30 delicious ways with lamb

It’s the West’s local meat—and tastier than ever. These show-stopper recipes show how deliciously far it’s come

Fennel-Crusted Grilled Rack of Lamb

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Margo True

Fennel-Crusted Grilled Rack of Lamb

Fennel seeds and rosemary perfume every bite of this tenderest of cuts.

Recipe: Fennel-Crusted Grilled Rack of Lamb

Roast Leg of Lamb with Almond-Mint Pesto

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Margo True

Roast Leg of Lamb with Almond-Mint Pesto

Mint jelly is traditional with lamb, but not everyone loves its cloying sweetness or garish color. This fresh mint pesto takes a more savory direction, and is rolled up in the lamb to flavor it as it roasts.

Recipe: Roast Leg of Lamb with Almond-Mint Pesto

Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Spring Vegetables

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Margo True

Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Spring Vegetables

Hours of cooking on very low heat makes this lamb fall-off-the-bone tender, and a blast of high heat at the end crisps the surface. All you need to round out the dinner are mashed potatoes and a salad.

Recipe: Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Spring Vegetables

Lamb Keema with Potatoes and Peas

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; written by Amy Machnak

Lamb Keema with Potatoes and Peas

Ground lamb gets an Indian spin in this easy one-pot meal. It’s great when served with a few pieces of warmed naan.

Recipe: Lamb Keema with Potatoes and Peas

Lamb Burgers with Pea and Mint Relish

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; written by Amy Machnak

Lamb Burgers with Pea and Mint Relish

Anyone can have a simple hamburger, but with a recipe like this one, the question is why? Grilled bread and a pea and mint relish enhance the juicy lamb.

Recipe: Lamb Burgers with Pea and Mint Relish

Lamb Chops with Roasted Salsa

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; written by Amy Machnak

Lamb Chops with Roasted Salsa

Quick-to-cook lamb chops served with a fresh summer salsa are all that’s needed for a simple weeknight dinner. We serve it with a salad loaded with good-quality feta for a complete meal.

Recipe: Lamb Chops with Roasted Salsa

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Amy Machnak

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Bite-sized and full of flavor, these meatballs are an easy way to get out of the meatloaf rut.

Recipe: Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Coffee-Braised Spoon Lamb

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; written by Amy Machnak

Coffee-Braised Spoon Lamb

Coffee and lamb? You’ll be amazed at how well they compliment each other. The result is a luxurious meal that’s fairly easy to start and then ignore until ready with fall-off-the-bone results.

Recipe: Coffee-Braised Spoon Lamb

Grilled Apricot-stuffed Leg of Lamb

Written by Amy Machnak

Grilled Apricot-stuffed Leg of Lamb

We love how the sweet and tangy flavor from the apricots compliments the rich and tender leg of lamb.

Recipe: Grilled Apricot-stuffed Leg of Lamb

Lamb Shoulder Roast with Roasted Garlic Sauce

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Amy Machnak

Lamb Shoulder Roast with Roasted Garlic Sauce

The lamb is great, but it’s the toasty garlic sauce that gets drizzled over the top that makes this dish a winner. If you like lamb, but you love garlic, then this is the recipe for you.

Recipe: Lamb Shoulder Roast with Roasted Garlic Sauce

Harissa Lamb with Lemon Mint Chickpea Salad

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Amy Machnak

Harissa Lamb with Lemon Mint Chickpea Salad

Super quick, and plenty flavorful, the harissa marinade does double duty as a spicy sauce once the lamb is cooked.

Recipe: Harissa Lamb with Lemon Mint Chickpea Salad

Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops with Pimenton Rub

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Amy Machnak

Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops with Pimenton Rub

It may look simple, but these spiced-rubbed lamp chops are so flavorful; the first bite will be a shockingly delicious surprise.

Recipe: Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops with Pimenton Rub

Grilled Lamb and Halloumi Kebabs

Written by Amy Machnak

Grilled Lamb and Halloumi Kebabs

The lamb cubes are the perfect size for eating with bites of the warm and salty halloumi cheese and juicy tomatoes.

