Tender slow cooker lamb shanks, gently simmered in a flavorful, rich red wine sauce until the meat falls off the bone.
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Meltingly tender lamb shanks are something I used to eat only in restaurants; the best ones I’ve ever had were in an Indian restaurant in Cardiff. But not anymore; cooking lamb shanks is easy, and this slow cooker lamb shank recipe is no exception.
This easy recipe would make a perfect meal for Easter this year; it is incredibly delicious, it can be cooked ahead and reheated, and (except for the hands-off slow cooking time) it’s straightforward and quick to prepare.
And if you like shanks or hocks, try our Slow Cooker Pork Hocks or the German Crispy Pork Hocks. Or check out more lamb recipes; the Lamb Shoulder in the Slow Cooker, the Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder Recipe, or the Roasted Leg of Lamb in White Wine are perfect Easter centerpieces as well.
What are lamb shanks?
Pieces of lamb cut from the bottom sections of the lamb leg, below the knee.
They are an inexpensive cut of meat, more economical than other parts of the animal.
Shanks are perfect for slow cooking and serving in a rich, thick sauce. The long cooking process makes the meat meltingly tender; it will fall off the bone.
- Lamb shanks: one piece per person. I was a fool to think my tiny 10-year-old daughter won’t manage a whole piece; she did…
- Vegetables: one large onion, carrots, celery sticks, garlic.
- Wine: Medium range price, full-bodied red wine. It should be a good quality brand, something you would enjoy drinking as well, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive. I tend to buy something that costs between 5 and 10 Euros.
- Stock: Lamb stock is the perfect fit but replace it with beef or chicken stock if you don’t have it. The beef stock has a more robust flavor, but the chicken broth or stock will be fine as well.
- Herbs: Rosemary, thyme, bay leaves. Fresh rosemary or fresh thyme are also great.
- Other ingredients: Cornstarch to thicken the gravy to your liking, a little sugar, and balsamic vinegar to deepen the sauce’s flavor. And, of course, you will need salt and pepper.
- Place lamb shanks in a large container (for instance, a baking dish) (1), sprinkle them with flour, salt, and pepper, and rub them to coat them all over. Shake or pat to remove the excess flour (2).
- Brown meat: Heat the oil in a large skillet or frying pan. Brown the meat on all sides; it will take about 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Turn them often to make sure that all the sides are nicely colored (3,4).
In the meantime, chop the vegetables (5).
- Transfer the meat to the slow cooker.
- Brown vegetables: If necessary, add another tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil. Cook the vegetables for about 3 minutes on medium heat, stirring often (6).
- Add tomato paste and about ½ tablespoon flour (you can use the leftover flour from flouring the shanks). Stir well (7).
- Pour in the red wine and stir well for about one minute.
- Add the stock, fine sea salt, black pepper, dried rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves (8).
- Pour the cooking liquids into the slow cooker over the meat (9).
- Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours (10).
- Make sure that the slow-cooked lamb shanks are meltingly tender. Check them with a fork; you should be able to pull the meat off the bone easily.
- If they are not quite there yet, give them another 30 minutes, then check again until they are fall-apart tender.
How to make the red wine sauce?
- Remove the slow-cooked lamb shanks from the crockpot with a slotted spoon. Place them on a warm platter and keep them warm while making the red wine sauce.
- Carefully pour the braising liquid and the vegetables into a large pan (11).
- Whisk about 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch with a bit of cold water in a small bowl until you have a thick yet pourable paste.
- Once the sauce starts to boil gently, start whisking in the cornstarch mixture. Stir well and let bubble gently until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency; it should take 2 to 4 minutes (12).
- Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. You might want to add one teaspoon of sugar (See Expert Tips below).
It’s not always necessary to adjust the taste of the gravy with sugar; sometimes, I think the sauce needs it, and sometimes not. It all depends on the brand of wine you are using; some might be more acidic than others.
I rarely leave out the balsamic vinegar, though; I put it in all the sauces (and soups) I make; it balances the dishes perfectly, adding just that touch of acidity you need to uplift the flavors.
