Lamb Holiday Meal Ideas – Incorporate Lamb Into Your Holiday Feast!

The winter holidays are right around the corner and it’s time to start planning some celebratory feasts (this year involving delicious lamb)! 

 Dinner table set up for a fancy holiday meal with red and green candles, a red and black checkered table cloth.
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This holiday season is a time to create unforgettable memories with the people you love. Invite friends and family over to your house or apartment and get the party started. Or, treat yourself to a gourmet dining experience and enjoy some much-needed alone time, maybe by your fireplace. 

In need of some inspiration? That’s why we’re here! We’ve put together a list of lamb recipes to try out this holiday season. 

Holiday Lamb Mains Courses 

1. Coffee Rubbed Ribs 

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Honestly, hearty rack ribs make the best centrepiece for dinner tables during the holidays. This year, try Sungold’s signature Coffee Rubbed Lamb Ribs. The flavour-packed coating is a blend of espresso, chilli powder, brown sugar, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper. The brown sugar and espresso flavours will complement your selection of holiday drinks like hot chocolate or eggnog. 

First step? Buy some Sungold Rack of Lamb ribs and try out this recipe today! 

2. Roasted Lamb with Carrots and Potatoes 

Roasted lamb shanks with peas, carrots, and potatoes with fresh herbs garnishing the top served on an oval-shaped white platter.
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Simple, but a classic! Roasted lamb with potatoes, carrots, and peas is a delicious and easy-to-make meal that will be sure to impress your guests. You will find this dish to be a classic because it is full of flavour and it’s so easy to make. Lambs are naturally packed with flavour, so we don’t have to add a lot of seasoning to the meat itself. The carrots and peas add a slight sweetness to the dish and the herbs bring all the flavours together.

This dish is perfect for a special occasion or even a simple weeknight meal if you feel like getting a bit of a festival this holiday season. It can be served with a variety of sides, but we like to keep it simple with some mashed potatoes and a green salad.

Roasted lamb with carrots and peas is a dish that you will want to make again and again. It’s flavorful, it’s easy, and it’s absolutely delicious!

Sungold offers plenty of options for lamb shanks. Try out some Alberta lamb this holiday season!  

3. Sweet Potato Bowls with Lamb and Mushrooms 

Sweet potato, lamb, onions, mushrooms, and greens served on an off-white plate against a tan background.
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Sweet potatoes are a staple holiday flavour. They make for a flavourful bowl with lamb and mushrooms. It’s a comforting wintertime dish! 

This recipe is flavour-packed and an instant hit, but it’s possible to make in just 30 minutes. Throw it into bowls for a casual last-minute get-together, or serve on your best plates at your more fancy planned events. 

This recipe requires ground lamb, which you can purchase premade! Sungold has lean ground lamb in our Lamb Tonight line. 

4. Lamb, Chestnut, and Cranberry Stew 

Red-coloured lamb stew garnished greens served in a white bowl with handles, against a white wood background.
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Chestnut and cranberry are some classic holiday flavours. Together with lamb, they make a scrumptious holiday stew to enjoy by the fire. This recipe uses diced lamb shoulder or leg, which is cooked with shallots, mushrooms, and tomatoes, with fresh cranberries, chestnuts and a touch of thyme. To round out the dish, add a side of creamy mashed potatoes, and you’ll have a perfect winter meal.

5. Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Pine Nuts 

 Leg of lamb sliced into thin slices to reveal stuffing filling the centre of the meat. Served on a wooden platter with a gravy boat of gravy in the background.
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How about a twist on Sungold’s classic Stuffed Leg of Lamb recipe

Stuffing is arguably the best part of any holiday dinner. Take your meals to the next level and make a Stuffed Leg of Lamb – but this time with Christmas stuffing! Take our classic recipe, and replace it with some delicious holiday stuffing. The stuffing creates a fragrant, scrumptious filling on the inside of the lamb while the meat remains moist and tender. This roasted leg of lamb is easy to make, beautiful to look at, and sure to impress any dinner guest.

Treat your family to a holiday dinner that demands to be remembered. Provide a warm, gourmet meal and compliment it with a glass of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It is sure to be a hit with the entire family. If you’re looking for wines to pair, check out our Ultimate Wine Pairing Guide

In need of some locally made leg of lamb? Sungold has got you

6. Skillet Lamb Roast with Cognac Pan Sauce

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We saved the most holiday-themed for last! Your winter holiday is not complete without a gourmet Skillet Lamb Roast. The prep time is only ten minutes and gives you and your guests 50 minutes of cook time to hang out, relax, and enjoy a drink or two by the fire. If your guests hadn’t seen you put it in the oven ten minutes earlier, they might think you ordered this in from a gourmet restaurant down the block. 

If you’ve got extra time on your hands and want to make it even more gourmet, make your own sauce by following a Cognac Sauce recipe! Nothing beats the complex flavours of homemade sauces. 

What are you waiting for? Pick up some Sungold Lamb, grab your skillet, and get roasting! 

