Red Chile Pinon Crusted Lamb Chops Recipe!

Lamb chops served with ground pinons and red chile sauce from NAC cookbook, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations.

Red Chile Pinon Crusted Lamb Chops

This recipe is from one of our many wonderful cookbooks "Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations" by Lois Ellen Frank. © By Lois Ellen Frank

The Spanish introduction of the horse, sheep, and cattle amongst other things in the early 1600s, changed life, not only for the Pueblo People but also for the Dine' (Navajo). By the 1700s, many Dine' (Navajo) relied less on hunting, and adopted a life of herding sheep. Sheep became a source of food as well as wool for weaving rugs the Navajo (Dine') are so famous for today. Eating mutton and sheep herding became the preferred way of life for many Navajo (Dine'), and a large number of traditional (Dine') Navajo continue to this day to herd sheep and cattle primarily for subsistence, while small numbers are sold and traded. Walter Whitewater, a traditional Navajo (Dine') and contemporary chef grew up around sheep. His Grandmother, Susie Begay and his Aunts have always herded sheep for their meat and their wool. For this recipe for lamb, a rub is made from piñon nuts and red chile sauce. Two racks of lamb are cooked with this delicious crust, then cut from the rack and served with red chile sauce (made from chile pods or powder). In New Mexico, lamb is organically raised today and the meat is very tender and delicious.

See what is available at your local farmer's market or butcher.


2 full racks of lamb (16 to 18 chops)
2 1/4 cups Red Chile Sauce (from Pods or Powder, recipe below)
1-Tablespoon Olive Oil 1 cup Adobe Bread crumbs
1-cup piñons
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (softened)
1-teaspoon salt
1/2-teaspoon black pepper


  1. Cut the fat off the back end of the bones of the lamb rack and trim any fat off of the chops or you can ask your butcher to do this for you, when buying the whole rack.
  2. Rub 3/4 cup of red chile sauce over the meat on both sides of the lamb rack, place in a bowl, cover and let marinade in the refrigerator, overnight.
  3. The next day, remove the lamb rack from the refrigerator and brush off any excess marinade from the chops and discard.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  5. In a medium size skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and sear the lamb rack in the pan for approximately 2 minutes on each side until brown.
  6. Remove the meat from the skillet and set aside.
  7. In a food processor, pulse the cup of Adobe Bread until it is finely ground into small crumbs.
  8. Add the piñon nuts and pulse again for 30 seconds, until the nuts are coarsely ground.
  9. Add the softened butter, salt, black pepper and pulse an additional 15 seconds.
  10. You will have a crust that is moist and sticks together when pressed with your fingers.
  11. Remove the crust from the food processor and place into a bowl.
  12. With your fingers, take the crust from the bowl and press onto the backside of the rib rack, covering each lamb chop all the way up to the exposed bone, until the meat on the lamb rack is completely covered.
  13. Your crust should be approximately 1/4-inch thick.
  14. In a roasting pan, place the crusted lamb rack with the crust side up and bake for 12 minutes for medium rare chops or longer for more well-done chops.
  15. Remove from the oven and place the rack on a wood cutting board.
  16. Place the remaining Red Chile Sauce in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until warm.
  17. Slice each chop from the rack and serve 2 to 3 chops per person with approximately 1/4 cup of the Red Chile Sauce.
  18. These lamb chops can be served with homemade mashed potatoes, and sauted mustard greens.
  19. Serves 6 as a main course.

Red Chile Sauce- Dried Pods:

8 New Mexico Red Chile Pods, rinsed, dried and then stemmed and seeded
2 cups boiling water
1 medium onion, diced small
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons tap water
1 teaspoon Agave nectar
1/2-teaspoon kosher salt
2/3-cup water, lukewarm
Olive oil spray

Place cleaned Chile pods in a bowl with the 2 cups of boiling water and let sit until soft, approximately 5 minutes.

Drain in a colander and discard the water.

In a cast iron skillet, over medium to high heat, heat olive oil sprayed skillet until hot.

Add the onions and saute for three minutes.

Then add the garlic and cook one additional minute.

Add the 2 tablespoons water and the agave nectar.

Cook until water is absorbed and the onions begin to turn slightly golden, but not browned, for approximately another 3 minutes stirring to prevent burning.

Remove from heat.

Place the chiles sauted onions and garlic, and the 2/3-cup water in a blender.

Add the 1/2-teaspoon salt, cover and blend until smooth.

Serve immediately or this chile sauce may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days or frozen in a plastic container for later use.

Makes approximately 1 ½ cups sauce.

Follow us to our blog to read more.

Used with Permission. Excerpted from Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, Published by Ten Speed Press, © By Lois Ellen Frank