Mouthwatering Air Fryer Spicy Cumin Lamb: Bold, Juicy, And Spicy 

 Last Update December 11, 2023

By Jenny Zhang

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Exquisite and succulent, the renowned cumin lamb of Xinjiang cuisine captivates taste buds with its lusciousness. As a native of Beijing, I reminisce about the bustling night markets and street corners adorned with charcoal-grilled xinjiang cumin lamb skewers, an ever-popular street food.

Imagine tender lamb cubes enveloped in a harmonious blend of earthy cumin, fiery red pepper powder, and a pinch of salt. This classic combination boasts a tantalizing aroma and an explosion of flavors. The allure of its vibrant spices, juicy grilled lamb, and the fragrant essence of charcoal wafting through the air is simply irresistible. Its captivating scent beckons passersby, drawing them closer, yearning for a taste. Be it the winter chill, gathering around a charcoal grill with skewers in hand, or the joyous camaraderie of friends, accompanied by cold beers and an abundance of skewers—this dish unites people in celebration.

Today, I am excited to share my favorite quick and effortless recipe for air fryer lamb that is covered in cumin and other spices. The delectable rendition showcases an irresistibly golden and crispy outer layer complemented by a moist and tender interior. With a hint of spice and a medley of bold flavors, this dish promises a delightful culinary adventure. What makes my recipe truly remarkable is its versatility in cooking methods. While traditional stir-frying or grilling are viable options, they require more time and may lack the extra crispiness achieved with an air fryer.

With just a few essential spices, you can effortlessly replicate this tantalizing dish within the cozy confines of your own home. In just 20 minutes, a plate of tantalizing air fryer cumin lamb will grace your table, ready to be shared. As an added bonus, this recipe is both oil-free and gluten-free, ensuring that every bite is guilt-free. Prepare to embark on a finger-licking journey that will leave your guests eagerly clearing their plates in sheer delight.

Air Fryer Spicy Lamb Recipe

Prep Time
10 minutes

Cook Time
10 minutes

Rest Time
30 minutes

Total Time
50 minutes

  • Cooking Method: Air-Frying
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 253
  • Courses: Side Dish
  • Best Season: Any


  • 1 pound lamb shoulder or leg, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground garlic
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 2-3 dried red chilies, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


1. Take a few moments to preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) before proceeding.

2. In a bowl, combine the ground cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, crushed red chilies, ground ginger, ground garlic, ground spice mixture, salt, Shaoxing wine, and white sesame seeds. Mix well to create a marinade.

3. Add the thinly sliced lamb to the marinade and toss to coat the meat evenly. Let the lamb marinate for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, enabling the flavors to meld and infuse.

4. After marinating the lamb, arrange the slices in a single layer within the air fryer basket. If your air fryer has limited capacity, you may need to cook the lamb in batches.

5. Set the air fryer to 400°F (200°C) and cook the lamb for 8 to 10 minutes, remembering to flip the slices halfway through the cooking process. This method guarantees uniform cooking and achieves a delightful crispy exterior.

6. Once the lamb reaches your desired level of doneness and develops a pleasingly browned exterior, carefully remove it from the air fryer.

air fryer cumin lamb v

7. Garnish the cumin lamb with freshly chopped cilantro.

air fryer lamb recipe

Once you are done cooking, don't forget to clean the air fryer after it cools down to keep it in tip-top condition for your next culinary adventure.

Tips & Notes

Choose the right cut of lamb: For this recipe, it's best to use lamb shoulder or lamb leg as they have enough fat content to keep the meat tender and flavorful. Thinly slice the lamb against the grain for a more tender texture.

Marinate for optimal flavor: Allow the lamb to marinate for at least 15-20 minutes or longer if possible. This process enables the flavors to deeply permeate the meat, elevating its taste to another level.

Adjust the spice level: The recipe includes crushed red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, which can add heat and spice to the dish. Customize the level of spiciness by adjusting the quantity of red chilies to your liking. For a milder flavor, consider removing the seeds from the dried red chilies.

Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 4



% Daily Value*

Total Fat 10.5g


Saturated Fat 3g


Cholesterol 102mg


Sodium 755mg


Total Carbohydrate 9.8g


Dietary Fiber 1.2g


Total Sugars 1.4g

Protein 33g

Vitamin D 0mcg


Calcium 86mg


Iron 4mg


Potassium 454mg


*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Toast and grind spices: Toasting the whole spices (Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds) enhances their aroma and flavor before grinding them. Be sure to cool them slightly before grinding to avoid any burns.

Preheat the air fryer: Preheating the air fryer allows it to reach the desired cooking temperature before you add the lamb, ensuring even and efficient cooking.