Holiday Lamb Appetizers 

1. Minted Lamb Puff Pastry Bites 

Breaded pastry bites filled with minced lamb meat served on a black plate. A larger bowl of lamb pastry bites are in the background.
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You know what goes well with Christmas? Mint. Do you know what goes well with mint? Lamb, actually. The flavours are extremely complementary. Combined together, minced lamb, green onions, mint, garlic, and black pepper make a scrumptious filling for pastry bites. 

2. Lambs in a Blanket with Cilantro Yogurt 

 Lamb sausage wrapped in breading lined up rows against a white background, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Green cilantro yogurt is in the bottom right hand corner. 
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This is a gourmet twist on the holiday classic ‘pigs in a blanket’. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with creamy cilantro yogurt, this is the perfect appetizer to bring to a potluck or get-together. 

The recipe calls for Merguez sausage, and you’re in luck. Sungold’s Lamb Tonight line has a Merguez sausage ready-made for you to use. 

3. Lamb Cocktail Meatballs 

Meatballs coated in red cocktail sauce, sprinkled with greens, served on an oval white platter on a brown wooden table.
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The recipe we linked uses ground beef, but our Lamb Tonight meatballs are an easy sub-in. Using Lamb Tonight products streamlines the process since they come pre-made, seasoning and all. 

Of course, if you’re someone who loves making everything from scratch, you can use our lean ground lamb and make the meatballs yourself. 

So many classic holiday meals could be taken to the next level with lamb subbed in over other meats. Get experimental with this season’s holiday meals and pick up some Alberta-raised lamb

We’ve Cracked the Code to the Annual Lamb Shortage

The Annual Lamb Shortage | SunGold Specialty Meats |As spring finally shifts into the warmth of early summer, many BBQs across North America are being pulled back into the sun and fired up after a long winter break. Unfortunately, many retailers and meat distributors have also started to feel the less-than-pleasant reverberations of the annual lamb shortage.

Every year at this time, lamb lovers search for their usual lamb favourites. Retailers scramble to fill lamb displays. Grills remain bare of the lamb classics. Somehow, each year feels worse than the last, and in many ways – it’s not too far from the truth.

Globally, lamb supply is shrinking among traditional lamb sources while demand is increasing. New Zealand, the world’s traditional lamb juggernaut, has seen their flock reduce from 46 million sheep in 1998 to 28 million in 2016. In the most recent ten-year period from 2006 to 2016 there has been a 28 percent reduction with a loss of over 5 million breeding ewes. This is a staggering reduction of breeding stock when compared to North America’s current breeding ewe inventory of just 3.5 million ewes. The situation in Australia is no better – sheep numbers have dropped 30 percent since 2006 and total inventory sits at around 46 million sheep.

Here at home in North America, the problem is a little more urgent. Not only are we facing an overall reduction in lamb numbers, our domestic markets are changing quickly. The consumer population is growing rapidly in size while simultaneously broadening in ethnic diversity, driving up demand higher than ever.

Is there is a solution? Yes. But to understand it, we must take a deeper delve into the nature of the North American lamb industry itself.

Why is late spring and early summer particularly challenging for lamb producers in North America?

Traditionally, lambs are born in the spring, raised until fall, and sheltered over the winter until they are ready for market. Lamb is typically in peak demand during the Christmas and Easter seasons. By Easter, most of the older flocks that have been kept aside from the previous winter have all gone to market and industry stocks require replenishment.

The new lambs are born over the winter on specially designed breeding farms, or in early spring on more traditional farms in warmer locations. A lamb can be up to twelve months of age and after that they are typically classified as mutton. Mutton has far less market demand and value.

In comparison to beef cattle that are brought to market between 20 and 30 months of age, it is clearly far more challenging to manage year-round supplies of lamb with traditional farming practices. SunGold Meats, a processing plant that specializes in lamb, feels the pressure from every side especially at this time of year. Some of our retail and foodservice customers are requesting (read: aggressively pleading) for higher output. Our employees have less work and lower pay cheques. Organizationally, reduced supply volumes wreak havoc to already slim bottom lines.

In other words: a solution is badly needed.

Where others see challenges and large risks, we see opportunity.

Not one to back down from a challenge, SunGold Meats is assembling a scalable infrastructure framework to ensure our foodservice and retail consumers will never run out of our products. Five years into executing on our plan we see the light. The upcoming years promise to be exciting and eventful for our business. We are already seeing the benefit to this strategy and are talking to retailers and others to find growth partners, particularly on our value-added program (easy to cook lamb burgers, sausage and meatballs).

SunGold Meats is surrounded by vast plains and pasture land, on the northern edge of the agricultural heartland that spans central North America. Over the last several years, we have fully renovated our plant facilities and constructed a state-of-the-art feedlot to bring the best of food safety and quality to our lambs. We are primed and ready for growth.

At the same time, Canada Sheep and Lamb Farms (CSLF), which is based on the eastern edge of the prairies, has built the largest, expanding breeding ewe flock in North America. CSLF’s strength has been the refinement of livestock management processes and genetics to produce lambs year-round at scale. This has obvious benefits for the entire lamb industry as the seasonality of the supply curve is smoothed out while other companies are annually experiencing a lamb shortage. 

