Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots

Braised Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots is one of the most flavorful and aromatic lamb dishes I’ve ever prepared thanks to the wonderful spice blend known as ras el hanout, which is Arabic for “top of the shop”. If you walked into the shop of a Moroccan or North African spice merchant and asked for a blend of his best spices, he would sell you ras el hanout. The blend has a pungent aroma and flavor from spices such as cardamom, cayenne, coriander, cumin, paprika, peppercorns and turmeric with a little sweetness from spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Each spice merchant’s version will be different from shop to shop and can be created with up to as many as one hundred spices, some perhaps being quite exotic.

In my recipe, lamb shanks are slowly braised with a mixture of vegetables, olives, apricots and spices until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Over the course of several hours, the succulent lamb becomes tender and a sweet, savory sauce is created from the olives, apricots, vegetables and spices in the pot.

Moroccan Braised Lamb Shank With Olives And Apricots
Moroccan Braised Lamb Shank With Olives And Apricots

Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks (figure 1 shank a person unless they are very large)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 piece of ginger (about 2 inches), peeled and grated
  • 3 Tbsp. ras el hanout*, a traditional North African spice mix available from ethnic stores and some grocery stores
  • 2 tsp. harissa, sriracha or other hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 8 or more dried apricots, sliced
  • a handful of pitted green olives
  • minced fresh mint or cilantro for garnish
  • cooked couscous

*If you would like to make your own blend you might want to try my friend Vicki from Flavors of the Sun, recipe for Ras El Hanout.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides then remove to a plate. Add the onions and carrots and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently,  until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, the ras el hanout, harissa, cumin, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for a minute. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and stir. Add the shanks back in the pot. (The shanks should be submerged in the liquid halfway, if not add some water.) Cover the pot and simmer on the cooktop, turning the lamb about halfway through the cooking, for about 2 to 3 hours (depending on the size of the shanks) or until the meat is tender and sauce is thickened. At this point, you may want to skim off any accumulated fat that has risen to the top. Add the apricots and olives and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the apricots are soft. To serve, place some couscous in a bowl, top with a shank, spoon some sauce on top and garnish with some chopped mint.


Moroccan Style Braised Lamb Shanks Are Perfect For A Dinner Party
Moroccan Style Braised Lamb Shanks Make A Dramatic Presentation At A Dinner Party

You may have had a similar dish in a Moroccan restaurant where it might have been prepared and served in a tagine, which is a glazed clay pot with a conical shaped lid. The word tagine not only refers to the cooking vessel but also to the food cooked in this pot. A tagine of lamb, chicken or even vegetables can be cooked with a combination of dried prunes, apricots, figs, raisins, olives, salted lemons, sweet potatoes, chickpeas or nuts and herbs such as mint and cilantro. Traditional spices that are used in the cooking are ground cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cumin, turmeric, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend ras el hanout. While cooking a recipe such as this in a tagine makes for a great presentation is certainly isn’t necessary, a large, heavy pot such as a Dutch oven works perfectly.

I do hope you will try the braised lamb shanks with olives and apricots, perhaps at your next dinner party. I believe a Moroccan style recipe like this is perfect to serve since the lamb shanks look dramatic, the dish is flavorful and yet the meal is very simple and can be prepared a day in advance which makes for easy entertaining.

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174 thoughts on “Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots

    1. Hi Diane, We were very lucky that our area only got lots of rain and wind and for that we are thankful. I’m glad that the lamb shanks looked good to you…believe me they were as good as they look. Thank you for your thoughtful wish and compliment.

  1. I love this, when we go back to visit the U K , lf it’s on the menu I don’t need to look any further. I don’t know why but it’s not a cut of lamb easily found. I have a mix of rats- el-hangout from Morroco, which I use for a slow braised shoulder of lamb. Thank you Karen for sharing

    1. Hi Barbara, If you couldn’t find lamb shanks I believe cubes of leg or shoulder meat would be equally good in this recipe. I’m glad you like the dish, thank you.

    1. Hi Donna, I’m happy to know that you like lamb shanks. I hope you will enjoy the recipe if you get a chance to prepare them. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi Judy, If you like lamb, I think you would enjoy this recipe…the spices add so much flavor and a wonderful aroma to the dish. Thank you!