Flip the lamb slices: To ensure an even browning and crispy texture, flip the lamb slices halfway through the cooking time. This promotes even cooking on both sides.

Check for doneness: The cooking duration may differ based on the thickness of the lamb slices and the specific model of your air fryer. Monitor the lamb closely during cooking and make necessary adjustments to the cooking time. For optimal results, it is recommended to use a meat thermometer to ensure the lamb reaches your desired level of doneness.

Rest the lamb: After air frying, let the lamb rest for a few minutes before serving. This essential step allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring it remains moist and succulent.

What Ingredients You Will Need To Make This Air Fryer Cumin Lamb Recipe

Lamb shoulder or leg

Lamb is a succulent and tender meat that serves as the star protein in this dish, contributing to its rich and robust flavors. It provides a depth of taste that elevates the overall culinary experience. When preparing this recipe, you have the freedom to choose any cut of lamb that suits your preference. While lamb shoulder and legs are commonly used, lamb chops are equally suitable. Lamb chops, known for their delectable tenderness and flavorful profile, pair exceptionally well with the aromatic spices of cumin. If you opt for air fryer lamb chops, keep in mind that you'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure they are perfectly cooked to your liking. Air fry lamb chops for a minimum of 12 to 15 minutes, adjusting the duration based on your preferred level of doneness.

Ground cumin

Cumin, a versatile spice, imparts a delightful combination of warmth, earthiness, and a subtle nutty essence to the dish. It plays a vital role in this recipe, delivering the unmistakable cumin flavor that harmonizes beautifully with lamb. If you lack ground cumin, simply grind whole cumin seeds using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder before incorporating them into the recipe.

Sichuan peppercorns

Renowned for their distinct numbing and citrusy taste, Sichuan peppercorns offer a truly unique flavor experience. They add a distinctive Sichuan flair to the dish's mild heat and aromatic element. If you don't have Sichuan peppercorns, you can omit them or substitute them with black peppercorns for some heat, although it won't replicate the exact flavor profile.

Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds provide a subtle licorice-like flavor to the dish, adding a touch of sweetness and freshness. These peppercorns effortlessly complement the other spices, amplifying the overall flavor profile to perfection. If you don't have fennel seeds, you can use anise seeds as a substitute, as they have a similar flavor profile.

Cumin seeds

Whole cumin seeds offer a stronger and more pronounced cumin flavor compared to ground cumin. They add a slightly nutty and warm taste to the dish. If you don't have cumin seeds, you can increase the amount of ground cumin in the recipe or use ground coriander as a substitute, as it has a milder flavor that complements the other spices.

Dried red chilies

Dried red chilies provide heat and spiciness to the dish. The crushed red chilies infuse a fiery kick, imparting their vibrant presence to the overall flavor composition. If you don't have dried red chilies, you can use red chili flakes or powder as a substitute, adjusting the amount based on your desired level of heat.

Ground ginger

Ginger adds a fresh and zesty flavor to the dish, with a subtle heat and aromatic essence. This ingredient elevates the overall flavor and harmonizes with the other spices. In the event that ground ginger is unavailable, you can easily replace it with freshly grated ginger for a comparable substitute.

Ground garlic powder

Ground garlic powder imparts a pungent and savory essence, enriching the dish's overall flavor profile. It introduces depth and richness to the marinade, enhancing its deliciousness. If ground garlic is not available, you can use fresh minced garlic as a substitute, using about three times the amount specified in the recipe.

Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)

Shaoxing wine adds a rich depth of flavor to the marinade. It imparts a slightly sweet and aromatic taste to the lamb. If Shaoxing wine is not accessible, you can use dry sherry as a substitute, as it provides a similar flavor profile.

White sesame seeds

White sesame seeds are used for garnishing the dish and contribute a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. They add texture and visual appeal. If white sesame seeds are not available, you can use black sesame seeds or omit them altogether. However, the flavor profile may differ slightly.

Fresh cilantro

Fresh cilantro adds a fresh and herbaceous element to the dish. It enhances the overall taste and appearance, adding brightness and a touch of citrus. If cilantro is not to your liking, you can opt for fresh parsley or green onions as a substitute, imparting a comparable level of freshness to the dish.

How To Elevate This Recipe

Add additional aromatics

Consider adding more aromatic ingredients to the marinade, such as finely chopped lemongrass, minced leek, or sliced scallions. These will infuse the lamb with extra layers of fragrance and complexity.

Experiment with spice blends

Instead of using only ground cumin, try incorporating other spice blends or seasonings to enhance the flavor profile. For example, you can include Chinese five-spice powder, garam masala, or a homemade spice blend of your choice. This contributes depth and intricacy to the dish, enhancing its overall complexity.

