This is the very best traditional Greek lamb kleftiko recipe (aka Greek lamb wrapped in parchment paper). Juicy and tender, melt-in-the-mouth lamb kleftiko with fluffy potatoes and a delicious white wine sauce, infused with the aromas of garlic, sweet onions, roast peppers and juicy tomatoes.
What is Lamb Kleftiko?
Lamb kleftiko is a rustic, traditional Greek recipe made with slow-cooked lamb that’s first marinated in garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. This traditional recipe was originally cooked in an earth oven, a simple pit in the ground, used to trap heat and smoke.
Lamb kleftiko literally means lamb “stolen.” This name is said to originate from the Klephts who would steal lamb or goats and cook the meat in hidden underground ovens in order to seal the flavors and smells, as well as to avoid being caught.
- Boneless Leg of Lamb: I always prefer using a leg of lamb for this Kleftiko recipe. It’s prepared in a slow-cooked, which makes it super tender and juicy. You could either use the leg whole, which will require some extra cooking time, or ask your butcher to cut it into large, bone-in pieces.
- Vegetables: I used red onions, bell peppers, garlic, and potatoes in this homemade lamb Kleftiko recipe. Not only do they impart great flavor, but they also turn this into a complete meal!
- White Wine: I know that a lot of home chefs prefer to pair red meat with red wine, but a dry white wine works best in this lamb Kleftiko recipe. Don’t use a super sweet wine. Pinot Grigio, Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc work well.
How To Make It
Nowadays, lamb Kleftiko is baked, sealed, and wrapped in parchment paper (in parcels or pouches) to keep all the juices and flavors inside (see also the preparation photos below).
For this Greek lamb kleftiko recipe, I always prefer using a leg of lamb, which when slow cooked becomes super tender. You could either use the leg whole, which will require some extra cooking time, or ask your butcher to cut it into large, bone-in pieces. Although a lot of lamb kleftiko recipes don’t add the potatoes in the same pouch with the lamb, I strongly recommend doing so for them to soak up all the delicious lamb juices.
Marinating the lamb kleftiko for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, is essential to allow the meat to absorb all the wonderful Mediterranean flavors and aromas.
Tip: The secret step to the perfect lamb kleftiko is to unwrap the parchment paper right before its fully done, turn the heat up and bake a little longer to get the lamb and the potatoes nicely colored and crispy on the outside.
This earthy dish is best paired with a refreshing Greek feta salad, or a Greek Orzo Salad (Orzo feta salad) which cuts into the meaty lamb flavor and will further enrich this traditional dish with the aromas of oregano and feta. You can also serve this homemade lamb kleftiko with any of these side dishes:
- Easy homemade pita bread
- Lemony Greek rice pilaf
- Greek mixed roasted vegetables
- Traditional Greek green beans
- Bean soup
Tips and Variations
- If you are not too keen on lamb, a very popular variation of this lamb kleftiko is pork kleftiko or exohiko.
- Use sweet potatoes in place of the white potatoes for a healthier spin on this classic Greek dish!
- Spice it up with some crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or sliced jalapeno peppers.
- Add more veggies! This homemade lamb kleftiko is a great way to clean out your fridge. Zucchini, eggplant, radishes, and carrots would be delicious.
This homemade lamb kleftiko recipe is great for meal-prepping! Store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
More Recipes To Try
- Traditional Moussaka
- Lamb Souvlaki Skewers
- Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo
- Honey-Glazed Greek Roast Lamb with Potatoes
- Spicy Minced Lamb Kofta Kebabs (aka Giaourtlou)
So, go ahead and prepare this traditional Greek lamb kleftiko recipe for your friends and family and impress them with this delicious hearty, traditional family dinner. Enjoy! Oh, and you can always read this delicious recipe in Greek here: Παραδοσιακή συνταγή για Αρνί Κλέφτικο.Print
The very best traditional Greek lamb kleftiko recipe (kleftico)! Juicy, tender, melt-in-the-mouth Greek lamb cooked in parchment paper with fluffy potatoes.
- 1–1.2 kg/ 35 oz. leg of lamb, boneless (approx. 2kg/ 70 oz. bone in)
- 2 small red onions
- 2–3 bell peppers (green, red, orange)
- 4 cloves of garlic (2 sliced and 2 whole)
- 2 tbsps mustard
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/2 a cup olive oil
- 1/2 a cup dry white wine
- 200g kefalotyri or Graviera or any had yellow cheese, cut into cubes (7 oz.)
- 5 medium sized potatoes
- 1/2 ripe tomato, sliced
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- parchment paper
- kitchen string
- To prepare this Greek lamb kleftiko recipe, start by washing thoroughly the lamb and cut into portions (approx. 5*6 cm). Place in a large bowl or basin and set aside.
- Prepare the vegetables for the lamb kleftiko. Cut the onions in half and then in four wedges. Cut the peppers in 2-3 cm chunks and slice 2 cloves of garlic. Add the vegetables in the bowl with the lamb and pour in the olive oil, white wine and lemon juice. Add the mustard, 2 whole cloves of garlic, sprinkle with oregano and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to blend all the ingredients together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, chill and let marinade for at least 2 hours. It’s best to leave the meat for the lamb kleftiko marinade overnight, to soak up all the wonderful flavours.
- Once the meat for the lamb kleftiko is marinated, return the lamb at room temperature. In the same bowl add the cheese (cut into 2cm cubes) and blend. Preheat the oven to 180C.
- To prepare the potatoes for this lamb kleftiko recipe, peel the potatoes and cut in four pieces. (The lamb kleftiko will require about 2 1/2 hours baking, so it’s best to cut the potatoes in large pieces, to keep their shape.)
- Now it’s time to wrap the lamb kleftiko in parchment paper. Lay 4 long pieces of parchment paper to form a star. Pop the potatoes in the centre of the parchment paper and season with salt and a pinch of oregano. Pour the marinade from the lamb over the potatoes and set the lamb and vegetables on top of the potatoes. Layer with the sliced tomato and enclose the lamb kleftiko into a pouch. To enclose the lamb kleftiko hold the parchment paper from the edges, crosswise and grab with your hand in the middle, just above the stuffing and squeeze. Use the kitchen string to tie tightly the whole thing together, just above the stuffing and lift into a roasting tin.
- Roast the lamb kleftiko in the oven for about 1 hour 45 minutes until tender. Remove the tin from the oven and increase the temperature to 220C. Unwrap the lamb kleftiko and scrunch the parchment paper under the rim of the tin. Baste the lamb with the juices and return in the oven for a further 20 mins until browned. Remove the pieces of lamb from the pouch and wrap them in some foil to rest. Toss the potatoes and return in the oven for about 20 minutes, until nicely coloured.
- Return the lamb pieces in the roasting tin and serve the lamb kleftiko as it is. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 714kcal
- Sugar: 4.8g
- Sodium: 1236.9mg
- Fat: 37.2g
- Saturated Fat: 11.8g
- Unsaturated Fat: 23.1g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 33.4g
- Fiber: 5.5g
- Protein: 57.4g
- Cholesterol: 152mg
Keywords: Lamb kleftiko, Greek lamb dish, kleftico recipe