Slow braised lamb shanks in a delicious, rich red wine sauce is the kind of showstopping comfort food cravings are made of. Perfect for a cozy dinner in and a great alternative for roast lamb at Easter.
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What are lamb shanks?
Lamb shanks are the bottom section of the leg of lamb. They are often French-trimmed which means the bones are cleaned of meat and sinew. Lamb shanks are filled with connective tissue which needs slow cooking to break down and become succulent and tender.
The star of this dish is of course the lamb shanks but without all the aromatics and that delicious sauce, they would be quite boring. To build a rich sauce, I start by sautéing a mirepoix of onion, carrots and celery. Garlic, rosemary and bay leaf add fragrance and aroma. Other herbs like fresh thyme or oregano would work well with the lamb too. The sauce consists of tomato paste, red wine and stock or broth.
- Lamb shanks.
- Fresh garlic cloves.
- Fresh herbs: I used fresh rosemary and dried bay leaves. Thyme and oregano can be used too.
- Tomato paste.
- Red wine. Any dry red wine like Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon will work well.
- Stock. Lamb/beef broth.
- Salt and black pepper.
How to cook lamb shanks
- Sear the lamb: Heat a large pot or Dutch Oven (I use a braiser) over medium-high heat. Pat the lamb dry with paper towels then drizzle with a little olive oil and season generously with salt. Add to the pot and sear until well-browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
- Start the sauce: In the same pot, sauté the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and herbs until soft and fragrant. I like to let the vegetables cook until they are starting to brown to develop as much flavor as possible. Pour in the liquid (the wine and stock), stir well and bring to a boil. Add the lamb back to the sauce, then cover with a lid.
- Braise: Place in a preheated oven. Allow to braise for 2-3 hours until the shanks are tender and the gravy has reduced. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or polenta and spoon over the braising liquid.
When are lamb shanks done?
Lamb is safe to eat at 62ºC/145ºF. It will be cooked to medium-rare at that temperature. As lamb shanks are a cut of meat filled with connective tissue, it needs low, slow cooking to break all of that down. Therefore, the temperature of lamb shanks is less important. You will know they are cooked when the meat comes away from the bone easily.
Can I cook this recipe in a slow cooker?
Yes, you definitely can. I would still brown the shanks in a pan/skillet before adding to the slow cooker with the remaining ingredients to ensure deeper flavor develops. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, depending on the size of the lamb shanks. Similarly, you can cook this recipe in an Instant pot or pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure after searing for 45 minutes to an hour until the lamb is soft and fork tender.
Can I make this in advance?
This lamb shank recipe is great to make in advance, it also freezes very well. Cook the lamb shanks the day before you are planning on serving, according to instructions then allow to cool. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and place in the fridge. To reheat, add a cup of stock and gently simmer until hot throughout. To freeze, place the cooked shanks in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely before reheating.
What to serve with lamb shanks?
The soft succulent meat loves a creamy side dish or something to mop up all that delicious sauce. Mashed potatoes, polenta or rice are great choices. I like making mashed sweet potatoes too and cauliflower mash would be a great low carb option.
- Cauliflower mash
- Maple butter mashed sweet potatoes
- Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes
- Soft polenta
- Steamed rice or pilaf
- Easy sticky lamb ribs
- Slow roasted Greek lamb
- Lamb ragu with cauliflower gnocchi
- Irish lamb stew
- Easy lemon-garlic lamb chops
Slow braised lamb shanks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 lamb shanks
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 large carrots peeled and finely chopped
- 2 celery ribs/sticks finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1½ cups red wine
- 2 cups lamb/beef stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF.
- Season the lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. Brown the lamb shanks in a large, deep oven-proof pot/pan until well-browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the herbs and tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds before adding the red wine and stock. Allow to come to a simmer then add the lamb shanks back into the sauce.
- Cover with a lid and place in the oven. Allow to braise slowly for 2-3 hours until the lamb is soft and succulent. Check on the lamb shanks half-way through cooking and add more stock if necessary.
- Remove from the oven and serve.