Crispy Lamb Pitas are the perfect blend of middle-eastern flavors with an amazing burst of crisp yet juicy texture. This is one of my favorite middle-eastern recipes!
As a guy with middle-eastern heritage, I grew up with lamb at pretty much every major family gathering. Lamb already begins with a ton of flavor, but it’s versitility is what makes it great. At my quadrennial family reunion in the mountains of far-western North Carolina, we mark the occassion with an incredible Syrian feast. Lamb is served no less than five ways. Kibbeh, Kibeneyah, Meat-Stuffed Grape Leaves, Meat Pies and shish-ka-bob are just some of the forms this comes in. Add some fresh tzatziki and we’re in business.
Crispy lamb pitas are just another example of how a variety in technique can deliver an extra special dish. This marries a couple of my middle-eastern favorites together, adding tabouleh and tzatziki to our perfectly crispy lamb. Wrap it all in a warm pitas for a perfect medditerannean treat!
Let’s Make Crispy Lamb Pitas
Crispy Lamb Pitas: Make Tabouleh
First thing is first, you need to make your tabouleh. This is a great way to use yesterday’s leftover tabouleh if you don’t finish it all in the first setting. I already have a post on how to make tabouleh, but here is the rundown.
Begin by chopping your parsley one bunch at a time until chopped very finely. I chop until the parsley is the size of short-grain rice. It typically takes me about 5 minutes per punch using the rock and chop method. When you’re done with each bunch, transfer it to a mixing bowl.
Next, finely dice red onion and place in small bowl covered and cover with cold water. The water bath will both save your eyes from burning and take away some of the extra bite from the onion. Place in fridge.
Then, finely dice tomato. I do mine by first slicing it in the same technique I dice an onion. Then, I chop it more using the rock-and-chop method. Add to mixing bowl.
Lastly, we want to dice your English cucumber. Begin by peeling the onion and chopping off and discarding the very ends. Next, cut the cucumber in half horizontally. Then, slice each half into long narrow strips. Then, turn your chef’s knife vertically and dice into very small pieces. Add to mixing bowl.
Homemade Tabbouleh – The Final Steps
Remove onion from mixing bowl and drain water using a mesh strainer. Add to mixing bowl. Uncover Bulgar and feel to make sure it’s turned from grainy and course to soft and fluffy. Add to mixing bowl.
Juice lemon into bowl and zest onion peel into bowl as well. Drizzle with olive oil and mix well. This can be made up to a day in advance, though I recommend only dressing it with lemon juice and olive oil just before serving.
Crispy Lamb Pitas: Make Tzatziki
Like Tabouleh, we also have a post on how to make tzatziki. That creamy and flavorful greek yogurt dish adds a pop of freshness against the bold flavor of the lamb. You’ll want to make this at least 30 minutes before making your pitas.
Using a microplane grater, grate cucumber finely into a mesh strainer over your sink. Once cucumber is grated, push cucumber against the grater using a paper towel in order to help force moisture out. When done, move cucumber to mixing bowl. In mixing bowl, using same microplane grater, grate garlic. Add salt, fresh chopped dill, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Crispy Lamb Pitas: Prep the Lamb
The key to getting our lamb cooked exactly how we want is it to slice it thinly. To do this, we start with a boneless lamb leg or shoulder. I like to buy my lamb from Costco, who likes to rotate between those two cuts. The results are pretty similiar, so you can use either.
Begin by first cutting the lamb into steak-like portions, about 3/4 inch thick. Place the steaks on a baking sheet and place into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will firm up the lamb and allow you to make thinner cuts.
When the lamb has frozen for 45 minutes, remove it from the freezer and place it on a cutting board. Using a large, sharp chef’s knife, slice the steak into very thin strips. Each strip should be 1-2 inches long. Longer strips should be cut in half down to that size. When lamb is cut, season with syrian spice. Toss well to make sure lamb is evenly covered.
