Best Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe

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Try the best braised lamb shank recipe ever written! Lamb shanks are slow cooked in a rich spiced sauce until fall-off-the-bone-level fork tender! Serve this restaurant-quality dish with rice, potatoes or even risotto.

closeup shot of braised lamb shanks.


 

Lamb is underappreciated even though there is a lot you can do with it. From lamb stew, kibbeh recipe and lamb burger to delicious roasted leg of lamb and marinated lamb loin chops, the possibilities are endless!. I think the lack of appreciation stems from a certain level of intimidation and uncertainty as to how lamb should taste.

What if I told you today’s fuss-free recipe will give you restaurant-quality lamb shank that melts in your mouth? Read on for the best lamb shank recipe you’ll ever try.

What cut of lamb is the shank?

Lamb shanks are from the bottom section of the leg, right above the knee. This cut of lamb is tough and is best cooked slow for an extended amount of time to become tender and succulent. It’s a very flavorful cut and pretty easy to work with. One shank is enough for one person.

The best way to prepare lamb shanks

Growing up in Iran, lamb shanks were one of those delicious dishes that we would serve at parties, weddings or formal dinner. It has always been a family favorite and I always get back to this recipe when I’m cooking to impress or deciding on our holiday main dishes. Here are a few reasons why this lamb shank recipe is such a gem:

  • Flavors: Nicely browned lambs shanks are cooked in a rich sauce seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom and pomegranate molasses, making every bit a celebration of flavors.
  • Fuss-free: While lamb shanks might seem like an intimidating cut to work with, you should know that they’re actually really easy to cook and most of the cooking time is hands-off.
  • Perfect for everyone: While most of the recipes for braised lamb shank call for red wine, I understand that many prefer not to cook with wine. My recipe doesn’t include wine and it will give you a rich, thick and flavorful sauce that you can enjoy.

Ingredients

to make this recipe you need lamb, onion, celery, carrots, spices, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, garlic and olive oil.
  • Lamb shanks: You need one shank per person. Find lamb shanks in the meat section of many supermarkets or at your local butcher. It’s best to trim the excess fat before cooking the shanks.
  • Vegetables: The base of the sauce is made with aromatics such as onion, garlic, carrots and celery. I pulse them all in a food processor so they are finely chopped. This thickens the gravy as well.
  • Spices: Aromatic spices such as turmeric, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods compliment the flavor of the lamb really well.
  • Tomato paste and pomegranate molasses: These add a deep color and flavor to the dish and balance the flavors.

How to cook lamb shank

Sear the lamb shanks then make the gravy by cooking the vegetables in olive oil with the spices then cook the lamb shank in the gravy for 3 hours.
  1. Season the lamb shanks with salt on both sides. Sear in a hot Dutch oven for 4 to 6 minutes on each side until they’re brown. Don’t rush this process because the best flavor lays within those brown bits. Once ready, remove them from the Dutch oven and set aside.
  2. Place the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in the bowl of a food processor and blend until finely chopped. Heat some olive oil in the same pot over medium heat and sauté until they’re fragrant and have some brown bits. Add in the turmeric, black pepper and cumin and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste followed by the pomegranate molasses. Stir to combine and then add the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods.
  3. Place the seared lamb shanks back in the Dutch oven. It’s okay to place them on top of each other, they will shrink anyway as they cook. Fill the pot with water and make sure the lamb shanks are submerged in water.
  4. Turn the heat to medium high and bring it to a simmer. Cover and cook for 3 hours until the lamb is fork tender and falling off the bone. If the liquid is reducing too much, add more water.

Braising lamb shanks in the oven

Another way to make braised lamb shanks is to use the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Follow the recipe by searing the lamb shanks and cooking the vegetable mix in the Dutch oven with the spices, tomato sauce and pomegranate molasses.
  2. Once you return the lamb shank to the Dutch oven, fill the pot with water and make sure it covers the lamb shanks. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 3 hours. Braise every 45 minutes. If the liquid is reduced too much, add more water.
  3. Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking so the lamb shanks brown nicely.

Tips to make the best lamb shank

  • Don’t rush: This recipe calls for a low and slow cooking method. Don’t sear the lamb shanks or the vegetables over high heat. You want them to cook on medium heat so they brown nicely since that’s where the flavor is.
  • Don’t go overboard: I’m going to mention a few more spices and herbs you can use in the FAQ section. However, keep in mind that the star of the dish is the lamb and you don’t want other flavors to overpower the flavor of the tender lamb shank so don’t overuse the spices.
  • Serve right away: It’s best to serve this dish once it’s fully cooked. You can keep it warm on very low heat for 45 minutes to one hour until you’re ready to serve.
braised lamb shanks served on a platter with herbs and lemon.

