Recipe: Tava Elbasani (Lamb Baked in Yogurt)


Serves 4-6

Although this dish is simple, the tender lamb and tangy yogurt are very satisfying on a cold winter’s day.  Use Hungarian Paprika to give the dish mild heat.


3 lbs lamb, cut into 10 pieces
2 cups cooking water from lamb
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
4 eggs
3 cups greek yogurt
1 tbsp white rice
1 tsp red pepper (paprika)


1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, sear the lamb on all sides. Do not crowd. You may have to sear just a few pieces at a time.

Properly seared meat develops good flavor.

2. Add all pieces back into the pot and cover with water. Add a generous amount of salt and simmer for 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add flour and stir until they blend and cook together. When the mixture thickens and begins to turn the color of light peanut butter, begin adding the water. Heat until thick, stirring constantly. You are essentially making gravy.  Let cool.

4. Preheat the oven to 350F.

NOTE: I originally cooked this at 400F and the yogurt mixture was way overdone. The yogurt needs gentle heat.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, rice, pepper, and gravy. You may add more salt, to taste.

6. Lay lamb pieces out in a casserole dish. Pour yogurt mixture around the lamb. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from the video “A Taste From the Melting Pot”
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  1. Made this for Thanksgiving today. It was delicious!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      That is SO awesome Kathleen! :) I think about this recipe often and I was just saying to my husband how I’d like to try it again. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  2. OK, so after my huge success with the Afghanistan dish (Kebali Palau), I moved on to Albanian tonight to less than shining results. But the fault is mine and not in this recipe. Where to start…

    First of all I have to admit to being a complete bonehead on this one. I’m not a yoghurt eater and had never worked with Greek yoghurt before. In all honesty, I thought Greek yoghurt was a flavor.. as in “What kind of yoghurt would you like, blueberry, peach or Greek?” You can stop laughing now.

    So in the grocery store, I see the Greek yoghurt and think, “There it is!”. I noticed the really large print that said “Greek”, but not the little print to the side that said “vanilla”. OK so there might of been a vanilla flower on the label too.

    I can honestly say that I really enjoyed cooking this one. The process was enjoyable. While the lamb was stewing, I cooked the Albanian cornbread (also receommended by this web site) and enjoyed a Bass ale. All was hunky-dory until I put the lamb with the yoghurt gravy into the stove. After a few minutes, my daughter came in and said “Oooo, you’re making cookies!” At which point I noticed the vanilla smell wafting through the house :)

    My family were real troopers and didn’t complain. The lamb itself tasted awesome, but the vanilla flavor in the gravy (more of a souffle really) was …um …distracting. Although I may have botched the recipe, the spirit of open-minded culinary exploration was maintained and we had fun with the mistake.

    Regardless, I do appreciate this site and the challenge. Rest assured that we’ll be on to Algeria next!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Oh no!! lol. I got a great laugh at the comedy of your story – I can just imagine everyone at the dinner table … and your daughter with the cookies comment… lol… it’s simply too much.

      I think it’s fantastic that you got through it and everyone came together to eat the food anyway… this is what life is made of… all these fun/funny memories will be talked about for years to come! Everyone will remember that time dad made the vanilla lamb for dinner! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with me… keep the spirit!

  3. So we made this tonight and had some friends over last minute too, which was great.

    On the whole, while the dish was good (everybody liked it), it stopped short of great. It was too salty for my taste. Although nobody complained, virtually everybody at the table drank about a gallon of water!! The other thing I was wondering was – why so many eggs? Does the yogurt sauce really need it? Do you know what would happen if they weren’t used?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      The salt is my fault – the recipe isn’t clear and I’ll update – that large quantity should just go into the boiling water for the lamb, not into the final casserole. As for the eggs – they use them to make it more of a souffle/custard than sauce… you could do without, but it would just be a different sort of dish.. hope that helps! thanks for trying the recipe out, Sarah :)

  4. Two flubs on my behalf for this dish. Firstly, I’m substituting pork tenderloin for the lamb, since lamb is crazy expensive. And secondly, I didn’t realize that the meat has to simmer for an hour and I have to leave in 40 minutes! Is there anyway I can do half the simmer time without ruining the dish? Thanks!


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