Lamb Stifado recipe (Greek lamb stew)

Lamb Stifado recipe (Greek Lamb stew)

If you are searching for proper Greek comfort food then Lamb Stifado will be perfect! This Greek lamb stew is easy to make and is ideal for those cooler evenings when you want a hearty, warming dish.

What is Lamb Stifado (Greek Lamb stew)?

Stifado dishes are classics of Greek cuisine that use a combination of onions, tomatoes and vinegar as the base with different seasonings to add more flavor.

Originally, the dish came from the Venetians in the 13th century but didn’t include tomatoes as they weren’t known in the country at the time. But adding tomatoes is now common and makes the dish even more delicious.

Lamb Stifado (Greek Lamb stew)

Traditional stew: Ideal for colder nights, this is a great comfort food.
Use lamb or other meat: You can swap the lamb for other meats that you enjoy.

What you’ll need to make lamb stifado the traditional way

One of the key ingredients in a stifado dish is the onions and I like to use pearl onions for it.

Pearl onions are small, round onions that are most commonly used in dishes like stews, slow-roasted meats or mashed potatoes. They have a mild flavor and tender texture; however, they can be tedious to peel because of their small size.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of peeling pearl onions yourself, frozen and canned versions are widely available on store shelves.

As an alternative to fresh or frozen pearl onions, shallots make an excellent replacement. Shallots have a more complex flavor than plain onion and tend to add sweetness and depth to recipes.

Onions for Lamb Stifado

Greek Lamb Stew Key Ingredients

Lamb: You’ll want 1.5kg or around 53 ounces of lamb for the recipe, ideally with bone in to cut into large portions.

Sauce: Pearl onions, garlic and tinned tomatoes make the base of the sauce with tomato paste, white wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning with rosemary, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks plus a little sugar.

Ingredients for Lamb Stifado (Greek Lamb stew)

Key Preparation Tips

There are three main steps involved with this Lamb stifado recipe:

  1. Prepare the lamb
  2. Make the sauce
  3. Cook the dish

Prepare the lamb

Start by preparing the lamb to cut into large portions. Add to a bowl and season with salt and black pepper.
Take a frying pan on high heat and add 4 tbsp olive oil then saute the lamb until sealed and browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan, set to one side and cover it.

Lamb stifado prepare the meat

Make the sauce for Lamb stifado

Peel the pearl onions and add them to the pan from the lamb, saute them until caramelized. Try to avoid stirring too much so the onions don’t break apart, shake the pan as much as possible.

Lamb Stifado preparation (Greek Lamb stew)

Add the chopped garlic, rosemary, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, tomato paste and sugar and continue to cook.
Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan.

Add the canned tomatoes and water and gently stir everything together then add the lamb.

Lamb stifado prepare the sauce

Cook the dish

Place a lid on the pan and once it starts to boil, turn it down to a medium heat. Cook for around 2 hours, although check regularly as it can take as little as 1.5 hours if the lamb is on the small side.

Keep checking the sauce (see tips below) then serve with some feta cheese and crusty bread.

Cooking Lamb stifado

How do you stop the sauce from drying out?

When it comes to making Lamb stifado, or any other type of tomato-based sauce, the key is to keep its consistency just right. The good news is that stopping the sauce from drying out is relatively easy – but requires some vigilance as you cook.

Firstly, it’s important to check if water needs to be added regularly before the dish starts to dry out; adding boiled water can produce a nice balance of soupy and thicker texture.

To make sure that your sauce doesn’t become too runny, remove the lid near the end of cooking time. By doing this you make sure that there’s enough evaporation so you aren’t left with an overly liquid end result.

Remember that even after taking it off the heat, the remaining liquids will continue to reduce over time as it slowly cools down as well – so don’t leave your stifado unattended for too long.

As long as you keep these simple tips in mind, you won’t have any problems making a delicious and well-balanced tomato sauce!

Greek Lamb stifado


While the most popular option for this recipe is lamb, you can also make it with goat if you enjoy that meat. Other variations include beef stifado, pork or even rabbit stifado.

Making ahead of time and storing

You can keep any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days and reheat them on the stove. Some people even say that the dish is better after the first day as the flavors have had more time to blend together!

Serving suggestions

Something simple like crusty village bread works well with this stew or you can add some roasted potatoes or a Greek salad. Other options include orzo pasta or egg noodles.

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Lamb Stifado recipe (Greek Lamb stew)

Lamb Stifado recipe (Greek lamb stew)

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  • Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 portions 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stew
  • Cuisine: Greek


If you are searching for proper Greek comfort food then Lamb Stifado will be perfect! This Greek lamb stew is easy to make and is ideal for those cooler evenings when you want a hearty, warming dish.


  • 1.5kg lamb, bone in, cut in large portions (53 oz.)
  • 700g pearl onions, peeled (25 oz.)
  • 23 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsps tomato paste 
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes (14 oz.)
  • 6 tbsps (80g) white wine vinegar 
  • 67 tbsps extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary 
  • 58 allspice berries (or ground allspice)
  • 12 cinnamon sticks 
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 800ml-900ml water (3-4 cups)


  1. To prepare this delicious Greek lamb stifado (lamb stew) recipe, start by preparing the lamb. In a large bowl add the meat and season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Place a large frying pan over high heat. Add the olive oil (4 tbsps) and the lamb and sauté over high heat, until browned on all sides and sealed. When done, remove with a slotted spoon, place on a platter, cover and set aside.
  3. Peel the baby shallot onions.
  4. Place a pot over high heat. Add the remaining olive oil and the pearl onions and sauté until caramelised. 
  5. Add the chopped garlic, allspice berries, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, sugar and tomato paste and sauté.
  6. Pour in the vinegar and deglaze. 
  7. Add the canned tomatoes and water and stir. At the end add the sautéed lamb. 
  8. Place the lid on. A soon as it comes to a boil, lower the heat down to medium and cook for approx. 2 hours. 
  9. While the stifado is simmering, check if it needs some water; you don’t want it to dry out. If it does, pour in some boiled water. On the contrary if your sauce needs more thickening towards the end of cooking time, then remove the lid and let it boil to evaporate. 
  10. Serve this delicious lamb stifado with crusty bread and feta cheese. Enjoy!

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