Lamb is very much a staple meal of French and English cuisine. It’s perhaps for this reason that the go-to herb for seasoning lamb is rosemary – the most loved herbs of Englishmen. However, rosemary isn’t the only, or even the best, herb to use when cooking lamb.
Whether you’re fresh out of rosemary or want to experiment with something new, there are alternatives available that are more than adequate replacements.
So what are the best rosemary substitutes for lamb?
Well, the Greeks make the most incredible lamb cuts out of red pepper, potatoes, olives and feta, using only garlic as seasoning.
Similarly, Turkish shawarmas would never dream of using a twig of rosemary, substituting it with turmeric, chilli, coriander and cummin.
The truth is you’re only really limited by your imagination and creativity!
In this article I’ll give you my best rosemary substitutes for lamb that you can use as a base for your own experimentation.
What Are the Best Rosemary Substitutes for Lamb?
Are you looking for a single dominant herb to replace rosemary? Or are you after a blend of herbs and spices for your dish?
My favorite ‘single herb’ replacements for rosemary are cilantro/coriander and mint.
If I’m cooking lamb with a blend of herbs I like to get experimental! I’ll often throw together a bunch of herbs and spices including chilli powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander and nutmeg.
The exact herb or mix of herbs I use will depend on how I’m cooking my lamb.
Best Rosemary Substitutes for Lamb by Variant
Lamb comes in many variants and forms: cooked as a curry (say, a mouthwatering lamb madras), or a leg of lamb or mutton for that matter (Moroccan spices make this dish a slice of heaven), or else as lamb chops, spare ribs, slow cooked, and in stews.
As such, this topic is quite a big one to handle so I’ll break it down in three parts. I’ll show you the best rosemary substitutes for lamb that is slow cooked, on the bone and in a stew.
With slow cooked lamb I’m thinking of pieces of cut lamb, most often braised, best served with rice or potatoes.
On the bone accounts for lamb chops and a whole leg of lamb, which, in fact, you can get boneless and still cook it the way you would on a bone.
Stewed lamb combines everything from curries to French red wine stews.
This said, let’s look at the ways you can make that lamb you’ve got from the butcher’s into a delicious meal without the least bit of rosemary.
Read on to see the best rosemary substitutes for lamb and how to cook them.
Coriander or Cilantro Lamb
A great way to make your lamb dish flavorsome is to use coriander, or cilantro as it’s called when in you’re using the leaves and stem of the herb itself (coriander being the name for its dried seeds.)
Slow Cooked Cilantro Lamb
Slow cooked or on the bone, coriander will give you the perfectly soft and slightly spicy lamb that your neighbors and friends will speak about for days.
Use twice as much coriander as you would rosemary, and three times as much if you’re using fresh cilantro leaves.
For a slow cooked coriander lamb, season it with a mix of coriander or cilantro, roughly chopped garlic, salt and pepper. You can cook it in half white or red wine and half water or stock.
The liquid should cover the lamb.
Make sure to cover your pot or tray before putting it in the oven on low heat or on the stove.
Cook for one to one and a half hours, depending on your cut. If your lamb is already chopped, cook it for 40-50 minutes.
Cilantro Lamb On the Bone
For lamb on the bone, be it lamb chop, ribs or a leg of lamb, you’re best to cook it in the oven.
Score the skin with a knife and rub the lamb in sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and coriander.
Put some whole garlic cloves on the tray or roasting pan together with some vegetables (red peppers work especially well here!) and potatoes (optional).
Add feta and olives for a greek flavor, but put these in towards the end.
Roast in the oven for 1.5 hours at 320°F. The cooking time varies depending on how much lamb you have. If you’re unsure whether it’s done, test it by cutting off a slice.
Serve with fresh cilantro on top.
Stewed Cilantro Lamb
For stewed lamb, chop it up, season with coriander, salt and pepper, and fry quickly until browned on high heat.
If you’re making a curry, add this to your curry base, but if you’d like to make it French style with red wine, make sure to fry it first in butter.
Turn the heat down and fill then your frying pan with a glass of red wine, some stock, sliced garlic, and heaps of chopped cilantro leaves.
Stew on low heat for at least two hours.
No wonder you’re served a lamb roast in the UK with mint sauce – mint is one of the best ways to bring out the flavor of lamb!
