I tend to forget about gremolata, the simple three-ingredient condiment that has a particular affinity for lamb, but is also good on grilled fish, vegetables, and other meats. It’s one of those things that you can make with stuff you keep on hand, that is, if you have lemon, parsley, and garlic on hand, like I always do.

I was out shopping for ingredients for a day of recipe testing last week and since we’re in the midst of winter at the moment, I thought it’d be nice to have lamb shanks for dinner. They’re easy to prepare; you just stick them in the oven for a few hours with some aromatics and wine or stock (or water, or whatever you have on hand), and then you can almost forget about them. They’re hard to screw up, and the bonus is that the oven warms up your kitchen nicely.

Most butchers in Paris don’t put lamb shanks (souris d’agneau) on display; they usually keep them in the back, for some reason. For a long time, I wondered why butchers didn’t carry lamb shanks. When I finally asked a butcher why no one had them, he went in the back and brought out four. So now I’m wondering why you have to ask? I guess next time…I’ll ask.

When I got home later that morning, I rubbed the four lamb shanks with salt, pepper, and Spanish paprika. I got into a mini-tiff with a young butcher recently about salting meat before you cook it, which he said you shouldn’t ever do, even if you do it at the last minute, which he wasn’t doing in the restaurant attached to his shop. I didn’t want to tell him how to cook, but it’s a shame to serve good meat without seasoning it. (imho)

Later in the afternoon, I seared my (seasoned) lamb shanks in a Dutch oven with some olive oil until they were nicely browned on all sides. One chopped onion was added to the pot along with three cloves of garlic, sliced, and a handful of thyme branches. (Sometimes I sauté the onions and garlic in the pot, to bring out their flavors, but I was pressed for time so I forged ahead without doing that step.) I added 1 cup (250ml) dry vermouth to the pot then enough chicken stock until the shanks were about two-thirds submerged in liquid.

They were braised in a 300ºF/150ºC oven, covered, for around 3 hours, until the meat was falling off the bone. I removed the lid and turned the oven up to 400ºF/200ºC to let the sauce reduce. There was quite a bit of sauce so I ladled some into a saucepan and reduced it on the stovetop, which made me feel like a line cook again (minus the stress), but is something you can do at home when you want to concentrate flavors.

As the sauce was reducing, I thought the lamb shanks looked a little plain so whipped out a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped some up along with lemon zest and garlic, and sprinkled the gremolate over the top of the shanks before I served them.

Although I didn’t do it with this batch, I often dry out the gremolata a little, so it’s less clumpy. You can do that by spreading it on a baking sheet and letting it air out a bit for about an hour, running your fingers through it every once in a while and breaking up any clumps. That probably makes a more photogenic gremolata, but with the light fading fast as dinnertime approached, and a couple of hungry mouths to feed, dinner made it to the table shortly after I was able to capture a few snapshots.

Print Recipe
4 to 6 servings
Be sure to use flat-leaf parsley. It should be washed and dried very well; a salad spinner works best for drying herbs.Gremolata is better when chopped by hand, rather than in a machine. Garlic chopped mechanically can taste harsh and bitter, so I prefer to hand chop everything.
1 1/4 cups (12g) loosely packed flat leaf parsley
2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
grated zest of half a lemon, unsprayed or organic
1. Use a chef's knife to chop the parsley and garlic until they're both finely chopped.
2. Add the lemon zest and continue to chop until the parsley, garlic, and lemon are well-combined. If the gremolata is too damp, spread it on a baking sheet or platter for an hour or so, to dry at room temperature.

Gremolata is best the same day but can be kept overnight in the refrigerator. Sprinkle it over meat, fish or chicken. It's also nice sprinkled over pureed soups, like potato-leek, celery root, or butternut squash soup.


Parsley, garlic & lemon make up this delicious, brightly flavored condiment.

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  • March 3, 2018 1:52pm

    Also good stirred into soup. And sprinkled on top of sliced tomatoes to be roasted or inside whole tomatoes to be cooked on the grill. Among other things… Reply

  • March 3, 2018 2:09pm

    Great flavor, beautiful color, lovely photography! Reply

  • March 3, 2018 3:01pm

    I love it! On Osso Bucco especially:) Reply

  • Christina Imm
    March 3, 2018 5:08pm

    This is such a useful and brightening condement. I like to add add a bit of lemon juice and olive oil just to make it more sauce-like. Thank you as always! Reply

  • suzie
    March 3, 2018 5:10pm

    Should never or shouldn’t ever, but never shouldn’t never. Just sayin.
    Look forward to your email to cheer me up, view lovely photos and not have to think about our orange-musollini and what chaos he is causing today. Thank you! Reply

  • Maribel
    March 3, 2018 5:13pm

    Mmm. Lovely. I wonder if Gremolata could be prepared with cilantro instead of parsley. Reply

    • JudithNYC
      March 3, 2018 6:30pm

      Since I don’t like parsley that much and love, love cilantro I usually substitute part or all of the parsley with cilantro. Same when I make chimichurri. It might not be authentic gremolata or chimichurri, but it’s what I like. Reply