Recipe: Grilled Lamb and Halloumi Kebabs

Lamb Blade Chops with Olive Parsley Salad

Written by Amy Machnak

Lamb Blade Chops with Olive Parsley Salad

The salad is so good, we recommend making a bit extra to have the next day on a sandwich or over grilled chicken.

Recipe: Lamb Blade Chops with Olive Parsley Salad

Creamy Lemon Soup with Lamb Mint Meatballs

Photo by Iain Bagwell; written by Amy Machnak

Creamy Lemon Soup with Lamb Mint Meatballs

This soup is a fun play on avgolemono, the classic Greek lemon and rice soup. Ours is better, of course, because of the mini-meatballs that swim in the creamy broth.

Recipe: Creamy Lemon Soup with Lamb Mint Meatballs

So Amazing Armenian Lula Kebabs

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; written by Amy Machnak

So Amazing Armenian Lula Kebabs

These truly are amazingly, amazingly delicious and easy to make for crowd. Serve with a bunch of Mediterranean sides, such as hummus and couscous, for a fun spread that will please the group.

Recipe: So Amazing Armenian Lula Kebabs

Bulgur Kebab Burritos

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; written by Amy Machnak

Bulgur Kebab Burritos

Using leftover kebabs, or any other spiced ground lamb, as a part of a morning-on-the-go item, is a smart way to get two meals from one.

Recipe: Bulgur Kebab Burritos

Spring Lamb Roasted with Mint and Garlic

Spring Lamb Roasted with Mint and Garlic

We doubled this recipe so it could serve as a main course. Lamb loins are amazingly tender and flavorful but also expensive; we found that cheaper lamb shoulder roast (although tougher) works too. Just cook it a little longer—about 10 minutes more.

Recipe: Spring Lamb Roasted with Mint and Garlic

Spanish-Style Lamb Stew with Roasted Red Peppers

Written by Amy Machnak

Spanish-Style Lamb Stew with Roasted Red Peppers

Rich, warm, and spicy, this lamb stew is one of our favorites. We love to serve it as the main course to a spread of hearty red wines and warm crusty bread.

Recipe: Spanish-Style Lamb Stew with Roasted Red Peppers

Pistachio, Lamb, and Beef Burgers

Pistachio, Lamb, and Beef Burgers

Arabic spices meet the Persian touch of pistachios in the kefta (skewered ground meat) at Mamnoon in Seattle, where the food combines the owners’ Syrian, Lebanese, and Persian heritage with chef Garrett Melkonian’s Armenian background. We opted for an easier version: burgers.

Recipe: Pistachio, Lamb, and Beef Burgers

Stuffed Kabocha Squash with Arabic Lamb Stew

Photo by Yunhee Kim

Stuffed Kabocha Squash with Arabic Lamb Stew

The sweet spices in this dish make it the perfect stew for autumn.

Recipe: Stuffed Kabocha Squash with Arabic Lamb Stew

Merguez with Chickpea Puree and Eggplant Jam

Merguez with Chickpea Puree and Eggplant Jam

Merguez, an aromatic North African sausage usually made from lamb, takes practically no time to grill. Spicy and smooth, the accompanying chickpea purée can stand in for hummus any old time. To make the eggplant jam especially silky, peel and seed the tomatoes. You could use skin-on seeded tomatoes in a pinch, or even good-quality canned.

Recipe: Merguez with Chickpea Puree and Eggplant Jam

Honey-Rosemary Lamb Sandwich

Photo by Ann Stratton

Honey-Rosemary Lamb Sandwich

Think sloppy joes, just jazzed up. Make the lamb mixture ahead of time and pack in a cooler along with goat cheese and spinach; then heat and assemble at camp.

Recipe:  Honey-Rosemary Lamb Sandwich

Rockies Lamb Burger with Idaho Russets and Sun Valley Mustard

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; written by Stephanie Dean and Amy Machnak

Idaho Lamb Burgers

For a tasty twist on a lamb burger, try stacking it with crispy potato chive cakes and Idaho mustard spread. We used Idaho's Lava Lake lamb (lavalakelamb.com) and Lark's Meadow Farms Dulcinea, a Basque-style raw sheep's-milk cheese, also from Idaho (larksmeadowfarms.com).

