Balsamic slow cooker lamb shanks made with dried thyme and a rich tomato sauce. Tastes luxurious but healthy! Gluten free, dairy free and really easy to make!
Slow cooked lamb shanks were the very first dinner I made for my husband, when we first started dating. 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, so a long cooking time is needed to break down the protein.
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 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!
All you need to accompany this dish 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.
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
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tin tinned tomatoes i.e. one 400g tin of tinned tomatoes, a standard size
- 1 red onion
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp gluten-free flour
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp honey (40 mL)
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (60 mL)
- 1 tbsp arrowroot or tapioca flour
- salt & pepper to taste
- 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, positioning the shanks so the meaty part is submerged as much as possibly in the sauce. 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).
Terrific recipe that has become a favourite here. Nice to have a tasty lamb shank recipe that doesn’t require wine but is very flavourful none the less. We switch between wine and balsamic recipes to add variety to one of our favourite cuts.
We also double the sauce because there needs to be plenty to sop up with French bread.
I am having 8 for dinner. Can I cook 8 shanks at the same time and double the sauce?
Found this recipe and made this today and they were absolutely delicious and will definitely be doing this again and would highly recommend this. Thanks for sharing the recipe
Hi ive just popped these in the slow cooker, wondering about the recommendation to have the bone sticking up, as in perpendicular, towards the lid of the pot? How would you get them to stay there? Also the sauce wouldn’t be touching much of the meat then? If you can explain why to do this that would be great!
Hi! I actually meant to indicate that the bone should be pointing out of the sauce, and the meat should be submerged in the sauce. I’m sorry if that doesn’t make sense based on the shape of your lamb shanks!
So it should be horizontally home side up. Like chicken is cooked breast side up?
Hi Tahnee, I have updated the recipe instructions on this one now 🙂 All I meant in the instructions was that the meat should be under the sauce as much as possible.
Dam they were AWESOME!!!
Aw, thank you SO much Chris! So happy to read this!
Best comment ever! Thank you Chris! 🙂
Is it cool to cook without gluten free flour? Also arrowroot? Cus I really want to make this for the family but don’t have everything…
Hi Zahra, you can substitute the gluten free flour for plain flour if you have that? You can also probably leave it out and just brown the lamb shanks without it though it may affect the sauce quality slightly. With the tapioca/arrowroot, this is just used at the end to help thicken the sauce that’s created during the cooking, if you don’t mind a slightly more runny sauce then you could skip this step. (Alternatively, if you have cornflour this can be used instead of tapioca/arrowroot flour). 🙂
Best lamb shanks ever. Delish!
Aw, thank you so much! 🙂
This recipe has converted both me and my son to slow cookers!
Yay! I am so happy to read this, I absolutely love my slow cooker and couldn’t live without it! Nothing cooks lamb shanks better.
If I were to cook 6 lamb shanks in the one cooker how long would you recommend for cooking time?
Does the sauce need to completely cover the meat?
Hi Anna, same cooking time! 🙂
I dont have a slow cooker will this recipe still work if I cook on stove top (simmer cook for hours.
Hi Roberta, yes you can simmer it on the stove top, you may just need to add a little water to the liquid as the sauce will probably evaporate more than it would in the slow cooker. You may also wish to try baking them at a low heat in the oven for a few hours, in a lidded casserole pot. 🙂
Kate from the Land Downunder
Hi Monique. Since discovering this amazing recipe a few months ago, it has become one of my favorite slow cooker recipes. As a matter of fact, I have a “brew” cooking up right now; I’m making it ahead for lunch with a friend in a couple of days! I use caramelized balsamic, fresh thyme instead of dried, all purpose flour instead of gluten free, and also add half a cup each of vegetable stock and red wine to the sauce. It is absolutely sensational, served with mixed greens, pasta or rice, ) polenta chips (optional), and topped with gremolata. Well done you!
Hi Kate, thank you so so much for this really lovely messsage! I love hearing how you make this and all the little tweaks. I also really need to make it with some polenta chips as that sounds awesome 🙂
We just made this for Sunday dinner – delicious and so easy! Now going to read all our your recipes and find something for next Sunday dinner! xx
Aw Zoe thank you so much for your lovely feedback, I’m so happy to hear you liked it. How good is the slow cooker!! I use mine so so often!
Hi Monique, can I use balsamic dressing in place of the balsamic vinegar?
Hi Tina, I’m sorry for the delay in replying to you. I think that should be fine! 🙂
Hi our lamb shanks have quite alot of fat on them should I trim some of that fat off or leave all of it on? I’m starting these at 8am tomorrow morning 😍
Hi Ashley, I’m sorry I couldn’t get to this comment super quick! The answer is – it depends on what you prefer. The fat will render and melt into the sauce so you’ll end up with a richer sauce if you don’t trim a lot of the fat off. But alternatively you can trim it and it will be just as lovely, just different! I kind of tend to “half trim” myself 🙂
I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now and really love it. I serve it with a cauliflower puree and fresh garlic buttered beans, fabulous every time!
Aw thank you so much for this lovely feedback Lexi 🙂 Now I have a craving for garlic buttered beans!
