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Southwestern Braised Lamb Shanks

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

Cranberries and chipotle chiles in adobo sauce impart a tangy-sweet and smoky flavor to these succulent braised lamb shanks. Like most braised meats, the shanks improve with reheating.


  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 lamb shanks, 14 to 16 oz. each, blotted dry
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup full-bodied red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
  • 8 oz. (2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup lower-salt beef broth
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 Tbs. minced canned chipotles in adobo
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 Tbs. for garnish

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 590
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 160
  • Fat (g): 18
  • Saturated Fat (g): 5
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9
  • Cholesterol (mg): 180
  • Sodium (mg): 580
  • Carbohydrates (g): 38
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 61


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
  • Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, swirling the pan to coat the bottom; then add the lamb shanks and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the shanks to a plate. Season generously with salt and pepper.

  • Cook the onion in the skillet over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Stir in the cranberries, broth, honey, chipotles, and cumin and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 minutes. Arrange the shanks in the skillet, cover tightly with an ovenproof domed lid or heavy-duty aluminum foil, and put the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet (to make it easier to transfer without spilling). Transfer to the oven and cook, turning the lamb shanks 2 or 3 times during cooking, until they are fork tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
  • Transfer the shanks to a medium bowl and cover to keep warm. Skim any fat from the sauce in the skillet and boil over high heat until the liquid lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Stir in the 1/4 cup cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the shanks to the skillet, briefly turning them in the sauce, and serve sprinkled with the remaining 1 Tbs. cilantro.

Make Ahead Tips

You can braise the shanks (but don’t add the cilantro) up to 3 days ahead. Transfer to a container to cool—storing them in the skillet can give them a metallic flavor and can degrade the pan’s seasoning. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, slowly reheat, covered, in the cast-iron skillet in the oven. Then add the cilantro, season, and garnish as directed above.


The secret to braising—low and slow cooking in a little liquid—is to maintain a gentle, even simmer. A cast-iron skillet keeps the temperature steady even when the heat is low, and its size works well for smaller cuts of meat, such as short ribs and the lamb shanks here.


Rate or Review

Reviews (13 reviews)

  • kball | 11/29/2018

    I prepared this as per instructions, except for cooking the shanks in a pressure cooker instead of the oven. I did it a day ahead and removed all the meat off the bones and skimmed off the fat before I reduced the sauce. I served it over risotto, so it was nice to have the meat done ahead of time. Everyone loved it!

  • 3Grandma | 12/04/2017

    Loved the recipe but didn't have fresh cranberries so I substituted craisins and omitted the honey...delicious! I used an enamel coated cast iron dutch oven so the sauce consistency worked out perfectly.

  • DebInPortland | 02/24/2016

    My vocabulary is too limited for me to articulate just how good these shanks are. The recipe is easy and the payoff is huge. BTW, in the final step, I had more liquid than I thought I should. It took a bit longer to reduce to the correct consistency, but it was worth the extra time to thicken the sauce. The hotness from the chipotles is moderated if you wait a day to serve. Enjoy!

  • CdnCurler | 09/21/2015

    Scrumptious. It was the perfect balance between heat and sweet. The aroma while it was cooking drove my husband crazy and he hoped it was not going to be one of those "smells better than it tastes" recipes. It did not disappoint and I will definitely make this again. I had never cooked lamb shanks before and was afraid they might be too fatty but I didn't have to skim off any fat. While the recipe called for four shanks my grocer sold them in packages of three. I cooked all six, in two pans, and was glad I did because we were very happy to have leftovers.

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