Braised Lamb Shanks in Pinot Noir

Braised lamb shanks are left to slowly burble in a lovely Pinot Noir with fennel, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, and more until the meat is literally falling-off-the-bone tender. One of our favorite winter pastimes is making this.

A braised lamb shank in pinot noir, and exposed bone, on mash potatoes, all on a white plate sitting on planks of wood

Braised lamb shanks is the sort of food that tastes even better the day after it’s made. That’s not to say braised lamb shanks in pinot noir aren’t irresistible the moment they’re coaxed to tenderness. But we’re not going to argue about making this recipe a day or two ahead of time since it’s such a boon to be able to do the heavy lifting for entertaining in advance. If you can manage to stash the shanks in the back of the fridge and resist indulging in them for 48 hours, you’ll be rewarded with richly nuanced layers of flavors the likes of which you’ve never experienced. No lie. Originally published January 2, 2010.Renee Schettler Rossi

Braised Lamb Shanks

  • Quick Glance
  • (6)
  • 40 M
  • 3 H, 40 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
4.2/5 - 6 reviews
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Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the lamb shanks with 2 teaspoons salt and sear them in the pot, turning to brown them on all sides. Remove the shanks to a plate and pour off any excess fat from the pan.

Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and, using your hands, shred them into small pieces. Set aside.

Add the onions, fennel, carrots (if using), garlic, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Cook, stirring and scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot, until the garlic is lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice from each half and toss the lemon rinds into the pot. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, and ginger, scraping any browned bits up from the bottom of the pot, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 3 minutes.

Stir in the cinnamon, coriander, fennel seeds, and 3/4 cup water, then add the lamb to the pot. Cover and braise in the oven until the lamb shanks are fork-tender and falls easily off the bone, about 3 hours.

Arrange the braised lamb shanks on a platter. Stir the butter into the pan juices and, once melted, add the mint. Pour the sauce over the lamb, discarding the cinnamon sticks. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired, and serve with mashed potatoes.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

These were the best braised lamb shanks I’ve ever made. This is now my go-to lamb shank recipe. The aroma while cooking and the flavor of the finished dish were delectable. The meat was falling off the bone by the end of the cooking time and was wonderfully moist and tender. The braising liquid was, in itself, a great dish. I served some of the left over liquid over rice a few days later.

Lamb shanks are one of my very favourite things, so when I saw the title of the recipe and the list of ingredients I fell in love! I’m always on the lookout for different ways to use lamb shanks. This is a lovely dish that I will continue to make often. Personally, I’d use less fennel seeds and coriander seeds, but, otherwise, loved it. This dish is packed with flavour, and it’s very true that it’s even better the next day. The house was filled with wonderfully warm and luscious aromas—wish I could package the scent! The meat is so tender you could eat it with a spoon. Very impressive looking, yet so simple to make. It would be a superb company dish.

These braised lamb shanks smelled so wonderful while cooking, we all anticipated a great meal on a recent frigid evening. It delivered. Fragrant with spices, rich with meaty lamb and wine flavor, it was perfect served over soft polenta.

Now, this is what I’m talking about. I love braising. It breaks down the connective tissue of the meat and produces tender, juicy and flavorful lamb. I particularly love the use of fennel and mint in this dish. It’s just the perfect complement to the lamb. All of the ingredients were easy to find, and the method for creating the recipe was simple. You should use a really good wine for this dish; it makes all the difference. The authors are correct in that the lamb tastes even better the next day. I also like this recipe because I can pop it in the oven and do other things for a couple of hours.

Lamb, tomatoes, ginger, AND pinot noir? With those favorite ingredients, along with a lovely pile of others, I couldn’t resist trying this month’s choice. Wasn’t disappointed, either. Flavors blended beautifully—cinnamon and fennel sweetness balanced by the tartness of lemon and ginger, but not overpowering the lamb’s earthiness. This dish is sort of a cross between a Provencal daube and a Moroccan couscous. What a lovely reward for all the chopping and letting the cooking smells take over the house.


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  1. Perfect for a cold January night. I was lazy and chose to use a bottle of red already in the house (Zinfandel). I was afraid it might be too “fruit forward,” but the dish tasted great! All the compliments above hold true: regarding being tender, moist, flavorful, etc. Will definitely make again.

  2. I´d like to make an special Mother´s Day lunch this coming Sunday, and this recipe really caught my attention! As I don´t have a Dutch oven, I´d like to know if you think it would work in a slow cooker (from step 5 on, of course!).

    1. Hi Suzana, I think this would be well suited for a slow cooker. As you tend to end up with a lot of liquid during the process, I might be inclined to reduce the juices in a pan over a stove top before whisking in the butter and mint.

  3. I’ve been “eyeing” this recipe and can’t wait to make it! A couple of questions – I will be making it for 8 people. Do I double up the recipe exactly or go lighter on the spices, do I use the same amount of liquid or less?

