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Lamb Tacos

Chipotle-Cinnamon Lamb (Tacos)

Lamb Tacos

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It’s time for some taco madness around here.

I’m known by my group of friends as a bit taco-obsessed. I’m generally first in line for new taco places around Portland (such as Tope, the newly opened, seasonal-focused rooftop taqueria co-owned by Josh McFadden of Ava Gene’s). I eat a taco in every city I visit, just to see how the world does tacos. So far I’ve hit Japan, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Netherlands, and France. Mexico doesn’t count because, of COURSE. Lebanon is next, and I already have my place picked out!

My love of tacos and their accompaniments is a little out of control. In the best way possible.

But what’s not to love about Mexican food? I’ll be dedicating a special section of this site as it grows, just so you all have lots to choose from when the need arises for a taco bar dinner party. Something I host a lot at my house. 🙂

Anywho – I was looking for an elevated and unique taco combination and that is how this recipe came about. I’d never come across a lamb taco at any restaurant yet, and really wanted to create my own. However, given this recipe makes 3 pounds of meat, you may *actually* get sick of tacos after Day 3 (gasp!). So I’ve paired it with two other awesome recipes for variety throughout your week. See below for those.

Lamb shoulder is an inexpensive and versatile cut of meat. In keeping with the importance of high-quality meat sourcing, we recommend pastured, grass-fed lamb from local or small family farms. Grass-fed lamb is available at the New Seasons butcher counter for $7.99/lb (as of the time of this writing, anyway). Luckily there are also tons of options for ordering high-quality, non-factory-farmed meat online. Review them here in our article Where To Shop. Two of our favorites are Butcher Box and Primal Pastures.

Lamb has a reputation for being fatty. But just like with pork, there are lean cuts on the animal. Lamb shoulder is a moderately lean cut of meat. Provided you trim away the 1/4″ fat cap at one end of the roast, its fat content is roughly equivalent to chicken thighs.

Lamb Tacos

When slow-roasting a shoulder in the oven, many chefs will leave the fat cap on. Lamb fat has a higher melting point than beef and will melt slowly over time, resulting in a ridiculously juicy final roast. But since we are using the InstaPot and braising liquid here, it doesn’t need all the extra fat! You’ll appreciate having removed it when its time to shred the meat.

This recipe uses an InstaPot vs skillet & slow cooker combo. I highly recommend buying one if you haven’t already. Between just meat and bone broth, mine has paid for itself several times over. I just recently discovered the Saute function, and it’s an incredible time saver. It eliminates the need for separate cookware. In fact, I made up this recipe sitting at my kitchen counter on a barstool while Marc and Riley were trying a new lemon-poppyseed cupcake recipe. I loved freeing myself from having to stand over the stove to cook dinner!

The end result is a lamb that tastes almost like a barbacoa. It’s smoky and in my opinion, just spicy enough. You should be aware that chipotle peppers are HOT. I found this out when trying to grind them by hand one day and getting the dust inside my nose. It was not a fun experience. So, if you don’t like spice (or have kids who don’t), feel free to substitute some smoked paprika and leave out the chipotle peppers. On the other hand, if you’re a spice addict you can pile on the chipotles. The sky’s the limit, really.

Speaking of other dinner ideas for this lamb, though…

This lamb is fantastic stirred into our Moroccan-Spiced Butternut Soup. Add in some shelled and roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), torn croutons (the kind with all the delicious ragged edges), and a drizzle of cream.

Another option is to plop this lamb and its stewy juices atop our Parmesan Polenta and brighten the whole thing up with some fresh garden peas and a smattering of fresh herbs (mint and tarragon highly recommended!). Add some cojita or pecorino if you like. I’m sure this lamb would be awesome in a gruyere quesadilla with guac, or even sprinkled on top a crispy flatbread.

Here, I’ve used organic corn tortillas by De Casa, just warmed up in a skillet (no oil added). I topped these guys with some of my super-spicy arbol chile crema, some crumbled cojita cheese, and a bit of pickled daikon radish for some delightfully tangy balance (I got the daikon in my CSA box last week). Daikon is great for digestion, it’s like adding wasabi to sushi. It helps cut the richness of the tacos.

All of this together leads to a taco of greatness. You can’t go wrong. But feel free to put whatever toppings on that you like. Isn’t that the fun of eating?

And if you want to follow this to the letter first time around, you can get the spicy arbol crema and/or pickled radish recipes too, just click the links!

Lamb Tacos

These 3 tacos with all the ingredients I added came out to about 450 calories, which is a perfect dinner portion.

Regardless what you do with it, make a big batch of this Lamb on Sunday and you’ll have great meat options all week. It keeps for 7-10 days in the refrigerator. Because there’s no dairy, it should freeze well also – though I’ve never tried. It gets eaten too fast in my household.


 Cinnamon-Chipotle Lamb Tacos

Lamb Tacos


3-3.5 lb grass-fed lamb shoulder roast

1/2 c dry and neutral-flavored white wine (such as Pinot Gris, Viognier or unoaked Chardonnay)

1 c homemade or organic chicken bone broth

3 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 whole dried chipotle peppers (2 will produce mildly spicy heat. Use more for spicier meat)

2 T tomato paste

1 tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste



Using the InstaPot Saute setting on More (High), pre-heat it (no lid on) for 3-4 minutes while trimming the roast of its fat cap and chopping it into large manageable chunks. You should end up with around 8, 3-4″ chunks – just small enough to turn easily while searing. Season both sides well with Diamond Crystal or other fine kosher salt.


Spray the bottom of InstaPot well with avocado oil spray, then working in batches, sear each roast chunk for 3 minutes per side. As they are done, remove them to a large plate and add the next batch. Do not crowd (don’t let them touch or they will steam).


Once finished and all meat is on plate, pour wine into the pot to deglaze the bottom. Scrape up any browned bits and let simmer until reduced by about half, and dark golden brown.


Add in chicken bone broth, tomato paste, and cinnamon. Stir well to combine.


Turn the InstaPot Saute function off, and add meat. Nestle smashed garlic cloves in between the meat chunks. Place chipotle peppers on top of meat.


Put lid on and lock into place. Turn vent to Seal. Turn InstaPot on to Meat setting, High Pressure for 45 minutes.


Prep remaining taco (or other meal) ingredients while the meat is cooking. Once the InstaPot timer has gone off, carefully flip Vent to Release steam. (You can do this quickly with your fingers, or use tongs. Keep your face away from the vent.) The releasing pressure process will take about 2-3 minutes. Once the floating metal indicator has dropped below surface of lid indicating pressure has released, unlock lid and remove.


Remove the chipotle peppers and discard. Remove the meat and set on another large plate or cutting board. Turn the InstaPot back to Saute High (More) setting and simmer the remaining liquid until reduced by half.


Return the meat to the pot and shred using two forks. Mix well with the liquid. Taste for saltiness and seasoning. Add salt or add’l spice (ground chipotle, chipotle adobo sauce, cayenne, etc) as needed to your individual preference. Serve immediately. Makes 12, 4-oz (raw weight) servings based on a 3 lb raw roast.

Nutrition Per Serving






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