These scrumptious lamb ‘lollipops’ begin with rib chops bathed in a flavorful Moroccan marinade. Pan-seared or grilled and served with bright and zesty Chermoula dipping sauce.
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Our Recipe for Lamb Chop Lollipops
There is something uniquely satisfying in biting into the juicy, tender meat of a Frenched lamb rib chop while holding it by the bone. Known as lamb lollipops these little numbers make a great passed appetizer (typically with dipping sauce presented in individual mini containers). They are also perfect for casual family style dinner – we often indulge in a platter of them, especially in summer when we grill them outside and serve them with salads and two or three dipping sauces. When grilling is not an option skillet lamb chops are just as easy to prepare.
While it is possible to cook an entire rack of lamb first and then cut it into lollipops, working with pre-cut lamb rib chops makes a lot more sense:
- more surface area is available to be flavored by a marinade or a rub
- both sides of the chop get nicely browned
- it is easier to cook each chop to a specified temperature – not all people like their meat medium-rare
We are leveraging Moroccan flavors for this post by way of the iconic Chermoula paste which serves as marinade and later on a sauce for the lamb lollipops. The herbs and spices of Chermoula are very complimentary to lamb’s strong flavor. That being said the best marinade for lamb chops is the one you like the most. For more ideas you can review our collection of recipes here.
Where to Buy Lamb Lollipops?
Anywhere a rack of lamb is sold. You do not need to overpay for individually cut lamb rib chops (unless you insist to) when it is so very easy to cut them yourself.
If you have the option to choose between Australian, New Zealand or American lamb, opt for the former two. American lamb is bigger, hence the rib chops are larger as well. Since we are focused on a finger food type of chop here a smaller size such as Australian (shown below) works better.
How to Cut Lamb Lollipops
Cutting your own lamb ‘lollipops’ is very simple:
- On a cutting board position a Frenched rack of lamb onto the meaty side and hold it upright by the bones as shown below (use a paper towel or kitchen gloves to make sure your grip is firm).
- Next slide a sharp carving knife in between the two outermost ribs on one side and slice down the meat until a lamb rib chop is separated. Repeat for the entire rack.
How to Cook Lamb Rib Chops (Skillet/Grill Pan or Grill)
- Prep. Cut the lamb chops from a Frenched rack of lamb, patted dry and trimmed of excess fat. You do want some fat to remain near the bones – it will flavor the meat during cooking and keep it moist.
- Marinate. Make a marinade (see section below for Chermoula or use another one) and pour over the lamb chops, making sure they are nicely coated on both sides. Marinate refrigerated for at least an hour or overnight.
- Pan sear or grill. Bring lamb chops to room temperature before cooking. Heat a grill pan or a skillet over medium-high, when hot coat with cooking oil and sear chops. Alternatively, heat your grill to medium-high, make sure the rack is clean and well greased. Cook the rib chops for two minutes on one side, then a bit longer on the other (see notes below for doneness).
- Rest. Rest the lamb chops for about 5 minutes, near a heat source and over a cooling rack so that they retain the beautiful sear on both sides.
Temperature & Cooking Times for Lamb Rib Chops
How long you cook lamb chops depends on their actual thickness and overall size. Also take into consideration the doneness you want to achieve. While most people rave about medium-rare lamb chops, medium cooked ones have more time to develop flavor via the Maillard reaction and that flavor is not to miss! As a general guideline:
MEDIUM RARE LAMB RIB CHOPS: Medium-high heat, 2 mins on one side followed by another 3 minutes on the other side, internal temp away from bone 135 F.
MEDIUM LAMB RIB CHOPS: Medium-high heat, 2 mins on one side followed by another 4 minutes on the other side, internal temp away from bone 145 F.
Note that the chops will continue cooking once you pull them from the heat and their temperature will rise by an additional few degrees. It is better to cook them on the underdone side because you can always place them in the skillet for an extra minute or so if you decide you want them cooked a bit more. Only overcook lamb rib chops if you are sure that you want them to be medium-well.
