Middle Eastern Shredded Lamb with Chickpea Pilaf (Rice)

This is one of those exotic dishes that looks and tastes like you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen for hours…but actually, very little active effort is required! Simple to make with everyday ingredients. The lamb is packed with flavour, juicy on the inside and golden brown and crispy on the outside!

Lamb is probably the most popular protein in Middle Eastern cuisine. The aromatic spices of the Middle East pair perfectly with the strong flavours of lamb. I’ve never actually come across a shredded Middle Eastern lamb recipe before, and that puzzles me. Because this is really scrumptious. I mean, REALLY scrumptious. Look at the gorgeous caramelisation on the lamb! Can you imagine the taste of the pan fried crispy edges, the heady exotic spices and the juicy lamb??

Though this recipe is a “from scratch” creation so it’s not an authentic recipe (as far as I know), the ingredients I use are drawn from classic Middle Eastern recipes. The preparation of the lamb is super fast, around 10 minutes to get it into the oven. I’ve also provided directions to make this in a slow cooker.

Middle Eastern Shredded Lamb

I can't say with certainty that this is authentic because it's a recipe I created. But it uses classic Middle Eastern ingredients, so possibly it is! The lamb is really juicy because it's made with lamb shoulder, a cut that is made for slow cooking. The pan frying step to get the crunchy brown bits is not optional - it's key! ! ! As with any shredded meat recipe, a little goes a long way. This makes around 8 cups of shredded lamb which I think is enough to serve 8 people as a main (with rice). See separate recipe below for Chickpea Pilaf (Rice).



  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cardamon or sub with ginger
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Black pepper


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1.5 - 2 kg / 3 - 4 lb lamb shoulder bone in, trimmed of excess fat
  • 3/4 cup water


  • 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Lemon highly recommended
  • Fresh coriander/cilantro leaves optional - recommended
  • Yoghurt optional


  • Preheat oven to 150C/300F.
  • Combine the Spice Mix ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside 1 1/2 tbsp of the Spice Mix for later (to pan fry the lamb).
  • Add the olive oil and garlic into the Spice Mix, then rub all over the lamb.
  • Place the lamb on a roasting rack set in a roasting dish (Note 1). Pour the water in the base of the dish. Cover with a lid or double layer of foil.
  • Roast for 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender enough to pull off with a fork.
  • Remove the lid. Turn the oven up as high as it will go and roast for 15 - 20 minutes until the lamb is browned.
  • Remove the lamb from the oven. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, then shred coarsely with two forks.
  • Skim excess fat off the juices in the roasting dish then set aside. (Note 2)


  • Toss the shredded lamb with the reserved Spice Mix (from Step 2 above).
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy based pan over high heat. Add some lamb (don't crowd the pan) and drizzle over about 3 tbsp of the pan juices. Cook until the underside is dark golden brown and crispy - about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (the juices you poured over will evaporate).
  • If the lamb is cold, flip to warm the other side but do not brown too much (retains juiciness).
  • Remove lamb from the fry pan, and repeat with remaining lamb, adding extra oil if required.
  • To serve, drizzle with a squeeze of lemon juice (this makes a big difference) and top with fresh coriander, plus yoghurt (if using). Serve on Chickpea Pilaf (Rice).

Recipe Notes:

1. You can use a couple of onions, halved, to elevate the lamb if you don't have a rack for your roasting dish.
2. If making ahead, stop at this step. Allow the shredded lamb to cool then divide into serving size portions and freeze in ziplock bags. Store the liquid separately, also in serving size portions.
3. SLOW COOKER instructions: I prefer making this in the oven because the lamb gets a better crust but it can be made in the slow cooker too. The pan frying makes up for the browning you don't get. To make this in a slow cooker, slow cook on HIGH for 6 hours and only use 1/4 cup water. No need to elevate the lamb off the base.

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