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A simple recipe for roasted Leg of Lamb with a Harissa Yogurt Crust. This bone-in lamb leg yields a beautiful flavorful crust with juicy tender meat and requires only 3 minutes of hands-on time before slow-roasting in the oven. A beautiful holiday main. Leftovers make great gyros or tacos.
This flavorful recipe for Harissa Roasted Leg of Lamb is surprisingly easy to make and takes very little hands-on time before letting the oven take over. It’s slathered with a blend of herbs, garlic, harissa paste and yogurt, and roasted low and slow for about 2 hours, while it develops a beautiful crust. A decadent, flavorful holiday main or Sunday supper.
Growing up, our Christmas feast often included lamb, and leg of lamb, in particular, was one of my father’s favorite holiday traditions. It was a special occasion kind of meal and it always brings back happy memories for me.
This month we are partnering with American Lamb to create a festive recipe worthy of your holiday table. Check out @fanoflamb on Instagram and Facebook, and enter to win great prizes!
It starts with bone-in Leg of Lamb, and if possible try to buy your lamb locally. Local American Lamb farmers and ranchers are committed to practices that protect the environment, improve land management, and foster animal well-being. Their sheep improve pastures and rangeland by cycling vital nutrients back through the soil, minimizing erosion, and encouraging native plant growth. And sheep that are allowed to graze on a variety of nutrient-dense grasses, legumes, and forage will produce succulent, tender meat.
For a leaner roast, trim the fat. I will say that leaving a small layer of fat here does make for an extra delicious crust. You decide.
Score the leg of lamb on both sides, about 1/2 inch deep with a sharp knife every 2 inches. Here I’ve crossed hatched it.
Season with salt.
Blend the spice, harissa paste, garlic, shallots and herbs to create a marinade.
Here I’m using this Villa Jerada Brand of Harissa paste or you can make your own Harissa Paste from scratch.
Harissa, if unfamiliar is a flavorful red chili paste hailing from North Africa.
Blend it all up and add more Harissa to taste. I used 3 tablespoons and it was just a little spicy, next time I would add more.
Lather the marinade on all sides of the already salted, leg of lamb, getting the marinade in all the cuts, and place it on a rack in a roasting pan.
Feel free to surround with roasting veggies (toss with olive oil, salt and pepper).
At this point, you could refrigerate overnight or let this come to room temp and roast.
Tent the roast with foil to prevent it from over-browning for the first hour.
Place the roast in the lower rack of the oven.
Roast at 35oF, removing the foil after 1 hour.
Plan on 20 mins of roasting time per pound for medium-rare (125-130F at the thickest end) at 350F degrees.
NOTE: because every oven is different, keep an eye on the roast after the first hour, checking every 15-20 minutes. You can re-tent with foil if getting too brown. A little color is good here, but you don’t want it to burn. If you leave the fat on, you can always carefully brown at the end with the broiler to help crisp up that fat.
Once the roast reaches 130F, pull it out, tent it again and let it rest 15-20 minutes before cutting into it, allowing the juices to remain in the meat, which will help keep it tender.
Serve with an herby green sauce like Preserved Lemon Gremolata, or Green Harissa Yogurt.
Hope you enjoy this flavorful Leg of Lamb recipe and let us know how it turns out in the comments below.
More lamb recipes you may like:
- Grilled Lamb Chops with Harissa Yogurt
- Slow-Roasted Lamb Shawarma
- Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate
- Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Herb Salad and Yogurt Sauce
- Lamb Meatballs with Indian Curry Sauce
- Instant Pot Lamb Tagine
Leg of Lamb with Harissa Yogurt Crust
- Prep Time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 120 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours
- Yield: 8 1x
- Category: main, lamb, roast
- Method: baked
- Cuisine: North African
A simple recipe for Leg of Lamb with a Harissa Yogurt Crust. This bone-in lamb leg yields a beautiful flavorful crust with juicy tender meat.
- 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 lb leg of lamb, bone-in.
- 8–10 fat garlic cloves
- 2 shallots, quartered
- 3–4 tablespoons Harissa Paste
- 2 tablespoons preserved lemons(or 1 tablespoon lemon zest)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or one tablespoon dried)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup thick whole milk yogurt, plain
Optional: roasting vegetables- potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, etc.
Serve with Preserved Lemon Gremolata or Green Harissa Yogurt
Prep the Lamb: Trim the fat off the leg if you prefer a leaner version -or leave some on for extra flavor. See notes. Score all sides of leg 1/2 inch deep, 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart (crosshatch if you like), sprinkle generously with salt and bring to room temp for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F
Make the Marinade: Place garlic, shallot, Harissa paste, preserved lemon, salt, cumin, pepper, caraway seeds, thyme and olive oil in a food processer and pulse until uniformly chopped. Add the yogurt, pulse a few times (don’t blend or it will get runny). Taste for heat, adding more harissa paste to taste.
Assemble: Place the lamb over a rack in a roasting pan. Lift the bone end of the leg straight up and brush the underside of the leg with the Harissa Yogurt getting into the slits and cuts as best you can. Lay it down over the rack, brush the remaining marinade over the top, getting into slits and lathering it up generously. Nestle in any roasting veggies you like (toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper first.) You could brush any remaining marinade on the veggies if you like.
