Roasted Leg of Lamb (European Style)

4.38 from 16 votes

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This roasted leg of lamb is ready to take center stage on the Easter table. Traditionally, the Easter meal in Bulgaria and Greece includes a whole lamb cooked on a spit (skewered and over a fire) and served with roasted 🥔 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 is oven method ensures everyone can achieve a tender, succulent roast, no fire-roasting required!

Why You’ll Love Roasted Leg of Lamb

The oven does most of the work in this recipe. After massaging an aromatic blend of spices into the meat, 🧄 garlic cloves are nestled in before slow-roasting in the oven. The result is a fall-apart-tender leg of lamb that gives the most delicious juices. The best part? I’ve roasted the potatoes in the same pan as the Roasted Leg of Lamb, so they can absorb all of that deliciousness. It’s the perfect feast to serve a crowd.

How to Prepare Roasted Leg of Lamb

🌙 Start by soaking or marinating the lamb overnight.

🔥 The next day, pat the lamb completely dry and preheat the oven to 400F.

🧄 Place the lamb in a big baking dish with a wire rack on the bottom skin side up. Using a small sharp knife, score the lamb on top and press in a piece of slivered garlic into each insert.

🥣 Then, mix together salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, and olive oil until you have a paste. Next, massage the spice paste onto the lamb.

🧅 Add onion, unpeeled garlic cloves, rosemary, water and wine to the bottom of the baking dish.

⏲ Cover the lamb with parchment paper and foil. Roast for 40 minutes.

🌡Now, reduce the heat to 350F and continue to cook it until the meat is falling off the bone.

🍋 Meanwhile, prep the potatoes by mixing them with olive oil, salt to taste and lemon juice.

🥔 After the meat has cooked halfway, remove the foil and baste the meat with the pan juices and then pour the seasoned potatoes into the bottom of the baking dish.

🍽 When the Roasted Leg of Lamb and potatoes are done, allow them to rest for 15 to 20 minutes so that the juices can redistribute. Serve and enjoy!

Nonna’s Tip

The vinegar and water soak is optional, but it’s the way grandma would do it to helps remove some of the gamy taste of the lamb. If you want to skip this step, simply marinate the lamb in olive oil, lemon, oregano, and salt and roast the recipe in the same way.

A Roasted Leg of Lamb

Variations and Substitutions for Roasted Leg of Lamb

  1. Fresh rosemary is one of the most popular herbs for lamb and very complimentary to this type of meat, but any hardy 🌿 herb will work, such as thyme or mint.  
  2. When you add in the potatoes, you could also add in 🥕 carrot wedges.
  3. White wine is totally optional. If you’re not using add in another 1/2 cup of water, or substitute with low-sodium broth.

Other Easter Recipes

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Common Questions

What other seasonings can i use instead?

Traditionally in Bulgaria we only put salt, oil (or butter), and paprika (sometimes mint as well). In Greece, we like to add olive oil, salt, and oregano, and lemon juice if we don’t do a vinegar soak. Seasonings are up to you.

Do i have to add the potatoes to the same roasting pan as the lamb?

Not at all! You can bake the potatoes completely separately from the lamb instead. This method will also create a totally vegetarian side dish, if you need one. I highly recommend my Crispy Green Lemon Potato recipe…it’s perfection!

what cut of lamb should i shop for?

For this Roasted Leg of Lamb recipe, I ordered the meat from The Butcher Shoppe in Etobicoke and this is the exact cut I ordered: Canadian Lamb Leg Bone In Linked Here. You can also get lamb without bone as well but it is a bit pricier. 

Do i have to do the vinegar soak?

You do not have to do the vinegar soak overnight, but my grandma always did. It helps to remove the strong gamy taste and to thoroughly clean the lamb. 

What should i do with all those garlic cloves and onions at the bottom of the roasting pan?

After roasting, the onions are super soft and tender so they’re great served on top on the meat or even mixed in with the potatoes. The roasted garlic is sweet GOLD and is absolutely sensational when it’s squeezed out of the skin and spread on a slice of fresh bread.

how should i adjust the salt for a smaller piece of lamb?

The general rule of thumb is to use 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of lamb. For example, if you have an 8 pound piece of meat you would need to season with 4 teaspoons total for the whole piece of meat. Remember, this is all to TASTE so please follow personal preference. 

Should i cover the roasting pan with a lid?

If you have one large enough, that works! If not, I’ve suggested placing parchment paper on top of the meat and then foil paper. I like to cover the lamb with parchment first so that the skin doesn’t stick to the foil, so you may still want to do this if you’re lid touches the meat.

How do i properly baste the Roasted Leg of Lamb as it’s cooking?

To baste while lamb is cooking, carefully scoop up some juices from the bottom of the pan using a turkey baster or a large serving spoon and pour them over the top of the meat. Doing this a few times as while it’s roasting helps make sure the meat doesn’t get too dry on the surface.

how should i adjust the cooking time for a larger piece of meat?

The general rule of thumb for slow roasting lamb is 20 minutes for every 1/2 pound of meat.

I’d like a crispier and more golden skin on top. What should i do?

If, by the end of cooking, the Roasted Leg of Lamb is still not browned enough for your taste, switch the oven to BROIL for the last few minutes of cooking. This will help the meat get nice color on the skin. Keep a close eye on the meat while it’s under the broiler!

how can i prevent the skin from getting too dark?

If at any point the meat is getting too dark on the top, place the foil paper back on top while it continutes to cook. Every oven is different, so I always recommend to watch it closely.

Roasted Leg of Lamb

This leg of lamb will blow you away with its flavors and tenderness. Slow-roasting yields super soft onions, flavorful potatoes, and fall-apart lamb meat. The roasted garlic cloves can be squeezed from the peels and enjoyed on fresh bread.
4.38 from 16 votes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Bulgarian, Greek
Servings: 8
Author: The Modern Nonna
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients 

Vinegar Soak (optional)

  • 28 cups water, (4 parts water to 1 part vinegar)
  • 7 cups white vinegar

The Lamb

  • 1 leg of lamb , 8 to 10 lbs
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
  • 4 teaspoons salt , quantity depends on the size of your meat
  • 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 rosemary, thyme, and/or mint (optional for aroma)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup white wine , (optional)

The Potatoes

  • 6 yellow potatoes, large, peeled and cut into wedges (900 grams or 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 lemon , juiced

Instructions 

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.

The Potatoes

  • 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.

Final Notes

  • 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.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 477kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 40g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 114mg, Sodium: 1338mg, Potassium: 1175mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 268IU, Vitamin C: 37mg, Calcium: 104mg, Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Bulgarian, Greek
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Hi! I'm Sneji. Nice to meet you!

I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on social media where I create easy home cooked meals with a modern twist. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world – my grandma’s kitchen. I lived in Greece on the Island of Crete with my parents for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5. I started to really cook and experiment with food 11 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life…

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    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.

  2. 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.

    1. Hi Teresa,
      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

  3. 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!!!!

    1. HIII Sue! I am so so excited! I KNOW your lamb will be PERFECT. Let me know the outcome please