Red Chile Piñon Crusted Lamb Chops

Food historian, author, organic farmer and chef Lois Ellen Frank shares her recipe for red chile marinated lamb racks crusted in a buttery pine nut crust and served with sautéed mustard greens. Not only is this recipe delicious, it’s also associated with historical southwest cuisine. Frank is based in New Mexico and is the owner of Red Mesa Cuisine, a catering company specializing in indigenous cuisine and cultural education with a modern twist, where she cooks with her culinary partner, Native American chef Walter Whitewater. Their mission is to feed the body and nurture the soul.

Frank originally published a version of this recipe in her book: Native American Cooking: Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations. This adapted version showcases the balance of rich flavors (pine nuts, butter and lamb) with the bright and earthy red chile sauce and peppery mustard greens. It’s perfect for entertaining a large group, or you can halve it if you’re just cooking for 2 or 3 (or 1 with leftovers).

Red Chile Piñon Crusted Lamb Chops

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Protein: Lamb
Cut: Lamb Rack
Diet: Dairy Free
Course: Main Course
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes


  • 8 New Mexico Red Chile Pods rinsed, dried, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt divided
  • 2 racks ButcherBox Lamb defrosted and pat very dry
  • 1 cup coarsely ground breadcrumbs such as panko
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter softened
  • Sautéed mustard greens or mashed potatoes for serving


  • Make the red chile sauce: Place the chile pods in a bowl with the boiling water and let stand until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer the soaked chiles to a plate; reserve the water.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, season with kosher salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons reserved chile soaking water and the agave nectar. Cook, stirring until water has absorbed and the onion begins to turn slightly golden, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. In a blender, combine the soaked chiles, the sautéed onion mixture and the remaining chile water. Add the kosher salt, cover and blend until smooth. Transfer half of the sauce (about ¾ cup) to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover and refrigerate the remaining ¾ cup sauce.
  • Make the lamb: Cut the fat off the back end of the bones of the lamb rack and trim any fat off the chops. Place the lamb racks in the baking dish with the red chile sauce and rub the sauce over the meat on both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Remove the lamb racks from the refrigerator and brush off any excess marinade; discard marinade. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb rack and sear until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the meat from the skillet.
  • In a food processor, pulse the breadcrumbs and pine nuts together until the pine nuts are coarsely ground, about 30 seconds. Add the softened butter, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper; pulse for an additional 15 seconds to mix. The texture should be somewhat moist and sticky. 
  • With your fingers, press the breadcrumb mixture onto the backside of the lamb, covering each lamb rack all the way up to the exposed bone, until the meat is completely covered. Your crust should be approximately 1/4-inch thick.
  • On a cooling rack set on a baking sheet, place the crusted lamb rack with the crust side up and bake until an instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part away from the bone reads 125ºF for medium rare, about 12 minutes (roast longer for more well-done meat). Remove from the oven and place the racks on a cutting board to allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Reheat the reserved red chile sauce until warm. Taste and season with ½ teaspoon black pepper and more salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Slice each chop from the rack and transfer to plates. Serve with the red chile sauce and sauteed mustard greens.
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