    1. Hi Diane, I’m really glad that you want to give this recipe a try. I hope you will enjoy it as much as my husband and I did. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  2. I have to say that I have a mixed relationship with lamb–it seems so very rich to me. But, based even on the photo alone, this dish seems worth trying! Lovely. I’ve got it bookmarked to try out. Thanks.

    1. Hi Ann, I think when cooking lamb that you need to skim off the accumulating fat over the course of cooking it. If you do decide to prepare this dish, I’d love to know if it changed you mind about lamb. 😀 Thank you for your nice compliment and visit.

  3. I can believe that this is the most flavorful dish you’ve made in awhile. I love lamb and have no doubt that the combination of olives, apricots, and the exotic “top of the shop” spice blend creates a sumptuous braise. Happy New Year, Karen!

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Nancy. Yes indeed…this is a dish that really impressed me. I’ve made lamb shanks many ways but this was really a delicious one. I’m glad you like it, thank you.

  4. That recipe has my mouth salivating. I had some lamb a year ago while visiting Onan that may have been a clone of this recipe. Now I am inspired to make it for myself. Thanks.

    1. Hi Bishop, I bet the meal you had was wonderful. The spices in this dish give it such a wonderful aroma and flavor when combined with the briny olives and sweet apricots. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you get a change to make it. Thank you so much for your compliment.

    1. Thank you Norma. I’m glad you are saving the recipe for when you kids come to visit. Since you are not a fan of lamb, the same dish prepared with chicken thighs would be delicious as well.

  5. I have had very similar to this in Moroccan restaurants in Paris. I think I’d probably find it here on one of the food stalls in Goldborne Road too. Excellent! 🙂

    1. Hi Mad Dog, You are lucky to live in a part of the world where so much delicious ethnic food is available…here I have to try and cook it myself. 🙂 I’m glad you like my lamb shank recipe, thank you.

  6. I love lamb shanks and this recipe reminds me of my trip to Marrakech last year. When you get into the countryside you see all these different tagines cooking over an open fire. I wish I had brought more spice mixes home.

    1. Hi Gerlinde, I’m glad that this post brought back memories of your trip. I can just imagine how wonderful and interesting Marrakech was.

  7. What a gorgeous tagine you have made, and I can almost smell it through my iPad! I haven’t made a tagine using shanks before – I will definitely try this! Also, the spicing is a bit different from my usual – this will be fun!

  8. I’m not much of an olive fan but I love lamb (had a couple of shoulder chops with couscous yesterday) and the spice blend has always intrigued me. 🙂

    1. Hi Boleyn, I remember from earlier posts that you don’t care for olives. This dish would be delicious without them. I believe that you would enjoy the spice blend ras el hanout.

      1. I freely share my textural and taste preferences where ever I go especially as it affects my posting/comments cause I want people to know that my restrained enthusiasm is not due to the dish … it’s the ingredients. 🙂

    1. I’m happy to know that you agree with me Kathryn, about this being a nice dish to serve at a dinner party. Thank you for your lovely compliment.

    1. I’m glad you like the lamb shanks, Ronit. The warming tastes and aroma of this dish is very good for a winter meal. Thank you for your nice comment.

    1. You are quite welcome Charlie, I do try to make my recipes easy to follow and appreciate your kind words. I want to encourage everyone to try making a dish that sounds good to them.

    1. Thank you for your compliment, Sylvia. I bought my jar of ras el hanout here in Vero Beach at either Publix or Fresh Market…don’t remember which. I’m sure your market here in Florida should have it. Since what I bought had lots of whole seeds, I put it in a spice grinder and ground to a powder…others will already be ground.

    1. Hi Conor, I’m glad you like the lamb shanks. I’ll be looking forward to your sous vide lamb shanks. A man and his toys, I’m envious of your machine. 😀

  9. Your dish looks great, Karen! Thanks for the tagine info, interesting and a great mix of spices. Ras el hanout is new to me and I’ll check it out. Take care

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment, Pam. I’m always on the lookout for new spices and ras el hanout is a real treasure. If you can find the spice, I think you will enjoy finding ways to use it in your cooking.