Serving suggestions

These braised lamb shanks make the perfect meal with some starchy sides. Here are a few favorites:

You can also have some fresh sides such as salad shirazi (Persian cucumber tomato salad), mast-o-khiar (Persian yogurt and cucumber) or Mediterranean salad.

Storage and reheating

Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. To reheat, place the lamb shank in a pan or a saucepan with the gravy and 1bout 1/4 cup water over medium heat. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to reheat this dish.

Freezing instructions

You can freeze braised lamb shanks as well. Once they’re completely cool, place them in a freezer-safe container with the gravy and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw in the fridge a day in advance and reheat in a saucepan or a pan over medium heat.

overhead shot of braised lamb shanks on a black backdrop.

Frequently asked questions

Can I make lamb shanks ahead of time?

Braised lamb shanks are meant to be served when ready. As mentioned above, you can keep it warm on low heat for up to one hour.

Can I use other spices?

Yes, you can use a little bit of cayenne pepper, paprika or coriander in the sauce. Be cautious with the spices and don’t overuse them.
You can also use herbs such as thyme or oregano. Tie them with a kitchen twine and remove them once the lamb is cooked.

How do I know if the lamb shank is cooked?

The lamb shank is cooked completely once it’s fork tender and almost falls off the bone. Note that the cooking time varies depending on the size of the shank.

Can I cook this in the instant pot?

I’m going to be honest with you, it’s possible to cook these in the instant pot but the result will not be the same. It won’t be bad, but it won’t be the same. You braising in a Dutch oven over medium heat results in a tender meat that’s packed with flavor in every bite. Using an instant pot in this case will eliminate the braising opportunity.

Can I cook this in the slow cooker?

Yes. To cook lamb shanks in the slow cooker, follow the recipe as instructed, however, sautéing the vegetables and adding the spices, transfer the mixture to a slow cooker and add the lamb shanks followed by the water. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or until the lamb is fork tender. Braise every 30 minutes for best results. This being said, I still prefer stove top braising.

More recipes with lamb

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5 from 6 votes

Best Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe

Try the best braised lamb shank recipe ever written! Lamb shanks are slow cooked in a rich spiced sauce until fall-off-the-bone-level fork tender! Serve this restaurant-quality dish with rice, potatoes or even risotto.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total: 3 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 4
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Ingredients 

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cardamom pods

Instructions 

  • Pat dry the lamb shanks and season them with 1 teaspoon kosher salt on all sides.
  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or a pot over medium heat and sea the lamb shanks for 4 to 6 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Remove them from the pot and set aside.
  • Place the onion, garlic, celery and carrot in the bowl of a food processor and blend until finely chopped. Transfer the chopped vegetables to the same Dutch oven and saute over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
  • Add in the turmeric, cumin and black pepper. Stir and add the tomato paste followed by the pomegranate molasses. Mix to combine. Add in the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods.
  • Add the browned lamb shanks back into the pot. If you have to place them on top of each other, it's okay. They will shrink when cooked.
  • Fill the Dutch oven with water and make sure the lamb shanks are submerged. You need about 6 cups of water depending on the size of the Dutch oven.
  • Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 3 hours. Braise every 45 minutes and add more water if the gravy is reducing too much.
  • Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of the cooking for the sauce to thicken a bit and the lamb shanks to brown nicely. Serve with your favorite side dish.

Video

Notes

Nutrition

Calories: 366kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 127mg | Sodium: 1135mg | Potassium: 768mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 3215IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Shadi HasanzadeNemati

I'm here to show you how to make delicious Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food at home. My easy to follow recipes will bring exciting new flavors to your table!

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10 Comments

  1. This looks delicious, and I’ll be making it this weekend! Thanks for the recipe. The only comment I have is that you keep saying braise every 30 minutes. Braising is the cooking method, covered and simmering in the oven or on the stovetop. Do you mean baste? Like drizzle the juices back onto the meat every 30 minutes? I want to make sure I get this right. I’ve never basted something I’m braising.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Kim, yes, you need to pour the juice on the meat every 30 minutes to make sure the flavors really get in every bite of the meat.

  2. if we skip the sear step, put the ingredients all together, and cook for three hours, what shall we expect in terms of taste?
    I was thinking of a simple version of the recipe for a lazy cook like myself.
    Kindly advise.

    1. The searing will add some flavor to the lamb shanks and will lock in the juices. Skipping this step will not have a major impact on the flavor, but I strongly recommend making the sauce as instructed.

  3. 5 stars
    I have never cooked lamb shanks before, but now I totally want to try this recipe! These look delicious. 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    The flavor packed, rich spice sauce sounds marvelous with lamb. I can’t wait to impress my family with this meal.