The alcohol cooks off, but you can replace it if you cannot have it at all. The best choice would be with the same amount of beef or lamb stock. As the stock is not as acidic as wine, you should add one teaspoon of red wine vinegar to the broth as well.
You probably didn’t cook them long enough. Check after 4 hours on high and 8 hours on low; poke the meat with a fork; it should be tender and easy to pull off the bone. If it’s not, cook it for longer and check again.
The cooking time also depends on the size of the pieces, standard ones are not very large, but if you purchase the lamb at the local butcher, the shanks might be larger.
Yes. Brown the meat in a large Dutch oven. Remove and brown the vegetables. Add liquids and spices as instructed.
Return the meat to the pot. Cover and cook in the preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours with the lid on top.
Remove lid and cook for another ½ hour to 1 hour or until the meat is very tender.
Transfer the lamb to a platter and make the red wine sauce as instructed.
Yes, cook everything ahead, return the meat to the thickened gravy, let cool completely and refrigerate the pot.
Reheat well on the stovetop before serving; regularly turn the meat into the red wine sauce to make sure it heats evenly on all sides. Stir the sauce often to prevent the vegetables from catching.
Refrigerate the slow cooker lamb shanks and the red wine sauce for up to 4 days in an airtight container.
Freeze the meat in airtight containers for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge and reheat well before serving.
Reheat gently on the stovetop, adding a splash of wine, broth, or water to loosen the gravy a bit if necessary. Turn the shanks in the sauce several times to allow them to heat better, and stir the sauce and the veggies to prevent them from catching.
What do you serve with slow-cooked lamb shanks?
Mashed potatoes are my number 1 choice – either regular mashed potatoes or Roasted Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes for a more festive twist.
You can also serve the slow cooker lamb shanks with crusty white bread to mop up that glossy, luxurious red wine gravy, boiled potatoes, rice, or pasta.
More lamb recipes
Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks (with Red Wine Sauce)
- Slow cooker
- 4 lamb shanks
- 1 ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour divided
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil divided
- 1 onion large
- 3 carrots medium
- 3 celery sticks
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine 250 ml Note 1
- 2 cups lamb stock 500 ml Note 2
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar optional Note 3
- more fine sea salt and black pepper
- Season meat: Place the lamb shanks in a large container, sprinkle them with about ½ to 1 tablespoon flour, salt, and pepper, and rub them to coat. Pat gently to remove the excess flour.
- Brown lamb shanks: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pan. Brown the meat on all sides; it will take about 10 minutes. Turn them often to make sure that all the sides are nicely colored.
- Chop the vegetables while the meat browns. Finely chop the onion and the garlic. Peel and cut the carrots at an angle into relatively larger pieces, and cut the celery sticks into small pieces.
- Transfer the meat to the slow cooker.
- Brown vegetables: Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Brown the vegetables for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato paste and about ½ tablespoon flour (you can use the leftover flour from flouring the shanks). Stir well.
- Add liquids: Pour in the red wine and stir well for about one minute. Add the stock, fine sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves.
- Pour the liquid into the slow cooker over the meat.
- Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
- Check: Make sure that meat is tender. Check with a fork; you should be able to pull the meat off the bone easily. If they are not quite there yet, give them another 30 minutes, then check again until they are as tender as possible.
- Remove the meat pieces from the crockpot with a slotted spoon. Keep warm until you make the sauce.
- Pour the contents of the slow cooker into a large pan.
- Whisk the cornstarch with a bit of cold water in a small bowl until you have a thick yet pourable paste.
- Thicken sauce: Once the sauce starts to boil gently, start whisking in the cornstarch mixture. Stir well and let bubble gently until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency; it should take 2-4 minutes.
- Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and sugar (if necessary, see Note 3).
- Medium range price, full-bodied red wine. It should be a good quality brand, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive. I tend to buy something that costs between 5 and 10 euros (6-10 dollars).
- It can be replaced with beef or chicken stock.
- Sugar is not always necessary; it depends on the acidity of the wine. Only add it if you think the sauce needs it.