  10. Dear Karen, ras el hanout is an absolutely amazing spice mix and I love to use it in some of my dishes – a lot of German cooks use it in their cooking these days – for the taste as well as the health benefit of those spices. Your lamb shanks look like utter bliss on a plate! Beautiful recipe, dear friend!
    Hope all is well!
    Andrea – greetings from very cold and snowy Bonn

    1. Hi Andrea, Isn’t ras el hanout a terrific spice. Your German food and spice shops have such wonderful blends of spices…some of the best I’ve seen. Schuhbeck’s spice shop in Munich is one of my favorite places to shop whenever we visit there. I appreciate you lovely compliment about my recipe, thank you and stay warm. If things go well this year, hopefully we will be making another trip to your wonderful country.

  11. Can lamb shanks be beautiful, Karen??? I do believe you have answered that question. These look absolutely gorgeous. I can only dream about the aroma wafting through your kitchen while preparing these.

    Lamb shanks are hard to come by in my neck of the woods but, you have made it necessary to find some quick!!!

    Thanks for sharing, Karen…

    1. You gave me a chuckle, Louise. I’m happy to know that you like the looks of my lamb shanks and thank you for your nice compliment. I do think they are impressive when presented on a plate. 🙂 If you can’t find the shanks, I think cubes of lamb from the leg would also be delicious cooked this way.

  12. Love lamb! My favorite red meat. And it’s so nice with Moroccan spices — just a delightful combo. I haven’t made lamb shanks in ages. Of course now you have me thinking of them! This is excellent — definitely need to make this. Thanks!

    1. Hi John, You sound like my husband…he is the one how introduced me to my first lamb dish. You definitely need to cook up some shanks soon, this dish turned out great. Thank you as always for your nice compliment.

  13. Hippee! What a great recipe! Lamb shanks are my favourite piece of meat any time: shall be putting my on-line food order in in half an hour: guess what will be on it 🙂 ? Do have both the olives and the apricots but have not used them together for lamb!! ‘Ras el hanout’ – so many, many ways of composing the best there is at a particular spice market! Have made Victoria’s [Flavors of the Sun] and loved it!! The different flavour combos always thrill, as long as someone does not go ‘wild’ with rosewater which does not agree!] . . .

    1. Thank you Eha, I’m glad you like my lamb shank recipe. I thought of Victoria’s blog when I decided to create this dish. I included a link for her version of ras el hanout for those that want to try their hand at making their own spice mixture. Vicki points out “While many cooks still make in bulk the blends preferred by their families, busy housewives simply buy their spices pre-mixed by a trusted vendor or ground to order.” That is what I did, buying a jar of the spice mix and then grounding it in a spice grinder rather than buying lots of jars of the individual spices and then grinding them for this recipe. 😀

      1. Karen, as you can imagine, there are a heap of very competent but oft small spice merchants [often kind’of ‘Mom-and-Dad’ ventures] on our on-line usually with very small or no postage/handling. I oft buy a few mixes but judge the firm by their ‘ras el hanout’ if their speciality is Middle -Eastern . . . . heaps of fun and very many good meals . . . if ‘they’ realize you are ‘for real’ oft little packets of free ‘this and that’ seem to end up in your delivery . . . . a smiley/tearful experience for me . . .

  14. This sounds spectacular!! It’s too hot in my part of the world for such food right now, but you have me dreaming of cold winter nights when it would be perfect. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment, Krista. You are right, this is a nice meal to have on a cold winter evening but I couldn’t wait to make this dish. Now we are on a little trip with friends and I’ve actually had to wear a jacket the last two days here in Florida…such is life. 😀

  15. Karen, This is an amazing recipe. I love lamb shank and the ingredients you used are fabulous. I don’t recall ever having heard of ras el hanout spices. I learned something new today. I always used bay-leaf when I cook meat, especially lamb, for smell and adding flavor. Do these spices completely make up for that?

    1. I appreciate your kind words, Fae…thank you. I thought that you might have heard of this spice blend with all the wonderful international dishes you prepare. I use a lot of bay leaves in my cooking as well…I would think they would be a nice addition but I don’t think you would miss them if you didn’t use them in this recipe.

    1. I’m glad you liked the photos, Marigene. I do think the lamb shanks make for a nice presentation and oh what flavor. Thank you for your nice wish and compliment. I hope you have a nice week as well.

