Easy Greek Lamb Marinade (For Chops, Leg, Pitas & More!)

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Elevate all your favorite lamb recipes with this easy 10-minute Greek lamb marinade. Whether it’s lamb chops, lamb pitas, a lamb leg or another lamb cut you’re cooking with, you’ll have perfectly tender and tasty meat with this Greek style blend of lemon, olive oil, garlic, spices and herbs.

A Greek style pita bread stuffed with marinated lamb, feta, and salad and rolled up in baking paper, all on a wooden chopping board.

Why you’ll love it

Lamb can be so delicious, but even more so when you take just a little more time (10 minutes in fact!) to make a marinade for perfectly juicy, tender and flavorful meat.

I first tried out this Greek style lamb marinade when making some simple lamb pitas, but it’s just as great for lamb chops, kabobs, rack of lamb, and even whole legs or shoulders.

  • Super Quick, Easy, and Simple: This marinade requires minimal effort and prep time, making it perfect for busy weeknights or entertaining. No fancy ingredients are needed – you probably have everything you’ll need already in your fridge or pantry!
  • Simple but Rich and Characteristically Mediterranean Flavors: Herbs like oregano and thyme, along with a touch of honey and cinnamon, create a warm and cozy Greek style flavor.
  • Make Ahead at Your Convenience: You can marinate your lamb for as little as 30 minutes for a quick weeknight meal. Alternatively, marinate it overnight for an even deeper flavor infusion.
  • So Versatile: This marinade isn’t just for lamb! Use it to flavor chicken, pork, or even shrimp. It can also be used to marinate vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, or bell peppers before grilling or roasting. Or what about potatoes? The possibilities are endless!
  • Easily Customizable: This recipe is a fantastic starting point, but feel free to customize it to your taste. Don’t like cinnamon? Leave it out. Want a hot and spicy kick? Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Love garlic? Throw in an extra clove or two!

If you love this, you’ll also love my delicious slow cooked Greek lamb. Give this a try as well!

About the ingredients

All labelled ingredients needed to make a lamb marinade including oregano, thyme, bay leaf, olive oil, a lemon, garlic, honey, salt and pepper, paprika, cumin and cinnamon.

Here’s what you need to make an easy and delicious Greek Lamb marinade for a tender lamb dish:

Dried Oregano (substitute with fresh oregano): Oregano is one of the most essential herbs in Greek cuisine. It really adds a warm, aromatic flavor that’s slightly peppery. You can substitute with fresh oregano, if you prefer. I suggest using Mediterranean oregano rather than Mexican, which tastes quite different.

If you don’t have any oregano, check out my post on best oregano substitutes!

Fresh Thyme: Thyme has a similar taste to oregano, but it’s more subtle in flavor. You could easily substitute it with dried thyme instead.

Ground Cinnamon: This ingredient might surprise you, but a small amount of ground cinnamon really adds a subtle warmth and depth of flavor to the marinade. Classic Greek savory dishes, like Authentic Pastitsio and Easy Greek Moussaka often use ground cinnamon. In my opinion it’s a key ingredient!

Garlic: No Greek lamb marinade is complete without garlic! It really pairs so well with lamb. You can easily increase the amount if you especially love garlic.

Paprika: Paprika adds a touch of smokiness to the marinade, which I love. You can use either regular paprika for a milder flavor or smoked paprika for a deeper, richer taste, depending on your preference.

Cumin: Cumin is amazing with lamb and in Greek recipes. I suggest adding just a little so as not to overpower the lamb’s natural flavor.

Salt & Pepper: Seasoning is definitely key! I’ve suggested an amount but feel free to adjust to taste.

Honey: Honey not only adds sweetness, but it also slightly caramelizes when the lamb cooks – mmm, delicious! Any honey will work, or you can substitute with maple syrup or even sugar if you don’t have any.

Lemon: For this marinade, I use fresh lemon zest and juice. The acidity will help tenderize the lamb while adding a zesty citrus flavor, too. I like an intense lemony flavor, but add less (or more!) if you like.

If you don’t have a lemon, you can substitute with vinegar – try red wine vinegar, but any will work.

Bay Leaf: Although this is optional, I like the subtle herbal aroma it gives the marinade. It’s up to you – if you have one, why not include it?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: High-quality extra virgin olive oil is the base of the marinade. Use whatever you have or like.

How to make Greek lamb marinade

The step-by-step photos below will help you make the recipe perfectly first time. Scroll down to the end for the full recipe including ingredient amounts.

This marinade is incredibly simple to make! All you do is stir everything together in a large bowl and mix until everything is fully combined.

Then add your meat and let the marinade do its magic!

All ingredients needed to make a lamb marinade Greek style in a white bowl ready to be mixed.
Overhead view of a Greek lamb marinade in a white bowl with a spoon in it.

Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to cook.

I told you this recipe was simple! (See the tip box below for make ahead instructions including marinating times).

Bite-sized pieces of raw lamb in a lamb marinade ready to be mixed together in a white bowl and with a spoon in it.

Making ahead

  • Marinate your lamb for one to two hours and up to overnight for the best results. Marinades that include an acidic ingredients like lemon or vinegar (like this one) can infuse flavor and make the meat tender relatively quickly. Even marinating your lamb for 30 minutes (if you’re in a hurry!) will give you delicious results!
  • Alternatively, if you want to make just the marinade itself ahead, that’s fine. Just shake the ingredients together in a clean jar with a lid, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days.
  • You can also mix together just the dry ingredients and store them labelled in a spice jar in your pantry for up to 6 months (on average). Then when ready to use, simply add the ‘wet’ ingredients to marinate the meat.

How to use

Use to marinate up to roughly 2 pounds/1 kilo of lamb. That’s (on average) 4 to 6 lamb leg steaks, 6 to 8 lamb chops (depending on size), 10 to 12 lamb kabobs/skewers, 1 X 2 pound/1 kilo leg of lamb or lamb shoulder, or equivalent of any other cut of lamb.

Here are some recipe ideas:

  • Marinate bite-sized pieces of lamb (cut up lamb steaks are good for this). Either thread onto skewers for lamb souvlaki (kabobs) or spread out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper to make meat for these easy Greek style lamb pitas. Bake at 200C for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through to your desired level of ‘done-ness’ (see tip below!).
  • Use the marinade to smear/rub all over a roughly 2 pound/1 kilo boneless lamb leg or shoulder. Then slow cook it as in this amazingly delicious classic recipe for Greek lamb.
  • Use the marinade to marinate other proteins such as chicken thighs, pork chops, or even salmon or shrimp (how about Greek style shrimp pitas – mmm!).
  • I often use this recipe to bake lamb bites or kabobs, but you can also use it for grilled/BBQ lamb, or pan-fried lamb such as lamb chops.
  • Want the ultimate roast potatoes? Just toss them in leftover Greek lamb marinade and roast them until they’re nice and crispy! (For another amazing potato recipe, check out these delicious Greek potatoes, too!).

Helen’s Top Tips

  • You might prefer your lamb to be cooked medium-rare, medium or well-done. If you have a meat thermometer you can check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. For medium rare, it should be 130°F to 135°F (54°C to 57°C), for medium 135°F to 145°F (57°C to 63°C) and for well-done 155°F and above (68°C and above).
  • If you want to marinate more meat than 2 pounds/1 kilo, simply double or triple the recipe.
  • I suggest using a non-reactive container, like glass or ceramic, since metal can react with the acidity in the lemon juice.
  • I often baste with leftover marinade. Just brush or baste the lamb with it every 10 minutes or so while it’s cooking (or every 30 minutes if you’re slow cooking it for a long time!). This not only adds extra flavor, it also helps keep the lamb moist.