While rosemary makes lamb taste more homely, mint makes it feel fresh and light – perfect when you’re serving a leg of lamb or some lamb chops, be it with vegetables, roast potatoes or some jasmine rice.
You’d really benefit from using fresh mint in all of these recipes, but dried mint can be used if you’re making it by roasting.
Slow Cooked Mint Lamb
Slow cooked mint lamb is very simple to prepare.
Take the mint leaves off their stems and set them aside for until later.
Next, place your cut up lamb on a tray. Cover with the mint stalks, garlic, onions, salt and pepper, and a dash of white wine.
Cover the tray and place in the oven.
Leave it to cook for a couple of hours, and then add chopped up mint leaves on top. Put it back in the oven for another half hour.
Note that how long you cook it for depends completely on how much lamb you have.
On the Bone Mint Lamb
On the bone, mint lamb is pretty much cooked the same way as when slow cooked (and you can even slow cook delicious lamb shanks using the same method as above).
However, this time, use all of the mint, both leaves and stalks, as you want more flavour when you’re cooking lamb on the bone.
You want to score the skin and rub your lamb with a mixture of chopped mint, salt, pepper and sliced garlic, before you put it in the oven at 360°F.
You can also use mint when making the Moroccan lamb leg below.
Stewed Mint Lamb
First, let’s look at mint lamb when stewed.
This is best done with potatoes, red wine, onions, garlic and carrots, and is something of a farm speciality.
Chop everything up, including the mint and the lamb, and place in a pan.
Fill the pan with stock and cook on low heat. Make sure to season with salt and pepper to taste, and add a glass of red wine to the stew.
For an extra homely flavor, also add some double cream.
Another way to do this is to make your lamb with only salt and pepper, and make a mint sauce to go with it.
You make mint sauce by cooking up mint stalks with 1/3 red wine vinegar and 2/3 water combined with half as much sugar as vinegar.
When the sugar has dissolved, take it off the heat and serve with chopped up mint leaves.
This is perhaps my most treasured way of cooking, using a dozen spices instead of one.
Spiced lamb goes back to traditions from the Middle East, Morocco and India, and you can make hundreds of different variations on the theme.
Slow cooked with a dash of coconut milk and added to a curry base you’ll get a delicious curry lamb, while if you’re going to spice up your leg of lamb you can use almost anything you’ve got in your cupboard.
Slow Cooked Spiced Lamb
Hot red chilli powder, cummin, coriander, a bit of cardemom, nutmeg, tumeric and paprika. These spices are a great mix to make slow cooked spiced lamb.
Mix your spices in a bowl with salt and pepper, and then put your cuts of lamb into the bowl.
Using your hands, mix the meat into the spices so as to get it completely covered.
Heat up a tray with some rapseed oil and place the lamb in the tray. It’s meant to sizzle when it hits the hot oil and then calm down.
Add some stock (it shouldn’t cover the lamb, just giving it some moisture to be in), cover with tin foil and place in the oven on low heat.
Do the same for a “stew”, but here you can skip the stock and grill on medium-high heat in the oven.
Make a curry base, be it Malaysian, South Indian, North Indian or Thai, and use the lamb for this.
Moroccan Leg of Lamb
Last but not least, my own speciality – Moroccan leg of lamb.
You can do this with lamb chops or any other piece of lamb on a bone. The idea is very simple, you make a mix of spices, score the skin of your leg of lamb and rub the spices in.
Place in the oven at 360°F for at least 40 minutes, but again, this varies on the size of your chunk of meat. A big leg often takes 1.5-2 hours.
For my special Moroccan spice mix, use the following:
- ½ tablespoon of hot red chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon of paprika
- ½ tablespoon of chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of coriander
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried mint, if fresh only use the leaves
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped into thin slices
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- A pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of anise
- Salt and pepper to taste
This mix can easily be re-used (except for the garlic and olive oil, so add these last), and the measurements account for the mix itself.
You know you’ve made enough for your lamb when you’ve rubbed it in and it’s completely covered.
Basically, you want a tasty looking red-brown colored lamb before you even put it in the oven.
Experiment with your own combination based on whatever you have on the shelf, and don’t worry – lamb is always tasty.
I hope you’ve found some new ideas of how to substitute rosemary when cooking lamb, enjoy your dinner!