This roasted leg of lamb is the perfect meal for Easter or any special occasion. A traditional Easter meal in Bulgaria and Greece includes a whole lamb cooked on a spit (skewered and cooked over a fire) accompanied by potatoes or rice, green salad, sweet Easter bread, and baked phyllo with feta (which is called “Banitsa” in Bulgarian or “Tiropita/Spanakopita” in Greece). If you are religious, the choice of lamb represents Christ, known as the holy Lamb of God. This fall-apart-tender leg of lamb is roasted with potatoes in the same pan, so the potatoes absorb all the lamb’s delicious juices. Everything is slow-roasted to perfection for an incredible feast to serve a crowd.
Roasted Leg of Lamb
- large baking dish big enough to fit the whole leg (22 inch)
- parchment paper + foil (or use a lid if the dish has one)
Vinegar Soak (optional):
- 28 cups water + 7 cups white vinegar (4 parts water to 1 part vinegar)
- 1 leg of lamb 8 to 10lbs
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
- 4 teaspoons salt (quantity depends on the size of your meat; see notes in recipe)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 3 teaspoons dry oregano
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced in quarters
- 15 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 3 sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and/or mint (optional; for aroma)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup white wine (optional)
- 6 large yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in wedges (900 grams or 2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of salt
- juice of 1 lemon
The Vinegar Water (Overnight Soak):
- The vinegar and water soak is OPTIONAL. This soak helps remove some of the gamy taste of lamb. My grandma would always include a soak since she didn't like the strong taste of lamb. If you don't want to do the soak and you love the taste of lamb, you can marinate the lamb in olive oil, lemon, oregano, and salt and bake it the same way. The spices and aromatics are up to you to choose and customize.
- Place the lamb in a big dish. Add 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar until the lamb is fully submerged. (Example: 4 cups water will need 1 cup of vinegar. 16 cups of water will need 4 cups of vinegar. If you take the amount of water and divide it by 4 it will give you the amount of vinegar you need to add in.)
- I added 28 cups of water to 7 cups of white vinegar. Cover the dish and let the lamb soak in the fridge overnight.
- The following morning we discard the water and pat dry the lamb really well with paper towels.
Marinating the Lamb:
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- After the lamb is patted dry, place it in a big baking dish with a wire rack on the bottom; the lamb should be skin side up. Using a small sharp knife, score the lamb on top, making many small inserts in the meat. Add a piece of slivered garlic into each insert, and press the garlic into the meat.
- In a small bowl, add the salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, and olive oil and mix really well until you have a paste.
- Note: You can add ANY seasoning you like. The general rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of lamb. (If you have an 8 pound piece of meat you would need 4 teaspoons total for the whole piece of meat.) This is all to TASTE and please follow personal preference. We like to measure with our heart.
- Take the seasoning paste and massage it all over the lamb. You can use a brush but I like to use clean hands.
- Add the onion and unpeeled garlic cloves to the bottom of the baking dish. We use unpeeled garlic so that it doesn't burn. Add the rosemary, if using. Add the water and wine, if using.
- Cover the lamb with parchment paper and then foil. If you have a baking pan lid, you can skip this step. I like to cover the lamb with parchment first so that the skin doesn't stick to the foil.
- Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and continue to cook it until the meat is falling off the bone. A little after the half-way mark we remove the foil and add in the potatoes (see below).
- We like to remove the foil (and parchment paper) a little more than halfway through, and baste the lamb with it's juices. Removing the foil (or lid) will allow the lamb to get browned and golden and the excess juices to evaporate. To baste, using a turkey baster or a large serving spoon, carefully scoop up some juices from the bottom of the pan and pour them over the top of the meat.
- The bake time will depend on how big your piece of meat is. Our 8 to 10 pound leg took 4 1/2 to 5 hours in our oven. General rule of thumb for slow roasting lamb is 20 minutes for every 1/2 pound of meat.
- Note: If you have a LARGER cut of meat you can INCREASE the temperature to 400 to 425F after you remove the foil. If the meat is getting too dark on the top, feel free to leave the foil or parchment on. I take all of these factors into consideration as every oven is different.
- Optionally, if the meat hasn't browned on top near the end of cooking, switch the oven to BROIL (top element only) for the last few minutes of cooking, and this will help the meat get nice color on the skin on top. Keep a close eye on the meat while it's under the broiler.
- There are a few ways to make the potatoes. You can make them separately in a baking dish, in the style of my favorite recipe: Crispy Greek Lemon Potatoes
- OR add the potatoes, olive oil, salt to taste, and lemon juice to a bowl. Stir to combine all the ingredients. (You don't need much olive oil or seasoning because the potatoes will cook in the fat and seasoning falling off the lamb.) Pour the seasoned potatoes into the bottom of the baking dish containing the lamb. Add the potatoes 1 1/2 hours before the lamb has finished cooking.
- When the lamb and potatoes are done, allow them to rest for 15 to 20 minutes so that the juices can redistribute.
- Depending on how fatty the lamb is, it can release a lot of oil so you can skim it off the top, discard the fat, or use it for anything else you like.
- The onions will be completely soft, the potatoes incredibly delicious, the lamb will be falling apart and the garlic can be squeezed out of it's peel and enjoyed on fresh bread.
- You can serve this meal with my Bulgarian Green Salad, Sweet Easter Bread, my No Knead Bread, Tzatziki, Bulgarian Yogurt Salad, Carrot Cake, or any of the recipes on the blog. All of these recipes can be found in the search bar of my website.
Wow – your instructions on how to cook the lamb are so detailed and so perfect – I’m not as nervous now cooking lamb . Can’t wait to try this!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to explain it so clearly!!!!
HIII Sue! I am so so excited! I KNOW your lamb will be PERFECT. Let me know the outcome please
Making this for Easter this weekend, the first time roasting a whole leg of lamb. I was wondering do you serve the lamb right in the dish you cooked it in or remove it to another serving plate?
Thanks. Love your recipes.
we use a big serving dish but we got ours about 15-20 years ago at Ikea. You can use any white dish you love
Just made this today and it was d’bomb!!! This was my first ever lamb leg.
I followed your instructions word for word. The lamb turned out perfect: juicy, soft, succulent.
Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe.
So incredibly happy to hear that! You just made my day 🙂