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July 10, 2017

Southwest Braised American Lamb Shanks in Adobo Sauce


Recipe Provided By
"Shared Appetite"
Prep Time

-- min

Cook Time

-- min

Total Time

2 HRs



Southwest Braised American Lamb Shanks in Adobo Sauce with fresh herbs on top


  • 6 American Lamb shanks (approximately 4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

Adobo Sauce

  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Creamy Cheddar Jalapeño Polenta (recipe below)
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Creamy Cheddar Jalapeño Polenta

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 2 jalapeños, minced
  • 2 to 3 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup cornmeal (medium grind)
  • 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Sprinkle American Lamb shanks generously with salt. Heat oil in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat; sear lamb shanks (in batches if necessary) on all sides until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove shanks and set aside. 

Lower heat to medium low; add garlic and ancho chiles. Stir constantly until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add orange juice, brown sugar, vinegar, oregano, salt, cumin, chile powder, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves. Stir to combine; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Using an immersion blender (or letting adobo mixture cool slightly and then carefully transferring mixture to a regular blender), puree until very smooth. Add adobo sauce back to pot; nestle lamb shanks in sauce in a single layer. Lamb shanks should be covered at least halfway with sauce; add water if needed. 

Cover the pot with a lid; cook in oven at 325°F for 1 hour. Remove from oven; turn lamb shanks and cook for 1 additional hour without the lid. If meat is very tender at this point, it’s done! If not, allow to cook for an additional 30 to 60 minutes. 

Transfer braised lamb shanks to a platter; top with adobo sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with Creamy Cheddar Jalapeno Polenta. 

For the Creamy Cheddar Jalapeño Polenta: In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add corn and jalapeños; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside. 

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water, milk and a very large pinch of salt to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer; add cornmeal in a slow and steady stream, constantly whisking to prevent lumps and avoid the polenta bubbling violently. Polenta should be at a bare simmer; cook for 8 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture gets too thick add water, 1/2 cup at a time.  

Remove polenta from heat; stir in the corn/jalapeno mixture, cheese and oil. Season with salt and pepper.


NOTE: If needed, braise lamb shanks ahead of time, allow to cool and refrigerate for 1 day. Reheat, covered, at 325°F until lamb is heated through. 

USDA recommends the following time and temperature parameters

Ground Lamb

Internal temperature of 160°F

All Other Cuts

Internal temperature of 145°F, with a 3 minute rest

thermometer timer illustration
Visit our Lamb Cooking Time & Temperature page for recipe inspiration and tips on preparing the perfect lamb.


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