BBQ Xi’an Cumin Lamb Chops

Learn the secret magical blend of spices that make this Xi’an style cumin lamb chop so irresistibly delicious!

Xi’an food is famous for their lamb and noodle dishes packed full of assertive flavors by artfully combining different spices and chilies. I was first introduced to such dishes by my husband when he took me to Shanxi Magic Kitchen, a local restaurant specializing in this type of cuisine.

I clearly remember the mouth watering lamb kebabs!!! Grilled to perfection and seasoned with a complex cumin based ground spice powder. The smokiness of the cumin as well as the sweet and savory spices complimented the natural gaminess of the lamb so well….I knew at that moment I had to figure out how to make this at home which brings us to today’s topic!

Always toast your spices to bring out maximum flavor.

So let’s get right to the mysterious spice blend that was ever so puzzling to me. After a few trial and errors and doing a little research here and there…I’ve come up with the combination of spices that best mimics the flavors I had at the restaurants. Here is what you need as a minimum:

  • cumin seeds
  • fennel seeds
  • coriander seeds
  • Sichuan peppercorn
  • dried chilies
  • sesame seeds

You can find most if not all of these ingredients at your local Asian store. The most important part of making this blend is to always toast your whole spices first! This step is critical to bring out as much of the natural oils of the spices before blending into a coarse powder. This wonderful spice powder will be used as both part of the marinade and to be sprinkled later onto the lamb once it’s cooked.

Another little secret…the marinade.

Traditionally the lamb is often not marinaded before grilling with just a light seasoning of salt and letting the spice powder do the heavy lifting in terms of flavor after it’s cooked. Personally, I like to marinade my meats before grilling especially for large pieces like a lamb chop to again pack as much flavor in. So for this recipe I marinaded the lamb chops in a little bit of the spice blend mixture, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and garlic because we all know garlic makes everything so much better!

If you have a charcoal grill it would elevate this dish to a whole other level with the added smokiness. But if you’re like me and limited to a gas or electric grill it would still work just as well. This finger licking lamb dish is great for parties, easy to eat, fun to eat, and best of all easy to make! Give it a try and let me know your thoughts!

BBQ Xi’an Cumin Lamb Chops

Prep time: 30 min     
Cook time: 10 h   
Total time: 40 min   
Servings: 4


  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp Korean chili flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine


  1. Heat a pan on lo heat and toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, and salt for 1-2 min until fragrant. Place into a spice blender and grind until a coarse powder.
  2. Cut the rack of lamb into individual chops and place into a large bowl. Add in all the rest of the ingredients including 2 tbsp of the spice powder mixture. Leave the remaining spice powder mixture on the side for later.
  3. Marinade the lamb for 30 min at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
  4. Heat a grill to medium high heat and cook the lamb chops for about 3-4 min per side.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture onto the lamb chops and additional Korean chili flakes if desired. Serve hot and enjoy!

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