup? Do you have any other traditional uses for it. I dare not waste a drop!

    Thank you Peter . . . for sharing the recipe and for any answers you can offer me. Susan

    • Hi Susan, delighted that you enjoyed the roast lamb…seems to be a big hit! As for the leftover liquid…you could roast more potatoes in it, make a lamb giouvetsi, make a gravy or even boil pasta with it.

  21. Jan Heath says:

    I found this recipe by searching google for a slow roast lamb dish and it was exactly what I wanted. I tried it last night and it was so delicious I will definitely make it again for guests. My leg of lamb was smaller but I kept the other ingredients the same (used slightly less garlic though). I used the braising liquid as a base for gravy (my husband thinks a roast is not a roast without gravy!). The meat was well cooked yet still moist and the flavours mmmmmm!!!! What more can I say – except what an amazing dish.

  22. Micah says:

    I tried this recipe, and the meat thermometer read well done after 1.5 hrs. Was I supposed to continue cooking it for the full time?

    • Michah, yes. That is what the recipe instructs. At 90 minutes the meat would be cooked but it wouldn’t be tender. That’s what the extra time braising would do – make it tender. The recipe is very clear. Please read recipe instructions carefully.

  23. Malcolm says:

    Roast lamb has traditionally been done in our family using a traditional northern European method, a typical dry roast with mild herbs/spices. Edible, but lamb was only ahead of mutton in my preferred meats.
    Greek style lamb has always been in a different league, and this recipe gave me a way to join that league. Thank you for the gift of this recipe. I no longer view the prospect of roast lamb with resignation, but as a meal that competes with the best. Great photos, description.
    Now, next on my bucket list is to visit Greece :-)

  24. Vin says:

    Hi Peter,

    I am planning to surprise my wife with a special meal tonight – was searching for a slow cooked greek style lamb recipe and found your recipe – looks very tempting. MY question is can I make this lamb in a cast iron dutch oven over a stove top? Thankyou in advance.

  25. Kerry says:

    Hi Peter,

    I have made your beautiful lamb previously and it was a great success. Now after re-reading the recipe I can’t remember if, after flipping the lamb it cooks for another 3 hours or just another 1 hour (for a total of 2 on one side and an additional 1 once flipped) – the more I read it (the recipe) the more uncertain I am!! haha

  26. Carol says:

    I have a 4 .3 pound boneless leg of lamb. How long should I cook it?

    • Carol, I have only made this recipe with bone-in leg of lamb. I don’t recommend boneless for this recipe…it may dry out.

      • Carol says:

        So what do I need to watch for to help it not dry out. I already have the roast and Susan mentioned using a non-bone roast and it was great, Should I reduce the timing or temperature?

  27. Cecilia says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this comprehensive yet easy-to-follow recipe. I am a cook, and can tell that this will turn out excellent.


  28. Maria says:

    Hola Peter,

    Our lamb turned out beautifully! Thank you for providing such a great and very detailed recipe with instructions. Your recipe and the lamb was enjoyed by the whole family. I wrote a brief blog post on my sight and linked to your site/recipe.


  29. Alexandria says:

    Ran across your recipe and am so excited to try. I always make roast lamb for Easter, and sometimes it’s dry no matter what I do. I am hosting Easter for 20 people. Got a wonderful 11 lb. leg of lamb from my tried and true butcher in Chicago that specializes in fresh Colorado spring lamb. I can adjust the ingredients for the braising liquid, but what about the cooking time; how much more time is needed for that size leg?

    • Alexandria, after adjusting the braising liquid, I would check the lamb according the recipe and if the meat isn’t succulent, easy to remove from bone then add another hour of cooking time and then check again. You should be good!

      • Alexandria says:

        Hello Peter,

        Just wanted to thank you for your prompt reply and for making our Easter celebration special with this wonderful lamb recipe. I will never dry roast leg of lamb again! The aroma as it was cooking was so enticing that my family and friends were lined up around our kitchen island waiting as I took it out of the oven to get the first bite of the succulent meat. This recipe is a keeper, and you’re spot on…..fall-off-the-bone tender. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with the world!

        Christos Anesti

        • Althos Anesti, Alexandria! Delighted to hear everyone enjoyed the lamb dish. Please tell your family and friends about my site, looking forward to sharing more dishes.

