Basque Lamb Stew

Updated, from the recipe archive. First posted in 2005. Enjoy!

Are you familiar with Basque cooking? Basque Country is a region bordering Spain and France at the Western end of the Pyrenees mountains. Basque descendants and communities can be found all over California and Nevada. (More on the history of the Basque people in the Wikipedia.) Lamb stews are typical of Basque cuisine, as are dishes that include both tomatoes and sweet red peppers.

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My father first found the recipe from which we adapted this basque lamb stew in an old issue of Saveur Magazine. He has at least 20 years of back issues of Gourmet, Saveur, and other cooking magazines that he keeps around just waiting for a spare moment to review. We’ve made this stew several times and just love it. It seems a little odd in that the lamb is first marinated in herbs and white wine, and then braised in stock and red wine. Mixing wines in cooking is so rarely done, but apparently it does happen on occasion in Spanish cooking (we’ve found references in Spanish cookbooks).

Basque Lamb Stew Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 4 hours
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Feel free to substitute some or all of the paprika with smoked paprika.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 1 tablespoon chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 10-ounce can roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry, full-bodied red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock*
  • Freshly ground black pepper

* If cooking gluten-free, use homemade chicken stock or gluten-free packaged stock.

Method

1 Combine the lamb, half of the garlic cloves, rosemary, and white wine in a medium bowl. Let marinate for 2 to 3 hours. Drain the meat, discard the marinade, and pat dry with paper towels. Mince the remaining garlic cloves and set aside.

2 Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan with lid, over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Salt the meat as it browns.

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3 Remove the meat from the pan and add the onions to the pan. Cook, scraping browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

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4 Return the meat to the pan with the onions and garlic. Stir in paprika, roasted peppers, tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, allowing the liquids to reduce a bit. Then add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Add freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste.

Serve with rustic bread. If you want, try garnishing with fresh mint leaves (though I have no idea how "Basque" that is, it just tastes good.)

Links:

Basque Chicken - from Not Quite Nigella
Basque Veal Stew - from French Letters
Chilindron, Spanish Venison Stew with Paprika - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

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75 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I tried this last week and my wife and I couldn’t believe how tasty it was! Followed the recipe to a “t” and the results were outstanding.
    In fact, we’re having company over the house tomorrow and plan on serving this.

  2. Rosie

    I have had a similar recipe to this for some time but have never gotten around to trying it.
    After reading your remarks and that of the comment left you can guess whats on the menu tonight.

  3. Nicole Jackson

    I made this tonight for tomorrow’s dinner. It only simmered an hour, I’ll set it to simmer for the last hour tomorrow around 4.

    OMG, so yummy. Thank you!

  4. Julie Murdeshwar

    Hi, I made this last night, and I wanted to let you know I followed the recipe through step 2, then added mixture and chicken broth to slow cooker, cooked on low for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Came out great and was very convenient!

  5. haslina

    Hubby made these for me for Valentine’s Day but without the red wine though. Still tasted good to me!

  6. Shea

    Made this as is except added a clove of garlic, one more tomato, and a little extra red wine. Excellent! I made it another night with beef and used beef broth instead of chicken broth and added a bay leaf, omitted the mint. Very good.

  7. Michael

    Loved it! I spooned off a good bit of grease before serving, but the dish was still very flavorful. I served it over quinoa and it was a big hit. Looking forward to tasting it again in a couple of days to see how it sets up.

    Thanks for posting this!

  8. TE

    I made this for my husband last year! It was awesome! He has been away for a month on a training mission and this was his request for when he returns!

    This is by far the best recipe we have found!!!

  9. Patty

    Only had 1 lb of lamb stew. Used all the ingrediants pared down to the amount of lamb I had but still went heavy on the tomatoes. Used roasted red peppers from a jar! Served it over couscous… How Awesome is this???

    This is the first time I ever made lamb and I’m in LOVE!

    FYI, since I had less lamb it didn’t as long to simmer until tender which meant I got to eat it sooner.

    YUMMMMY!

  10. Rossella

    Wonder who was the Easter Super Star this year (besides You-know-who of course!)? Me! and it was all thanks to this incrediblly simple but genuinely good recipe…I still can hear the ohhhs and aahhhs :)

    Great! ~Elise

  11. Keith

    Made this for church Easter pot luck. The hit of the event, positive comments from everyone. Cooked it in a Le Creuset French Oven. Lamb was VERY tender. Flavors pronounced. Absolutely heavenly. Do this over noodles, rice, or a grain like quinoa. You’ll be very very happy.

  12. Kepa

    Kaixo,

    While looking for Basque recipes in English with standard measurements, I stumbled upon this one, which looks like a typical “estofado de cordero” recipe from Euskadi. Yet, I must say that any Basque grandma worth her salt would probably have included bay leaf in her estofado instead of rosemary. Try them both and see?

    On egin denei!!

  13. Linda

    This is the best recipe for lamb. I serve it in all the important occasions! Thank you so much Elise!

  14. Sakme

    I had used all of my tomatos so I subbed in canned whole tomato at the last second and it still turned out awesome. Will definately make this again and would absolutely use it for entertaining to impress guests. Sadly there were no leftovers.

  15. Hannah Springer

    This recipe is incredible. I used grass-fed locally-raised lamb stew meat, and pastured organic chicken fat (schmaltz) in place of the vegetable oil for browning the meat. Also thyme in place of rosemary as I had no fresh rosemary (not a big rosemary fan). Also had to add an extra 1/2 cup of chicken broth (homemade, from pastured chicken) as the liquid seemed to be evaporating too quickly. It was incredibly delicious. Even my husband, who strongly dislikes lamb said this was great (he even had seconds!). This took a bit of work but it was well worth it!!!

  16. Andrea

    I loooooove this recipe. I add more red wine, Green Beans & also diced Potatoes. It just allows me to stretch it a little farther and blends well.I also add fresh Parsley to the marinade. I used canned diced tomatoes w/herbs. Everyone really enjoys this and it’s ALWAYS a hit!

  17. ~M

    If I wanted to use my own roasted red bell peppers, how many bell peppers is this? Thanks!

  18. CourtneyLeigh

    Looks perfect, my family is not keen on red bell pepper – may substitute with what?

  19. sue

    What kind of parsley?

  20. Bill

    Looking forward to making this weekend and was wondering if you have tried substituting smoked paprika in the recipe?

  21. June

    I made this for my husband last week and he loved it! I want to make it again, but forgot to buy the white wine. Can I use red wine for the marinade? If not, what do you suggest?

  22. Bob Ham

    OK I picked this recipe at random just to tell you how much I love this recipe site. I love the stories that accompany the recipes. The photographs are beautiful. I love the sense of Family that permeates this site. And I especially love the recipes that feature multiple pictures of preparation–my collection of recipes is on software called AZZ Cardfile and when I save one of yours there I leave a link at the bottom so I can navigate to the page and see the pictures.

    Just an awesome site!

  23. Nicole

    Dear Elise,

    My family isn’t very fond of lamb unfortunately. Would the recipe still work with pork or beef? Thanks.

    • Elise

      I haven’t tried making this with pork or beef, but if you do, please let us know how it turns out for you.

  24. Denise

    I am Basque, and always on the look-out for recipes. My great grandmother and great aunt, use to make a lamb stew such as this. They would marinade in red wine, though, and it did not have roasted peppers. Just lots of garlic, onions and Piment d’Espelette. They would serve it with homemade Basque Sheepherders bread – I could eat bowls of it!! Love it!

  25. Farmgirl Susan

    This sounds wonderful, Elise. I actually have two lamb shoulder roasts I’m planning to simmer for several hours in the dutch oven tonight (with lots of tomatoes and peppers and some rosemary from one of the plants on the windowsill), but now I’m thinking maybe I should change the menu. :) You know I love when you post lamb recipes – and I somehow missed this one in the archives. Thanks!

  26. Devlyn

    I’d like to mention that the largest Basque community outside of Europe actually resides in Idaho, around Boise. There’s some great Basque restaurants in Boise and its suburbs and they’re pretty much the only places I eat when I go through. ^_^ Will have to try this soup soon!

    • Elise

      There’s also a large Basque community in Elko, Nevada. :-)

    • Solaera

      Large Basque community here in Bakersfield, Ca., too. We are an ag town and many of our oldest families are Basque. In 2011 one of our Basque restaurants, Noriega’s, won a James Beard award. We are fiercely proud of our Basque!

