Slow cooked lamb shanks were the very first dinner I made for my husband, when we first started dating. I was a nervous, skinny little thing at the time (still recovering from my eating disorder). I think he was somewhat shocked I managed something as sumptuous as lamb shanks!
These days, slow cooked lamb is still a favourite of both of ours. I always find it hard to go past it when it's on a menu and I'm out for a meal - especially a Sunday roast! And I still love cooking it at home too. These balsamic slow cooker lamb shanks are just so wonderful to make. They come together so easily and require very little effort on your part. And you're rewarded with melt-in-your-mouth, succulent lamb that just falls off the bone.
Lamb shanks are just meant to be thrown in the slow cooker. There's simply no speedy way of cooking a lamb shank properly! It's a tougher piece of meat that needs some long-term gentle roasting or braising. The plus side is it's very difficult to stuff up. The longer and slower the cook, the more you're just waiting around for the meat to turn into a soft, juicy texture. It doesn't suddenly overcook and turn to gristle. And if you pop it into a slow cooker, you can just set the cooker on and get on with other things.
For these thyme and balsamic slow cooker lamb shanks, you quickly sear everything off in a pan, pile it into the slow cooker, and then you're done. The end result is so flavoursome and creates an amazing sauce. So all you need to accompany it are very simple sides; some steamed greens and your favourite mash are perfect. If you can't finish all the meat at once, don't worry. The leftovers will keep well and are perfect for stuffing into a sandwich, wraps or flaking through a salad.
I make these thyme and balsamic slow cooker lamb shanks in my trusty little Morphy Richards slow cooker, which is quite a compact one. It's just me + my husband at home, so the size is perfect for us. I've had this slow cooker for years and it's still going strong! It also has a "sear" function which I love. You can brown things in the pot before cooking, either on the slow cooker plate or you can place the pot onto the stove. If you'd like to buy one, here is my Amazon Affiliate link for the Morphy Richards Supreme Precision 3-in-1 Slow Cooker. (*If you purchase via this link I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you - it goes toward supporting my blog! I'm not being paid to promote this brand, it's just the one I have at home.)
I hope you love my Thyme and Balsamic Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks. The perfect dish for Valentine's (or Galentine's!) Day which is just around the corner...
Thyme and Balsamic Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks
- 2 lamb shanks
- 3 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
- 400 g tinned tomatoes (i.e. 1 regular size can)
- 1 red onion
- 1-2 cloves fresh garlic (adjust quantity depending on size and taste preference)
- 3 tbsp gluten free flour *
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp honey (40 mL)
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (60 mL)*
- 1 tbsp arrowroot flour or tapioca flour
- some salt & pepper to season and to taste
- 20 min
- 8 h 20 min
- You will need one large frying pan and your slow cooker to make this. You'll start with your frying pan.
- Prep your ingredients. Peel and slice the onion into thin slices, and peel and finely slice the garlic. Set aside.
- In a small bowl or mug, mix the 3 tablespoons of gluten free flour with a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, coat the lamb shanks in the flour, shaking off any excess. (You can do this by shaking together in a zip lock bag, or simply placing the lamb shanks on a plate/tray and dusting over the flour, turning the lamb a few times).
- Heat the frying pan up on the stove over a moderate-high heat and add half the olive oil. Pop in the lamb shanks and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning regularly so the lamb shanks are just lightly browned all over. Then remove shanks from the pan and set the shanks aside.
- Add the rest of the oil to the pan. Return it to the heat and add the onion, garlic and dried thyme. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and the onion is starting to turn translucent. Then, add in the balsamic vinegar, honey and tomatoes. Stir it all together until just bubbling, then remove from the heat.
- Place the sauce in the base of the slow cooker pot. Put the lamb shanks on top of the sauce, so the bone of the shanks is sitting pointing up. Spoon a little bit of the sauce over the meaty parts of the lamb shanks that are sticking out of the sauce.
- Pop the lid on the slow cooker and set to cook on low for 8 hours (or the equivalent on high - about 4 hours).
- Once the lamb has finished cooking, carefully lift out the shanks and set aside.
- If you can put your slow cooker pot directly over a heat source (i.e. you can put it on the stove), leave the sauce in the pot, otherwise transfer to a pan. Heat the sauce up until it's bubbling and stir it occasionally, allowing it to cook, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes until it reduces and thickens a little. While this is happening, dissolve the arrowroot flour in a tablespoon of water and add this to the pot as well, to help thicken the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the lamb shanks with a few generous spoonfuls of the thickened sauce, together with your favourite sides. I recommend sweet potato mash, and greens! Garnish with fresh parsley if desired (as pictured).
*any gluten free flour will do; I used a standard gluten free flour blend but you could use rice flour, buckwheat flour, or even tapioca or cassava flour if you want to keep it grain free/paleo. Just be careful to thoroughly shake the excess off with something starchy like tapioca or cassava flour, or it will seriously thicken the sauce into something gluggy! Note: I wouldn’t recommend using almond meal, as it’s not as dry and fine as a typical flour.
*If you prefer, you can use 1/2 cup red wine instead of balsamic vinegar in this recipe. I’ve used red wine plenty of times when I’ve run out of balsamic and it’s still a delicious combination.