Braised Lamb Shanks with Figs

Difficulty Medium

Rich, decadent, fall-off-the-bone Braised Lamb Shanks with figs and red wine. A truly spectacular meal — perfect for holiday gatherings or cozy fall nights.

*Thank you California Figs for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.*

Braised Lamb Shanks with Figs

For a truly decadent, show-stopping meal that’s full of flavor, I often make Braised Lab Shanks. And this version, with California dried figs is one of my favorites!

Tender, fall-off-the-bone lamb. Decadent, luscious sauce. A slow-cooked meat dish that’s so special and delicious — you’ll want to make this for every holiday meal!

Each person receives an entire lamb shank — with plenty of rich figgy sauce flavored with red wine and herbs. Piled on top of mashed potatoes, it’s a stunning, memorable dish!

Plus, most of the cooking time is hands-off. Although it’s a bit complicated in the beginning — it’s totally worth it in the end.

What are lamb shanks?

Lamb shanks come from the lower leg of a lamb — a tough cut of meat that includes bone and lean, hard-working leg muscles. A tough and chewy protein that’s not ideal for grilling or quick cooking.

However, the magic comes when lamb shanks are braised or stewed. A long, slow simmer will break down the thick, tough muscles while holding onto all that flavor from the bone marrow and meat. The result is tender, flavorful lamb that falls off the bone in buttery chunks.

Ingredients:

  • Lamb Shanks. Bone-in, meaty lamb shanks stay moist, juicy, and flavorful when cooked for a long time. Look for ones that fit into your cooking vessel.
  • Flour. A little sprinkled on top will help with browning and thicken the sauce later on.
  • Dried Mission Figs. Nutritious and delicious California dried figs are full of fiber and potassium. Dried figs add sweetness and earthy flavor, are available year-round, and cook down into jammy, figgy deliciousness without added sugar.
  • Onion + Garlic. The essential aromatics.
  • Fresh herbs. A combination of rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and parsley adds depth of flavor and so much herby freshness.
  • Red Wine. To deglaze the pan and release the fond from the pan.
  • Beef or Chicken or Vegetable stock. Adds body and depth. Sub with water, if you don’t have it.
  • Whole Canned Tomatoes. A major flavor booster that cooks down into a luscious sauce.

Instructions:

  1. Season. Rub lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour all over to lightly coat. The flour will thicken the sauce later.
  2. Sear. Sear lamb on all sides until nicely browned, on medium high heat.
  3. Add braising liquid. Remove lamb shanks and set aside on a plate. In the same pan, reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, and pinch of salt. Deglaze with red wine, making sure to scrape up the fond or browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and crush with a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon. Add rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, chopped up dried figs, and beef broth.
  4. Braise. Return lamb shanks to the red wine sauce. Simmer (covered) until fork tender and falling off the bone, 2.5-3 hours.
  5. Reduce sauce. Transfer shanks to plate. Reduce sauce until thick and gravy-like in consistency.
  6. Garnish and serve. Enjoy!

Watch how to make it:

Special Equipment:

  • Shallow Braiser. To make this a true one-pot meal, I recommend a shallow braiser with a tight-fitting lid. A large cooking surface makes it easier to brown the shanks and reduce the sauce. A lid encourages steam so the lamb breaks down and becomes tender.
  • Potato Masher. A simple kitchen tool that can be used to flatten and crush the canned whole tomatoes. Keeps a rustic texture and works faster (with less mess) than the back of a wooden spoon!

PRO Tips:

  • Defrost. Lamb shanks often come frozen in grocery stores. Don’t forget to defrost! Place in the fridge overnight or run under cold water for 20 minutes.
  • Season every step of the way. Adding salt and pepper to every stage is the key to a flavorful, final dish.
  • Watch carefully. The sauce can burn, if you don’t watch it. Simmer on medium-low and stir the bottom of the pot from time to time to prevent burning. When reducing the sauce in the final step, stir frequently.
  • Chop dried figs. Chop as finely as possible before adding. They will break down and become a deliciously thick and figgy sauce at the end.

4 ways to cook:

Over the years, I’ve cooked Braised Lamb Shanks in so many different ways. They all work well. All options are listed in the recipe card.

  • Stove Top. My preferred cooking method which produces the best flavor. All the cooking steps are completed on the cooking range or stovetop. Takes the longest time and requires more tending than the other methods.
  • Slow Cooker. For best flavor, brown the meat then make the sauce in a pan. Then transfer to the slow cooker. The size of the slow cooker can accommodate double or triple the recipe. Good for making in advance.
  • Instant Pot. A fast option. The only limitation will be the size of your Instant Pot, as the lamb shanks can be quite long. Use the biggest Instant Pot you have.
  • Oven Braise. Instead of braising on the stovetop, transfer to the oven to braise instead. Doesn’t require as much tending as the stovetop method. An option that’s relatively stress-free. Afterward, you’ll need to transfer back to the stove top to reduce the sauce.

Serve with:

You’ll need something to sop up all that delicious sauce! Some suggestions:

  • Mashed Potatoes. Ultra-creamy mashed potatoes are a classic side.
  • Cauliflower Potato Mash. Lighter than regular mashed potatoes. Works well with the heavy, rich sauce.
  • Polenta. Gluten-free, creamy polenta is a great alternative to mashed potatoes.
  • Crusty bread. Mop up all that sauce with an easy loaf of crusty bread or Garlic Miso Bread.

Or, serve with:

FAQ:

Can I double the recipe?

Yes, this recipe is easy to double or triple. The difficult part will be finding a cooking pan that’s large enough to hold all the meat. For more than 4 shanks, I recommend using a slow cooker.

Can I make this in advance?

Yes, this lamb shanks recipe is great to make in advance. That’s my preference, actually. Make a day or two before. The flavors meld together beautifully and soak into the lamb. As a bonus, if you prefer a less oily dish, the hardened fat will be easy to remove.

To reheat, cook on medium-low heat until hot and steaming. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.


Why does it take so long to cook?

For tender, fall-off-the-bone braised lamb shanks, it generally takes 2-3 hours depending on size. The larger the bone and meat, the longer it will take.

shallow bowl filled with braised lamb shank on top of mashed potatoes

Braised Lamb Shanks with Figs

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Rich, decadent, fall-off-the-bone Braised Lamb Shanks with figs and red wine. A truly spectacular meal — perfect for holiday gatherings or cozy Fall nights!
4.50 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 390 kcal

Equipment

  • Shallow Braiser (or dutch oven, if you don't have one)
  • Potato Masher (to crush the whole canned tomatoes)

Ingredients
  

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1-2 Tbsp flour *leave out to make it gluten free
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup red wine, like Pinot Noir
  • 1 14 oz can whole tomatoes, like San Marzano (or 1/2 of a 28 oz can)
  • 1 cup dried figs, stems trimmed and chopped finely
  • 2-3 stems fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups Beef, chicken, or vegetable broth (can be subbed with water)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Instructions
 

  • Season. Rub lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. Then add flour, on all sides, to lightly coat.
  • Sear. Heat a shallow braiser over medium high heat and add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add lamb shanks and sear on one side, about 4 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side, another 4 minutes.
  • Saute Aromatics. Remove meat and set aside on a plate. In the same pan, reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, and pinch of salt. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Deglaze pan. Add red wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape up the fond or browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and crush with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Add rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and chopped up dried figs.
  • Choose one the following methods to continue cooking: stove top, slow cooker, instant pot, or oven braise.

