Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb

published Apr 18, 2024
Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb Recipe

The sauce is almost better than the lamb.

Serves6 to 8

Prep30 minutes

Cook3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours

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overhead shot of braised moroccan lamb on a large white platter, topped with herbs
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Every Hanukah and Rosh Hashanah my mom makes her absolutely perfect beef brisket (hers is a family secret, but Josh Cohen’s recipe is fab and our Instant Pot recipe has rave reviews!). So for the very first Passover seder I hosted myself, I wanted to try my own thing. That’s where this lamb shoulder comes in. Now I make it every year.

Lamb always feels very spring-y to me, so it’s perfect for the holiday. I like lamb shoulder because the large format cut will feed a crowd and, with a long enough cook time, it has the most tender texture and rich flavor. I braise it low and slow in the oven with broth, red wine, and ras el hanout, a Moroccan warm spice blend. The spices are typically used for stews and marinades, lending the perfect amount of warmth and a touch of sweetness. A typical ras el hanout blend has at least 10 individual spices in it, so I love the blend as a great shortcut to big flavor.

Once you get it in the oven, the lamb is hands-free, so I have plenty of time to do other things while I wait. Then, for the last 30 minutes of cooking, I sprinkle in roasted almonds, dried apricots, and prunes into the braising liquid and let it cook uncovered. The top of the lamb gets crispy and the liquid reduces to a sauce that is nutty, jammy and savory-sweet. The spices, dried fruit, and almonds are all the same flavors you’d expect to find in a traditional Morroccan tagine, except here the lamb is braised whole on the bone, rather than in pieces. I love it so much that every year without fail, when I make it again, it’s even better than I remembered.

Why You’ll Love It

  • I come back to my braised lamb shoulder recipe every year because it feeds a crowd, and the shredded texture is more tender than any other lamb I’ve had.
  • Nutty roasted almonds and dried fruit turn the braising liquid into the most amazing, savory-sweet jammy sauce you’ll want to spoon over everything on your Passover plate, not just the lamb.

Key Ingredients in Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb

  • Lamb. Bone-in lamb shoulder takes a while to break down and become tender, so braising is ideal for fall-off-the-bone, juicy meat.
  • Aromatics. Onions, carrots, celery, and garlic add flavor to the meat and cook down to create a flavorful sauce.
  • Spices. Ras el hanout and some extra ground cumin add a depth of flavor and warmth.
  • Dried fruit. Prunes and dried apricots rehydrate in the sauce, giving it a jammy texture and sweet flavor.
  • Almonds. Roast slivered almonds while the oven is heating, and you prep the vegetables to keep things moving.
  • Braising liquid. Deglaze the pot with dry red wine, then add low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth for a flavorful base to your braise.
  • Fresh herbs. Before serving, sprinkle the braised lamb with chopped fresh mint and parsley for a pop of freshness and color.

How to Make Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb

  1. Prep the ingredients. While your oven is preheating, roast slivered almonds. Meanwhile, chop onions, carrots, celery, and garlic.
  2. Brown the lamb. Brown the lamb well on all sides, starting with the fat cap to render the drippings. This will help enhance the flavor and color of the final product.
  3. Build the braising liquid. Sauté all of the chopped veggies in lamb drippings, then add ras el hanout, cumin, and tomato paste. Stir until the spices are fragrant and tomato paste is slightly darkened. Deglaze the pan with red wine, then add chicken or vegetable stock.
  4. Braise the lamb. Nestle the lamb in fat-side down and braise in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Flip the lamb over and braise until the meat is falling off the bone. Stir in dried apricots, prunes, and roasted almonds and bake, uncovered, until the top of the lamb is crispy and deeply browned.
  5. Shred and serve. Shred the lamb, discarding any bones. Serve on a platter with all of the pan sauce and a generous sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Helpful Swaps

  • Add a couple tablespoons of harissa with the tomato paste for some added heat.
  • Swap the dried apricots for dried unsweetened cherries.
  • Add or substitute other fresh herbs like cilantro, dill, and chives.

Serving suggestions

Moroccan-Style Braised Lamb Recipe

The sauce is almost better than the lamb.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    large, bone-in lamb shoulder (4 1/2 to 5 1/2 pounds)

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups

    slivered almonds

  • 2

    large yellow onions

  • 1

    large carrot

  • 2

    medium celery stalks

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 3/4 cup

    dried apricots

  • 3/4 cup

    pitted prunes

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons

    ras el hanout

  • 3 teaspoons

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup

    dry red wine

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1/4

    medium bunch fresh parsley

  • 1/2

    medium bunch fresh mint

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle 1 bone-in lamb shoulder lamb evenly with 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. (Alternatively, refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours or overnight, then let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.)

  2. Arrange 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. While the oven is preheating, roast the almonds until lightly golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.

  3. Peel and coarsely chop 2 large yellow onions (about 4 cups) and 1 large carrot (about 3/4 cup). Coarsely chop 2 medium celery stalks (about 1 cup). Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Coarsely chop 3/4 cup dried apricots and 3/4 cup pitted prunes.

  4. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high until shimmering. Add the lamb fat side down and cook undisturbed until some of the fat renders and the bottom is deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Carefully flip the lamb. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden-brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the lamb to a plate or rimmed baking sheet. Transfer all but 1/4 cup of the drippings to a heatproof bowl.

  5. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are browned in spots and slightly softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ras el hanout, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Cook until fragrant and the tomato paste is slightly darkened, about 2 minutes.

  6. Add 1 cup dry red wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth.

  7. Return the lamb, fat side down to the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil.

  8. Cover and transfer to the oven. Braise for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Flip the lamb, cover, and braise in the oven until fork-tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 2 hours more.

  9. Increase the oven temperature to 400ºF. Stir the apricots, prunes, and almonds into the braising liquid. Return to the oven and braise uncovered until the lamb is deeply browned and crispy on top, 20 to 30 minutes.

  10. Transfer the lamb to a clean cutting board. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon off the fat from the surface of the sauce, if needed.

  11. Shred the lamb into large chunks. Pick the leaves from 1/4 medium bunch fresh parsley and 1/2 medium bunch fresh mint and coarsely chop until you have about 2 tablespoons of each. Spoon the sauce onto a serving platter and top with the lamb. Garnish with the parsley and mint.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The lamb can be salted and refrigerated, uncovered, overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. All of the braising vegetables can be prepped up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. The dried fruit and almonds can be prepped up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Substitutions: The red wine can be substituted with more low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth.