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This Braised Harissa Leg of Lamb is as delicious and impressive as it is easy to make. It’s spicy, savoury, packed with flavour and even better with some crunchy and bright Quick Pickles to help cut through the richness of the lamb! Yes, it takes some time, but your patience and tastebuds will be rewarded with incredibly tender meat and a decadent gravy. Serve alongside some basmati rice and spring vegetables for the perfect Sunday dinner, special occasion or holiday meal. It also happens to be Paleo and Whole30 compatible!

Slow-Roast Harissa Leg of Lamb with Quick Pickles

Ingredients You Need for the Braised Harissa Leg of Lamb

  • Leg of Lamb: The star of the show is the leg of lamb. Not only is it a showstopper main course, but when slowly braised it becomes incredibly tender and delicious. If you can’t find a full leg of lamb, or aren’t a fan of lamb altogether, scroll down to the Substitution Tips.
  • Spices: A combination of coriander seed, cumin seed, smoked paprika, paprika and oregano add incredible depths of flavour to the lamb and gravy. For best results, try to use whole coriander and cumin seeds. I like to toast them first to awaken the flavours before grinding them down to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. You can also skip this step by just using pre-ground spices.
  • Harissa Paste: This spicy chile paste is what completely transforms this dish into something truly spectacular. Look for a paste that comes in a can or tube labeled as “Harissa Du Cap Bon“, preferably made in Tunisia, because it will be much more concentrated in flavour and free of additives. There really isn’t anything quite like it so I strongly recommend trying to find it before looking for substitutions. If, however, you absolutely can’t get harissa, try substituting chipotle peppers packed in adobo. The flavours won’t be as complex, but it will still be delicious.
  • Onions: This recipe calls for 3 onions. I know, it sounds like a lot, but the onions will cook down to virtually nothing and sweeten as they do, which is what will help naturally balance the spice from the harissa paste.
  • Garlic: There is no typo in the recipe instructions. You’ll want a full head of garlic here!
  • Beef Broth: Homemade is best, but if you want to make your life a little bit easier, grab a good-quality store-bought broth. I love Kettle & Fire because of the taste, clean and organic ingredients and because they use grass-fed and finished beef bones. You can also substitute chicken broth for a slightly lighter tasting gravy.
Leg of lamb searing in a roasting pan
Onions sautéing with spices in a roasting pan
Harissa Leg of Lamb in broth before being braised

Ingredients You Need for the Quick Pickles

  • Red Onion: I like using red onion because it adds a nice colour, but you can use any variety you have or like.
  • Cucumbers: For a quick pickle like this, I like to use a cucumber with a softer skin, such as Persian or English varieties. It’s also a great way to use up those cucumbers that are starting to get soft around the edges or are maybe one day away from ending up in the compost bin.
  • Dill: If you have it on hand, try adding some fresh dill to the jar along with the onion and cucumbers. You can also substitute some dry dill weed.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: For a bit more flavour and added health benefits, try using some apple cider vinegar for the pickling brine.
  • Honey: It’s not entirely necessary, but adding a spoonful of honey to the brine will add some sweetness to the pickles. To keep this recipe Whole30, simply omit the honey.
  • Salt: You can use kosher salt or a flakey sea salt, such as Maldon.
  • Water: For a fairly mild pickle, use a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water. So, if using 1/4 cup vinegar, you’ll need 1/2 cup water.
Quick Pickles for the harissa braised lamb

What Is Harissa Paste?

Harissa paste is a spicy condiment commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, particularly in countries like Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. It’s made from a blend of hot chili peppers (such as serrano or bird’s eye chilies), garlic, olive oil, salt, and earthy spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway. Depending on the brand or household, other ingredients used might include roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and various herbs like mint or cilantro. The recipes for harissa can vary depending on regional preferences and personal tastes.

As far as applications go, harissa paste is a versatile chile paste that will add a big boost of flavour to many recipes. It’s excellent as an addition to marinades for chicken, beef, lamb or fish. As well as many vegetable dishes. My personal favourite is to add a big spoon of harissa to my shakshuka recipe. It completely transforms the dish!

What to Serve with the Braised Harissa Leg of Lamb

I served the braised lamb and quick pickles with some sautéed green peas and steamed basmati rice, which is great as soaking up the rich gravy. If you want to keep things Paleo and Whole30, try serving the harissa leg of lamb with some roasted sweet potatoes, squash or a mix of seasonal vegetables. Another option is to make a batch of my Whole30 Roasted Greek Potatoes.

Slow-Roast Harissa Leg of Lamb with Quick Pickles

Substitution Tips

If you can’t find a full, bone-in leg of lamb, or maybe you’re just not a fan of lamb altogether, don’t worry. This recipe is versatile and works well with a number of other options.

  • Lamb Shanks: If you can’t get your hands on a full leg of lamb, try to find some lamb shanks. Not only is the flavour and texture virtually identical, but they also tend to cook quicker because of their smaller size.
  • Lamb Shoulder: Another option is to go for the lamb shoulder. It’s fattier than the leg and is therefore a more forgiving cut of lamb to cook because it doesn’t run the same risk of drying out. It also tends to be more affordable, but sometimes more difficult to source depending on where you live.
  • Lamb Shoulder Chops: One of the most affordable and underrated cuts of meat is the lamb shoulder chop. Not to be confused with lamb loin chops and lamb rib chops, the lamb shoulder chop is usually sold as thin, 1/2″-thick, oblong steaks. Because the meat is quite tough, it benefits greatly from a slow roast and will cook down to a very tender and juicy finished product.
  • Lamb Stewing Meat: Although it’s not as much of a showstopper as a full leg or shoulder of lamb, stewing meat is a very good substitute. It’s easy to find, affordable and will actually cook in around half the time as a full leg.
  • Beef Short Rib: For those who are not fans of lamb, try using beef short ribs instead. For best results, be sure to follow the same instructions for first browning the meat and sautéing the onions and spices before braising.
Slow-Roast Harissa Leg of Lamb with Quick Pickles
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5 from 1 vote

Braised Harissa Leg of Lamb with Quick Pickles

This Braised Harissa Leg of Lamb is as delicious and impressive as it is easy to make. Serve with some quick pickles and your favourite sides.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


For the Lamb:

  • 1 bone-in leg of lamb, around 5 pounds
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste, plus more or less depending on your spice preference
  • 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 32 ounces beef broth
  • 32 ounces water

For the Quick Pickles:

  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill


For the Lamb:

  • Using a sharp knife, score the top and bottom of the lamb leg in a crosshatch pattern. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons avocado oil and season generously all over with salt and pepper. Transfer the lamb onto a sheet pan lined with a wire rack and refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour to overnight. The longer it marinates, the better the flavour.
  • In a dry pan, combine the coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant and warmed through, around 4 minutes. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add the smoked paprika, paprika and oregano and stir to combine. Set aside.
  • Preheat your oven or Traeger grill to 350F.
  • Preheat a stove-top safe roasting pan over medium-high heat (see notes for alternative pans). Add 1 tablespoon avocado oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully add the lamb and cook, undisturbed, until browned, around 6 minutes. Flip and repeat on each side until the lamb is seared all over, around 18 more minutes total. Transfer the lamb to a tray and set aside.
  • Add the onions to the pan and season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring and lifting any brown bits off the bottom of the pan, until the onions are just softened, around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spice blend and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the harissa paste and cook, stirring to incorporate. Add the beef broth and cook, lifting any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the lamb to the pan, fattier side-up, and add the water. Cover the lamb with a sheet of crumpled parchment paper, then tightly cover the pan with foil, crimping the edges to prevent steam from escaping.
  • Transfer the roasting pan to the oven or Traeger grill and cook, basting with the liquid once every hour, until the lamb is fork-tender, around 3 hours total. If it is still not tender after 3 hours, continue cooking and checking every 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and parchment paper and return the lamb to the oven or Traeger grill. Raise the heat to 450F and cook until the lamb is deeply browned and easily falling off the bone, around 30 more minutes. Transfer the lamb to a serving platter, taste the gravy for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as desired. If the gravy is too loose, place the pan over medium-low heat and gently simmer it until reduced to your desired consistency. If the gravy is too thick, loosen it with some water or beef stock.
  • Serve the lamb with the gravy, quick pickles, a side of basmati rice and vegetables of choice.

For the Quick Pickles:

  • In a saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, honey and salt. Place over medium heat, bring the liquid to a steady simmer and stir to combine.
  • Add the onions, cucumbers and dill to a large mason jar and push them down as much as possible. Pour in the hot liquid so it reaches the top of the jar and seal with a lid. Set aside in a warm spot on your counter for at least one hour or until cooled. The pickles can be refrigerated up to 1 week.



If you don’t have a stove top-safe roasting pan you can complete steps 4 & 5 in a large cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet. Then, transfer the contents to a large roasting pan or even a crockpot to complete the braising process.


Calories: 445kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 53g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 152mg, Sodium: 987mg, Potassium: 1030mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 987IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 81mg, Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About the Author

Hi, i’m Ronny! In 2013, after a lifetime of struggling with my weight and body issues, I rehabilitated my relationship with food, lost over 40 pounds and completely changed my life.

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