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What Herbs Go Well With Lamb

What Herbs Go Well With Lamb

Rosemary – A Classic Herb Pairing for Lamb

Rosemary is often considered the most classic herb pairing for lamb. The aromatic, woodsy flavor of rosemary beautifully complements the slight gaminess of lamb. Using rosemary is an easy way to elevate the flavor of lamb while keeping it simple.

Both dried and fresh rosemary work well with lamb. Fresh rosemary has a more pronounced flavor, while dried rosemary has a more concentrated intensity. When using dried rosemary, rub it between your fingers before using to help release the essential oils.

One of the best ways to use rosemary with lamb is to sprinkle it liberally on a rack of lamb before roasting it in the oven. The rosemary coats each bite with its lovely flavor. Simply strip the leaves off of a few fresh rosemary sprigs and coarsely chop them. Crush them a bit in your fingers to release the oils before sprinkling them evenly over the lamb.

Chopped fresh or dried rosemary can also be added to a marinade or spice rub for lamb chops before grilling or broiling. The rosemary infuses into the meat to provide great flavor. Similarly, skewer lamb kebabs can be marinated in oil, lemon juice, garlic, and lots of chopped rosemary before hitting the grill.

For stews, braises, shepherd’s pie, or other slow cooked lamb dishes, toss in a few rosemary sprigs early in the cooking process so the flavor has time to slowly infuse into the meal. Remove and discard the rosemary stems before serving.

Garlic and rosemary make an exceptional flavor combination for lamb. Simply mince a few cloves of garlic and the leaves from several rosemary sprigs together to make a rub. Rub it directly onto lamb chops or lamb leg before cooking. The garlic mellows and caramelizes while the rosemary provides its woodsy aroma.

In short, rosemary should be a go-to herb whenever cooking most lamb dishes. Its piney eucalyptus notes pair so well with lamb’s mildly gamey flavor. Use it dried or fresh in nearly any lamb recipe for an instant flavor boost.

Thyme Adds An Earthy, Minty Layer to Lamb

Like rosemary, thyme is another herb that pairs remarkably well with lamb. Thyme has an earthy, minty flavor that complements the rich taste of lamb’s meat. Both the dried and fresh versions of thyme work nicely in lamb dishes.

Since thyme has a less assertive flavor than rosemary, it is often used in combination with other herbs in lamb recipes rather than on its own. Thyme contributes an undertone of woodsy earthiness while other herbs like rosemary or oregano can provide the dominant flavor.

One great way to use thyme with lamb is to create a spice rub for the meat by combining dried thyme with ingredients like crushed garlic, black pepper, salt, and paprika or cumin. Gently rub the spice mix all over a leg of lamb before roasting it in the oven. As the lamb cooks, the meat will take on all the wonderful flavors of the rub.

Chopped fresh thyme can be tucked under the skin of a boneless leg of lamb before roasting for a wonderful flavor infusion. Or add both fresh and dried thyme along with other spices like cumin and coriander to make a flavorful stuffing for lamb.

The earthy mintiness of thyme also pairs well with Mediterranean style lamb dishes. Try sprinkling some dried thyme over lamb kofta kebabs before grilling them. Or add fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest to a yogurt marinade for lamb kabobs to infuse it with flavor before cooking.

For roasted lamb chops or a lamb roast, you can coarsely chop some fresh thyme leaves along with whole cloves of garlic and olive oil to make a fast herb paste. Rub it all over the lamb about 20 minutes before cooking so the flavors have time to penetrate into the meat.

Thyme’s woodsy, faintly minty essence makes it a great way to add subtle depth to lamb’s flavor profile. Use it dried or fresh in rubs, marinades, stuffings or on its own to give lamb dishes an extra layer of earthy aroma and taste.

Mint Offsets Lamb’s Richness With A Bright, Fresh Boost

Boosting lamb with fresh mint is a flavor pairing often found in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. The brightness of mint helps cut through the richness of lamb’s fat and meatiness. Using mint in lamb dishes like stews, kebabs, roasts or sauces provides contrast and elevates the flavor.

Mint grows abundantly all over the Mediterranean region including areas like Greece, Turkey and Morocco. So it makes sense that mint features prominently in the lamb dishes of these cuisines. The cool, energizing flavor of mint perfectly offsets the unctuous fat and slight gaminess of lamb.

Chopped fresh mint is often combined with Greek yogurt or strained yogurt like labneh to make refreshing sauces and marinades for lamb. Try mixing some chopped fresh mint into labneh along with lemon zest, garlic and olive oil. Spread this minty yogurt sauce over grilled lamb chops, roasted lamb, or lamb kebabs for a flavor burst.

Another great use for mint with lamb is in chimichurri sauce, which pairs excellently with grilled or roasted lamb dishes. To make a chimichurri with mint, combine chopped parsley and mint in a ratio of about 2:1 along with oil, vinegar, garlic, crushed red pepper and other herbs like oregano or thyme. Spoon this bright green sauce over sliced grilled leg of lamb or lamb chops.

Mint jelly is another traditional condiment for lamb, often served alongside a Sunday roast lamb dinner. Boil mint leaves in apple cider vinegar then strain out the leaves. Add sugar and pectin to thicken the remaining minty vinegar into a jelly-like glaze that goes great with roasted lamb.

When making lamb kebabs, add some fresh mint to your marinade recipe along with garlic, oil and lemon. You can either chop the mint very finely or purée it before mixing it into the marinade. The mint infuses the lamb with flavor as it marinates before hitting the grill. Garnish with more fresh mint for color.

Mint is also excellent in meaty lamb stews like tagines or biryanis. Add chopped fresh mint right at the end of cooking since the heat will cause it to lose its freshness quickly. The mint brightens up the rich stew and brings all the flavors together beautifully.

Tzatziki – the classic Greek yogurt and cucumber dip – is another way to use mint with lamb. Add about 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint along with diced cucumber, lemon juice, garlic and oil when making tzatziki. Use it as a sauce for lamb souvlaki, gyros, kebabs or even dolmas.

So remember that fresh mint can instantly take lamb from boring to exciting. Use it in marinades, sauces, stews or as a simple garnish to provide a blast of refreshing flavor.

Oregano Adds a Woodsy and Slightly Bitter Layer to Lamb

For those who enjoy bolder, more assertive flavors, oregano is an excellent herb to pair with lamb. Oregano has a robust woodsy aroma with a slightly bitter, peppery flavor. Using oregano plays up the savory qualities of lamb’s rich meatiness.

When cooking with oregano, the dried form tends to have a more pronounced flavor than fresh oregano. Dried oregano packs more concentrated essential oils, so a little goes a long way. When using fresh oregano, try to use it a bit more generously so its essence comes through.

In Greek cooking, oregano often features in marinades and rubs for lamb. Combine chopped fresh oregano with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to make a wet rub for lamb chops before grilling them. The acidic marinade tenderizes the meat while the oregano provides woodsy flavor.

Oregano is also excellent mixed into a dry spice rub for lamb along with ingredients like cumin, paprika or chili powder. Generously rub the spice mixture over lamb shoulder or lamb leg before roasting it low and slow to let the flavors permeate the meat.

Lamb and veggie kebabs also pair well with oregano when it’s added to the marinade. Try mixing chopped fresh oregano with oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. Let cubed lamb and vegetables like onions, bell peppers and zucchini marinate in this mixture to absorb the flavors before skewering and grilling them.

For roasted lamb chops or a rack of lamb, dried oregano can provide fantastic flavor when used alone as a simple seasoning. Just sprinkle it liberally over the lamb about 10 minutes prior to cooking so the heat brings out oregano’s aroma and flavor. Adding lemon wedges as a final touch pulls the whole dish together beautifully.

Oregano also goes nicely with Mediterranean lamb stews, like lamb moussaka. Sauté the oregano along with onion and garlic early in the cooking process to meld the flavors. For a Greek twist, add oregano to lamb stuffing along with feta, lemon, parsley and olive oil.

Next time you want to give your lamb a little extra oomph, reach for oregano. Its peppery, woodsy flavors pair so well with richer meats like lamb. Use dried oregano on its own to season lamb before cooking or fresh oregano in bold marinades and rubs.

Garlic Provides A Pungent Aroma and Flavor Base for Lamb

It’s hard to imagine lamb without garlic. This aromatic vegetable brings its distinctive pungent and slightly sweet flavor to all sorts of lamb dishes. Garlic adds another layer of savory complexity and pairs especially well with other bold lamb seasonings.

The great thing about garlic is that it is endlessly versatile in the kitchen. When cooking lamb, garlic can be used in many forms including raw, roasted whole, or browned to mellow its bite. Garlic cloves can be crushed, minced, sliced or pureed based on the flavor profile desired.