I would like to cook this for my mother for lunch on Sunday. The problem with of course is that there is not enough time to cook it in the morning. Would it work to cook for half the time the day before or even cook in full. The question then being what is the best way of reheating
Hi Jane, I would cook the recipe in full the day before. To reheat I would place in a casserole dish, cover in foil and warm in a gentle oven (say around 120-150 Celsius). 🙂
I made this for my boyfriend recently (who used to be a chef), it went down a treat! He wolfed it down. Thank You for the wonderful reciepe it was easy and very yummy! I’m making it this week again for some friends.
Hi Alyssa, thank you so much for your positive feedback! It means a lot to me that you took the time to review this, and I’m especially flattered your chef boyfriend thought this was good 🙂
I made this on Sunday and the whole family loved it! It was delicious and even my fussy toddler enjoyed it!
Thank you so much Ally 🙂 Especially happy to hear that even the fussy ones were happy!
Hi Monique, If I am cooking 4 lamb shanks do I use the same quantities of the other ingredients as stated in your recipe? Bernadette
Hi Bernadette, I think you will probably need to increase the quantity of the other ingredients a little; how much so depends on the size of the shanks. You will likely need (1) 1-2 tbsp extra flour to dust the shanks; (2) 600g tinned tomatoes instead of 400g; (3) an extra tbsp of balsamic. Just to ensure there is enough sauce to cover everything. You could also increase the garlic slightly if you like garlic! 🙂
I made this dish the other week for a few girlfriends here in Melbourne, Australia (it’s winter!) and we absolutely loved it! One of them is making it again tonight. The only thing we’d change is the amount of honey as it comes out quite sweet (especially if you’re doing sweet potato mash with it!) An amazing and simple dish – thanks Chrissy!
Hi Alison, thank you so much for your feedback, I really appreciate it 🙂 So happy that you enjoyed the recipe. I am in Sydney, Australia now… I just realised I probably forgot to update my website with that information, and I’ve been back since last year. Whoops! But anyway, yes I am enjoying all the lovely slow cooked winter things too right now!
Hi! Just a quick question. What was Rotherham weight of your lamb shanks? I have 4 lamb shanks that weigh about 1kg altogether, and I can fit them all in my slow cooker – probably because they don’t have the extra bit of bone sticking out like the one in your picture. I was going to follow your recipe using all 4 shanks but then thought there might not be enough sauce. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.
Hi Fiona, I think you’ll probably be fine if the shanks all fit in the slow cooker and their weight is only around 1kg. The recipe makes SO much sauce, I usually end up either freezing some to use in another meal or having to throw some out!
Tried this tonight on a bed of mash. Was absolutely scrumptious. Thank you for the recipe!
Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me some feedback Louise, I really appreciate it. And of course, also very happy that you liked this recipe! 🙂
I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thank you for sharing and also can you tell me what are the lamb shakes laying on? Is that sweet potatoes?
Thanks so much Vanessa! Yep it’s laying on a bed of sweet potato mash 🙂
Shanks for the recipe. These have just finished in the slow cooker and look fantastic.
Best comment I have read in ages 🙂 Thank you so much Josh!
I was wondering if I could also make this dish without a slow cooker and use a casserole dish either in the oven or stovetop?
Hi Chrissie, I think you could definitely do that. To mimic the slow cooker effect I think it would be most similar to bake it on a low heat in the oven, in a covered casserole dish 🙂
My favorite part of lamb! mmm, cooked until falling apart in the slow cooker- that what i call a perfect weekend dinner!
Yep shanks are my favourite part too, so good! Definitely the perfect weekend dinner 🙂
This looks gorgeous and so flavorful!! I can’t wait to make it!
Thanks so much Christina! Let me know if you try it 🙂
Lamb, balsamic and thyme are all near the top of my favourite lists in their respective categories. I just love all your recipes – so delicious looking from the ingredient list and stunning photos.
Yang, you made me smile so much with this comment (an especially hard thing to do on a Monday, haha!). Thank you so much. I am a big lamb fan myself 🙂
Looks so flavorful and tender. I love lamb and even more when it’s this easy!
Thanks Jean! I love my slow cooker so much for making lamb, couldn’t get more easy!
I literally love everything about this meal, beautiful photos too!
Thank you so much, Carrie 🙂
Cant believe how easy you make it to prepare that gorgeous lamb shank. Truly a praise worthy meal!
Thanks so much, Yvonne! The slow cooker is probably my favourite appliance, makes those big meals so super simple!
Aw man! This is so meaty and hearty! So satisfying!
Yep super satisfying! So comforting to have for dinner!
Slow-cooked lamb is my favorite. Your recipe and photos are beautiful!
Thanks so much Megan! We love slow cooked lamb in our house too. 🙂
We never have lamb here…but I bet I could do this with some stew meat too!! Looks super tasty!!
Yep I totally think this would work with some stewing meat! It’s a lovely rich sauce and pretty flexible in terms of the protein you put with it 🙂
I love braised lamb shanks and your slow-cooker recipe looks like a delicious way to enjoy flavorful lamb shanks during the week!
Thanks so much Meredith! I love lamb shanks too and popping them in the slow cooker is such a life saver. So much easier than the stovetop!
This recipe is absolutely stunning!
Thank you so much Linda 🙂
I’ve converted this rrecipe to my pressure cooker…wonderful. Thank you.
Hi Lyn, sorry I missed this earlier – thank you so much for the positive comment! Much appreciated 🙂