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Posted 09/18/2022 in Recipes

Kleftiko: The Ultimate Greek Slow-Roasted Lamb Recipe

Kleftiko: The Ultimate Greek Slow-Roasted Lamb Recipe

What is Kleftiko?

If you're looking for a delicious, traditional Greek recipe to try, look no further than kleftiko. This dish is made by slow-roasting lamb in a pit or oven, and it's absolutely packed with flavor. Trust us, this is one meal that you're going to want to try!

In Greek cuisine, there are some interesting dishes named after unusual groups, such as the "kleftiko" or the "dish of thieves." Kleftiko refers to dishes baked in paper, a practical cooking method that seals in all the delicious juices of the meat, fish or vegetables. 

According to the tale, thieves would prepare their meals this way, leaving them to cook slowly while they were practicing their professional skills. Upon their return, their supper would be tender, aromatic, and cooked to perfection! Who said that thieves have no taste? Try this delicious dish at your next Greek feast!


  • One 5-6 pound leg of lamb cut in 1 and 1/2 inch slices across the bone.
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut into large slivers.
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
  • 3 tablespoons coarsly chopped fresh oregano or rosemary or 2 tablespoons dried, crumbled oregano (bulgaris).
  • Juice of 1 large lemon.

How to Make Kleftiko

Tie kitchen string around each slice of boned lamb to keep it in shape. Saute the meat in a heavy skillet using three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Drain the meat on paper towels. 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut out six 12 inch squares of parchment paper. Fold each piece in half and trim the two outer corners to make 6 folded ovals. Open up the papers and divide the meat among them, placing it in the center of the bottom half of the paper. Remove the string from the boneless lamb. 

Push the garlic slivers into creases in the meat, season generously with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with oregano, lemon juice and the remaining 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Fold the top halves of the papers over the meat and roll the edges up tightly to make neat packets that will not leak. Arrange on a large baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes. (If you are using boneless lamb, bake for only 20 minutes.)

Place packets on warm dinner plates. Carefully open each one by cutting the four corners with scissors and pulling back the edges of the paper. Enjoy!

Don't want to make it yourself? Search for a local restaurant