Braised Lamb Shanks
These Braised Lamb Shanks make for the most tender and succulent shredded lamb. They’re braised in a red wine herb sauce until the meat falls off the bone. You only need 15 minutes of prep time to bring it together, then simply let it simmer away until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick. Leftovers keep well in both the fridge and freezer!
Though I love a perfectly rare roasted Rack of Lamb, when it comes to a “shredded and saucy” kind of lamb experience, the glorious lamb shank is the superior cut.
When prepared right, the lamb shank is both incredibly flavorful and so tender that it falls off the bone. There’s a reason this dish is a restaurant staple.
The shank is cut from the shin of the lamb, and needs to be cooked low and slow for it to become tender. It’s a tough cut of meat otherwise, because it has a lot of connective tissue and collagen that needs to break down via slow cooking. But that’s part of what gives the lamb shank so much flavor.
Braising is definitely the way to go for cooking method, and we’ll cook it with red wine, beef stock, herbs, and vegetables to make a flavorful sauce. I recommend serving it with a side that soaks up that luscious sauce, like Saffron Rice, Rice Pilaf or Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes.
Tips for Best Results
Watch the heat – When you’re braising, it’s very important to get the heat right. Stoves vary quite a bit in heat output, so you’ll have to make sure that your “medium low” setting yields a gentle, but not vigorous bubble. You want the sauce to simmer gently and reduce over time, but not too quickly.
Take the time to brown thoroughly – Our first step will be to sear the lamb shanks all over to develop browning. Take your time here to develop rich color and browning on the exterior, because the browned bits are where a lot of the flavor is. It will pay off in the end.
Use good beef stock and wine – For your simmering liquids, we’ll use equal parts beef stock and red wine. If you can’t find beef stock, beef broth is okay to use. Swanson, Kitchen Basics, and Bare Bones are some choices that I’ve have good results with.
Step by Step Overview:
We will prepare this dish by browning lamb shanks, then braising them for several hours in a red wine, beef, tomato, vegetable herb sauce. You have the choice of braising the lamb on the stove or in the oven. Let’s break down the process!
Pat the Meat Dry
As with all my meat recipes where you start with searing, begin by patting the lamb shanks dry with a paper towel, absorbing as much of the exterior moisture as possible. This will give you faster and better browning.
Sprinkle kosher salt all over the outside of the meat, and black pepper if you’d like.
Brown the Meat Thoroughly
Heat some ghee, or the cooking fat of your choosing (lamb tallow, butter, olive oil, etc), in a wide braiser pan and sear the shanks on all sides over medium-high heat to brown. Really take your time here to develop deep browning, which will pay off with lots of flavor in the end.
I’m using this 5-qt braiser (affiliate) that I’ve had for years and have used many times on this blog, for Beef Stew, Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs, Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, and Chicken Cacciatore. Any braiser or large dutch oven with a tight fitting lid works here!
Once the lamb is browned, remove it to a plate.
Cook the Vegetables
Add sliced carrots, chopped onion, and chunks of yellow potatoes to the pan, right to the leftover fat and drippings from browning the lamb:
Season with salt, then saute for about 10 minutes, until slightly softened. Then add some minced garlic cloves:
Stir for a minute to wake up the flavors in the garlic.
Combine Everything Together
Add the shanks back to the pan, then add red wine, beef stock, tomatoes, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and a bay leaf.
I tie the fresh herbs and bay leaf together with kitchen twine so I can easily take out the stems later.
Also, make sure you’re using beef stock or broth here, and not chicken stock, which won’t have the right flavor.
Recommended Types of Wine
Any dry red wine will work, but I usually use some kind of Pinot Noir. You can also use Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Bordeaux.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over medium low or medium heat, and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 hours, covered tightly.
Flip the lamb shanks over, then continue cooking for another hour, uncovered.
Oven Braising Option
If you prefer to skip the stove and do all the braising in the oven, that will work fine as well (just make sure you’re using an oven-safe pot).
You will still need to sear the meat and saute the vegetables on the stovetop. But once you add all the liquid and bring it to a boil, you can transfer to a 350F oven and cook covered for 2 hours, then 1 more hour uncovered.
The meat should now be completely fork tender and shreddable, and the braising liquid should be more reduced.
Reduce the Sauce More If You Desire
If you are happy with the thickness of the braising liquid, the dish is ready to serve. But I like to remove the meat temporarily to a plate, then boil the braising liquid for an additional 10 minutes to thicken it slightly into a really rich red wine sauce.
You can also mash up the potatoes and vegetables a little bit, if you want a more evenly chunky texture.
Then, return the lamb shanks to the rich sauce and toss around to coat.
Slow Cooker Short Ribs is a similar recipe that I recommend trying, if you enjoy this dish. Happy cooking!
This lamb dish is a great recipe for playing with over time. First try the recipe as written, then feel free to explore the following suggested variations.
Tomato paste – For a more pronounced and deeper tomato flavor, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste along with the diced tomatoes.
Other root vegetables – For a sweeter flavor try adding one parsnip to the mix. Or, experiment with other favorite root vegetables.
Recipe FAQ and Tips
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
This dish freezes beautifully! Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. To thaw with best results, leave in the fridge overnight, then reheat.
It’s perfectly fine to microwave this dish to reheat it, because it’s a very moist dish. You can also rewarm on the stove or in the oven, but keep it covered with a lid to prevent it from drying out. If the dish was frozen, I recommend thawing overnight before reheating. You can reheat straight from frozen, but you’ll have to do it on low power and stir often to make sure it warms as evenly as possible.
Absolutely. You will still need to sear the meat and saute the vegetables on the stovetop. But once you add all the liquid and bring it to a boil, you can transfer to a 350F oven and cook covered for 2 hours, then 1 more hour uncovered.
Braised Lamb Shanks
- 5 lbs lamb shanks (I had 5)
- 2 tbsp ghee or other desired cooking fat
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped (I had 2 cups)
- 4 small carrots chopped (I had 1.5 cups)
- 4 small yellow potatoes chopped (I had 2 cups)
- 2 large garlic cloves minced (I had 1.5tbsp)
- 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes *
- 2 cups red wine **
- 2 cups beef stock (or broth)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- kosher salt
- Pat the lamb shanks dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. This will give us better browning when we sear.
- Season the outside of the meat all over with kosher salt. I usually season by eye, but I recommend about two teaspoons if you are not sure what amount you need.
- Heat the ghee in a braiser over medium high heat, then add the lamb shanks and sear on all sides until brown, about 10 minutes total. Remove the shanks to a plate.
- Add the chopped onion, carrots, and potatoes straight to the pan (with the fat and drippings still there). Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Saute for about 10 minutes, until slightly softened, then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute until the garlic smells fragrant.
- Add the seared shanks back to the pan, then add the tomatoes, wine, beef stock, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf (I tie the herbs together with twine for easy removal of the stems later, but this doesn't matter too much). Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer over medium low.
- Cover the pan tightly with a lid, and simmer for 2 hours.
- Flip the lamb shanks over, then simmer for 1 hour longer, uncovered.
- Remove the tied herbs. The dish is now ready to eat, if you are pleased with the consistency of the sauce. Personally, I like to reduce it further. To do so, remove the meat temporarily to a plate, then boil the sauce for 10 minutes, until thickened. Return the lamb shanks to the pan, toss to coat in the sauce, then serve. I love serving it with Rice Pilaf. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.