Recipe: Idaho Lamb Burgers

Grilled Lamb Chops with Turkish Grape Sauce

Photo by Iain Bagwell

Grilled Lamb Chops with Turkish Grape Sauce

Chef Burak Epir of Pilita Grill restaurant in  San Carlos, CA, serves this Turkish-style sauce over lamb meatballs skewered with chunks of eggplant. We’ve grilled lamb chops instead, for a faster but equally delicious version.

Recipe: Grilled Lamb Chops with Turkish Grape Sauce

Slow cooker lamb shanks with artichoke caponata atop creamy polenta.

James Carrier; Kim Konecny

Lamb Shanks with Artichoke Caponata

First baking the lamb shanks then adding them to the slow cooker with the caponata ensures both a golden exterior and juicy, flavorful center.

Recipe:  Lamb Shanks with Artichoke Caponata

Lamb Shanks Adobo

Photo, Annabelle Breakey; food styling, Randy Mon

Lamb Shanks Adobo

Jeff Smedstad, chef-owner of Elote Cafe ($$; closed Sun; elotecafe.com) in Sedona, Arizona, learned the secrets to great adobos (a type of chile-rich sauce) in the markets of central Mexico. This lamb dish is adapted from one in his book, Elote Cafe Cookbook (Elote Cafe Publishing; $30).

Recipe: Lamb Shanks Adobo

Lamb Shawarma with Couscous

Photo by Alex Farnum; written by Amy Machnak

Lamb Shawarma with Couscous

The spices in this dish is what really makes the flavor pop. It's great with the couscous, but you could also serve it over a Mediterranean salad, too.

Recipe: Lamb Shawarma with Couscous

Spice Lamb Chops with Rosemary Crumbs

Photo by Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Spice Lamb Chops with Rosemary Crumbs

These are great for cocktail parties since you can eat them one-handed.

Recipe: Spice Lamb Chops with Rosemary Crumbs

Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce

Photo by James Carrier

Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce

Cabernet Franc is a great foil for the Moroccan flavors of this pungent lamb dish.

Recipe:  Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbecue Sauce

The West's local meat

Photo by Glenn Oakley; written by Margo True

The West's local meat

A good, rosy cut of lamb, succulent and earthy-sweet, is as purely delicious as any other meat you can eat. A lot of people might be skeptical, though. That’s because, only a few decades ago, American lamb was seriously gamy and tough.

But American lamb is a whole different animal now. Sheep in this country used to be raised mainly for wool, their meat an afterthought. Then synthetic fibers came along, wool production waned, and the industry started to breed for flavor and tenderness. No matter how you feel about polyester, it sure has given us better lamb.

There’s another reason to celebrate American lamb here in the West: It’s our local meat. Most comes from small Western family ranches (more than 75,000 of them) rather than factory farms. Some ranchers custom-sell lamb directly to consumers, right off the pasture, at any age desired, bypassing the usual six weeks or so of “finishing” the animals on grain in a feedlot. And though a well-raised lamb can taste fine finished on grain, lamb fed entirely from the range can be incredible.

With grain prices climbing, we’ll probably be seeing more 100 percent grass-fed lamb, particularly at farmers’ markets. Delicate, mild, and seasoned with the flavors of the pasture, it’s Easter worthy.

How to buy better lamb

Photo by Amanda Friedman; written by Margo True

How to buy better lamb

Choose a lighter hue of red. A younger animal will be milder, but size isn’t necessarily a clue, since American lamb is bred to be meaty. The biggest tip is the color: Pink or cherry red means it’s young (less than a year); if it’s dark purplish red, it’s older.

Go for grass-fed when you can. Find 100 percent grass-fed lamb at eatwild.com and well-stocked grocery stores. Three of our favorite ranches that sell online: GrassRoots Meats (grassrootsmeats.com), Lava Lake Lamb (lavalakelamb.com) and Willow Spring Ranch Montana (montanaorganiclamb.com).

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