How to Make Chermoula Lamb Marinade and Dipping Sauce
A wonderful thing about Chermoula paste is that it functions both as a marinade and a dipping sauce for lamb lollipops. If you make the quantity from this recipe half of it will be sufficient to lavishly marinate two lamb racks and the remaining half will be plenty to use as sauce. Just divide the Chermoula in two as soon as you make it and keep the dipping sauce designated part refrigerated until you need it for serving.
To make Chermoula you will need fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, salt, sugar, extra virgin olive oil and a bit of water to thin it out. Just give the herbs and garlic a rough chop, then place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend.
More Lamb Lollipops Sauce Ideas
While in this post we served Charmoula sauce and yogurt dip with our lamb rib chops we have other favorites that we enthusiastically recommend you try.
Zesty & Bright Dijon Dipping Sauce. Mix together 4 tbsp of Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp lemon zest, 3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary and 1-2 minced garlic cloves. Taste, add more of any ingredient that needs adjustment and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce. As simple as mixing Dijon mustard and honey in equal amounts, then tasting and adjusting the quantity of either ingredient to suit your own taste.
Mint Sauce. Mix together 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh mint leaves, 1/4 cup boiling water, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp table sugar, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
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- 2 racks of lamb, Frenched
- salt and pepper to taste, for seasoning
- 2 tbsp olive oil to grease pan/grill skillet/grill rack
CHERMOULA MARINADE & LAMB LOLLIPOPS SAUCE*
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 1/2 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
- 2 tsp cumin (ground)
- 3 tsp smoked paprika (ex. Spanish paprika)
- 1 tsp table sugar
- 1 lemon, juice of (about 3 tbsp)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 cup water, to thin out the sauce
- Trim any excess fat from the racks of lamb and pat them dry. Cut into lamb rib chops and arrange onto a platter (see body of post for visuals).
- Make the Chermoula marinade - give the cilantro, parsley and garlic a rough chop and place in food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until smooth. Divide the sauce in two - refrigerate one half in a container with a lid.
- Pour the remaining one half of the marinade over the lamb chops and make sure all the meat is nicely coated. Cover and refrigerate them for at least one hour, overnight works better. Bring the lamb lollipops to room temperature (about 30 mins on the counter does it). Season them with salt and pepper.
- Heat a skillet or grill pan over medium-high for 2-3 minutes. When hot, add a bit of olive oil and start searing 3 to 4 lamb rib chops at a time. Flip to the other side after 2 minutes and sear for another 3 minutes or so for medium-rare**. You can also sear the edges, especially if there is some fat there to render it and add more flavor. Alternatively heat your grill to medium-high and make sure the grill rack is clean and well greased.
- Rest the cooked lamb lollipops for 5 minutes. For best results place them over a cooling rack over a sheet pan. In this manner they will retain the nicely crisped/charred outsides. Serve with the reserved Chermoula sauce and/or this yogurt sauce for dipping.
The typical rack of lamb contains 8 ribs and will yield 8 rib chops respectively. Rarely there will be a 9 rib rack, in which case you get a bonus lamb lollipop.
*The quantity of Chermoula yielded by this recipe is enough to marinate the lamb rib chops as well as to provide you with enough sauce for them. Be sure to divide it in two as soon as you make it. The flavors in Chermoula develop better after one hour. It can be stored refrigerated for about 1 month.
**Cooking lamb rib chops to a specified temperature is the most reliable way of achieving your desired doneness, more reliable than time because thickness and size vary.
Medium rare is generally accepted at 135 F. Once you pull them from the heat their temperature will rise additional 10 F which is why American Lamb guidelines note medium-rare lamb chops at 145 F.
For medium lamb rib chops pull them when the temperature is 145 F.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 rib chops
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 460Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 33gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 935mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 12g