Akis Petretzikis' Traditional Greek Lamb Kleftiko recipe

lamb kleftiko

Greek Lamb Kleftiko is a delicious, traditional Greek recipe for the juiciest, tender and most aromatic lamb you've ever tasted!

This very popular roast is wrapped in parchment paper, which allows the lamb to cook perfectly, creating juicy and tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat with fluffy potatoes, infused with the flavours of lemon, garlic, and oregano.

The word ‘Kleftiko’ literally translates to ‘stolen’ in English. The dish originates from the days of the Greek revolution when bands of Greek guerillas called 'Klephts' hid in the mountains.

The 'Klephts' would steal lamb or goats from flocks on the hillsides.

Being afraid to start a fire that would alert their enemies to where they were located, they would cook the meat over many hours in a hole in the ground with red hot stones and glowing embers.

They would seal the hole with mud over the top to prevent any flavours or smoke being detected by their enemies.

They would go on their missions and come back after hours to find a cooked meal.

This recipe is from popular Greek chef Akis Petretzikis.

lamb kleftiko

Traditional Greek Lamb Kleftiko Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 240 minutes

Serves: 4 - 6


  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 100 g butter, real butter (50+50)
  • grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ kilo leg of lamb, bone in and cut into portions
  • 1 kilo baby potatoes, cut in half


  • In a food processor, add the garlic, 50 g butter, lemon zest, oregano, cinnamon and rosemary. Beat until the mixture becomes a paste. You can also use a mortar and pestle to do this.
  • Season with salt and pepper and massage the aromatic paste all over the lamb.
  • Transfer lamb to a bowl and cover with lid, sealing well.
  • Refrigerate overnight or for at least 3-4 hours.
  • The following day, tear off 2 large pieces of aluminium foil and 2 large pieces of parchment paper that are 1 meter long, each.
  • Remove the lamb from the refrigerator one hour before you are ready to cook so that it can come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 150* C (300* F) Fan.
  • Place the parchment paper over the aluminium foil in a crisscross manner.
  • Season the baby potatoes generously with salt and pepper. Place over the parchment.
  • Add the lamb over the potatoes. Cut the remaining butter into small cubes and scatter over the lamb and potatoes. Add the grated zest and the juice from 1 lemon.
  • Wrap in the parchment and aluminium and transfer to a baking pan.
  • Roast for 4 hours.
  • When 4 hours have passed, turn oven temperature up to 200* C (390* F) Fan, and roast for another ½ hour, until the lamb is golden brown.
  • When ready, remove from oven, cover and set it aside and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with your choice of salad.
  • If you want the potatoes to become more golden, you can roast them for 30 minutes, while the meat is resting.
  • You can also add any vegetables you like along with the potatoes. A great combination is bell peppers along with cheese like gruyere.

lamb kleftiko

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GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.