Roasting leg of lamb might seem intimidating, but it’s a lot easier than you think. This Leg of Lamb recipe helps take you through step by step how to make the perfect roast using fresh herbs and a Dijon glaze.
Leg of Lamb Recipe
I didn’t grow up eating much lamb. I remember my mother making lamb lollipops on occasion, but beyond that it wasn’t on the menu and usually just for my father.
It wasn’t until I started dating my husband (10 yearrs+ now) and he requested lamb for Easter that I started to experiment with it.
This particular leg of lamb recipe originated with Cooking Light Magazine and has evolved through the years. What makes it stand out so much is the slather of Dijon mustard with fresh herbs and of course, garlic.
What is Leg of Lamb?
Leg of lamb is cut from the back haunches of the animal. It is a naturally tender cut of meat so it doesn’t require marinating, only a thick layer of herbs and other seasoning.
If you don’t see it at the grocery store, ask your butcher. Because it is popular during holiday seasons, it might not always be out, but there is usually a cut or two in the back.
Many will be trimmed, while others still have a layer of fat. While you want a little fat for flavor and to keep it juicy, excess fat needs to be trimmed. Might as well have the butcher do it so you aren’t paying for it too.
Boneless or Bone-In
Leg of lamb can be bought with or without a bone. Both are equally tasty but have pros and cons.
Bone-In– This is one impressive cut, especially if the bone it kept long for a Fred Flintstone type of look. Some claim the bone adds flavor while other lamb experts will tell you this is a myth. Bone-in can be a little more challenging to carve because you are carving around a bone that runs directly through the center.
Boneless– Boneless will be filleted because the bone has been removed. Most come in a netting to hold it all together. Take this off before roasting or else the gorgeous Dijon bark you worked so hard on will come right off with it.
You should, however, tye it with butcher twine to hold it tightly together. Two or three strings for one roast should do the trick. They are easier to slice since there is no bone.
How much leg of lamb should I plan for per person? It is recommended to plan for 8 ounces ( 1/2 pound) of meat per person. if your family tends to eat more, plan for more. If there is a bone, account for a little more since the bone will weigh a good amount of the total weight.
How Long to Cook Leg of Lamb in the Oven?
The answer to that quetison is a matter of personal preference. I prefer my lamb, like most meats, to be towards the rare side. Lamb is not generally cooked past medium, but many do prefer it medium well.
Here is a temperature guide (all in Fahrenheit). Use an instant read digital thermometer to check doneness.
Medium Rare: 130-140
Medium Well: 150-160
Well: 160 (I don’t recommend going this far)
Keep in mind that all roasts will rise a few degrees while resting, a phenomenon called carry over cooking, so remove it from the oven when it is 5-10 degrees lower than your target doneness.
Can it be pink inside? Yes! It is okay if your lamb is pink, in fact, that is preferable. See the temperture chart above.
How to Cook Leg of Lamb
Cooking a leg of lamb is very similar to preparing a prime rib or other meat roast. Fairly simple, yet people are very scared of making one at home.
ONE. This lamb roast is covered with a layer of fresh herbs and seasonings. No marinating required!
TWO. Next, seared at a high temperature to make a crust and cauterize the exterior to seal in the juices.
THREE. You then lower the temperture and allow the interior to warm.
PRO TIP: You can use dried herbs instead of fresh herbs. The conversion is 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh herbs.
FOUR. Like most meats, slice against the grain for maximum tenderness.
Lamb shouldn’t require much more for flavor, but many like to serve it with mint jelly.
Perfect for an Easter dinner, a special date night, or a special meal any other time. You can also use this same rub on lamb chops or even a pork tenderloin.
This recipe really can be served at any holiday, but is most popular around Easter. I also enjoyed making it as one of my two proteins on Christmas.
Why do we eat lamb on Easter? According to The History Channel:
“The tradition of eating lamb on Easter has its roots in early Passover observances before the birth of Christianity. According to the biblical Exodus story, the people of Egypt suffered a series of terrible plagues, including the death of all firstborn sons.
Jews painted their doorposts with sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their homes while carrying out the punishment. Accustomed to eating roast lamb on Passover, Jews who converted to Christianity continued the tradition at Easter.
Additionally, Christians refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” so it makes sense that the food shows up at the Easter table. On a less symbolic note, lamb would have been one of the first fresh meats available after a long winter with no livestock to slaughter.”
Storage & Freezing
Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
How do you reheat leg of lamb? I would reheat it low and slow in the oven on 300 degrees. Of course you can microwave, but meat tends to get rubbery.
If you want to freeze lamb, I suggest slicing and placing in an airtight bag.
Grilled Leg of Lamb
Can I grill leg of lamb? You sure can! Grilled lamb is positively delicious! In fact, you can even use this recipe.
Heat on indirect heat for 30-40 minutes. Check internal temperature to get it right! Make sure you get a meat thermometer!
More Easter recipes:
- Pan Fried Lamb Chops
- Riesling Peach Ham
- Mustard Brown Sugar Baked Ham
- Crock Pot Ham
- Easy Lamb Stew
- Parmesan Garlic Lamb Chops
Roasting Pan– every home cook should have one for roasting lamb, chicken, beef or pork.
Kitchen Shears– Sometimes kitchen shears are more efficient than a knife. Jobs like snipping herbs, cutting meats or making your biscuits into fourths are good examples! Always make sure to hand wash anything with a blade, as the dishwasher will dull the edges.
Mini Food Processor– I use this thing daily! It is by far my most used kitchen appliance, it is small and I throw all the parts into the dishwasher, well except the base and cord, of course!
Carving Knife– I carving knife is very different than any other knife you own. You may not use it often, but when you do, you’ll be glad you have it!
Herb Roast Leg of Lamb Recipe
- 5-6 pound boneless leg of lamb*
- 2-3 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme finely chopped
- 4-5 rosemary and thyme sprigs
- 2 tablespoons light extra virgin olive oil
- Mint jelly optional
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Prepare a 9×13 roasting pan by spreading light extra virgin olive oil in the bottom and then laying springs of fresh herbs on the center, a nice bed of aromatics for your leg of lamb to rest on while it roasts.
- Place boneless leg of lamb on a clean work surface, like a cutting board. Pierce the top with a knife, making slits deep enough for garlic slices. Fill the slits with garlic. Next, rub the surface with coarse sea salt and pepper. Slather with Dijon mustard and finally press fresh, chopped rosemary and thyme into the Dijon mustard. Transfer boneless leg of lamb to the prepared roasting dish.
- Place into the hot oven for 20 minutes. This will create a nice crust and seal in juices.
- After 20 minutes, lower heat to 350 degrees. Open oven door to allow excess heat to escape and cool down the oven fast. Continue to roast for 40-60 minutes. Time will vary greatly depending on size of your leg of lamb and your preferred level of doneness.
- Remove roast after reaching desired temperature. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Carve against the grain and serve with a side of mint jelly.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings.