Vietnamese lamb shanks with sweet potatoes

Vietnamese lamb shanks with sweet potatoes

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(63 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 shanks, about 350g each
  • 2 onions, 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 cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 red chillies, 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 potatoes, 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, questions and tips

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16th Dec, 2019
What a delicious dish, I followed the recipe, reducing the sauce at the end before adding the fish sauce and lime. Gorgeous dish. I will definitely make this again.
8th Dec, 2019
Very tasty. Sweet and spicy sauce is like a broth or a stock rather than a sauce but it’s delicious. If I were to make again, I’d only simmer the potatoes for 45 mins as I found them a little too soft and I’d find a way to thicken the liquor to a sauce. Definitely worth making, easy and very tasty.
2nd Jul, 2019
Made last night with 2 shanks and lemongrass paste as a replacement. The smells drifting through the house had me salivating from the moment I started cooking! All of the flavours and textures work so well together it just oooooooozes comfort like a big hug. Would be as good on the dinner party table as a midwinter warming plate. Bloomin' fantabulous!
Pluto's place
13th May, 2019
Superb - made as per recipe. Remaining liquor works wonderfully as soup.
14th Jan, 2019
I made this last night and it went down a storm. I did not cook the sweet potato in with the lamb, rather did them jacket potato style, scooped out the flesh and mashed with butter and spring onions. I also only used 1 tbsp fish sauce, I tasted it after adding one and felt that 2 would over power the flavour, I am glad I did as my sauce reduced a lot during cooking and was very intense. Garnished with loads of chopped chilli and more spring onion, this is one I will cook time and again, a winner.
21st Oct, 2018
Really liked this recipe. As per other comments, I cooked the lamb for longer, about 2.5 hours at 150c, then added the sweet potato and cooked for another hour. I used all the stock as I felt it was needed to adequately cover the meat. I reduced it slightly on the job at the end. I also used a third or the sweet potato as the full amount would have made the dish very sweet. Its not overly hot/spicy so if you prefer a little heat you might want to add more chilli.
7th Aug, 2018
This recipe is just so good!! Followed it to the letter and the end result was beautiful. The meat just fell off the bone and the flavours were absolutely gorgeous. Planning to do it again for a birthday lunch and it will definitely be on our alternative Sunday dinner list in the future.
28th May, 2016
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.
21st Feb, 2016
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.
28th Oct, 2015
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.


Kelly Bowen's picture
Kelly Bowen
7th Mar, 2019
Can you cook this in a slow cooker? If so, what would the cooking time be and on high or low?
goodfoodteam's picture
11th Mar, 2019
Thanks for your question. Yes, you can do this in the slow cooker from step 2. We haven't tested this so can't give exact instructions but would suggest cooking it on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours until the lamb is tender. If you're cooking on Low we'd suggest adding the sweet potatoes 2 - 3 hours before the end, on High for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
missflops's picture
27th Nov, 2017
I would like to cook this for 8 people. Do I automatically double up on all the ingredients?
goodfoodteam's picture
27th Nov, 2017
Thanks for your question. We can't give exact recommendations without testing but we'd suggest doubling most of the ingredients but go easy on the stronger ingredients for example the spices and fish sauce.
missflops's picture
28th Nov, 2017
Thank you for your reply and for your advice. Very much appreciated.
21st May, 2017
When would you freeze this? How long do you cook once frozen & is it cooked from frozen or defrosted first?
goodfoodteam's picture
23rd May, 2017
Thanks for your question. Yes, you can freeze the dish. We put a blue star above the nutritional information when it is freezable. If you look at the tip at the bottom of the recipe, you can also find a tip on how to reheat it. Enjoy!
Claudia 15
25th May, 2015
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.
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