Meltingly tender braised lamb shanks are slow cooked in a red wine-based sauce. Served with couscous or rice, Middle Eastern lamb shanks are the ultimate comfort food.
Why you’ll love it: Once you get the shanks in the oven, you can pretty much forget about them for two hours or more.
How long it takes: about 30 minutes to prep, 2 hours in the oven
Equipment you’ll need: large Dutch oven
Braised lamb shanks, fall-off-the-bone tender, are a special meal. With a hearty sauce chockfull of tomatoes, diced veggies, and subtly spicy seasoning, this Middle Eastern specialty is rather stunning. It definitely falls into the comfort food category.
Our standby take-out choice is a Lebanese restaurant not far from our house. We love the healthy, unique choices they offer. One of my favorites is fattoush, a lettuce salad with fried pita bread, radishes, cucumbers, and a sumac dressing. I usually order it topped with chicken shawarma. They also serve the best red lentil soup I have ever had.
About twice a week, they offer a lamb shank special. Ever since we tried this meal, we have been hooked! It is the most delicious tender lamb you can imagine. The sauce has just the faintest spicy heat and is so good!
Of course, I had to try my hand at making my own braised lamb shanks. While they aren’t identical to the lamb shanks we order at the restaurant, they are a really good homemade alternative. My husband likes them better than the restaurant version!
About braised lamb shanks
The process is pretty simple and most of the cooking time is hands off. You’ll need a large Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid. The lamb shanks are browned on the stove first and then slow cooked in the oven for a couple of hours. Just the wonderful aroma while they bake is enough reason to make this recipe.
You may be wondering about how many shanks you’ll need to buy. Typically, one shank is one serving. I know, it kind of looks like a dinner for the Flintstones. It looks like a lot but remember, there’s a really large bone in there. If you’re not huge meat-eaters, remove the meat from the bone before serving and divide it up. There will probably be enough meat for two people per shank.
I’ll walk you through the recipe here and give you lots of helpful tips. As always, the complete printable recipe can be found near the end of the post with instructions and nutrition information.
What You’ll Need
- Lamb Shanks: Buy two lamb shanks about one to one and a half pounds each. If you have a large enough Dutch oven, you could braise one or two more shanks, using a bit more broth. They need to fit in a single layer in the pan.
- Olive Oil: You’ll use a couple of tablespoons to brown the shanks.
- Carrots, Celery, Onion, Red Bell Pepper: A medley of finely diced vegetables makes a healthy and colorful sauce, not to mention very flavorful.
- Garlic, Paprika, Red Pepper Flakes, Thyme, Rosemary: Isn’t that a great combo? You can probably tell already how good these shanks are going to be. I like to use fresh thyme if it’s available but dried thyme is fine in a pinch. If you like things spicy, add more red pepper flakes. A couple of bay leaves are a good addition, too.
- Tomato Paste: You won’t need the whole can, just a couple tablespoons to enrich the sauce. Freeze the remaining tomato paste in two-tablespoon packages to use later.
- Canned Diced Tomatoes: Choose low- or no-sodium tomatoes.
- Molasses: Deeply flavored molasses adds just a touch of sweetness to the sauce, balancing out the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Dry Red Wine: Glug, glug, glug – add a whole cup of wine and pour a glass for yourself while you’re at it. Don’t you love to cook with wine?
- Beef Stock: Look for low-sodium or no-salt added beef stock to cut down on sodium.
- Parsley: Provides a bright green garnish.
How To Make This Recipe
Begin by prepping the onion, celery, carrot, and bell pepper. Finely chop them into about a quarter-inch dice so they blend into the sauce as it cooks. Set them aside for now. Measure out the herbs, spices, and sauce ingredients as well. Turn the oven to preheat.
Pat the shanks dry with paper towels and season them with salt and pepper while the oil heats up in your Dutch oven. Add both shanks to the pan (they should fit in a single layer) and sear them until they are browned on all sides. Work in batches if you need to.
Remove them from the pan and sauté the veggies. Add the garlic, then the tomato paste and spices, cooking and stirring them a minute or so.
Add the tomatoes, molasses and wine.
Nestle the shanks back in the pan all comfy like. Add just enough beef broth to come three-quarters of the way up the sides of the lamb shanks.
Cover the pan, and bake for an hour. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the shanks over, and check the level of the liquid. If necessary, add more broth. Return the pan to the oven, covered, for another hour. The lamb shanks should be super tender when you poke them with a fork.
That’s it! Pretty easy, right? You’ll love how good your kitchen smells while the lamb slowly roasts in the oven.
