Salt Lake City Llama Chops and Herb Salad

If you’re ever in Salt Lake City you should absolutely check out their amazing downtown farmer’s market! I’ve visited over 50 cities in the US and Canada, and so far, Salt Lake City has the most impressive, diverse, and well stocked farmer’s market I’ve ever seen. I’m as surprised as everyone else (who isn’t from Salt Lake City)!

The downtown farmer’s market was full of amazing finds I’ve never seen anywhere else. My personal favorite was the lamb bacon. I still dream about it. Lamb belly and fat cured with bacon seasonings and sliced thin. I still dream about it. So. Very. Good.

In addition to my beloved and amazing lamb bacon, there were local ranchers selling bison, goat, elk, antelope, and to my total shock – llama.

Yeah, you read that right – LLAMA.

I had to find out what llama tasted like! I bought 4 chops for me and my hosts to share.

Now, I’m gonna be honest with you from the start – the llama chops were awful. Even though I cooked them medium-rare (at the farmer’s market stall’s recommendation) they were still oddly tough and stringy with a flavor somewhere between goat and lamb and so much connective tissue we were only able to get 3-4 edible bites off each chop. I don’t regret it in the slightest. I can now add llama to the list of animals I’ve tried, and that was worth the time and money.

But in all honesty, if you find llama at your local farmer’s market, I’d give it a pass.

However, if you find lamb bacon – grab every last bit of that precious you can. Lamb bacon is just as good as llama chops are bad.

Salt Lake City UT Farmer's Market Find - llama chops with fresh herb salad

Llama Chops Recipe

  • 4 fresh llama chops
  • 2 tbsp rendered lamb fat
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Llama Chops Directions

  • Let your llama chops come to room temperature (you should do that with all meats) and smear with salt and pepper.
  • Heat your lamb fat (or the fat of your choice – though we all agreed the lamb fat was the best tasting part of the llama chops experiment) over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the chops two at a time for 2-3 minutes per side, until barely browned. You do NOT want to overcook this meat! Even the medium-rare is as tough as shoe leather.
  • Only let it rest for 3-4 minutes. If it cools, the llama gets tough and gummy despite still being beautifully pink inside. There’s a reason this isn’t a common meat animal. I tried llama so you don’t have to.

Herb Salad Ingredients

  • 4 cups spinach
  • ½ cup sprouts (whatever beans or seeds are available)
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, torn
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, torn
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Edible flowers
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ⅛ tsp salt

If you think you hate salad it’s probably because you’re eating the wrong leaves.

When cooking for myself, I normally mix 2 cups of spinach leaves with 6-8 torn basil leaves, 10-12 fresh mint leaves, 1 sprig of fresh thyme. THEY’RE ALL LEAVES. Some leaves are just more expensive than others.

Sure, I love getting fun stuff from a farmer’s market or gardener’s backyard, but honestly, you can buy your spinach and herbs at the same time, make one big salad, then mix everything else together in the same plastic clamshell your spinach came in. That way all you have to do is grab a big fistfull of salad to go with every meal.

While I was in Salt Lake City there was such an amazing variety of greens at the farmer’s market that I decided to lean into the “lemon” flavors. This meant lemon verbena, lemon basil, and lemon thyme. We also picked up fresh English peas, sunflower sprouts, and edible flowers,  because it was all so cheap that we could afford to experiment for fun. I know that Salt Lake City’s farmer’s market is a magical place and that in most cities this would be an obscenely expensive exercise. Roll with whatever leaves are most affordable where you live. I mean it. Don’t stress over finding the perfect leaves. There’s no such thing.

My real point here is that the single easiest way to punch up your salad game is to start including more expensive leaves. Basil, mint, thyme, and other leaves cost more money than spinach because they have more flavor. If you’re trying to sneak more salad into your family’s diet, try buying whatever seasonal herbs are in your budget. You’ll be surprised how much more salad anyone will eat (regardless of age or pickiness) when the leaves taste better.

I dressed this simply by whisking together the juice and zest of 1 lemon with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp honey, and a pinch of salt. It’s not much, but it was just enough extra flavor that despite being thoroughly unimpressed by the chops we ate the entire salad (which we honestly thought would be enough for 6 servings when we mixed it up.) You don’t need a bucket off ranch when the leaves themselves are tasty.