Vietnamese lamb shanks with sweet potatoes

Vietnamese lamb shanks with sweet potatoes

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(45 ratings)

Prep: 20 mins Cook: 3 hrs


Serves 4
Meltingly tender and full of classic Asian flavours, these lamb shanks are perfect for freezing

Nutrition and extra info

  • Freezable
  • Easily halved

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal-
  • fat-
  • saturates-
  • carbs-
  • sugars-
  • fibre-
  • protein-
  • salt-
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  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 4 lamb shank, about 350g each
  • 2 onion, halved and cut into half moons



    Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh root ginger
  • 3 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 2 red chilli, both deseeded, one chopped and one thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar, plus 1 tsp
  • 3 star anise
    Star anise

    Star anise

    star an-eese

    Star anise is one of the central spices in Chinese cooking. It has a strong anise flavour, with…

  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, then bruised
  • 1.2l lamb stock
  • 1½ tbsp tomato purée
  • 4 sweet potato, peeled and cut into big chunks
    Sweet potatoes

    Sweet potato

    sweet po-tate-toe

    Sweet potatoes have a creamy texture and a sweet-spicy flavour that makes them ideal for savoury…

  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
    Fish sauce

    Fish sauce

    A seasoning often used in Vietnamese and Thai cooking. In Vietnam it is usually made from shrimp…

  • juice 2 limes



    The same shape, but smaller than…

  • big handful mint leaves, torn



    There are several types of mint, each with its own subtle difference in flavour and appearance.…

  • handful basil leaves


  1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole, season the shanks, then brown them 2 at a time on all sides, adding the remaining oil for the second batch. Remove the lamb and add the onions. Fry them quite briskly, about 30 secs, add the ginger, garlic and chopped chilli, then turn the heat down and cook for 1 min. Add 1 tbsp sugar, stir, then add the star anise, lemongrass, stock, purée and seasoning. Bring to the boil.

  2. Cover and cook in the oven for 1½ hrs, then add the sweet potatoes and cook for 1 hr more. The lamb should be completely tender and almost falling off the bones. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and 1 tsp sugar to just lift the flavour, then scatter with the mint, basil and the sliced chilli to serve.

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Comments (55)

LVH's picture

An excellent recipe. Lamb was beautifully tender and just about clinging to the bone. I followed it to the letter and my friends who love Vietnamese food gave it a huge thumbs up.

genputtay's picture

This recipe is absolutely delicious! I have worked in a Vietnamese restaurant, and always found it difficult to replicate the flavours at home, but this really was a resounding success. I followed the recipe to the letter, and found it to be everything I'd hoped for: hot, sweet and fragrant. I also love the idea of bruising the lemongrass and throwing it in whole, rather than chopping or blitzing it. This way, you don't get any unexpected woody bits, and the flavour infuses beautifully through the dish.

CAFL's picture

Easy and a great taste.
I made it for 8 people and served with rice.
I will definitely make this again. I also used less stock and doubled the lamb and took the lid off for the last half an hour of cooking to thicken sauce.

Claudia 15's picture

this was SO tasty!
However, having read some of the other comments and being fond of strong flavours I only used half the meat and only about 700ml of water. Also, didn't add potatoes as we like to eat rice with it which I made separately.
Taste was divine!

mjbrawn's picture

Simply stunning. A real dinner party hit

Blondie_jd's picture

This recipe is now one of my all time favourites, I made it for 2, used 2 shanks but kept the other ingredients for 4 people. The flavour was so intense it was absolutely fantastic, I put some butter but squash in at the beginning to thicken the sauce. The meat fell off the bone so I took it the bones out. I probably only used 500ml of stock

I also served the sweet potatoes separately. I baked them in tinfoil. The sweetness of the potatoes and the spicy warmth of the lamb.... Wish I had doubled it up so we had left overs.

catmeena's picture

Yum! Didn't put in enough chilli, but it was delicious. First time cooking lamb shanks, and using star anise and lemon grass, delighted with the results!

flossydrop's picture

Cooked this on Sunday for my Father who loves lamb, ideal as my husband is usually keen but loves asian cuisine. Amazingly my husband loved it and ate every bit. So did my Dad but that is nothing unusual !!!
I cooked the lamb for an extra hour and the potato didn't take as long as I expected.
I will do this again for a dinner party as so easy being able to tidy up etc while it cooks beautifully in the oven making the house smell gorgeous. I think I might cook it the day before though and just re-heat and add the sweet potatoes in on the day as I am sure the spices will infuse overnight and taste event better.
You could add some coconut block for a different taste to the sauce or a little cornflour to thicken as it was quite runny but that didn't bother me.
I cooked with rice.
A winner for all of us !

boybandsrock's picture

Really yummy, partner loved it and so did I - I'm not the biggest fan of meat on the bone. Did half in a casserole and half in a slow cooker; slow cooker experiment has been frozen for later! I would agree with those who suggested cooking for longer - mine seemed quite watery, but still delicious with some sticky rice!

lizleicester's picture

Halved all the amounts for 2 shanks and used chicken stock instead of lamb stock. The result was absolutely delicious.

