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The 12 Best Lamb Substitutes For Your Recipes

Many people will agree that lamb meat is of premium quality, offering a very mild, neutral flavor, and a soft texture. 

Lamb meat also offers great versatility when it comes to culinary applications, as it is a great choice for countless recipes, and it can be prepared in many ways.

However, you may not always be able to get your hands on a perfect cut of lamb meat, which may force you to look for a lamb substitute.

In this guide, we will focus on the highest-quality lamb substitutes that can replace lamb meat in all your dishes.

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The best substitute for lamb is veal. As an alternative, you can also substitute lamb with mutton, goat, or chicken thighs. Lastly, in case you need something with a stronger aroma, you can replace lamb with beef shank, beef short ribs, brisket, or skirt steak.

The best substitutes for lamb

This red meat has that recognizable soft texture that makes it fall apart and melt on your tongue when properly cooked.

What makes the meat so soft and tender is the fact that the sheep is no older than 12 months. Generally, the rule of thumb is that the older the animal is, the chewier the meat will be. 

When it comes to cooking lamb properly, different cuts of meat will require different preparation and cooking method

However, being that lamb meat is generally so tender, you want to preserve its softness and avoid overcooking it

Cooking the lamb for too long will not only result in dry, chewy meat, but the flavor will simply evaporate in the process. 

To preserve all the aromatic juices and natural flavors of lamb meat, you want to avoid cooking the lamb beyond the medium-rare point (130 degrees). 

If you’re preparing lamb leg, make sure to marinate it beforehand, as this will allow the meat to tenderize and absorb all the flavors from the spices.

The rack of lamb may be the most popular meat cut, but also the most complicated when it comes to preparation. Luckily, different methods can yield great results, including braising, grilling, and roasting.

Regardless of the cut and the cooking method, you want to avoid long cooking at high temperatures, as it will completely change the meat texture.

What could replace lamb meat in your roast, stew, or burgers? Let’s take a look at the list of the best lamb substitutes

1. Mutton

If the sheep is older than 12 months, the meat is no longer called lamb, but mutton, and there is a difference not only in texture but in overall flavor profile, as well. 

You’ll notice that mutton is a bit tougher and denser, which means that it will require a longer cooking time. Also, it isn’t as mild as lamb, and it has a much stronger aroma. 

Considering that both types of meat come from the same animal, however, they have quite similar flavors and textures. So you can definitely use mutton as a substitute for lamb.

Keep in mind that mutton from a sheep older than 24 months will have a significantly stronger aroma

2. Veal

The main difference between veal and beef is that veal comes from a 6/7-month-old calf. This is also the main similarity between veal and lamb since the meat of a young animal is extremely tender and flavorful.  

Just like lamb, veal has a soft texture that is hard to match when it comes to other meat cuts. If prepared correctly (not cooked for too long), it preserves all its natural juices.

Veal can replace lamb in every single recipe you can think of, including stews, roasts, pulled meat dishes, and gyro. 

3. Goat

Goat meat is one of the best options for replacing lamb meat – especially when it comes to the softness and tenderness of the meat structure.

While lamb meat is quite mild and neutral, goat meat is more on the sweet side, with a subtle hint of gamey flavor. 

Goat is an ideal choice for slow-cooked dishes such as stews, as well as curry, and roasts. While it has a tender texture and a sweet flavor, the aroma can sometimes be overwhelming, which is something to keep in mind. 

4. Beef shank

The best lamb shank substitute is certainly beef shank – a very popular and versatile meat cut that offers a very deep, rich flavor. 

This low-fat beef cut, while being extremely flavorful, isn’t as tender as lamb, so it requires additional moisture when cooking. 

That being said, the best cooking method for a tender, soft beef shank is braising in a generous amount of liquid – whether it be broth, stock, wine, or just water.

If not cooked properly, just like lamb cuts, the beef shank can become quite flavorless and dry, losing all its natural juices. 

5. Ground pork

If you’re looking for a good ground lamb substitute, whether it be kebabs, taco filling, pasta sauce, or lasagne – ground pork is the answer.

Many people gravitate towards ground pork when replacing ground lamb in their dishes since it is neutral, easy to work with, and quite frankly – the most versatile ground meat option.

Pork is a delicious substitute for ground lamb in dishes such as lamb bowls, burger patties, meatballs, meatloaf, and all kinds of ground meat stuffing. 