      • nancywriternyc
        March 3, 2018 7:01pm

        And garlic & I don’t get along, so I mince chives with my lemon rind & parsley (or cilantro, or basil). Mixed with grated parmesan, makes almost any pasta better. Reply

  • March 3, 2018 5:15pm

    As I love to put parsley on almost everything savoury that I cook, the addition of garlic and lemon zest looks like it could become my next favourite thing. Reply

  • Phyllis S.
    March 3, 2018 5:15pm

    I never use that much parsley. Mostly just about equal quantities of each. Reply

  • Helen
    March 3, 2018 5:29pm

    Am a big fan of Gremolata. I tend to use preserved lemon rather than fresh rind. The extra salty flavour never hurts. Reply

    • rob
      March 3, 2018 5:48pm

      I wonder how preserved lemon would combine with cilantro. Sounds lovely. Reply

  • Andrew Lage
    March 3, 2018 6:02pm

    I wish I’d seen this post earlier! I’m having a dinner party tonight and now I wish I was making this! Next dinner party. I’m making doro wat which is great, too. Reply

  • Jeannine
    March 3, 2018 6:17pm

    Amusing that SOURIS is mouse/mice in French. Plenty in old buildlings in the 11eme. Reply

    • March 3, 2018 7:18pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, the origin of that word is rather interesting, in French. I explored it in one of my books because I wanted to get to the bottom of it : ) Reply

  • Becky
    March 3, 2018 6:18pm

    David, I often salt smaller cuts of meat after I cook them. I find the meat shrinks less, and I can use less salt. I am a bit salt sensitive, so I can’t eat a lot of it. The salt on the exterior of the meat hits my tongue first, so it tastes salty even though it isn’t. Is this just a terrible thing to do to meat? Reply

  • Bev
    March 3, 2018 6:25pm

    Why should you be sure to used flat-leafed parsley? Wouldn’t curly parsley work? Reply

    • March 3, 2018 7:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, you could use curly parsley, but I prefer the flavor of flat-leaf parsley which is slightly anise-like. (This condiment is based in Italy and I think they use more flat-leaf parsley, like the French do, than curly parsley, since it lends a different flavor.) Reply

      • Bev
        March 3, 2018 7:40pm

        Thanks, David. Reply

  • Alicia
    March 3, 2018 7:03pm

    Thanks for sharing, David. I made gremolata yesterday & was wondering why I don’t make it more often. It keeps well in the fridge with olive oil and it is excellent with fish, meat, lamb, chicken, soups, chili, etc. I use flat parsley as it has more flavour. Cilantro may be good too but in smaller quantities the flavour is much stronger than parsley. No wonder that my Colombian friends have a saying “es bueno el cilantro pero no tanto” which translates into something like “cilantro is good but not a lot of it” Reply

  • Janet Thompson
    March 3, 2018 7:22pm

    I have a book in my culinary “library” that I value a lot called Classic Turkish Cooking by Gillie Basan. In it is great lamb recipe, embarrassingly simple to make, called Kiremitte Kebab, or Tile-Baked Kebab, that is baked in the oven with aromatics, but not seasoned until it is finished cooking. Delicious! Reply

  • Darrin Siegfried
    March 3, 2018 8:08pm

    David, recently I roasted a few beautiful beets, slipped off their skins and cut them into chunks. Near dinner time I sauteed them in butter to warm them through and topped them with a Gremolata made from Parsley, Tarragon and Pistachios, all chopped..A delicious combination! So many variations on Gremolata. Reply

    • Jim
      March 3, 2018 8:26pm

      This sounds incredible. Reply

    • March 3, 2018 9:50pm

      Darrin; this sounds terrific – and completely up my street! Thanks Reply

  • Jim
    March 3, 2018 8:24pm

    Goes great on top of braised short ribs – really cuts the richness and adds brightness to the plate. Reply

  • Tony le P
    March 3, 2018 8:37pm

    I am a great admirer of you blog, at the least the savoury section, as the sweet section and my girth are combatant.
    I have a serious question about using olive oil to fry, or sear meat. My understanding is that it degrades above about 200C and one should use rapeseed oil/ huile de colza instead. What do you think? Reply

  • March 3, 2018 9:48pm

    Learned a new word today: Gremolata – I always called it just ‘flat & curly parsey/garlic/lemon ‘sauce’ – but then it’s not a gremolata, of course…. :)
    I’m in love with your garlic photo – seriously!
    The butchers might hide the souris d’agneau because they are not the ‘dearest’ meat, maybe? I do love them – especially when they are tenderly cooked on low heat until they literally fond in your mouth – maybe the ideal old-people-meat dish?. Reply

  • March 3, 2018 9:55pm

    Re salting the meat before cooking. Your comment also intrigues me David. I always learnt to salt after the cooking except when used sparingly in a marinade. Can you go into this a bit more. I always only add (mostly fleur de sel or even better my imported Maldon Sea Salt Flakes) salt after the ‘cooking’. Thank You Reply

    • Sue Story
      March 3, 2018 10:59pm

      Kiki if you are interested Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat is a very interesting book, Reply

