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Slow cooker Mexican leg of lamb is a delicious, simple dish that makes feeding a crowd (or just for the family) simple. Perfect for tacos.

Slow cooker Mexican leg of lamb (perfect for tacos)
Slow-cooked Mexican leg of lamb

Slow cooker Mexican leg of lamb (perfect for tacos) 

We used to go to a local Mexican with a group of friends specifically for one meal – slow cooked Mexican leg of lamb. 

It was the most delicious, melt-in-your mouth dinner and perfect for sharing with a group. 

But then the restaurant doubled the price. 

A few months later they closed the doors for the last time. 

The ingredients

I didn’t want to miss out on having the lamb tacos ever again so I endeavoured to recreate it myself. 

It was time to create my own lamb tacos recipe.

Back then I’d never cooked a leg of lamb before and had no idea what I was doing but it seems the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method paid off this time.

The meat was fork tender and perfectly spiced. 

I was rather proud of myself. 

What was even better was it cost me $20 for the lamb and everything else I had at home. 

It sure beats the $125 we paid last time!

The ingredient list might look long but this is a really really easy dish to make.

What do you need to make slow cooker Mexican shredded lamb

  • Leg of lamb on the bone – you can use boneless but the cooking time will vary. Bone-in lamb has a bit more flavour too. A bone-in lamb shoulder will work too. 
  • Dried oregano
  • Ground cumin
  • Salt – we like Celtic sea salt
  • Sugar – we use rapadura but any sugar will work
  • Garlic – crushed. Use fresh or from a jar. 
  • Lime juice – fresh or from a bottle. 
  • Oil – we use olive oil
  • Onions – we use brown or white onions but you can use red onions if that’s all you have. 
  • Red chilies – sliced, or chili powder (leave this out if you don’t want it too spicy) 
  • Hot paprika – or smoked for not too spicy
  • Bay leaves – fresh or dried
  • Cinnamon quill
  • Cloves – whole cloves not ground
  • Tin diced tomatoes
  • Flour tortillas to serve – we make our own

If you want to cheat a little, you could substitute the spices for a Mexican spice rub. 

What is the best cut of lamb for a slow cooker?

For making Mexican shredded lamb, we recommend a bone-in leg of lamb. Boneless can also be used as can lamb shoulder. 

If you can’t get either of those, the next option would be lamb meat cut in large pieces which you can then shred once cooked and tender. 

Sear diced lamb in a frying pan over medium heat before adding it to the slow cooker.

It will need about 6 hours on low. 

How to make Mexican lamb taco meat (aka shredded lamb)

Onion lining

Start by placing the onions in the bottom of the slow cooker bowl. 

They’re there to stop the lamb sitting on the bottom and burning (and to add a bit of flavour). 

It probably wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have them but I thought it better to be safe than sorry.

Ready for cooking

Carefully place the lamb meat on top of the onions so it doesn’t touch the sides.

Do you need to sear lamb before slow cooking?

We didn’t and this recipe was full of flavour. 

​Next time I probably would sear it in a frying pan with a little oil just until it is brown all around and then put it in the crock pot. 

In a small bowl, combine the oregano, cumin, salt, sugar, garlic, lime juice, oil and paprika and then pour them over the lamb. 

Yes I just got out all the Mexican ingredients I could find and kept adding them until I hit something that smelled right. 

Tip in the tinned tomatoes and then put the chili, bay leaf, cinnamon and cloves on top.

Put the lid on the slow cooker, set it to low and let it do its thing for 8 hours.

Why won’t the leg of lamb fit in the slow cooker?

Ahh the age-old question is a bit like ‘how long is a piece of string.’ 

​Before you start cooking, while your lamb leg is still wrapped, check to make sure it fits in the slow cooker. 

If you’re unsure when buying it, measure your slow cooker and the lamb to check.

​Your butcher will be able to trim the bone down a little for you if you need. 

Is 4 hours on high the same as 8 hours on low?

Generally, the rule we use is that high is double the speed of low. 

It’s preferable to cook this low and super slow over increasing it to high as it will let the flavours develop better. 

Slow-cooked Mexican leg of lamb

After the eight hours, I took the lid off and spooned some of the liquid over the top then put the lid back on and put it on high for 30 minutes.

You probably don’t need to do that but I would spoon the juices over and let it sit in the cooker for a little while longer.

How do you know when slow cooker lamb is done?

When you can stick a fork in it and the meat comes away easily, it’s cooked to tender perfection. 

​If you need to use force to pull the meat then it will need to cook longer. 

The cook time can vary a little from piece to piece of meat. 

Slow-cooked Mexican leg of lamb

Very carefully transfer lamb to a serving dish. 

It will be super tender at this stage and practically falling off the bone so you have to be carefully not to lose the lot.

Why is my slow cooked lamb tough?

​If your lamb is tough you likely haven’t cooked it long enough. 

Slow cooking is all about patience. 

Don’t be tempted to lift the lid while it is cooking as it adds to the cooking time.

If you don’t have a tender leg of lamb at the end of the cooking time, put the lid back on and turn it up to high for 20-30 minutes then test it again. 

Slow cooker Mexican leg of lamb (perfect for tacos)

Does lamb get more tender the longer you cook it?

In the slow cooker it sure does. But just make sure you’re checking it regularly from the 8 hour mark. 

Can you leave lamb in slow cooker too long?

As this recipe uses lamb leg (or shoulder) it is forgiving if you unexpectedly have to leave it a little longer. 

An hour or so extra won’t dry it out or overcook it. 

How do you keep lamb from drying out in a slow cooker?

If your lamb is drying out in the slow cooker using this recipe, there might be a problem with the seal on your lid. 

Another trick is to scrunch a piece of parchment paper under running water then shake and spread it out and wrap it over the top of the lamb to create an extra lid. 

​You’ll still need the lid of the slow cooker. 

Falling off the bone

I served mine in the middle of the table with tongs so everyone could help themselves to the shredded lamb. 

If you want it to be a bit prettier, you could shred the meat on a chopping board before and serve it ready to go in a serving bowl. 

I personally think it’s more fun having the leg on the table.

Ready for wrapping

How to serve shredded lamb Mexican style

We like to serve it in the middle of the table with accompaniments to make lamb tacos: 

  • soft flour tortillas (or corn tortillas for gluten free) 
  • guacamole
  • grated cheese
  • sour cream 
  • chili or hot sauce
  • fresh lime wedges 
  • fresh salsa (or ready-made salsa)

Wrap them up and gobble them up. Enjoy!

Store any leftover shredded lamb in an airtight container in the fridge. 

What about you? 

Do you recreate dishes you try in restaurants?

Looking for more slow cooker recipes? Check out 12 winter slow cooker favourites

Slow-cooked Mexican leg of lamb
Slow-cooked Mexican leg of lamb

Slow-cooked Mexican leg of lamb

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg (3.3lbs) leg of lamb on the bone
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes or 1 tsp regular table salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3 red chilies sliced in 3 pieces
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tin diced tomatoes
  • flour tortillas to serve (I usually make my own

Accompaniments

  • grated cheese
  • guacamole
  • salsa
  • sour cream
  • chili

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the oregano, cumin, salt, sugar, garlic, lime juice, oil and paprika.
  2. Place the chopped onions on the bottom of a slow cooker and place the lamb on top so it's not touching the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour over the spice mix and the chopped tomatoes and then add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cloves and chopped chili on top.
  4. Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours.
  5. Take the lid off and spoon the juices over the lamb. Put the lid back on and cook on high for half an hour.
  6. Carefully remove the lamb to a serving platter.
  7. Serve it with tortillas and your choice of accompaniments.
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