Fall-off-the-bone tender braised lamb shanks in a rich red wine sauce with vegetables. This one-pot lamb recipe tastes fancy, but it is easy to make! All you need is a bit of time for the best slow-cooked lamb shanks!
Lamb shank is a cut of meat that comes from the well-exercised lower section of the lamb leg. It's a tougher, more budget-friendly cut of lamb, but it is also one of the most flavorful. It is usually sold bone-in (the bone imparts flavor and keeps the meat tender as it cooks).
Cooking lamb shanks is easier than most people think! All you need is a bit of time for the perfect tender slow-cooked lamb shanks.
Today, I’m sharing my favorite rosemary lamb shanks recipe + the perfect combination of spices to season your meat for a delicious, never-gamy lamb dinner.
Tips for cooking lamb shanks
- Braised or slow-cooked is best way to cook lamb shanks. Because they are a tougher cut, the best way to cook lamb shanks is by braising or slow-cooking them in the oven until the meat is fork-tender and the marrow has melted into the rich sauce. A bit of time in the oven (or slow cooker) will do all the hard work of tenderizing the lamb shanks until they are fall-off-the-bone tender. Plus, the meat has enough time to absorb all the delicious flavors of the sauce (and yes, the flavorful sauce is a big deal!)
- Season well. Build flavor right away by generously seasoning the lamb shanks before searing. I season lamb shanks with garlic powder, sweet Spanish paprika, nutmeg, and kosher salt and black pepper because lamb takes well to warm, bold flavors.
- Sear the meat before braising for big flavor and a crusty caramelized exterior. Don’t skip the searing step; it imparts such big flavor and good texture.
- Braise in a flavorful sauce! The secret to rich, addictive slow-cooked lamb shanks is in the sauce. My go-to is a red wine based sauce that has very few ingredients, but is also loaded with flavor. The slight sweetness and acidity from the wine pairs perfectly with the umami-rich broth. Add in some fresh herbs and spices, and you’ll have a sauce you’ll want to slurp!
- Don’t worry about overcooking lamb shanks. This is a forgiving cut of meat that can withstand quite a bit of overcooking (in fact, it needs it!). But undercooked lamb shanks are tough and chewy – not fun to eat! The meat should fall off the bone at the touch of your fork, so budget the time to get to that point. If you notice that the lamb is not as tender as you would want after around 2.5 hours in the oven, simply keep cooking it and check it every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Add a little more broth so you still have enough sauce at the end.
What wine to use in the red wine sauce?
So about the secret sauce. A dry red wine and beef broth make the base of this robust sauce. Red wine will evaporate as it cooks, while adding richness and amplifying the flavors in these braised lamb shanks. Keep in mind that the alcohol in red wine will cook off, so the sauce will not taste boozy.
Now, as far as the kind of wine to use, I’ve made this recipe with a variety of dry red wines, at different price points, and did not notice a difference in the flavor. I will say I prefer a soft, fruity Merlot above all other dry reds in this red wine sauce. But if you don’t have a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon would give you a delicious sauce as well.
If you don’t use alcohol in your cooking, substitute an equal amount of beef broth. Vegetable broth works in a pinch, but beef broth has a stronger flavor and is a better alternative.
Ingredients: What you’ll need for this lamb shank recipe
Here's what you'll need to make this oven-braised lamb shank recipe:
- Lamb shanks - You’ll need 6 lamb shanks, one per person.
- Spices - Lamb meat is rich and can be a bit gamey, so it’s a good idea to apply a spice rub to build flavor before searing. But the spices don't need to be complicated. All you need is a simple spice mixture of paprika, garlic powder, nutmeg, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Vegetables - Onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, and whole peeled canned tomatoes. (I like San Marzano tomatoes. I find them to be less sour than other whole canned tomatoes).
- Fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and cinnamon sticks - Flavor-makers to add to the complex taste of these lamb shanks.
- Beef or vegetable broth and red wine - For the red wine sauce. Red wine adds acidity and a very subtle sweetness, while broth adds more “meaty” flavor and umami.
How to make this lamb shank recipe
- Season the lamb shanks. Mix together 2 ¼ teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Season both sides of the shanks.
- Sear the lamb. In a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven, heat some extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shanks and brown on all sides. Do this in batches so all the shanks get a good sear on them. Remove the lamb shanks from the pot and set aside for now.
- Add vegetables. To the same Dutch oven, add 1 chopped yellow onion, 2 chopped celery ribs, 3 carrots that have been peeled and cut into pieces, and 1 pound scrubbed baby potatoes. Toss in the EVOO for a bit.
- Make the red wine sauce. Pour in 2 cups dry red wine (my favorite is Merlot!) and cook to reduce by about ½. Be sure to carefully scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. These add amazing flavor to the red wine sauce!