When it comes to preparing ground pork, it needs to be cooked for a little less time than ground lamb.

6. Chicken thighs

When you think about tender, neutral, yet extremely flavorful meat cuts, chicken thighs must be one of the main associations.

When it comes to replacing lamb in your dishes, you could also go with chicken breasts. However, we find that chicken thighs are much more suitable since they offer a higher fat content.

A higher fat content generally means that the meat cut is less likely to turn out chewy, dry, and flavorless, as the fat keeps the meat moist and juicy.

Chicken thighs are an excellent choice if you want to replace lamb on a grill, as well as in salads, gyro, or roasts with potatoes and mixed veggies. 

7. Vegetarian lamb

When it comes to vegetarian lamb substitute, the secret lies in a carefully chosen mixture of herbs and spices that will create the best mixture of flavors, resembling a roasted lamb.

For vegetarian lamb, you want to prepare the mixture using the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp beetroot powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • fresh rosemary (or other herbs of choice)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp liquid aminos 
  • 1 cup water
  • minced garlic to taste

Combine all the dry ingredients and add them to a blender. Add in all the wet ingredients we’ve listed and process the mixture until you get a smooth, compact texture.

Line a baking tray with some parchment paper, then transfer the vegetarian lamb mix onto the tray

You can just sprinkle it with some olive oil, or prepare a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, liquid aminos, and herbs and seasonings and pour it over.

Add vegetables of choice and roast for 1 hour, making sure to add some more olive oil or marinade if you notice that the vegetarian lamb is drying out. 

8. Turkey legs

Similar to chicken thighs, turkey legs offer unmatched versatility, and they’re quite mild and neutral when it comes to both flavor and aroma.

This means that, with the right choice of herbs and seasoning, you will be able to use turkey legs in pretty much any lamb recipe.

The texture of the meat is also quite tender, but you want to avoid overcooking it as it can become dry and chewy – just like most meat cuts we’ve mentioned. 

9. Oxtails

While this may not be the most obvious option when it comes to replacing lamb in soups, roasts, and stews, oxtails may surprise you – especially if you’ve never prepared them before.

Oxtails are a particularly good choice for stews and other slow-cooked dishes, given that they require more time to fully release all their flavors and juices.

Oxtails are crosscuts coming from either veal or beef tail, containing a piece of cartilage that should not be removed, as it holds most of the flavor. 

What’s more, flavor-packed oxtail broth that you can easily prepare in your pressure cooker is the best lamb stock substitute

10. Beef short ribs

Short ribs are taken from the chuck of the beef, consisting of 5 ribs – hence the name. The meat between these ribs, however, isn’t as tender as lamb, which calls for slow-cooking or braising.

These two cooking methods represent the best way to develop the rich flavors of ribs while preserving the juices and moisture of the meat. 

11. Brisket

These big, long cuts of cow meat consist of two parts: the more fatty point cut, and the leaner flat cut – which also tends to be on the pricier side.

However, when replacing lamb, as lean as lamb can be, we would still go with the fatty cut of the brisket – as it provides far more aroma and flavor due to the fat content.

12. Skirt steak

If you’re a steak fan, you will gravitate towards this cut – even though it has a significantly tougher structure compared to lamb meat

Skirt steak is, without a doubt, one of the most flavorful steak options, since it contains heavy marbling packed with flavor.

The best way to prepare skirt steak is to grill it, but all slow-cooking methods, including stewing and braising, can be used, as well. 

How to choose a lamb substitute

Many people prefer lamb over other meat because it is extremely tender and soft. If you’re prioritizing this kind of texture, you’ll love veal, goat, chicken thighs, and turkey legs. 

Vegetarian lamb is certainly the best meatless option that will still offer a wide array of flavors, while oxtails may be a pleasant surprise if you’re a fan of slow-cooked dishes – especially stews.

Mutton, beef shank, beef short ribs, brisket, and skirt steak may not be as tender as lamb, but when properly cooked (especially braised in a lot of liquid), they can be just as aromatic and delicious. 

Finally, ground pork will be a perfect replacement for ground lamb in all your Mediterranean dishes, pasta sauces, meatballs, and burger patties.

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Passionate chef, in love with everything related to food and cooking it to perfection!
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