Herbed American Lamb Pilaf

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Lamb Pilaf


  • 1 cup (240 g) 5% or full-fat plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup (240ml) water
  • One small white onion, (diced)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, (leaves and stem)
  • 4 garlic cloves, (peeled)
  • 2 - inch [5 cm] piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 whole Serrano or Thai chili
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided1/4 cup [60ml] ghee , olive oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 2 pounds (900 g) American lamb stew meat cut into 1 inch [2.5 cm] cubes (see Headnotes above)
  • 2 cups (400 g) Basmati rice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh dill


Blend the yogurt, water, onion, cilantro, garlic, ginger, chili, lemon juice, peppercorns, turmeric, and 1/2 tsp salt on high speed until smooth.

Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee or oil in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the lamb and sauté till they start to brown. Pour in the yogurt mixture, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook until the lamb is completely tender about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally during cooking, to make sure the meat doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. You can also do this in a pressure cooker and cook the meat on high pressure for 25 minutes. Once the meat is cooked, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until there is about 1/4 cup (60 ml) liquid left behind.

While the lamb cooks, prepare the rice. Clean the rice for any debris or stones, rinse under running tap water in a fine mesh strainer till the runoff water is no longer cloudy. Transfer to a medium bowl and cover the rice with enough water, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the height of the rice. Keep aside to soak for 30 minutes.

Once the lamb is done, transfer the lamb with the liquids to a medium bowl. Rinse and wipe the saucepan down and return to the stove. Heat the saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the remaining ghee or oil. When the oil is hot, add the cumin and cook for 30 to 45 seconds till the seeds start to sizzle and turn brown. Stir in the cardamom. Drain the rice and discard the water.

Add the rice to the hot oil and fry the grains till they no longer stick to each other, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 4 cups (480 ml) water with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let the rice cook till most of the water has almost evaporated (about 1/4 cup (60 ml) liquid should be left behind) and the rice is partially cooked, about 20 minutes. The grains should still be a bit firm, if it cooks all the way, that’s fine, the grains might be split a little on the ends but that is okay.

Remove the saucepan from the stove and transfer half of the rice to a plate or bowl. Top the remaining rice in the saucepan with the cooked lamb and drizzle the cooked liquids all over. Layer the surface of the lamb with the rice kept aside in the bowl in an even layer. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook over low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, till all the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and let the dish sit covered for 5 minutes. When ready to serve, fluff the rice and lamb with a fork, sprinkle in the chopped fresh cilantro and dill. Serve hot or warm with plain yogurt or a raita.

USDA recommends the following time and temperature parameters

Ground Lamb

Internal temperature of 160°F

All Other Cuts

Internal temperature of 145°F, with a 3 minute rest

thermometer timer illustration
Visit our Lamb Cooking Time & Temperature page for recipe inspiration and tips on preparing the perfect lamb.

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