    1. Hi Sharon, I think a lot depends on the size of the pan that you use for 8 shanks. I find that 4 shanks fit perfectly in my dutch oven all nestled down in the braising liquid. If you needed to increase the amount of liquid, then I would increase the spices proportionately.

  4. Yvonne, you certainly know your Middle Eastern food and ingredients and you have definitely had the best in Morocco. I confess I am stumped with this. When I made this recipe it was fragrant and tasty with warm flavours. It did not announce itself with a punch but it definitely was flavourful. You have piqued my interest in this recipe. As I have preserved lemon in the fridge I think I will use that.

    The only other thing I can think of is the use of a good wine – I used better than usual for cooking. Aside from that I am perplexed. Would you please let us know how your next round goes? Hopefully you will be able to enjoy the wondrous aromas in your kitchen – and a great-tasting dish. All the best of luck with this!

  5. Was very interested in this recipe because of the ingredients and especially liked the comment from Jon, “…dish that makes your whole house smell amazing”.

    It didn’t.

    I’ve used many of these ingredients before even toasting the coriander and fennel seeds. I followed the recipe exactly and there was no “smell” in the house at all. This dish didn’t have that “wow” as many I’ve cooked before with similar spices.

    I was very disappointed as I read in other reviews how much success many had with it. Wondering why – want to try again but the lamb shanks are $$$ and would like to hear suggestions on what went wrong Thanks.

    1. Hi, Yvonne! So sorry you were so disappointed with this recipe – it must have been difficult to read so many positive comments (i.e. “…dish that makes your whole house smell amazing”) and not experience these things yourself. :-( However, I believe that it may be worth trying again.

      The list of ingredients is certainly an aromatic one and one would expect to have the warm and lingering aromas of fennel, coriander, garlic, wine, ginger, cinnamon, lemon and so on. Were the spices you used fresh (especially cinnamon)? These ingredients should smell lovely on their own, even before using in recipes. Your house should have been the envy of everyone in your neighbourhood! Did your lamb smell good when searing? Sometimes it is possible to puchase lamb that smells more like mutton (i.e. old and gamey). Then no amount of great aromatics would help mask it.

      Perhaps try braising it on the stove rather than in the oven. That way you would be able to enjoy the fragrance more readily. Did the mint add freshness at the end? Did you find any of the ingredients to overpower some of the others? Do you love lamb? Maybe trying this with beef/veal shanks would work, too.

      We’ll try to get down to the bottom of this for you. We want you to enjoy this dish fully! Don’t give up just yet.

      1. Thank you for your reply and suggestions.

        I grew up eating lamb and is probably my first choice of meat after beef.

        I also know about spices and shelf life. I keep them away from heat and light. In fact, the cinnamon in particular was recently purchased.

        Found a Middle Eastern restaurant recently and my husband and I have enjoyed many, many special entrees – many cooked with lamb but also amazing depth of flavor. I was in Morocco in Sept 2011 and had many flavorful and very well seasoned meals. I was very anxious to try some of those recipes. And, I have tried some using ginger, garam masala, coriander, tumeric, cumin, fennel plus others. Had success using those combinations and the fragrance was wonderful!!! Something I expected from this recipe which really just fell flat.

        I will do as you suggest and try it on the stove top. Purchased the shanks at my local market which always has fresh and good meats–a little more $$$ but know I’m getting quality. I did add the fresh mint at the end and couldn’t even taste it–no effect at all.

        So, I’m still confused, I guess. Was going to try adding some of the above spices to this recipe. Maybe I just expect more highly seasoned results and not necessarily “hot” spice.

        Thanks again, Yvonne

    1. I take it you’re getting ready to try them again, Lee? It does look like a great recipe. Now that I can find a reasonable Pinot Noir, it may be time for me to try it myself!

  6. These lamb shanks were great, one of the best dishes ever. I made them with carrots, and the results were spectacular. Didn’t use the 3/4 cup of water in step 5; there was plenty of liquid from the tomatoes and wine. The sauce was very rich, so I omitted the butter at the end. And I left off the mint leaves—just as a personal preference. Made this dish one day before, reheated it slowly on stove top. Israeli couscous and puréed root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, celery root, carrots and sweet potato) rounded out a fabulous meal. (The shanks were from Australia, about 7 to 8 lb. each, you’ll need one per person.)

  7. I loved these lamb shanks–another thought for a side dish that I do is risotto with the braising sauce added and wild mushrooms–totally a winter dish–since I live in Iowa!

  8. It’s January 5th and I’ve made this twice since it was posted on January 2nd…need I say more! I’m not a fan of fennel, so I left the Fennel bulb out but included the fennel seed (go figure). An amazing dish on a cold winter night in NYC.

  9. This is my current favourite lamb shanks recipe. The sauce is amazing—sweet and rich yet with a brightness from the lemon and fennel. It’s a great dish for entertaining because you can make it a day or two ahead. In addition, you don’t have to carve which is a definite plus if carving is not your forte. I always get rave reviews when I serve this. Following Vinny’s passionate advice, I have not made it with carrots. I like to serve it with pureed celery root or mashed root vegetables.

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