Finish with a splash of acidity

Just before serving, generously squeeze fresh lime or lemon juice over the cooked lamb. The tangy acidity will enhance the flavors, providing a refreshing contrast that cuts through the richness of the meat. Alternatively, you can drizzle some balsamic vinegar or a tangy sauce over the lamb.

Garnish creatively

Elevate the presentation of the dish by garnishing it with additional ingredients. For an extra touch of texture and visual allure, contemplate garnishing the lamb with thinly sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, or a delightful sprinkle of za'atar or sumac.

Experiment with cooking techniques

While this recipe focuses on the air fryer, you can also explore other cooking methods to elevate the dish. For example, searing the marinated lamb in a hot skillet before finishing it in the air fryer can enhance the caramelization and depth of flavor.

Methods You Can Use To Make Cumin Lamb Dish

Here are different techniques you can use to prepare cumin lamb dishes:

Air Fryer

Best For Flavor And Crispiness

The air fryer is my preferred method due to its quick cooking time and ease of use. Simply place the lamb in the air fryer basket, allowing you to prepare other dishes while it cooks. For added convenience, you can insert a toothpick to create a skewer-like presentation that is easy for your guests to handle. The air fryer also ensures excellent crispiness.

Stir Fry

Best For Maximum Flavor

Stir-frying is a popular technique for preparing cumin lamb in many Chinese households. To stir-fry, cook the lamb in a wok or large skillet. Traditionally, Chinese cumin lamb stir-fry is cooked in vegetable or canola oil. You can combine lamb strips or cubes with red pepper, fresh cilantro, sliced white onion, green onions, garlic cloves, and ginger. In certain Chinese recipes, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar are occasionally included as essential ingredients.

One downside of stir-frying cumin lamb is that it requires a significant amount of oil and high heat to achieve a crispy texture. Unlike most saucy stir-fried dishes, you aim for a dry finish in this case. Cooking at high heat helps remove moisture and create the desired dry texture. However, if you prefer a milder lamb flavor, this method may not be ideal, as the lamb fat remains in the wok or skillet, intensifying the gaminess.


Best Method For Smokey And Juicy Lamb With A Hint Of Crispy

Grilled cumin lamb skewers can be prepared over a gas or charcoal grill. To achieve the best skewers, it's important to have a good ratio of lean and fatty lamb. The fatty portion of the meat adds juiciness and flavor, safeguarding the lean meat from becoming dry and tough.

How To Eliminate Gamey Flavor From The Lamb

Use cooking wine: The acidity of cooking wine can help eliminate the gamey taste. Use cooking wine such as Shaoxing wine or red wine. Use cooking wine. The presence of cooking wine's acidity can effectively diminish the gamey taste. Use cooking wine such as Shaoxing wine, rice wine, or red wine.

Use species: In Chinese cooking, ginger is a popular spice that reduces meaty and fishy tastes. Other bold spices like cumin seeds, cumin powder, Sichuan pepper, and chili flakes will help reduce the gamey taste.

Choosing Milder Cuts: Different cuts of lamb have varying levels of gaminess. If you're particularly sensitive to the gamey flavor, opt for milder cuts such as loin or leg, which tend to be less intense than shoulder or shank cuts.

Trim Excess Fat: Lamb fat can contribute to the gamey taste, so trimming off excess fat can help reduce it. However, keep in mind that fat also adds juiciness and flavor to the meat, so it's essential to find the right balance.

Marinate: To eliminate the gamey taste, marinate it well before cooking. The longer you marinate the meat, the greater the infusion of flavors into the meat. For the best result, marinate overnight.

Cooking method: The way you cook lamb will affect the taste. For example, cumin lamb stir fry will be gamier than other cooking methods like grilling because the fat will remain in your cooking pan rather than dripping away.

Use spices: In Chinese cooking, ginger is a popular spice that reduces meaty and fishy taste and smell. Other bold spices like cumin seeds, cumin powder, Sichuan pepper, and chili flakes will help reduce the gamey taste.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I marinate the lamb overnight?

Yes, marinating the lamb overnight can intensify the flavors and make the meat more tender. However, if you're using a more delicate cut like lamb chops, marinating for a shorter time may be sufficient.

Can I make this recipe without an air fryer?

Indeed, if an air fryer is not available, you can easily adapt the recipe for stovetop cooking. Just follow the marinating instructions and proceed to cook the lamb in a hot skillet or grill until it achieves a desirable level of browning and doneness.

How to make air fryer cumin lamb extra crispy

To make air fryer cumin lamb extra crispy, coat the lamb cubes with olive oil or oil of your choice. Arrange the seasoned lamb pieces in a single layer within the air fryer basket, ensuring ample space between them. This arrangement facilitates hot air circulation, ensuring even cooking and achieving a delectably crispy texture.

air fryer spicy cumin lamb

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.