  27. mantha

    Elise, how gorgeous those pictures are! We are having a desperate cold snap here in the northeast this week, and this looks like the most warming, satisfying stew imaginable. I love lamb with lots of garlic, and I would put red roasted peppers on my corn flakes, so this is perfect.

  28. Chad McKenna

    We eat one whole lamb each year. this stew is fantastic.

  29. Gerry @ Foodness Gracious

    I’m always so impressed with Spanish and Italian cooking, it feels very communal to me and I love to eat like that. This stew looks perfect!

  30. George

    Thanks for this, it’s an excellent recipe. Because I like a little more heat, I’ve used a little Basque red pepper, piment d’esplette.

  31. Raul

    The “mint” mentioned here, is very much Basque, if not for most lamb receipes. I don’t know how this will work with a stew, but if you cook lamb chops or steaks, leave a small “pile” of mint-jam or jelly on the plate, so you can “dip” your lamb prior to putting it in your mouth. YOU WILL BE IN HEAVEN! Mint jam/jelly goes VERY WELL with lamb.
    And, if you really want to “impress,” don’t forget to offer (yourself or/and) your guests with a “pecan punch.” It is a cocktail and the receipe can be found on-line. Don’t drink too much, or you will “forget” that you have a meal to eat! This cocktail is “more” than wonderful and as authentic as you can get along with your Basque meal! ENJOY!

  32. Rocky Mountain Woman

    I do love lamb stew! This looks especially tasty..
    I will try this on the weekend…

  33. Simply Recipes Addict

    I plan to make this stew this weekend and now is a good a time of any to clear up my confusion about the various types of paprika. Is Hungarian paprika, sweet paprika? Or are they different. The bag of paprika I have at home simply says “Paprika” so I don’t know whether I should just use what I have or whether I should specifically seek out Sweet Paprika. What do you think?

    • Elise

      If you have paprika and it isn’t labeled sweet or hot, most likely it is sweet. Just taste it. If it is hot paprika, it will taste as if someone added cayenne to it. If it doesn’t taste chili-hot, then it’s sweet.

  34. Joanna Anderson

    I holiday in the Basque Country each year, travelling from London UK via train into France and ending in San Sebastian for the Jazz in July.
    If you love food (as I do) then you MUST go it’s wonderful.
    The lamb stew looks lovely, I have all the ingredients including the pepper, so will make it tomorrow and dream of this summer’s holiday…..

  35. Susanne

    I made this for dinner on this very cold January day. It was perfect! I substituted a can of diced tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes. Put the juice in also. After bringing it to a boil on top of the stove, I put it in the oven at 275 degrees for 2-1/2 hours. The red peppers are a necessity! Used smoked paprika also. Thanks Elise!

  36. joanne stone

    …made this last night for my family…..we all loved it…..we will definately have this again…….thanks for all your wonderful recipes!

  37. Kay

    I love your website and it is my go-to site for new recipes. I love trying all your ethnic recipes. Although I live in a fairly large city, and even in the best grocery store in town, lamb cuts are minima (and expensive). I can find lamb shoulder chops, leg of lamb (boneless), lamb shank. Which would you recommend for this recipe?

    • Elise

      Hi Kay, Since the recipe calls for lamb shoulder, I would start there. If not, try it with boneless leg of lamb.

      • Kay

        Thank you… I will try it this weekend.

        • Kay

          Great luck, the lamb shoulder chops were on sale, and it will be easy to cut the chunks of lamb. Since tomatoes are out of season I’ll use a can of plum tomatoes. Can’t wait to try this on Saturday.

  38. Brenda

    Looks delish, although I am a meat eater, I have an aversion to eating lamb. Would this be good with another type of meat perhaps? I have made many of your recipes and often receive requests from others to share them! Thanks Elise!

  39. Buttoni

    Man, oh man, does that ever sounds (and look) good! I will definitely be trying this out.

  40. Karen

    Elise, thanks for reposting, I missed it the first time. There is something seductive about this recipe… I think it’s the savory combo of lamb, red peppers and rosemary. And that black bowl is super sexy!

  41. Espahan

    We love lamb. I have a similar recipe I make but I will try it with the addition of wine. I already know this is a fabulous recipe. Yummy, I can taste in now.

  42. Lynne

    This looks so yummy. Can I ask is there something I can substitute for the red and white wine? We are not wine drinkers and I have tipped many bottles of wine down the sink over the years because I bought them for a recipe and then the unused wine would go off.