Stove top instructions:

  • Braise. Return lamb shanks to the pan, directly nestled in the sauce, plus the beef broth and any juices or drippings that may have collected on the plate. Bring to a boil then lower heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until lamb is fork tender and falling off the bone, 2.5-3 hours.
  • Tip: make sure to keep an eye on the sauce. Stir occassionally, making sure the sauce is not burning. Also, flip the lamb shanks every 30 minutes to keep the meat flavorful and tender.
  • Reduce sauce. When the lamb is tender, transfer to a plate. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaves. Turn up the heat to medium and reduce sauce (uncovered) until thick and gravy-like in consistency. Stif frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot, so the sauce doesn't burn.
  • Garnish and serve. To serve individual portions, add mashed potatoes to a shallow bowl. Add 1 lamb shank per bowl with plenty of sauce. Sprinkle parsley all over. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Instructions:

  • Braise. Add lamb shanks to the slow cooker, making sure to add beef broth and any juices or drippings that may have collected on the plate. Add the sauce directly on top of the lamb shanks. Cover and cook in the slow cooker until lamb is fork tender and falling off the bone. About 4-5 hours on the high setting or 6-7 hours on the low setting.
  • Reduce sauce. When the lamb is tender, remove from the slow cooker and set aside on a separate plate. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaves. Add sauce to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thick and reduced, about 10-15 minutes. Make sure to stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent burning.
  • Garnish and serve. To serve individual portions, add mashed potatoes to a shallow bowl. Add 1 lamb shank per bowl with plenty of sauce. Sprinkle parsley all over. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Instructions:

  • Braise. Add lamb shanks to the Instant Pot, making sure to add beef broth and any juices or drippings that may have collected on the plate. Add the sauce directly on top of the lamb shanks. Set the Instant Pot to "Meat" function for 30 minutes. Lock the lid in place and cook.
  • Reduce sauce. When the lamb is fork tender, remove from the Instant Pot and set aside on a separate plate. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaves. Using the "Saute" function, reduce the sauce until thick and rich, about 10 minutes. Make sure to stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent burning.
  • Garnish and serve. To serve individual portions, add mashed potatoes to a shallow bowl. Add 1 lamb shank per bowl with plenty of sauce. Sprinkle parsley all over. Enjoy!

Oven Braise Instructions:

  • Braise. Return lamb shanks to the pan, directly nestled in the sauce, plus beef broth and any juices or drippings that may have collected on the plate. Cover and transfer to a 350F/175C oven for a long, slow braise until lamb is fork tender and falling off the bone, about 2.5-3 hours.
  • Reduce sauce. When the lamb is tender, remove the shallow braiser from the oven and transfer the lamb shanks to a plate. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaves. Turn up the heat to medium and reduce sauce (uncovered) until thick and gravy-like in consistency. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot, so the sauce doesn't burn.
  • Garnish and serve. To serve individual portions, add mashed potatoes to a shallow bowl. Add 1 lamb shank per bowl with plenty of sauce. Sprinkle parsley all over. Enjoy!

Video

Notes

Pro Tips:
    • Defrost. Lamb shanks often come frozen in grocery stores. Don’t forget to defrost! Place in the fridge overnight or run under cold water for 20 minutes.
    • Season every step of the way. Adding salt and pepper to every stage is the key to a flavorful, final dish.
    • Watch carefully. The sauce can burn, if you don’t watch it. Simmer on medium-low and stir the bottom of the pot from time to time to prevent burning. When reducing the sauce in the final step, stir frequently.
    • Chop dried figs. Chop as finely as possible before adding. They will break down and become a deliciously thick and figgy sauce at the end.

Nutrition

Calories: 390kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 42gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 127mgSodium: 602mgPotassium: 909mgFiber: 5gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 363IUVitamin C: 10mgCalcium: 111mgIron: 5mg
Keyword Braised, Figs, Lamb Shanks
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4 Comments

  1. Sorry, I just saw that the flower is added at the beginning on the shanks with the salt and pepper. But I still do not see where I’m supposed to add the beef broth.

  2. I’ve read this recipe several times, and I don’t see where it says to add the broth nor the flour. I am in the middle of making this now, and I am uncertain about those two items. Hopefully it’ll turn out OK.

  3. 5 stars
    This was incredible! I think the secret is the dried fig? Used 1.5 lb of boneless leg of lamb instead and worked great! Definitely a keeper. Thanks!!

4.50 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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