Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko Recipe - Traditional Greek Dish

Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko

Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko Recipe - Traditional Greek Dish
Region / culture: Greece | Preparation time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 4-6 hours | Servings: 4-6


Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko
Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko

Lamb Kleftiko is a traditional Greek dish that is known for its tender and flavorful meat. This dish is typically made with lamb that is slow-cooked in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice. The result is a dish that is succulent and full of rich flavors.


The origins of Lamb Kleftiko can be traced back to the Greek countryside, where shepherds would slow-cook lamb in clay ovens. The dish was named after the Kleftes, who were Greek bandits that roamed the countryside. The bandits would steal sheep and cook them in the mountains, using whatever ingredients they had on hand. Over time, the dish became a popular staple in Greek cuisine.


  • 1 boned shoulder of lamb (about 2 kg) or a bone-in lamb hindquarter cut into neat fist sized chunks by your butcher, or a bone-in lamb forequarter cut into neat fist sized chunks by your butcher (see above for weight needed)
  • 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, cut into slivers
  • 4 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

How to prepare

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (325°F).
  2. Heat 50 ml of oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the lamb and brown it on all sides.
  4. Remove the lamb from the pan and drain it on a paper towel.
  5. Using a wooden skewer or similar tool, make holes in the lamb and insert the garlic slivers into the holes.
  6. Place the lamb inside tinfoil and add the herbs, lemon juice, and the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Wrap the lamb tightly in the tinfoil. Place another layer of foil over it and fit the lid.
  8. Place the lamb in the oven and cook for 4 to 6 hours.
  9. Remove the lamb from the oven shortly before serving.
  10. Open the foil and pierce the bottom of the foil cover to start draining the juices.
  11. Serve the lamb in chunky portions and spoon the remaining juice over the portions – they should be tender and almost falling apart at this stage.
  12. Serve with your choice of vegetables.
  13. Please let me know how you enjoyed this recipe.


  • You can use a different cut of lamb, such as leg or shank, for this recipe.
  • Add additional herbs or spices, such as oregano or thyme, for extra flavor.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

Make sure to brown the lamb before cooking it in the oven. This will help seal in the juices and create a flavorful crust.

- Use fresh herbs and garlic for the best flavor.

- Be sure to tightly wrap the lamb in foil to keep it moist and tender.

- Let the lamb rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.

Serving Suggestions

Serve Lamb Kleftiko with a side of roasted vegetables or a Greek salad for a complete meal.

Cooking Techniques

Slow-cooking the lamb in the oven allows it to become tender and flavorful.

Ingredient Substitutions

You can use chicken or beef as a substitute for lamb in this recipe.

Make Ahead Tips

You can prepare the lamb ahead of time and reheat it before serving.

Presentation Ideas

Serve the Lamb Kleftiko on a platter with fresh herbs and lemon wedges for a beautiful presentation.

Pairing Recommendations

Pair this dish with a glass of red wine, such as a Greek Agiorgitiko or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven or microwave before serving.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

350 per serving


0g per serving


- Total Fat: 25g per serving

- Saturated Fat: 7g per serving


- Protein: 30g per serving

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin A: 2% DV

- Vitamin C: 10% DV

- Iron: 15% DV


This recipe contains garlic.


This dish is high in protein and healthy fats, making it a nutritious option for a hearty meal.


Lamb Kleftiko is a delicious and flavorful dish that is perfect for a special occasion or a cozy night in. With its tender meat and rich flavors, this dish is sure to become a favorite in your household. Enjoy!

How did I get this recipe?

I remember the sense of anticipation I felt when I first discovered this recipe for Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko. It was many years ago, during a trip to Greece with my dear friend Maria. We were exploring the beautiful countryside, enjoying the warm sunshine and the delicious food that Greece is famous for.

One evening, we stumbled upon a quaint little taverna in a small village. The aroma of roasting lamb filled the air, and I knew we had to try whatever dish was being prepared. The owner of the taverna, a kind elderly man named Nikos, greeted us warmly and invited us to join him for dinner.

As we sat at the wooden table, Nikos brought out a large clay pot filled with tender chunks of lamb, potatoes, and herbs. The meat was so tender it practically fell off the bone, and the potatoes were perfectly seasoned and crispy on the outside. Maria and I couldn't stop raving about how delicious it was.

I asked Nikos for the recipe, and he smiled and said it was a family secret that had been passed down for generations. He offered to show me how to make it, and I eagerly accepted. Nikos took me into the kitchen and taught me how to marinate the lamb in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. He showed me how to layer the meat and potatoes in the clay pot, sealing it with a layer of parchment paper and a tight-fitting lid to trap in the flavors.

As the lamb cooked slowly in the oven, filling the taverna with its mouthwatering aroma, I knew I had stumbled upon a recipe that would become a family favorite for years to come. Maria and I enjoyed every bite of the Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko that night, savoring the tender meat and crispy potatoes.

When I returned home from Greece, I couldn't wait to recreate the dish for my family. I carefully followed Nikos' instructions, marinating the lamb overnight and layering it with potatoes in a clay pot. As the dish cooked in the oven, my kitchen was filled with the same tantalizing aroma that had captivated me in that little taverna in Greece.

When I served the Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko to my family, they were amazed at how tender and flavorful the meat was. They devoured every last bite, licking their fingers and asking for seconds. I knew then that this recipe would become a staple in our household.

Over the years, I have made Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko for countless family gatherings and dinner parties. Each time, it never fails to impress my guests with its rich flavors and melt-in-your-mouth texture. I have shared the recipe with friends and neighbors, passing on the tradition that Nikos started in that small village in Greece.

As I sit here in my kitchen, preparing another batch of Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko for dinner tonight, I am filled with gratitude for the experiences and memories that have led me to this moment. Cooking has always been a passion of mine, and I am thrilled to have discovered such a delicious and cherished recipe that brings joy to everyone who tastes it.

So, if you ever find yourself in Greece, be sure to visit a local taverna and try the Finger-licking Lamb Kleftiko. And if you're lucky enough to meet a kind soul like Nikos who is willing to share their family recipe with you, consider yourself truly blessed. The flavors of this dish will transport you to the sun-drenched hills of Greece and leave you craving more with every bite. Bon appétit!


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