One fail proof combination is garlic, olive oil and rosemary used to season lamb before cooking. Simply mince a few cloves of garlic and crush them slightly along with some chopped fresh rosemary. Mix with enough olive oil to make a wet rub then slather it over lamb chops, lamb shoulder or lamb leg. As the lamb cooks, the garlic becomes mellow, sweet and caramelized.

Marinades and spice rubs intended for lamb also benefit from the addition of garlic. The tang and spice from ingredients like lemon juice, mustard or chili powder is smoothed out perfectly when combined with minced raw garlic. Take a basic lamb marinade of oil, vinegar and herbs and boost it with 2-4 cloves of finely chopped garlic.

For lamb kebabs, lamb kofta or ground lamb dishes, mince or puree several cloves of garlic and incorporate it right into the meat mixture itself. When the garlic is cooked into the meat rather than just coating the exterior, it provides even more flavor. Roasting also enhances garlic’s natural sweetness.

Don’t forget the classic pairing of garlic and rosemary when seasoning lamb. Mince both together into almost a paste then use to generously coat a rack of lamb, lamb chops or roast leg of lamb. The garlic mellows while the rosemary provides woodsy aroma to the lamb.

When roasting a whole lamb or just a lamb leg, try surrounding it with whole garlic bulbs and sprigs of rosemary tucked into the pan. As the lamb and garlic roast, their flavors mingle and permeate the meat while the garlic interior becomes spreadable and sweet when squeezed from each clove.

However you choose to use it, garlic rarely disappoints as an accent flavor for lamb. Let it star alongside rosemary or complement bolder spices. Roast garlic bulbs alongside lamb to mellow the bite. The combination of garlicky richness with lamb’s meaty savoriness is a match made in heaven.

Fresh Cilantro Brightens Up Lamb’s Richness

The fresh flavor of cilantro (also called coriander leaves) can provide a surprisingly perfect counterbalance to lamb’s rich meatiness. While not a traditionally European herb, cilantro features in many lamb dishes from global cuisines like Indian, Middle Eastern and Latin American.

Cilantro has a distinctive flavor dominated by citrusy, peppery notes that cut through fats and heavy textures quite well. When paired with lamb, bright cilantro helps lift and lighten dishes that benefit from its freshness. Use it at the end of cooking for maximum flavor and color vibrancy.

In Indian cuisine, lamb curries shine when garnished with chopped cilantro right before serving. The cooling flavor and green flecks of cilantro provide textural and flavor contrast to the rich, slow-cooked lamb curry gravy. Cilantro also pairs well with classic Indian lamb marinades made with garlic, ginger and spices like coriander, cumin and turmeric.

Middle Eastern lamb dishes like tagines and lamb kebabs are delicious when served with a fresh sprinkle of chopped cilantro over the top along with a good squeeze of lemon juice. This simple garnish adds a final punch of bright flavor to balance the strong spices and savory lamb.

For Latin American lamb recipes, add cilantro to slow cooker dishes like birria or mole lamb to wake up the flavors right before serving. Or make a traditional chimichurri sauce with lots of chopped cilantro instead of (or along with) parsley to serve over grilled or roasted lamb. The acidity of chimichurri cuts through lamb’s fattiness nicely.

Don’t overlook cilantro as an addition to marinades and rubs for lamb, too. Combine chopped cilantro with chili powder, cumin, garlic, lime juice and olive oil for a zesty Mexican-inspired lamb marinade. Or purée fresh cilantro with jalapeño, Greek yogurt, lime, garlic and oil for a unique marinade for lamb chops or kebabs before grilling.

So next time you cook up a lamb curry, tagine, stew or spice-rubbed roast, finish it off with a generous sprinkle of fresh, green cilantro. The bright flavor and color makes any lamb dish feel lighter and more vibrant.

Dill Provides A Fresh Anise-Like Essence to Lamb

For those who enjoy tangy, anise-like seasonings, fresh dill can add a nice layer of flavor complexity to lamb. Often paired with fish, dill might not seem an intuitive choice for lamb. However, this summery herb’s delicate flavor pairs better with lamb than you might expect.

Dill has anise or licorice-esque notes similar to fennel, tarragon and aniseed. But it is lighter and more fleeting than those bold spices and herbs. When used properly with lamb, dill provides a subtle lift of freshness and highlights the richness of the meat.