For consumers, we have found there is a great benefit in consistency and higher quality provided by a standardized nutrition program and specific maternal and terminal genetics. (Future articles will dive deeper into what will make our lamb special.)

Together, SunGold and CSLF have big goals to reshape the lamb industry in both local and international markets. A perennially-consistent lamb supply combined with great, repeatable consumer experiences will grow our business, the business of our retail and foodservice customers, and enrich the North American lamb market.

There is still much work to do, but at long last, we have cracked the code to achieving an audacious dream.

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The Homo Sapien Saga: 10,000 Year-old Lamb Kebabs

Sheep with shepherd in the mountains

Taming Fire and the First Outdoor Grill

About two million years ago, prehistoric humans were as unimpressive as any other wandering land mammal. In fact, our particular species, the Homo sapiens, didn?t even make it to the top of the food chain until about 100,000 years ago – a very recent date with respect to the evolutionary timeline.

The ability to control fire was a pivotal point for human development. It provided warmth and protection, allowed weapons and tools to be shaped, and enabled our hominids (any of the species in the Homo range) to start cooking food. Prior to the advent of fire, the human diet was primarily made up of easily digestible plants, seeds, flowers, and fleshy fruits. Plant stems and roots still couldn?t be incorporated because the raw cellulose and insoluble fibres were indigestible. Raw meat was hard to chew, hard to digest, and was often full of parasites.

Once the early humans figured out how to cook their food over fire, a large variety of dietary options opened up. It quickly became evident that cooked meat was a great source of nutrients and caloric energy, and it naturally became a dietary staple. As the amount of energy they absorbed from their food increased, so too did the survival and reproductive rates of humans. We became stronger, faster, and more prevalent on the earth.

In fact, as the human diet changed, the human body also adapted physically. Teeth that were big and flat (for grinding raw leaves) eventually became narrower and sharper (better for cutting into cooked meat and vegetables), resulting in the much smaller jaw size you see on our own faces today. It?s also likely the increased caloric energy that came from eating meat allowed human brains to grow in size quickly – giving them a competitive advantage over other large mammals that existed at the time.

The big-brain advantage also ended up being the selective feature that allowed Homo sapiens (our species!) to out-compete other species in our genus like H. erectus, and spread all over the world to create our own nomadic communities.

Sheep: Man?s Second Best Friend

Sheep were the first animals to be domesticated as a food source by humans, dating back as far as 9,000 BC in the ?Cradle of Civilization? (current day: Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey and Syria). But before they were domesticated, they wandered the fields in a larger, wilder form called mouflon.

A Wild Mouflon
A Wild Mouflon
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The nomadic human groups that first hunted wild mouflon gradually changed the composition of the herds on which they preyed. Humans found out that it was to their advantage to only hunt adult rams and old or sick sheep, sparing fertile females and young lambs in order to preserve the long-term vitality of the herd. Then, as the mouflon became a more established part of their diets, humans started actively trying to protect their new food source from wild beasts (and other hunting groups). Over time with selective hunting and protection, the wild sheep herds became more docile, more fat, and more wooly – much like the sheep we see today.

Eventually, however, it would just start making more sense to corral the sheep in an enclosed space for easier access. Why? Well, there were some other factors involved as well.

Vive la Revolution!

About 14,000 years ago, as humans started discovering the power of domesticating plants, they began to settle in large groups near bodies of freshwater and fertile land. The Agricultural Revolution (otherwise known as the Neolithic Revolution) started spontaneously happening in different places around the world.

Over the next millennium, the agricultural revolution would dramatically transform nomadic groups into sedentary societies that would grow into villages and towns. Humans began to selectively breed cereal grasses like barley and wheat, spending the vast amount of their days growing, watering, and taking care of their crops. However, because meat was still such an important part of their diet, people had to find a better (and faster) way to access it; day-long hunts were no longer an option.

Ergo, the sheep pen was developed. Herding and housing all the sheep in an enclosed space at the center of the village was an efficient way of protecting and maintaining villagers? main source of meat. There is established archaeological proof that proves the domestication of sheep in early Mesopotamian civilizations from over 10,000 years ago – ranging from bone specimens to dung remains in places where sheep were corralled together.

Other than being a delicious (and nutritious) addition to a diet, the secondary advantages of sheep domestication became even more clear as time passed. Sheep provided dung for crop manure, bone for the creation of needles and arrows, fat for tallow candles, milk for dairy consumption, and wool for clothing. In fact, sheep became such an invaluable part of daily living that they were soon traded all over Europe and eventually, to all four corners of the earth.

Today, sheep farms exist all over the world – even here in Canada!

SunGold Meats

Want to test out the original grill meat and try your hand at some lamb-centered culinary masterpieces? 10,000 years of history thinks you should!

SunGold Specialty Meats is a federally inspected, HACCP-certified, full-service lamb and goat processing plant located in Innisfail, Alberta, Canada. Operating since 1974, SunGold is proud to work very closely with some outstanding western lamb producers to bring our customers top quality, grain-finished lamb products.

Find out more about our story here and get started on your next food adventure!

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