BAKE: AT 350F, plan on 20 minutes per pound for rare to medium-rare so plan on roughly 2 hours. Place lamb on the lower third of the oven, loosely covered with a foil “tent” for one hour. Remove foil and check temp. Because every oven is different, keep an eye on the roast after the first hour, checking every 20 minutes or so for over-browning. You can always re-tent with foil if getting too dark. A little color is good here, but you don’t want it to burn. (If you leave the fat on, you can always carefully brown using the broiler, at the end to help crisp up that fat.)
Once the roast reaches 125-130F at the thickest end, pull it out, tent it again and let it rest 15-20 minutes before cutting into it, allowing the juices to remain in the meat, which will help keep the meat tender.
Serve with an herby sauce like Preserved Lemon Gremolata or Gremolata or Green Harissa.
Feel free to make a pan sauce with the drippings in the pan.
- Serving Size: 8 ounces
- Calories: 576
- Sugar: 0.9 g
- Sodium: 680.3 mg
- Fat: 40.2 g
- Saturated Fat: 16.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.6 g
- Fiber: 0.4 g
- Protein: 48.1 g
- Cholesterol: 215.1 mg
Keywords: leg of lamb, leg of lamb recipe, roast leg of lamb, leg of lamb marinade, leg of lamb harissa, leg of lamb bone in, bone in leg of lamb, moroccan leg of lamb, harissa lamb roast, lamb roast,
Added chopped mint, a mixture of caraway, cumin, sesame seeds, and coriander, Aleppo pepper, and sumac to the yogurt marinade and let it rest in the fridge overnight. I have a boneless leg, so I’ll do it on the grill instead.
Changed my mind, I had enough time to cook it as written and oh my oh my, how tasty was this?! Got enough left over for dinner tonight so I´m thinking of making lamb swarmas or something, not letting any of it go to waste. Thank you for sharing this recepi 🙂 Rakel x
Hi Sylvia, seen this recepi on Pintrest and your pictures are making me drool, so I got about 2kg leg of lamb delivered from my local supermarket this morning, will marinade it on Saturday evening and cook it on Sunday for the 4 of us, but I was wondering if you knew what temp to put the oven on and how long for if I wanted to slow roast it (I have a pan with a lid) Many thanks and no worries if you´re not sure. Rakel 🙂
Hi Rakel, totally guessing here but you could try 325F for 3-4 hours?
I made this with a smaller boneless leg of lamb and it was delicious! Roasted some spring onions, carrots, and potatoes to go with it.
Hello, I was wanting to do this with a bone in half leg of lamb approx 3.1 pounds. Would I just go by the 20mins per pound with the foil on (so about an hour) & then another 10 mins of so with the foil off to brown it? Or would you take the foil off earlier?
Hi Hannah- I think what I would do, is just leave the foil off in the beginning and then just keep checking it and foil if needed towards the end. Yes, 20 mins per pound, but this is rough estimate so be sure to check it and use a thermometer.
Thanks Sylvia for your reply. It worked perfectly. Absolutely delicious….flavours were amazing!! I’d like to do this recipe again for a dinner party, but wondered how I could get more of a pulled lamb, rather than having to carve it, but still get a nice crust on it? May not be possible?? Would be glad if you had any suggestions…could I cook it longer & on a lower temperature, then turn up the temperature at the end to crisp up? Just would be much easier to serve on a platter & guests are able to pull pieces of with tongs, rather than having to carve it.
Hi Hannah yes, you could slow roast this. I would cook it pot roast style- enclosed (using a lid or foil) seasoned with spices and salt, with a little broth, low and slow, a few hours, until falling apart, then uncover, lather on the marinade? Roast uncovered and Let it get a little carmelized?
Love this recipe.I’m thinking I was meant to take foil tent off after first hour of cooking?? Is that correct?
Yes, I would. 🙂
This was the biggest piece of meat I have ever worked with! A true monster, but our butcher did all of the work. All I had to do was slather and bake. I used a local and surprisingly hard to find canned Harissa that I think took away from the flavor. I say hard to find because I am living in Tel Aviv, and Its the Middle East and you would;d think this would be an easy to find condiment! It was very good and we were ably to parlay the leftovers into lamb+rice stuffed peppers and your ‘Greek lamb tacos’ !
That is funny- yes you’d think you could find amazing Harissa there! I also have a harissa recipe on the blog that is quite tasty.
Wonderful recipe – followed exactly. Was a hit for NYE dinner! Will be making again.
Great to hear!
I made this yesterday, Christmas Day for our grandson’s fifth. Birthday party day for the family. Very daring to try a new recipe! It was amazing!!! Followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfectly! Thank you soooo much! Jane
This was delicious. Did use a boneless leg as that’s what I had already bought. Will definitely be making again. Made gravy with harissa and lamb dripping. This helped make up for not being able to score as deeply.
Happy Holidays! I saw this recipe and decided to try it. I too grew up celebrating special occasions featuring leg of lamb. I ended up buying a boneless one. How will that change the cooking method and flavor of the meat? Thanks for all your inspiring recipes!
I haven’t tried it with Boneless. I would not score as deeply and it would not need to cook as long.
we have always loved Lamb , I debone and rotisserie. with rosemary garlic lots of garlic pushed int slits all over the roast ,your recipe is intriguing. so Ill combine the two in a new way thank you for your recipe. Isn’t food rewarding !!! as my old associate James Beard would say ” Good Appetite ” and I would say Good Eating.
Love it Joseph. Rotisserie sounds perfect with this lamb!
Can’t wait to try this recipe for Christmas! Do you think it could be made in a pressure cooker, or would the lack of browning be problematic? If it’s possible, how long would you cook it and at what pressure?
I do not recommend this in a pressure cooker.