To bring out the best flavor from dill, always use it fresh. Dried dill weed does not have the same vibrancy as the fresh leaves and stems. Chop dill finely and add it raw near the end of cooking for maximum aromatic essence. Exposing it to prolonged heat dulls dill’s fragile flavor.

One classic way to enjoy dill with lamb is in a tzatziki style yogurt sauce. Mix fresh chopped dill into plain Greek yogurt along with grated cucumber, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Generously dollop this refreshing dill yogurt sauce over slices of grilled or roasted lamb. The cooling, tangy yogurt contrasts the lamb’s fattiness.

For lamb kofta, meatballs or kebabs, try mixing some minced fresh dill into the ground lamb mixture itself along with onion, garlic, spices and pine nuts. Grill the seasoned lamb kebabs then serve with more fresh dill yogurt sauce for a double dose of bright flavor.

Dill also pairs well with Mediterranean style lamb dishes. Make a marinade for lamb shoulder chops or leg of lamb using fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and lots of chopped dill. Let the lamb marinate for at least 1-2 hours for the dill to infuse its essence before roasting or grilling.

Don’t overlook using fresh dill as a finishing touch over the top of roasted or braised lamb dishes. Right before serving, sprinkle on a generous amount of fresh chopped dill for a final punch of refreshing anise flavor and lovely green flecks of color.

For those who grow their own dill or find it cheap and abundant at the market in summer, try making a dill infused lamb stew with onion, carrots, lamb shanks, white wine and lots of fresh dill. Simmer the dill in the stew so the flavor infuses into the broth.

So next time you’re cooking lamb chops, roast lamb or kebabs, consider livening it up with some fresh dill. Use it raw at the end or cooked into a marinade, sauce or stew for a little anise essence. Just don’t overdo it – a little dill goes a long way with lamb.

Parsley Provides A Fresh Finish and Pop of Color for Lamb

Parsley is another nice fresh herb to try with lamb if you want to brighten up the flavor. The grassy, herbaceous quality of parsley helps cut through the richness of lamb’s meat and fat. Its green flavor and color provides contrast and visual appeal.

For most cooked lamb dishes, flat-leaf / Italian parsley is preferred over the curly variety. Flat-leaf parsley has a more pronounced flavor and stands up better to cooking. It also chops into a fluffier texture versus curly parsley’s denseness. Make sure to use fresh parsley rather than dried for the best vibrancy.

Chopped fresh parsley can provide a welcome fresh finish over braised lamb dishes like lamb shanks or lamb stew. Right before serving, sprinkle on a generous amount of chopped parsley for a final burst of freshness and lovely green speckles. Parsley pairs especially well with tomato-based lamb braises.

Parsley also works great in chimichurri sauce, which is excellent served with grilled or roasted lamb. To make a chimichurri, combine chopped flat-leaf parsley with oregano, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. The bright, herby parsley is fantastic drizzled over seared lamb chops or slices of leg of lamb.

Lamb kebabs are another prime option for fresh parsley. Try mixing some chopped parsley into the ground lamb mixture before forming kebabs, along with spices like cumin, paprika and garlic. The parsley provides little bursts of flavor in each bite. Garnish the finished grilled lamb kebabs with a bit more chopped parsley for color.

When roasting a whole lamb or just a leg of lamb, sprinkle lots of coarsely chopped parsley over the meat about 10 minutes before it’s done. Let the parsley slightly wilt and get crispy edges from the heat of the lamb for the best texture and flavor. The parsley’s freshness balances beautifully with the intensely savory roasted lamb.

Don’t be afraid to use parsley stems along with the leaves when making lamb stock or lamb stew. The stems contain lots of flavor. Simmer parsley stems in the stock or stew, then remove before serving. Chop up the leaves to stir in last minute for a fresh hit of flavor and color.

Conclusion

Lamb’s rich, savory flavor pairs so well with fresh herbs. The key is picking herbs that complement lamb’s meatiness instead of overpowering it. Favorites like rosemary, thyme, and oregano add woodsy notes while mint and parsley brighten things up. Don’t be afraid to experiment with less expected herbs too like cilantro, dill or even tarragon. Use them in marinades, as stuffing, chopped over the top, or mixed into sauce. Herbs add tons of flavor complexity to lamb while keeping it simple. With the right fresh herb combinations, you can take your lamb roasts, chops, stews and more from boring to beautiful.

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