Variations

There are so many ways you can create your own variations! Here are a few ideas:

  • Herbs: Try different, fragrant herbs, like rosemary, dill or mint. These are all perfect with lamb.
  • Yogurt: For a little tang, add a tablespoon or two of plain Greek yogurt to the marinade. It will help tenderize the lamb even more, too.
  • Spices: A pinch of coriander or cayenne pepper would also add a richer flavor.
  • Mustard: A little Dijon mustard adds more depth of flavor to the marinade. It also complements the lemon juice nicely.

Recipes to serve with marinated lamb

Of course, you can serve literally anything you like with Greek marinated lamb. Grilled or roasted Mediterranean vegetables and pita bread or a classic Greek village salad would be great, or anything ‘Greek’!

Here are some more of my favorite options:

Or browse this collection of best side dishes for lamb. Got leftover lamb? Here is another collection of leftover lamb recipes.

Recipe FAQs

Can I freeze the lamb in the marinade?

Yes! For best results, marinate for at least 30 minutes before freezing, and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before cooking.

How do I grill or pan-fry the lamb instead of baking it?

Preheat your grill or frying pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat (no oil necessary since there’s already plenty in the marinade). Once the pan is hot, sear the lamb for a few minutes on each side. I like to sear in batches so the meat has enough space in the pan. Then, slightly lower the heat and cook to your desired doneness.

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A Greek style pita bread stuffed with marinated lamb, feta, and salad and rolled up in baking paper, all on a wooden chopping board.
5 from 1 vote

Easy Greek Lamb Marinade (For Chops, Leg, Pitas & More!)

Take your lamb dishes to the next level with this incredibly easy Greek marinade! Whip it up in just 10 minutes using simple ingredients for any lamb cut for a tender texture and delicious Mediterranean flavor.
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 to 5

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, Substitute with 3 tablespoons of fresh oregano.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, Substitute with 2 teaspoons of dried thyme.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, (3-4) large, crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika, regular or smoked
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 small lemon, (around 2 tablespoons, or to taste) zest and juice (reduce amount if you don't like an intense lemony flavor)
  • 1 bay leaf, optional
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions 

  • Mix together all of the dry seasoning ingredients and combine really well. If you like, you can store in a sealed labeled jar or spice container until ready to use.
    1 tablespoon dried oregano, 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon paprika, ¾ teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Stir the honey, lemon juice and zest, garlic, bay leaf (if using) and olive oil into the dry herbs and spices.
    3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 small lemon, 1 bay leaf, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Add the lamb and stir well to ensure the marinade covers the meat thoroughly.
  • Cover the lamb and marinate in the refrigerator. For best results, marinate for one to two hours and up to overnight. If you're in a hurry, even 30 minutes will give you tasty lamb.

Notes

Ways to use Greek Lamb Marinade: This can be used to marinate up to roughly 2 pounds/1 kilo of lamb. That’s (on average) 4 to 6 lamb leg steaks, 6 to 8 lamb chops (depending on size), 10 to 12 lamb kabobs/skewers, 1 X 2 pound/1 kilo leg of lamb or lamb shoulder, or equivalent of any other cut of lamb.
Recipe idea: Marinate bite-sized pieces of lamb (cut up lamb steaks are good for this). Either thread onto skewers for lamb souvlaki (kabobs) or spread out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper to make meat for lamb pitas. Bake at 200C for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through to your desired level of ‘done-ness’. 
Alternatives: Use this to marinate other proteins such as pork, beef, chicken, salmon or shrimp. You can also use it to season roasted vegetables or potatoes. Consider adding more/different dried or fresh herbs, if you like. Experiment with rosemary, mint, coriander, red pepper flakes or chili flakes – anything you like!
Storing and freezing instructions: Store this marinade in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
You can also freeze this marinade for up to 3 months in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 158kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Sodium: 584mg, Potassium: 107mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 388IU, Vitamin C: 21mg, Calcium: 57mg, Iron: 2mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Helen Schofield

Don't expect to find anything fussy or complicated here. Just QUICK, EASY & (mostly!) HEALTHY recipes from the Mediterranean and beyond. ENJOY!

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2 Comments

    1. So happy to hear this, Jacquie! This is my favorite marinade for lamb, too.