Lamb shanks are the king of all lamb cuts!! Slow cooked until meltingly tender in a rich, deeply flavoured red wine sauce, this recipe is worthy of fine dining restaurants yet is completely straightforward to make. Serve it over creamy mashed potato with a side of peas or sautéed spinach, with crusty bread to mop your bowl clean!
This is a reader-favourite recipe included by popular demand in my debut cookbook “Dinner”!
Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks
I have a real soft spot for slow cooked lamb shanks. I just love the look of a hunk of meltingly tender meat wrapped around the bone. Hits my carnivore sweet-spot, every time.
Honestly, if you put this and a towering frosted cake in front of me, this would win every day of the week and twice on Sunday:
Cooking lamb shanks is easy!
Being a tough cut of meat that needs slow cooking to make it fall-off-the-bone tender, lamb shanks are actually very forgiving so it’s a real easy cut to cook with.
You literally cannot overcook lamb shanks.Leave it in for an hour too long, and the meat is still succulent and juicy. The worst that will happen is that the meat falls off the bone when you go to serve it.
And if you pull it out too early and the meat isn’t fork tender, just add more liquid and keep cooking!
The only key tip I have is to brown that shank as well as you can. It is a hard shape to brown evenly, but do what you can. Browning is the key flavour base for any protein that’s slow cooked in a braising liquid, like Beef Stew, Pot Roast, Chicken Stew. If you ever see a slow cooked stew recipe that doesn’t call for browning the meat before slow cooking, proceed with caution!
What are lamb shanks?
If you’re new to lamb shanks, here’s a rundown: lamb shanks are from the lower leg of lambs, and they are an inexpensive, tough cut of meat.
Because of this, lamb shanks need to be slow cooked – either braised or roasted – to break down the tough meat to soften into succulent tenderness.
The meat itself is full of flavour which adds to the flavour of the sauce.
BONUS: The marrow in the bone melts into the sauce, deepening the flavour and richness. We love freebies around here!!
Classic Red Wine Sauce for Lamb Shanks
Red wine sauce is a classic braising liquid for lamb shanks, with the rich deep flavours a natural pairing with the strong flavour of lamb.
The red wine sauce is super simple to make but after hours of slow cooking, it transforms into an incredible rich, deeply flavoured sauce that’s silky and glossy, and looks totally posh-restauranty.
Just a quick note on the wine – I do not use expensive wines for slow cooking. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that even the snobbiest of all food snobs would not be able to tell the difference if you made this with a discount end-of-bin $5 bottle or a $50 bottle. (And the New York Times agrees….)
Maybe you could tell the difference using a $100 bottle. But that’s not within my budget….
Non alcoholic sub for wine?
The wine is a key flavour for the broth in this recipe. So if you cannot consume alcohol, it is best to substitute with non-alcoholic red wine.
Please do not use more beef or chicken stock/broth, even if it’s low sodium. This sauce has amazing flavour in it because it is massively concentrated down (essentially into a jus). So if you use more stock then it will end up too salty.
This is one of those recipes that truly is terrific to make in the oven, stove, slow cooker or pressure cooker, as long as its started on the stove to brown the shanks and saute the onion etc. Right now, being winter here in Sydney, I choose the oven so it keeps my house nice and warm! – Nagi x
Slow cooked lamb shanks
Watch how to make it
This recipe features in my debut cookbook Dinner. The book is mostly new recipes, but this is a reader favourite included by popular demand!
Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with Red Wine Sauce
- 4 lamb shanks , around 350 – 400g / 12 – 14oz each (Note 1)
- 1/2 tsp cooking / kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil , separated
- 3 garlic cloves , finely minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 cups (1 litre) beef stock/broth, low sodium (or low-sodium chicken stock or water, Note 2)
- 1 cup water
Red wine marinade
- 1 small onion , finely diced (brown, yellow or white)
- 1 small carrot , finely diced (Note 3)
- 1 celery stem , finely diced (Note 3)
- 3 cups (750 ml) pinot noir red wine , or other dry red wine (good value wine, not expensive! Note 4)
- 5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves , fresh (sub dried)
- 6 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
- 2 tbsp water
- 30 g / 2 tbsp cold unsalted butter , cut into 1cm / 1/2" cubes
- Marinate 24 hrs – Place the lamb shanks in a bowl or container with the Red Wine Marinade ingredients. Arrange the shanks as best you can so the meaty is submerged in the wine. Cover the bowl then marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (160°C fan).
- Reduce wine – Strain the red wine into a large saucepan (leave the shanks, veg & herbs in colander). Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high then reduce simmer for 15 minutes until reduced by half. Scoop off and discard any scum that rises to the surface.
- Sear shanks – Pat shanks dry with paper towels. Then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat in a large heavy based pot. Sear the shanks 2 at a time until browned all over – about 5 minutes. Remove onto a plate and repeat.
- Sauté aromatics – Drain and scared excess fat from the pot. Reduce stove to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the wine-stained vegetables and herbs from the colander, plus the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, then cook for 2 minutes.
- Braising liquid – Add the reduced red wine, stock and water then stir. Add lamb shanks into the liquid, arranging so the meaty ends are submerged as best you can. Don't worry if they're not fully submerged, they will shrink as they cook and end up under the liquid, plus exposed bits get steam-cooked anyway.
- Slow-cook – Turn stove up and bring the liquid to a simmer. Then cover and transfer to the oven for 2 Horus 20 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender and barely holding onto the bone. (See notes for other cook methods).
- Remove lamb shanks from the pot onto a plate. Loosely cover with foil to keep warm.
- Restaurant presentation (optional, Note 5, see demo in video) – Wrap the meat of the shanks tightly with cling wrap then push the meat tightly down the bone so it forms a neat shape. Then leave the shanks wrapped while you make the sauce – as the shanks cool slightly, they will hold their shape.
- Reduce sauce – Strain the sauce into a bowl but do not press the juices out of the vegetables (makes the sauce grainy). Pour the sauce back into the pot then simmer rapidly for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat to reduce to 2 cups (500 ml) – keep an eye on it towards the end, it reduces fast!
- Thicken sauce – Mix the cornflour with the water then add to the sauce (if using homemade stock, start with half and add more as needed). Simmer for 2 minutes or until it becomes a thin syrupy consistency.
- Enrich with butter – Remove the pot from the stove. Add butter then whisk until it melts – the sauce will thicken more.
- Final season – Taste the sauce and add more salt if needed. If using store bought low-sodium stock, you shouldn't need anymore (remember, it's massively reduced down!). If using my homemade beef stock, you will need another 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt.
- Serve – Place the lamb shanks on mashed potato or cauliflower puree then spoon over sauce! Garnish with parsley or thyme leaves if desired. (If shanks have cooled more than ideal, reheat covered in foil at 150°C/300°F (130°C fan)).
Originally published August 2015, updated with new photos, video and a slightly refined recipe in 2018. Recipe then further improved when it was decided to include this in my debut cookbook Dinner!
Life of Dozer
And I stuck my tongue right back at him….