Balsamic-Braised Lamb Shanks

October 16, 2014
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

This is my favorite way to braise lamb shanks -- there’s warm spice and fresh herbs for comfort, good syrupy balsamic vinegar for depth, and white wine and orange zest for brightness. —Cara Nicoletti

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 celery ribs, cut into chunks
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, de-stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs thyme, de-stemmed and finely chopped
  • Zest of 1/2 a large orange
  • 1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  1. Whisk flour, salt, black pepper, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon together. Roll the lamb shanks in the flour mixture until they are coated.
  2. Heat a small Dutch oven (3 to 6 quarts) over medium-high heat and sear the lamb shanks on all sides until a good crust forms -- this will take 8 to 10 minutes total.
  3. Transfer lamb shanks to a plate and preheat your oven to 325° F.
  4. Scrape any crusty bits from the lamb-searing off the bottom of the Dutch oven (don’t discard, just scrape them up to loosen them and prevent them from burning).
  5. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, thyme, and orange zest. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Stir in the vinegar and cook until it has evaporated slightly and thickened further, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Return the lamb shanks to the pot and pour the white wine and chicken stock over them. Season the broth with salt to taste, cover the pot, and place it in the oven until the meat is very tender and falling off the bones, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  8. Remove the shanks from the pot, covering them with foil to keep them warm, and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Discard the solids.
  9. Cook the sauce over medium heat until it has reduced by half (it should yield about 1 1/2 cups). This should take 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Season the sauce to taste and pour it over the lamb shanks.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • mia
  • Noreen Fish
    Noreen Fish
  • Lindsey López
    Lindsey López
  • Transcendancing
  • epicharis
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog,, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.

35 Reviews

mia August 11, 2023
For those who aren’t as enthusiastic about lamb as we are this recipe is a winner. The balsamic vinegar mellows and deepens the flavor making it more akin to pot roast. We used red wine instead of white but otherwise followed as written though this method is very forgiving. It will definitely be a go to come colder weather as it comes together quickly and fills the house with a delicious aroma.
jeacooking February 27, 2023
I want to give this 3.5 stars, but that's not an option. I thought this was very good however, I did not care for the vinegariness of the sauce. I like the technique and will use it again but next time may do 50/50 balsamic and port wine.
Dpbbab February 24, 2023
Had two frozen lamb shanks and used this recipe. My husband was expecting mutton and boy was he wonderfully surprised! These were so delicious that I want to try this on beef next. Hubby thanked me more than once for the excellent meal (thank you food52).
Stevie T. February 3, 2020
While I'll definitely try this - it looks very good - it is NOT kosher for Passover. The wheat flour is in contact with moisture for longer than 18 minutes, which is not permitted among the strict Ashkenazim. I noticed the same problem with the Russian honey cake recipe.

The editors have to step up their game.
Laurabee October 7, 2018
This. Is. Mindblowingly delectible! The sweet-tart-rich-umami reduction is perfect with the shank which reaches a fork-only state of tenderness. Seriously, people, you should make this. We doubled the recipe easily, and served with polenta. I cannot think of a thing I would change, but like another reviewer mentioned, I agree you should bring it to a vigorous simmer before popping in the oven.
jo January 15, 2018
Dear Recipe Author,
what do you think about adding two shanks and doing this in the slow cooker?
Ashley U. November 26, 2016
Ashley U. November 26, 2016
Cooked this last month and loved it so much I'm doing it again today. I used a lamb shank and a half shoulder of lamb last time and it worked a treat. Shoulder again today and I'm confident enough to cook it for my mum (mom as you say over there).
Thank you Carla
stefi April 17, 2016
This was positively awesome: the flavors are well balanced and I (not too fond of strong-tasting lamb) loved it. Highly recommended.
Noreen F. February 15, 2016
I think I've found the recipe for the lamb shanks in my freezer!
Lindsey L. February 12, 2016
I'm looking to make this for 6 instead of 2 people. Can I possibly just triple the amounts and cook as directed? I don't want to negatively effect the flavor of the dish if the ratios are thrown off
Lilysdad October 12, 2015
This is a poorly written recipe. First of all, you need to add the 2 Tbl. of olive oil in order to brown the shanks. Also, 4 cloves of garlic -- what? Crushed, minced, sliced? They need to be minced before adding them to the saute. Also, once you add the white wine and the chicken stock, it is necessary to bring it to a simmer before covering and placing it in the oven. Yikes!
Transcendancing July 6, 2015
I'm so very happy with how this turned out, it was delicious! All the flavours came together beautifully! Recipe doubles well too. I served with Julia Childs' Garlic Mashed Potatoes which was sublime with it, and some steamed broccoli too - fantastic meal, felt like a real treat.
epicharis March 8, 2015
These were extraordinary. The balsamic glaze was wonderful and I loved how easy it was to prepare. Thank you!
Jeanne C. February 1, 2015
I need to triple this recipe any comments??
Jim T. June 8, 2022
Someone else wrote that it doubles nicely so I don't know why you could not triple it?
trampledbygeese January 18, 2015
Made this last night in the Tagine using mutton shoulder chops. DELICIOUS! I love how this recipe cooked all the gameness out of the mutton, went perfect with garlic mashed potatoes. Thanks for the recipe.
judy December 10, 2014
I do my recipe of lamb shanks in my pressure cooker. this is about the same recipe, reduce the liquid by about 25%. I love lamb and cook it many ways. But I think braised shanks are my favorite.
Scribbles November 14, 2014
The weather has really turned cold here in NC so I made this for dinner last night. It was really really good with an added bonus of the cabin smelling delicious all afternoon. I did not toss out the veg but rather reduced the gravy and veg down and served it with roasted red potatoes. Truly delicious and we will be having this again.
sally B. October 30, 2014
Love lamb! Never considered shanks before. Maybe now I can eat it more than once a year.
btglenn October 29, 2014
Unfortunatehy, here in Los Angeles lamb shanks cost about $5 per pound. For a cut of meat with a large bone and a good deal of fat, it is much more expensive per pound. While lamb shanks are really tasty, I substitute shoulder lamb chops which usually sell for about $4 a pound and is almost all meat.
Zuni restaurant couples their garlicky and delicious version with stewed white beans. I do the same, adding Swiss chard for a green veg.
I omit the flour as a thickener because it masks some of the flavor, but cook down the pot liquid to a syrupy gravy.