Sac Kavurma (Turkish Lamb Sauté) is a simple yet delicious Turkish dish made by sautéing the lamb with onions, peppers, tomatoes and spices over high heat.
Kavurma is traditionally cooked in a shallow two-handled pan called "sac" which has its origins in the cooking utensils used by nomad Turks. But don't worry if you don't have a sac pan, you can still make saç kavurma using an Asian wok to create high heat and sear the meat in its own fat.
This delicious and traditional Turkish Lamb sauté recipe is very easy to prepare and is ready in just 40 minutes. Although it is traditionally made during Eid, you can also serve it as a weekday meal or for a dinner party.
What is Kavurma?
Kavurma is a type of sautéed meat dish popular in Turkish cuisine and there are a few different versions. Apart from Sac Kavurma, there is a dish called Coban Kavurma or Shepherd's Kavurma similarly comprises meat sautéed with onion, tomato and capsicum.
Another related dish is Winter Kavurma is made by slow cooking the meat in its own fat, very similar to confit. This type of kavurma was in the past an important part of the diet and was particularly used in times when fresh meat was scarce. It was often prepared from the meat of sheep slaughtered in the autumn, for storage during the winter, when small amounts would be used to flavour vegetable and rice dishes.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- Lamb - I use marbled cut meat with some fat such as shoulder or neck fillet. Cut the meat into small cubes and trim the fat off to render it for your kavurma.
- Lamb fat - Lamb tail fat is a common ingredient for this dish but it is not easy to find it here in the UK. Instead, I trim the fat from the meat and cut it into small pieces. You might also be able to find lamb fat from your butcher for rendering. Alternatively, you can use ghee.
- Onions - You can use any onions you have in your fridge.
- Peppers - I prefer using Turkish green peppers for this dish. They are one of the most popular peppers used in Turkish cuisine. They are usually mild but some of them can be quite hot. You can replace them with bell pepper or Spanish Padron peppers.
- Tomatoes - Red & juicy summer tomatoes are always the best option but you can use any type of tomatoes you have in hand.
- Garlic - You can turn it into a paste with a mortar and pestle or grate using a Microplane zester before adding it to kavurma.
- Tomato paste - It is the staple of Turkish cooking. It adds an umami flavour to the dishes as well as a bright red colour. You can find it in Turkish or Middle Eastern shops. You can also buy it online from Amazon.
- Spices - You can adjust the amount of the spices to your taste.
This is a very simple, straightforward recipe and to achieve the best results, you need to follow a few simple steps:
- Heat a large pan (sac, wok or cast iron pan) on medium heat, add the lamb fat and let it gently warm up and begin to liquify. Stir it occasionally and keep it simmering until the fat becomes tiny bits. Turn the heat up to high and then add the diced lamb.
- Cook the lamb for 8-10 minutes over high heat, stirring continuously. Let it release its water and absorb it back. Add the cumin, freshly ground pepper, paprika and thyme, and sauté for a minute.
- Add the sliced onions and peppers to the meat and sauté for a few more minutes on high heat. Toss in the tomatoes along with the tomato paste and then cook until they are slightly tender. Add the salt, give it a good stir and then serve it hot with Turkish Rice (Sehriyeli Pilav) or Bazlama (Turkish Bread).
For more traditional Turkish recipes why not try:
Yes, the Kavurma dish is freezer friendly. Let the leftovers cool down and place in an airtight container before freezing. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Top Tip From The Chef
If you want your lamb sac kavurma tender and soft, cook it on high heat and don't add salt until the very end of the cooking process.
I hope you enjoy the process of making this traditional Sac Kavurma as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet Olsun!
Did you make this recipe?
Sac Kavurma (Turkish Lamb Sauté)
- 100 g lamb fat (or ghee)
- 800 g diced lamb (1 cm diced)
- 1 large onion (sliced)
- 2 Turkish green peppers (or 1 green bell pepper) (sliced)
- 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
- 2 large tomatoes (small diced)
- ½ tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 red chilli (or ½ teaspoon chilli flakes) (optional)
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Heat a large pan (sac, wok or cast iron pan) on medium heat, add the lamb fat and let it gently warm up and begin to liquify.
- Stir it occasionally and keep it simmering until the fat becomes tiny bits. Turn the heat up to high and then add the diced lamb.
- Cook the lamb for 8-10 minutes over high heat, stirring continuously. Let it release its water and absorb it back.
- Add the cumin, freshly ground pepper, paprika and thyme, cook for a minute.
- Add the sliced onions and peppers to the meat and sauté for a few minutes on high heat.
- Toss in the tomatoes along with the tomato paste and cook until they are slightly tender.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
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