Lamb Kleftiko Recipe (Greek Lamb Cooked In Parchment Paper)

Greek Lamb Kleftiko recipe

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.

Greek Lamb Kleftiko recipe Greek Lamb Kleftiko recipe

Key Ingredients

  • 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.

Greek Lamb Kleftiko recipe - ready to bakeGreek Lamb Kleftiko recipe in the oven

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.

Serving Suggestions

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:

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.

Storage Suggestions

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

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.

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Greek Lamb Kleftiko recipe

Lamb Kleftiko Recipe (Greek Lamb Cooked In Parchment Paper)

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  • Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
  • Prep Time: 120 min
  • Cook Time: 150 min
  • Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 people 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Greek


The very best traditional Greek lamb kleftiko recipe (kleftico)! Juicy, tender, melt-in-the-mouth Greek lamb cooked in parchment paper with fluffy potatoes.


  • 11.2 kg/ 35 oz. leg of lamb, boneless (approx. 2kg/ 70 oz. bone in)
  • 2 small red onions
  • 23 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

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  1. Lorraine Fullerton

    I am not keen on mustard, can u leave it out?

  2. Can this be done in a slow cooker?

  3. Did the slow cook version just fab! lovely!

  4. Greetings from Poland:) Just wanted to thank U for the best greek cook www. Hugs.

  5. Hari,

    Did you use the parchment paper in the slow cooker as well?????

    • Hi Kalli

      I dont think you should, the parchment paper is to keep the juices in and protect from the heat of the oven, so if you’re cooking in the slow cooker I would personally leave it out.

  6. About how long do you leave it in the slow cooker?

  7. Hi eli, just to clarify, do you cut the lamb in pieces or leave it whole I’ll be using the slow cooker . Lina

  8. Ronnie B.

    Yassas Eli,

    Kleftiko is my all time favorite lamb recipe from Greece. I’ve followed your recipe to the T and it’s in the oven right now. I’ll tell you how it turns out!


  9. Ronnie B.

    Hi Elli,

    It was delicious. It tasted like my favourite taverna in Zakynthos. The only thing missing was the lovely hospitality, warm weather and Greek wine 🙂


    • Hi there Ronnie B, I too have a favourite Restaurant in Zakynthos, that does a truly great Kleftiko. I wonder if its the same one. Mine is the Olive tree at Tsilivi owned by my favourite chef, Lakis Boas.

      • Hey Chuffa,

        Nope it’s not in Tsilivi. I always stay in Vasilikos, a quieter part of the island far away from tourism.

        It’s called Taverna Galini and it has outstanding food and service. Their Kleftiko is to die for. If you go, make sure you also order Gina’s Special Baked Cheese. Gina’s the daughter and Maitre D.

  10. Hi Eli

    Thank you for a great recipe. I like to cook all my meals on Sunday for the week can this be frozen, I plan to make is as individual portions. Would i need to thaw before reheating?

  11. I’m just about to make this lovely dish, can I just ask which mustard you use? Bo

  12. Can you use baking paper, we. Don’t have parchment paper.

  13. Thank you for the wonderful recipe! I want to make this, but I also want to make your traditional crispy potatoes (with semolina). Do you think I could add the semolina-coated potatoes to this dish? Or should I make the potatoes in a separate pan? Not sure if the semolina will affect the other veggies/lamb in the dish. Thanks!

  14. What cheese can you use instead of the above Wichita I can’t get hold of in England

  15. Hi Eli was just wondering if English mustard is ok? And also manchego cheese as a replacement? Many thanks x

  16. what potatoes do you recommend and will mozerella work as the cheese?

  17. Have fond memories of several visits to Greece and with an Indian arriving today, thought I would try something different for her. I notice some recipes don’t mention cheese and plan to leave it out. Also mustard is an ingredient I haven’t seen elsewhere (someone posted half a dozen recipes on my Facebook page). I plan to cook it longer –4 to 5 hours but at a lower temp, that being the recommended generally in the recipes referred to above.

  18. Please let us know what kind of mustard to use. Thank you.

  19. gary oblock

    I tried a version of this on Santorini a couple of weeks ago and it was more like a stew than this. It used green peppers and caper leaves and I could taste no mustard in it. Any advice on duplicating that version?

  20. James Littmann

    If I am doing the whole leg how much longer should I cook it?

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      I would start with 3 hours and check if done at that point. If the meat falls off the bone you’re done 🙂 Depending on its weight it may need anything between 3-4 hours tops I would say!

  21. This is one of my husbands favorite Greek dishes and I’m going to cook it for him as a surprise in 5 days time. When we’ve had this dish in Greece it has always come served with Feta cheese melted on top of the Lamb and that’s how I’d like to serve the dish to my husband. Please would you let me know at what stage should I sprinkle the feta on top of the lamb so that it melts onto the meat. Also in Greece the dish would be served with dried herbs sprinkled on top of the melted feta. Which dried herb would you advise for this. Would oregano be okay? Many thanks, Elaine

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      Let me know how it went Elaine! Best of luck 🙂

      • Hi Eli, can i use the neck part of the lamb for this recipe? If yes,will the taste be the same and the meat will be tender? Its only i gor on my freezer at the moment,and i would like to use it for my next week family dinner. Pls advise me. Thank you


  22. Hi I too have had this with the feta and herbs on top in Corfu ….at what stage would you add the feta on top and like Elaine asked which herb would you recommend please?

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      I’d add the feta about 30 minutes or so before its done – else the feta may end up melting completely! I would recommend thyme and oregano!

  23. I made this for a special occasion and it was exquisite! Everyone utterly loved it. Thank you for the easy to follow recipe.

  24. Elizabeth

    I’ve just finished cooking it . Looks lovely. Mine took nearly 5 hours to cook. I’m just browning it off. I’ve poured juices into container to do this. But what would you suggest to thicken the gravy?
    Thank in advance

  25. Here in Belgium it’s not easy to find parchment paper in the supermarkets… I suppose normal baking paper will burn ?

  26. To confirm my understanding. this meat is not cooked to pink inside, it is cooked until a shredding, soft texture, correct: Would you know the internal temperature?

  27. Sandhya Singh

    Sandhya Singh, who considers women’s development as the cornerstone of the country, is a social worker, who is always ready for the development of people, region and nation.

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