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!
* Here for the cookbook version? Find it here -> the elegant Restaurant Lamb Shanks in Red Wine Sauce.
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
Lamb Shanks in Red Wine Sauce
- 4 lamb shanks , around 13 oz / 400g each (Note 1)
- 1 tsp EACH cooking/kosher salt and pepper
- 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil , separated
- 1 onion , finely diced (brown, yellow or white)
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 cup carrot , peeled, finely diced (Note 2)
- 1 cup celery , finely diced (Note 2)
- 2 1/2 cups red wine (full bodied (good value wine, not expensive! Note 3)
- 800 g / 28oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken stock , low sodium (or water)
- 5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves (or 4 fresh)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (all oven types – fan and standard).
- Season shanks – Pat the lamb shanks dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Brown – Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy based pot over high heat. Sear the lamb shanks in 2 batches until brown all over, about 5 minutes. Remove lamb onto a plate and drain excess fat (if any) from the pot.
- Sauté aromatics – Turn the heat down to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same pot. Add the onion and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add carrot and celery. Cook for 5 minutes until onion is translucent and sweet.
- Braising liquid – Add the red wine, chicken stock, crushed tomato, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine.
- Add shanks – Place the lamb shanks into the pot, squeezing them in to fit so they are mostly submerged. (Note 1)
- Oven 2 hours covered – Turn stove up, bring liquid to a simmer. Cover, then transfer to the oven for 2 hours (see notes for other cook methods).
- Uncovered 30 minutes – Remove lid, then return to the oven for another 30 minutes (so 2 1/2 hours in total). Check to ensure lamb meat is ultra tender – if not, cover and keep cooking. Ideal is tender meat but still just holding onto bone.
- Remove lamb onto plate and keep warm. Pick out and discard bay leaves and thyme.
- Sauce – Strain the sauce into a bowl, pressing to extract all sauce out of the veggies (Note 5 for repurposing the veggies). Pour strained sauce back into pot. If needed, bring to a simmer over medium heat and reduce slightly to a syrupy consistency (see video) – I rarely need to. Taste then add salt and pepper to taste (Note 5 on sauce taste).
Originally published August 2015, updated with new photos, video and a slightly refined recipe in 2018. Previously the base recipe said to blitz the sauce at the end. It looks much posher (ie fine dining style) and actually does taste nicer just to strain it because the sauce stays glossy – if you blitz, sauce becomes more matte and is not as smooth. 🙂 Recipe then further improved when it was decided to include this lamb shanks in my debut cookbook Dinner – that “restaurant” version is exclusive to my cookbook!
Life of Dozer
And I stuck my tongue right back at him….