  30. Hi Peter,
    I have an almost 12 lb leg of lamb for this Sunday (04/18/04) and was wondering if you think this recipe will still work and if I should simply double the measurements?
    Thanks, Kali Anastasi!

  31. hector Prieto says:

    I think I’m doing something wrong . I’ve tried slow roasting a leg of lamb and it always comes out
    tough, not tender. I must be doing something wrong!!

    I’m slow cooking an 11lb leg tomorrow for Easter. How many hours should I cook it for???



    • Hector, read the recipe again and the other comments. If you add braising liquid AND you’re using a bone-in lamb, you’ll be fine.

      • hector Prieto says:

        thanks for your prompt response.
        your recipe calls for a 6-8lb lamb.
        I have an 11lb bone in leg.

        would you say that will probably take 4 or 5 hours to cook?

        thanks again


  32. Kellie says:

    Peter, that’s a wonderful recipe, thanks. Question, should the roasting pan be covered for all of the cooking?

  33. Marcella says:

    I got a 14-lb leg for Easter, doubled the liquid and planned to put it in for 4 hours after browning. The second time I flipped it (2 hours in), I spilled liquid on the heating coils of the oven and had to turn it off to avoid setting off the dorm fire alarm. I opened the windows and turned it back to 250, left it in for another 45 min or an hour and it was beautifully done.

    Thanks for the tasty recipe, Peter!

  34. Charlene says:

    Hi there I have 16 people coming for dinner and want to try your recipe, I don t want to be fussing in the kitchen while they are here, I want everything prepared before, but don t want to ruin the lamb or have it dry out. Any thoughts ? Many thanks

  35. Sheila Smith says:

    I have three lamb shanks (knuckle end they called it in England). The weight is just over 2 lbs. Should I reduce the cooking time to 2 hours????

    • Sheila, yes…roast the roast shanks until deep brown, add braising liquid, cover and cook for 2 hrs at 350F.

      • Sheila Smith says:

        Perfect. Apart from setting off the smoke detector in our condo because I had never had the oven on that high before; everything was great, along with the potatoes. My husband is a big fan of Greek lamb so now I can make it at home for him. On to Mousakka – however, could not find a recipe on your website for it.
        Thanks again.

  36. LIndy says:

    I wanted to say that this dish is absolutely delicious. I am cooking it at this moment and have done so three times before. The potatoes are wonderful too. It is rich, fragrant and brings a taste of Greece back into my home.
    Thank you

  37. Ari says:

    Hi, this looks amazing!! I am going to attempt it tomorrow but I have a question please.
    Do the herbs, lemon juice and oil go on top of the lamb or just in the pan?
    Thanks so much

  38. Peter says:

    HI. I have a 4-pound lamb with bone in but not whole leg, i assume 3 hours total unless you tell me otherwise. Do i have this right, that you should roast the potatoes with the liquid covering the bottom third? Or do you just baste them and then put in oven. Thanks.

  39. Peter says:

    Hi Peter. Disaster last time, too embarrassed to say why but let’s say a premature “senior’s moment” was involved. Today i have a 6.6 pound leg and I’d like to leave it in the oven while i watch my girl play hockey. If i were to roast it at 250 vs 350 would that work and how much time would i add?

  40. Marc says:

    Roasted a 10 pound leg last night. Followed the recipe exactly. Checked for tenderness after 3 hours and roasted for an extra hour. Taste was really great, but some of the leg was chewy. The meat around the bones was quite tender–not sure what that means. We had eaten some chops from this animal that were quite tough. Perhaps there was nothing we could have tried to make this leg fork tender.

    • Hello Marc and thank you for your comment. Perhaps the leg of lamb was from an older animal – which means even more cooking time would be needed. Think along the lines of a young chicken we roast for dinner vs. those older chickens which are more for soup/stock.

      In the end, sounds like the dish still turned out well.

  41. Kostas says:

    Peter I must say, I had pretty well given up on the leg. I would cook it medium rare and there was just to much chewy connective tissue. This recipe tastes great and has put the leg of lamb back in my shopping cart.
    I also use the liquid in the pan and make a sauce to finish the dish……It adds that extra lemon zing!

  42. Arthur Perron says:


    I look forward to trying your recipe tomorrow. What do you recommend for a sauce and what are your thoughts re: mint jelly or pesto ? Thanks for a great recipe !

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