    • Melissa

      I don’t know about a substitute for wine, but you can buy in smaller packages now. Where I live, there are small cartons of wine usually stocked with the box wine. There are some pretty good ones now, and they usually contain a little under two cups of wine. Another idea is to find a couple of recipes that contain wine that you can make within a week.

    • Michele

      Don’t throw unused wine away, keep it in a wide-necked glass container with an air-permeable cover and let it turn to vinegar. Good quality wine vinegar is something to be enjoyed. If you are patient you need nothing but air and patience and leftover wine. If you are impatient there are shortcuts and you can find them online.

  43. Maia Brindley Nilsson

    I made this today and it was really delicious. I’m looking forward to how the flavors develop in the leftovers. This is definitely a keeper of a recipe.

  44. Kaitlyn

    Elise, how do you think this would turn out using boneless leg of lamb? Has anyone tried this?

    • Elise

      Hi Kaitlyn, the recipe calls for lamb shoulder which is a tougher cut of meat than leg of lamb. Think about it this way, the lamb is a grazing animal, always bending its neck down to eat grass. That movement uses the shoulder muscles, which is why they are tougher and also more flavorful. Lamb shoulder is best slowly cooked in stews or braises. Leg of lamb is a wonderfully tender cut of meat (not the shank, but the back thigh). This cut does not need hours of slow cooking to make it tender. It works perfectly well as a roast. So, you could use it in this recipe, but frankly I think it would be a waste of a tender piece of meat to cook it this way.

  45. cristina

    Made this recipe a week ago without marinating the meat it was still wonderfull!!!! Used oven roasted peppers as I could not get ready made peppers.

  46. Jonitha

    Hi, can I substitute the lamb for beef? Thanks.

    • Elise

      Hello Jonitha, I’ve only ever made this with lamb. If you try making it with beef, please let us know how it turns out for you.

  47. Dana

    I used leg of lamb, the biutt part, instead of shoulder. I have never made lamb stew. After much labor, the stew is good, but I am very disappointed with the meat. It is stringy and dry. Why?

    • Elise

      Hello Dana, the only thing I can think of that would result in dry meat would be it cooking at too high of a heat. It shouldn’t be stringy unless your lamb leg included the shank, which like a chicken drumstick, is stringy.

  48. Deirdre Lehman

    Delicious, especially with smoked paprika. I halved everything except for the paprika and I used half a large onion, half a shallot and the full amount of garlic for 1.5 pounds lamb. Nice on tomato cous cous with side of paper thin boiled and buttered kohlrabi.

  49. Deirdre Lehman

    I also wanted to add I used a butterflied leg of lamb cut up and think it really worked well. Tender and tasty.

  50. Sherri G

    Elise, I have made this recipe several times over the past 3 years and it is always savory and delicious. My husband and I are Puerto Rican and love lamb! I am making it next week for a group of friends, serving it with crusty bread and salad. Que rico!

  51. Brandon

    This is delicious. Being a broke 19 year old college student, I had to try to stretch it out for a bit of a cheaper dinner. Took out a pound of lamb and added a pound of yukon gold potatoes. Only substitution I made and it was amazing.
    Well, no red wine either. Had to dilute some red wine vinegar with some beef stock. Luckily, I had some white wine on hand from last time I cooked dinner for a friend.

  52. Tom

    I made this recipe in a crock pot at home. No red wine, I substituted white instead. Sauteed the onions and deglazed with white wine before adding to the crock pot. I also used a homemade lamb stock that I made the night before instead of the chicken stock with about a cup more stock added to the mix overall. I used some sun dried tomatoes and tomato sauce that I had lying around instead of the large ripe tomato that the recipe calls for. Also, I used 1 lb. ground lamb instead that I rolled into small meatballs with an egg, a bit of flour, salt, and some cumin to spice it up a bit. Not the exact recipe but it’s stewing away happily in the crock pot at the moment so I’ll let you all know how it goes!

  53. Love it

    How wonderfully simple. Meat, onion, peppers, tomato, aromatics, spices and wine.

    Readers should also take a look at a chicken recipe that uses many of the same techniques.

    http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chicken_cacciatore_hunter_style_chicken/

    I’m a big fan, Elise, and I steer as many people as possible to your site.

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