Add 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, 3 cups low-sodium beef broth, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, and 2 sprigs fresh rosemary. Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper. Return the seared lamb shanks to the Dutch oven and press them down to submerge as much as possible. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat.
- Braise the lamb shanks. Cover the Dutch oven and transfer to a 350 degrees F heated oven. Braise for about 2 ½ hours. Check the shanks occasionally, and add more liquid if you notice the sauce reducing too much. If after 2 ½ hours the lamb is still tough, simply add more braising liquid and continue to cook, checking every 15 minutes or so until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. You should be left with about ⅓ of the red wine sauce that you started with. Remove the lamb shanks from the oven and serve.
Slow cooker lamb shanks option
The slow cooker is a great option for cooking your lamb shanks. Here is how:
- Season and sear the lamb shanks on the stove-top per recipe instructions until a nice brown crust forms on all sides of the lamb.
- Transfer the lamb shanks to a large Crockpot or slow cooker.
- Add the vegetables, 1 cup of red wine instead of 2, beef broth, and the remaining ingredients.
- Cover and set the Crockpot to Low for 8 hours or High for 5 to 6 hours or until the lamb shanks are cooked through to tender.
To work ahead, chop up the onions, carrots, and celery and store them in separate airtight containers in the fridge. You can also make the lamb shank seasoning mix in advance.
Braised lamb shanks in red wine can also be cooked completely a night in advance. The luxurious sauce will thicken a little overnight and the flavors will meld and deepen even more. (Reheating tips below!)
Serve shanks with
There is very little needed to complete this impressive one-pot feast. But because I don’t like to waste any of the delicious red wine sauce, I think a bed of plain couscous, Lebanese rice, or orzo pasta is a good idea. A piece of warm pita or your favorite bread is also a great way to enjoy every last drop of the braising liquid.
And, for a dinner party or special occasion, use a few extra sprigs of rosemary to start with blood orange cocktails with vodka and rosemary.
Leftovers and storage
This rosemary lamb shank recipe makes superb leftovers because lamb shanks stay moist and juicy after reheating – no dry lamb here! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Reheat lamb and vegetables in a 350 degrees F heated oven in an oven-safe pot for about 30 minutes. If the sauce has reduced too much, add a little more beef broth.
More lamb recipes to try
Easy Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe
For Spice Mix
- 6 American lamb shanks
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 1 pound baby potatoes, scrubbed
- 2 cups red wine like Merlot
- 3 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 28- ounce can peeled tomatoes
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, add all the spice mix ingredients and mix to combine.
- Pat the lamb shanks dry and season with the spice mix on all sides.
- In a large Dutch oven pot like this one, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the lamb shanks on all sides (about 8 mins or so). Transfer the lamb shanks to a large tray or bowl for now. Carefully dispose of extra fat in a separate heat-safe bowl, and return the pot to heat.
- Now add the onions, celery, carrots and potatoes. Saute for 5-7 minutes on medium-high, or until the vegetables gain some color. Add red wine, scrape the pot of brown bits. Cook briefly so that the wine reduces a bit.
- Add the broth, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, thyme, and rosemary. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper. Return lamb shanks back to the pot; press down to submerge. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn heat off.
- Cover the pot and transfer to the 350 degrees F-heated oven. Cook in the oven for 2 ½ hours (It's a good idea to check periodically through cooking just in case you need to add a little more liquid. When the shanks finish cooking, the liquid will have reduced to about ⅓ of what it was when you started.)
- While the lamb shanks are cooking, prepare rice according to this recipe, or prepare 2-3 cups of orzo pasta according to package instructions.
- What wine to use in the red wine sauce? Dry red wine works best. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are good options. If you do not use alcohol in your cooking, substitute an equal amount of beef broth.
- Slow cooker lamb shanks: Follow the recipe instructions for seasoning and browning the lamb. Transfer the lamb to a large slow cooker. Add the vegetables, then add 1 cup wine (instead of 2), add broth and remaining ingredients. Cover the slow cooker. Set on Low and cook for 8 hours or on High and cook for 5 to 6 hours or until the shanks are fully cooked to fall-apart tender.
- Make-ahead tips: Chop up the vegetables and store them separately in the fridge. You can also make braised lamb shanks completely a night in advance.
- Leftovers and storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat lamb and vegetables in a 350 degrees F heated oven in an oven-safe pot for about 30 minutes. If the sauce has reduced too much, add a little more beef broth.
- Visit our Online Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including spices (like the paprika and nutmeg used in this recipe) and extra virgin olive oils.
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2017 and has been recently updated with new media and information for readers' benefit.