1195seamus's picture

Cooked this again last night, and with a few minor adjustments - THIS REALLY IS A FAB RECIPE!
If you're thinking of trying it, I really hope you see my comments first, (its just that I've cooked it so many times.........)
In my humble opinion, to make it absolutely perfect all you need to do is:-

- Cook it for longer than stated, at least four hours.
- For the last hour and a quarter of cooking add equal quantities of butternut squash, parsnip, carrot AND sweet potato for a much better flavour and texture.
- Before adding the herbs, use a stick blender or food processor to mix a little of the veg into the liquid to thicken the sauce.
It will be delicious - I promise.
- As Hilary S says, any leftover sauce makes a great soup (just add a little stock and blitz)

Its a shame the recent posts are shown on the last page because sometimes we only look at the first few reviews, then you miss out on the wealth of updates and helpful suggestions by other posters.

ltclarke's picture

delicious and easy, 10/10

tipsylaney's picture

This recipe is a good concept, but doesn't seem to have been throughly tested. I'm glad I read through previous comments before making this as it definitely needs longer cooking time. Lamb shanks do lend themselves well to being gently casseroled in a slow cooker. I left out the sweet potato as so many people seemed to have problems with them. Also I strained off the liquid, used a fat separater to remove the fat and reduced the juices to make a more managable quantity and concentrate the flavours. I finished the dish with fresh coriander and served in over Thai rice. Very pleased with the final result!

arsenal-yummy's picture

Really disapointing. Previous comments re the length of time the potatoes needed endorsed, ended up removing mine after 25 mins and then popping them back in. The sauce was watery - this may admittedly been down to the cook! - but it just tasted like spicy water. Sorry!!

sarahkdouglas's picture

This was really delicious, although I did change a few things: 1. I left the seeds in the chili because I like a bit of heat. 2. I completely agree about long slow cooking. I allowed 5 hours, although it was meltingly tender at 4.5 hours. 2. I roasted the sweet potatoes separately in sesame oil, just because I love them cooked that way. 3. The sauce was very thin and runny, so I reduced it by boiling it hard on the hob for about 20 minutes. 4. Once it was reduced I added spinach and some blanched french beans. It was totally gorgeous and I will definitely make it again.

kirrstee's picture

Made a few slight changes and it tasted delicious: Increased cooking time to 4 hours at 150 degrees celcuis. Swapped regular basil for Vietnamese/Asian basil and added when it at left 3 hrs 30mins as cooking enhances aniseed flavour of basil. Added 2 carrots roughly chopped when shanks intitially went into oven. Substituted sweet potatoes for butternut pumpkin, added this at 3hrs 15mins. Served with a few leaves of hot Vietnamese mint on top layered over coconut rice and roti on the side to mop juices. Yum yum (Vietnamese for something else!)

hilaryys's picture

Thanks Jo for the thought about cooking beforehand and taking the fat off - I think this helped to make it less rich. Gorgeous flavours and really enjoyed by my guests. Served it with rice and John Torode's Crunchy Cucumber Salad - see this website for the recipe. Loads of lovely stock left over, though and quite a few bits of sweet potato so I whizzed it all up in the blender and made Vietnamese lamb and sweet potato soup the next day - all the lovely flavours going on because I'd scraped in what was left of the mint, basil and chilli garnish. Tasted fab and I felt good because I was wasting nothing!

martinlubo's picture

Dad said it was "the best thing he'd ever tasted."
Used treacle and caster sugar as didnt have brown, and studded the lamb shanks with anchovies as didnt have fish sauce. Ace. Also cooked the lamb for about an hour longer.

amybelle123's picture

Very tasty.

freediva's picture

We made this for Sunday dinner yesterday and it worked out really well. We had a leg of lamb rather than shanks, but cooked it just the same, then we took the meat off the joint into the gravy before serving.
I left out the star anise as I don't like the flavour, and the supermarket only had 1 sweet potato so we used new potatoes instead.
Really lovely recipe.


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Tips (1)

Claudia 15's picture

as I like strong flavours (am used to lots of Indian food) and having looked at some of the other comments I did the following:
- kept all the ingredients the same except for the meat which I halved
- only used about 700ml liquid
The resulting taste was just SO jummy.