Braised Lamb Shoulder With Dried Chilies and Dates Recipe

The oven shoulders most of the work in this easy lamb shoulder braise.

Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Deeply scoring the fat cap allows it to render gently, basting the meat while cooking.
  • A Dutch oven heats the meat evenly from all sides, allowing it to brown while becoming tender.
  • Dates add a natural sweetness, balancing the acidity of the tomatillos and the heat from the chilies.

This set-it-and-forget-it dish is perfect for a lazy Sunday when you'd rather curl up on the couch than slave over a stove. All it takes is a few minutes of simple prep; a Dutch oven does the rest of the work.

The tender braised lamb is packed with flavor from powerhouse ingredients, like smoky morita chilies, fruity guajillo chilies, and sharp tomatillos, all tempered by sticky-sweet dates. It's perfect on tortillas for an inspired taco night, or over rice and beans.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 5 hrs 30 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

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  • 8 dried guajillo chiles (about 1 1/2 ounces; 45g total)

  • 3 dried morita chiles (about 1 ounce; 30g total)

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds

  • 1 pound tomatillos (about 8 medium tomatillos; 450g), husked and quartered

  • 4 medium cloves garlic (about 1 1/2 ounces; 45g total)

  • 8 pitted dates (about 2 ounces; 60g total)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (18g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight

  • 6 pounds (2.7kg) bone-in lamb shoulder roast, with fat cap

  • Warm tortillas or rice, for serving

  • Diced cucumbers, diced avocado, sliced radishes, and/or Cotija cheese, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C) and adjust rack to lowest position. Using kitchen shears, cut guajillo and morita chilies into strips, discarding all seeds and stems. Toast chilies in a dry skillet until fragrant. Transfer to the canister of a blender.

  2. In the same dry skillet, toast cumin and coriander seeds and add to the blender canister.

  3. Add tomatillos, garlic, dates, 1 tablespoon (12g) salt, and 1/2 cup (120ml) water to the canister and blend until smooth. Set chili purée aside.

  4. Using a chef's knife, deeply score the fat cap on the lamb shoulder, cutting all the way through the fat but not into the meat below. Season lamb with remaining 1/2 tablespoon (6g) salt and place in a Dutch oven, fat side up.

  5. Pour chili purée over lamb shoulder, spreading it to coat evenly. Cover Dutch oven and bake until lamb is tender and falls easily from the bone, about 5 hours. Carefully lift lamb from Dutch oven and transfer to a work surface. Skim fat off the sauce in the Dutch oven. Pull meat off bones, discard bones, then return meat to pot and mix with sauce. Serve with tortillas or over rice, with garnishes such as diced cucumbers, diced avocado, sliced radishes, and/or Cotija cheese, as desired.

Special equipment

Blender, Dutch oven

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
498 Calories
15g Fat
45g Carbs
45g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 498
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 122mg 41%
Sodium 1275mg 55%
Total Carbohydrate 45g 16%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 45g
Vitamin C 18mg 89%
Calcium 75mg 6%
Iron 7mg 36%
Potassium 952mg 20%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)