Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks are the perfect marriage of elegance and ease.
There’s no hard work involved in this lamb recipe. You’ll spend about 20 minutes searing the lamb shanks and sautéing vegetables. Then you simply wait for 8 hours of slow cooker magic.
The result is tender lamb shanks in a rich, flavorful sauce, worthy of a dinner party or special occasion.
Lamb shanks are ideal for a slow cooker. This naturally tough meat transforms into a tender, fall-off-the-bone, savory dish when cooked low and slow all day.
This easy recipe makes 8 lamb shanks in a large crockpot and offers the best leftover possibilities. It is the dish that gives and gives and gives. Lamb shanks for dinner one night. Lamb shepherd’s pie a couple of nights later. Then, leftover flavorful red wine sauce can be frozen to reappear in everything from pasta sauces and risotto to lentil soup.
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- Large Slow Cooker: You will need a 7-quart slow cooker or larger to fit all 8 lamb shanks and the delicious sauce.
- Large Saucepan or Stockpot: 4-quart size, the wider the better to brown more lamb shanks at once.
This crockpot lamb shank recipe is packed with simple ingredients. Except for the lamb shanks, you probably already have most of these items in your kitchen.
- Lamb Shanks: Depending on where you live, finding lamb shanks may be a bit of a challenge. In my area, I can easily find them in my local Persian grocery store and Whole Foods. Stick to roughly 12-13 ounces per shank, so you can fit them all in the crockpot.
- Dry Red Wine: There’s no need to use expensive wine in your slow cooker. An affordable Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cotes de Rhône pairs perfectly with this rich lamb dish. Of course, you should always follow the sage advice from French chefs, never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.
- Chicken Broth: Pacific Foods chicken broth is gluten-free
- Rosemary Sprigs: I highly recommend buying a rosemary plant. Fresh rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, so it earns a place as a staple in my small kitchen. Use it just 2 or 3 times and it’s already paid for itself, compared to the price of buying just a few sprigs. With a supply of fresh rosemary on hand, you can easily spare some to garnish
- The remaining ingredients need no special instructions: Onion, Celery, Carrots, Garlic Cloves, Crushed Tomatoes (Canned), Tomato Paste, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper.
What to Serve with Lamb Shanks
The rich red wine sauce begs for a carbohydrate to soak up the flavor. My favorite options are creamy mashed potatoes or polenta. For a healthier option, you could serve with cauliflower purée or cauliflower rice.
Roasted vegetables, such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, or root vegetables, are excellent side dishes to pair with slow-cooked lamb shanks.
You can serve family style or plate the lamb shanks individually for an elegant appearance.
Pat dry the lamb shanks with a paper towel to remove excess liquid. Then season them with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan or stockpot on high heat. Brown lamb shanks in batches. It will take about five minutes to rotate and sear each batch of lamb shanks on all sides. If the oil is used up while browning the meat, add a tablespoon between batches as needed.
Depending on the size of your saucepan, you’ll need to brown the lamb shanks in 2-4 batches. If possible, use a wide saucepan to fit approximately 3-4 lamb shanks per batch.
You can also use more than one saucepan to speed up the process. Of course, the trade-off is more dishes.
Place the seared lamb shanks in the slow cooker. It’s a bit of a Tetris puzzle to get them to fit. Alternate bone and meat ends, and shift the lamb shanks until they all fit below the lid line.
Pour the red wine into the saucepan. Gently scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any remaining bits of browned lamb and incorporate them into the sauce. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes before adding it to the slow cooker.
Gently pour the sauce into the slow cooker to cover the lamb, which should be completely submerged. Top with a few fresh rosemary sprigs.
Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours. You cannot shortcut this recipe on high. The lamb needs time to tenderize. Slow cooking is the best way to get a perfect meal of tender lamb shanks out of this tough cut of meat.
On the other end of the spectrum, you really cannot overcook these lamb shanks, so leaving them a little longer than the recipe’s 8-hour cooking time is fine. This is where the magic happens.
Remove the cooked rosemary sprigs. I like to serve the wonderful sauce as is, with bits of vegetables. If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can strain it before serving.
Serve the slow-cooked lamb shanks on a bed of mashed potatoes, rice, or polenta. Top with sauce and optionally garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs.
A note about the portions. I’ve listed the servings as 8, to account for serving one shank per person, which is ideal for presentation. These will be generous portions. Depending on your guest’s appetites and what else is on the menu, you may be able to serve as many as two people per shank.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or freezer for up to 3 months.
This fantastic dish is even better the next day! The sauce will thicken and flavors will meld together more intensely. The fat in the dish will rise to the top of the sauce while it cools in the fridge. Remove the excess fat before heating the leftovers.
Reheat leftovers on the stovetop for about 10-12 minutes on medium heat. Or heat covered in the microwave for a couple of minutes for a single serving.
You can eat the leftovers as-is or shred the fall-apart lamb into an amazing new dish.
Bake the shredded lamb and sauce into a quick and easy shepherd’s pie. The shredded lamb and rich sauce make an incredible lamb ragú for pasta or risotto. Or heat up corn tortillas for lamb tacos.
Extra sauce can be frozen in small batches and used to add layers of rich flavor to spaghetti sauce, delicious gravy, or hearty soup recipes.
The leftover options are so melt-in-your-mouth fabulous that I recommend making this crockpot recipe from time to time just to use the entire dish for a couple of the above ideas.
Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks in Rosemary Red Wine Sauce
- Slow Cooker 7 quart or larger
- Large Saucepan or Stockpot 4 quart or larger
- 8 medium lamb shanks approximately 12 ounces per shank
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 1 cup celery diced
- 1 cup carrots diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bottle dry red wine such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cotes de Rhône (750ml)
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth Pacific Foods chicken broth is gluten-free
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- Pat dry lamb shanks with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
- Sear lamb shanks in 2-4 batches (depending on the size of your sauce pan) for approximately five minutes per batch. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauce pan on medium-high heat. Sear the lamb shanks on all sides until browned. Add a tablespoon of olive oil between batches, as needed.
- Place browned lamb shanks in the slow cooker. Alternate bone and meat ends to get them to fit.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same large sauce pan used in step 2. Sauté onions, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes, until the diced onion is translucent.
- Add red wine and to saucepan. Scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate any remaining brown bits from the lamb shanks. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth. Stir to combine. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add sauce to the slow cooker. Top with rosemary sprigs. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours.
- Remove rosemary sprigs. Serve lamb shanks on a bed of mashed potatoes, rice, or polenta, and top with sauce.