Crispy Lamb Pitas: Cook The Lamb
In large skillet (I prefer cast iron since we’re trying to sear), heat a couple of tablespoons of high-heat oil, such as Avocado oil. Olive oil will get smokey at this temperature, so I usually avoid it here. When skillet is hot, add lamb strips carefully so that they lay flat against the pan. You will likely need to work in batches here – which is fine. Do not overcrowd the skillet as that will steam the meat instead of searing it.
When lamb strips are brown around edges, flip over and continue to cook until reverse side is lightly seared. Remove cooked lamb to side plate and let rest while finishing the rest. Add more oil as needed between batches.
Crispy Lamb Pitas: Stuff And Serve!
If working with pre-made pitas, warm them in the microwave for 45 seconds. Using a kife, cut along edge of pita along one half of the circumference. This should allow you to lay the entire loaf flat and fold a flap back. Using your fingers, seperate the break halves in order to form a pocket.
In pita pocket, add lamb and feta cheese. Next, spoon in tabouleh. I do about two spoonfuls, but you can put as little or as much as you like, as long as it fits in the pita. Spread a spoonful of tzatziki sauce on folded back flap of pita bread. Fold flap over and roll pita into a half-moon shape. Serve immediately along rice or more tabouleh!
Crispy Lamb Pitas with Tzatziki and Tabouleh
- 4 loaves pita bread
- 1 lb boneless lamb shoulder or leg
- 3 oz feta cheese crumbled
- Avocado Oil for searing
- 2 bunches fresh parsley
- 1 lemon
- 1 to mato
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 english cucumber
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup fine bulgar cracked wheat
- 1/2 english cucumber
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup greek yogurt plain
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 sprig fresh dill leaves chopped
- 2 tbsp Syrian Spice 4 parts each allspice & cumin, 2 parts cloves and black pepper, 1 part nutmeg.
- Using microplane grater, grate cucumber into mesh strainer. Pull out any large pieces of cucumber peel and discard.
- Press cucumber through strainer using paper towel until most liquid is strained through. Transfer cucumber to a mixing bowl.
- Next, grate garlic clove into mixing bowl using same grater.
- Juice 1/2 lemon into bowl.
- Add olive oil, salt, yogurt and fresh dill leaves. Stir until well mixed. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let flavors marry together.
- Place bulgar in bowl and cover with an inch of water. Cover bowl with towel and let rest at room temperature for at lest 1/2 hour, unti all water is soaked up.
- Chop parsley well and place in mixing bowl.
- Finely dice red onion and place in separate small bowl. Cover with water and place in fridge to help remove some acid (and save your eyes!)
- Dice tomato and cucumber finely and place in bowl.
- Strain red onion though mesh strainer, then add to bowl.
- Check bulgar to make sure it's soaked water and is soft and fluffy. Add to mixing bowl.
- Juice lemon into bowl.
- Next, using a microplace grater, zest lemon peel into bowl.
- Drizzle with olive oil and mix well.
- Can be made up to a day in advance, but only dress with lemon juice and olive oil immediately before serving to avoid it turning soggy.
- Cut lamb into steaks, roughly 3/4 inch thick. Place on baking sheet and into freezer for 45 minutes.
- Remove lamb from freezer and cut into very thin strips with a chef's knife. Strips should be no more than 2 inches in length. If they are longer, cut them in half.
- Toss lamb strips in about in syrian spice. I recommend making your syrian spice in large batches and then just using as needed.
- Preheat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add avocado oil and heat.
- When oil is hot, place a batch of lamb strips in, making sure not to overcrowd. All lamb should be able to lay flat in full contact with the skillet.
- Cook lamb until outer edges have browned. Flip lamb and continue to cook about 2 minutes. Remove lamb to side plate and cook remaining lamb in batches. Add more avocado oil between batches as needed.
- When lamb is finished, cut warm pitas in microwave for 30 seconds.
- Using a bread knife, cut along edge of pita halfway around circumference. Use fingers to form pocket.
- Add lamb and feta cheese to pocket.
- Spoon in about two healthy spoonfuls of tabouleh. You can add more or less per your preference.
- Spread tzatziki on flap of pita.
- Fold flap of pita in, wrapping around the filling. Roll pita over into halfmoon shape.
- Serve immediately alongside rice pilaf or extra tabouleh.