Don’t worry if you’re not quite ready for dinner when the lamb shanks are done. They don’t mind a little extra time in the oven, they’re really laid back about that. Add a little more broth if needed, so they don’t dry out.
Serve lamb shanks with couscous, either whole wheat or regular. Couscous is so easy, and it only takes about five minutes to make. There’s plenty of sauce for both the meat and the couscous.
Lamb shanks are wonderful with rice or quinoa, too, or try them with mashed potatoes (make them in your Instant Pot!) or easy baked potatoes. They go great with creamy homemade polenta, too.
If the lamb shanks are kept at a low temperature in a covered pan, with plenty of liquid, an extra hour or two shouldn’t make a difference. They may become so tender that the meat literally falls off the bone but that’s not a bad thing. The meat will be so tender and juicy!
Braising is a traditional way of cooking tough cuts of meat, in which the meat is browned first, then slow roasted until it’s very tender. A heavy, covered pan is essential and you can’t hurry the process. I would guess that tough lamb shanks are due to either not enough liquid or too short of a cooking time.
Make It Your Own
- Feeding a crowd? Add up to two more lamb shanks if you have a big enough pan. They need to fit in a single layer. Keep the other ingredients the same, except you may need more beef stock to add to the pan.
- Rather use your slow cooker? No problem. You’ll still want to brown the shanks and make the sauce on the stovetop, as directed. Once you’ve completed that, transfer everything to your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. The sauce may be a little juicier.
- Don’t want to turn your oven on? As long as you have a good heavy pan with a tight fitting lid, you can braise lamb shanks on the stove. Make them as directed but leave them on the burner and reduce heat to low for a couple of hours. Check every half hour to turn the shanks over and to make sure there’s plenty of liquid.
- Not a fan of lamb? This recipe also works well with turkey legs.
Storage & Reheating Tips
Before storing leftover lamb shanks, remove the meat from the bones. Store the meat in the sauce or separately in covered containers. It will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer.
To reheat, slowly heat in a sauce pan on the stove until warmed through or heat in the microwave in 30-second increments.
More Braised Meat
This cooking method almost magically turns tough cuts of meat into a wonderfully tender meal. A pressure cooker can hasten the process. Here’s a few more recipes for you to try:
- Slow Cooker Italian Pot Roast – tender perfection!
- Crockpot Beef Stew
- Instant Pot Short Ribs & Mashed Potatoes (at the same time!)
- Slow Cooker Ribs – fall off the bone!
- Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Balsamic Glaze
- Instant Pot Ribs
- Chicken Cacciatore
- Instant Pot Pot Roast Recipe
- Instant Pot Carnitas – perfect every time!
- 2 lamb shanks (1 to 1½ lbs. each)
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- ⅛ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, more to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1¼ cups finely diced carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
- 1½ cups finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 1 cup finely diced red bell pepper (1 red bell pepper)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ teaspoons paprika
- 1½ teaspoons fresh thyme
- ¾ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to taste
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1½ cups reduced-sodium beef stock, more if needed
- Fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley to garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Pat lamb shanks dry with paper towel and season shanks on all sides with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven (lamb shanks should be able to fit in one layer). Carefully place the lamb shanks in the oil and sear until brown on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
- Add carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt to Dutch oven and cook until onion becomes translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, garlic, and spices (paprika, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes). Continue to cook for one minute, breaking up tomato paste.
- Add diced tomatoes, wine, and molasses. Bring to simmer and return the lamb shanks to the pan. Add beef stock (use more or less as needed to cover the lamb shanks about half to three quarters of the way). Cover pan and move to preheated oven.
- Cook for one hour, remove from oven and check the level of the liquid. If necessary add more beef stock. Flip the lamb shanks over so that the portion that was out of the liquid is now submerged. Return to oven, covered, and continue to cook for another hour.
- If desired, skim off any fat/oil that has come to the surface of the pan. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve lamb shanks with sauce and vegetables with couscous, rice, or quinoa, garnished with fresh parsley.
- Serving size: One lamb shank typically serves one person but it’s a pretty generously sized portion. If desired, remove meat from shank before serving and divide into 2 portions for each shank.
- Slow Cooker Method: Brown the shanks and make the sauce on the stovetop, as directed. Once you’ve completed that, transfer everything to your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. The sauce may be a little juicier.
- Stovetop Method: As long as you have a good heavy pan with a tight fitting lid, you can braise lamb shanks on the stove. Make them as directed but leave them on the burner on low heat for a couple of hours. Check every half hour to turn the shanks over and to make sure there’s plenty of liquid.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.