    • March 4, 2018 8:35am
      David Lebovitz

      There’s an outstanding essay and description on why (and how) you should salt meat in advance by Judy Rodgers in her excellent book, The Zuni Café Cookbook. She was a great cook and she describes it perfectly in there. If you have a copy of the book it’s worth reading. The Los Angeles Times also did an in-depth article with her about it, too. When you salt food while it’s cooking, the salt humidifies the food and becomes part of the flavor, not just resting on the surface. Which is why we salt soup when we make it, which is different than just sprinkling some on top. Reply

  • Lynda
    March 3, 2018 11:26pm

    This is an especially timely post for me, since I was recently diagnosed with a condition which can be improved by the addition of parsley to one’s diet. While thinking of ways to achieve such a goal, gremolata hadn’t occurred to me, but after reading your post I’m full of delicious ideas. Many thanks! Reply

    • gfy
      March 6, 2018 9:30am

      Try tabouleh! I sub bulgar (wheat) for hemp seeds and use a ton of parsley!

      Also, I used to LIVE on bowls of penne pasta stirred with gremolata made with an entire large bundle of flat leaf parsley, garlic, lemon and a great deal of grated parmesan. Drizzle with olive oil. I went through a phase where this was my go-to meal several nights a week for a good year, haha. So good.

      Hope these two ideas help~ Reply

  • Philip
    March 4, 2018 12:05am

    Try making a gremolata with Chinese garlic chives (found in Asian or Chinese markets) or even young spring garlic, which should be showing up in a few weeks. Reply

  • Pat
    March 4, 2018 1:04am

    Huh. I’ve heard the name gemolata but didn’t know what it was. Definitely gonna try it. Reply

  • Bonnie
    March 4, 2018 7:08am

    If i have a bit of gremolata leftover—which is rare— I add a small amount of olive oil, put it in a small jar and freeze it for adding to soups or salad dressings. Keeps a few weeks covered in the frozen olive oil. Reply

  • Janice
    March 4, 2018 1:05pm

    Cher David, what vermouth do you use? I find most French vermouths too sweet. Reply

    • March 4, 2018 1:50pm
      David Lebovitz

      I use Noilly Prat (sometimes Dolin) although Noilly Prat dry is a lot easier to find in France, than Dolin. Reply

  • March 4, 2018 4:27pm

    My butcher rarely has lamb shanks on offer, so I haven’t cooked them for ages. I have an old Nigella Lawson lamb shank recipe that I love, but the fresh, bright flavors of gremolata combined with braised shanks sounds fantastic! I’ll be checking out other butchers in the neighborhood to find some. Reply

  • Bebe
    March 4, 2018 5:12pm

    There may be a simple reason why lamb shanks are not stocked everywhere. It seems that in the U.S. butchers are doing less dismantling of whole critters. Rather they buy just the part of the beef or lamb or whatever, and butcher that into the specific cuts they’re looking for.

    This sounds great, David. Still trying to figure out why someone would make a grammatical correction where none was called for and a political remark on a pleasant thread about food.

    Thanks for keeping this one of the best blogs on the internet. Reply

  • Suse
    March 4, 2018 9:40pm

    I love gremolata on eggs of any sort. Try it! David – I’m reading your new book and enjoying it tremendously. Reply

    • Cyndy
      March 5, 2018 11:11pm

      Oh! This sounds heavenly, Suse. Reply

  • March 5, 2018 12:34pm

    Oh divine! I have not made lamb shanks yet at home, but I’ve been dying to! This post is putting it back at the front of my mind :) xo Reply

  • hamukayo
    March 5, 2018 4:57pm

    Leslie shank, Wow, you must also think there really is a tooth fairy or there really is a boogie man! Reply

  • Carolyn Z
    March 6, 2018 3:11am

    We love lamb shanks cooked with any kind of beans in the pressure cooker. This would be a delightful finish to the meal. Thanks for sharing. Reply

  • Kitchenbeard
    March 6, 2018 10:15pm

    Making a mint version of this for a catering job on Saturday. Same concept and ratios but with mint and a little extra lemon juice to keep the leaves green. Reply

  • Avalong
    March 7, 2018 8:08pm

    I so love lamb shanks, but, alas, my husband does not. I fixed them for him recently and after dinner he confessed that he didn’t really like them. To make it up to him, I fixed him a dinner that I knew he would love. He referred to that dinner as the Lamb Shank Redemption. Reply

  • Alice
    March 8, 2018 8:04am

    Thanks for the recipe, David. This is fascinating to me because just this past weekend, I made my first trip to San Francisco and consequently, my first trip to Chez Panisse, where I had the most beautiful dinner at the Cafe upstairs. I ordered the duck confit, which came topped with a stripe of what they called “hazelnut salsa,” a chunky, green herby substance full of roasted hazelnut pieces that only resembled traditional “salsa” in a visual sense. I was trying to figure out what it was, as it was too chunky and dry to be a chimichurri or a pesto or anything like that, only slightly oily, a little acidic, and so incredibly good with the crispy-skinned duck. Alas, I because distracted with all the other tasty things during the meal, but now I’m thinking it was some sort of gremolata… Reply

  • ron shapley
    March 9, 2018 2:45pm

    I’m thinking pistou ?? Reply

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