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 chilies (about 1 1/2 ounces; 45g total)
  • 3 dried morita chilies (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

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