    1. Such a nice compliment, thank you Sues. You are right, they would be prefect for a cold New England night. One thing we aren’t missing is the cold since our move to Florida…bundle up and stay warm. 🙂

    1. Thank you Laura, I’m happy to know that you like the lamb shanks and appreciate your lovely compliment about the plating. Wish I could pass some along to you. 😀

    1. Hi Francesca, Isn’t it nice what we learn from our blogging friends. I think you would love the ras el hanout spice blend…the taste and aroma is wonderful especially with the apricots in this dish. Thank you for your lovely compliment.

    1. Hi Julie, It sounds like we had the same tastes in mind during our weekly cooking. I need to make some more preserved lemons, they would be a nice substitute if you didn’t wan’t to put olives in this dish. I hope you will enjoy the recipe if you give it a try and appreciate your nice compliment.

  16. The title of your post sounded so exotic I couldn’t wait to read it – I have not eaten Moroccan before……….not a lot of those places in Oklahoma………..I am excited to try this recipe and see what the family thinks of it because I am anticipating I am going to love it!

    1. I’m glad that this post peaked your interest Kelli, although I know you are a very loyal reader. I can understand about Oklahoma being a place where you might not find too much Moroccan food. I haven’t seen any in our neck of Florida either. I had to chuckle thinking about what Mr. Picky Eater might say if you tell him your cooking Moroccan lamb with olives and apricots. 😀 I really think you will enjoy the lamb and please do let me know if he tries a bite.

  17. Really spectacular looking lamb chops, Karen! I’ve got to try ras el hanout. This is the third recipe I’ve seen lately where it was used, and they were all quite different recipes. It sounds delicious.

    1. Hi Betsy, I appreciate you kind words about my lamb dish. You definitely have to try ras el hanout, it is a wonderful spice blend…flavorful and very aromatic.

  18. Such a classic. This is truly a beautiful recipe. I was in the mood for Moroccan tonight. I’m actually getting some merguez sausage and making a Moroccan stew. The combo of meat, spices and fruit with a grain just gets me every time. I actually really like using ras al hanout on roasted cauliflower. You just reminded me that I can do that tonight too as a side! Beautiful.

    1. Thank you Amanda, for your nice compliment. It sounds as though a few of us have been in the mood for Moroccan food lately. I’ll definitely have to try the spice blend on roasted cauliflower…thanks. I like topping a warm lentil and potato salad with merguez sausages…I haven’t found any of them here in Florida as yet.

  19. JT and I were in Morocco a few years ago and this combination of flavours is indeed very popular. The shank is such a beautiful piece of meat to serve on a platter as you have. The olive and spices and dried fruit immediately make me think of a few meals we enjoyed; one of the cooking classes during our stay was with a 4-Star chef and he was quite adamant about pairing specific dried fruit and nuts go with specific meats. I can no longer recall what the specifics were but there is apparently a ‘standard’. I never really pay much attention to the ‘rules’ LOL!

    1. Hi Eva, I just found your comment in my spam file. I’m happy to know that my post reminded you of your travels to Morocco. Thank you for your nice comment. I think we all cook what we like and sometimes not necessarily by the rules. 😀

      1. No worries, Karen, my WordPress spam filter has little hissy-fits too, from time to time and corrals commenters who have been commenting for 7 years! Go figure!

  20. This sounds absolutely delicious, and it would be a great dish to simmer all day in a slow cooker. This is going on my list of things to fix.

    1. Hi Linda, A slow cooker would be perfect for cooking lamb shanks…you just have to watch that they don’t get so tender that they fall totally off the bones. I appreciate your compliment and hope the two of you enjoy the dish.

      1. I’ll be fixing this one for more than the two of us. Wish I’d had your recipe when we hosted gourmet a couple of weeks ago.

    1. Hi Sandra, The lamb shanks may sound exotic with their different spice blend but this is such an easy dish to prepare that you don’t have to wait to have it in a restaurant. 🙂 Thank you for your lovely compliment.

  21. Absolutely gorgeous – I love Ras El Hanout (although as you say, each blend can be very different) and this is a perfect dish for me to make in my beloved slow cooker 🙂 When I get back to England and can buy lamb shanks will be making this!

    1. Thank you Tanya, I appreciate your nice compliment. Your slow cooker would be a perfect way to cook the shanks, just watch that they don’t fall off the bone. I’m sure if I tried lots of different blends of ras el hanout that they would definitely be different. I think that is what makes the spice blend so interesting, don’t you. 🙂

    1. It is my pleasure, Lea Ann. I love passing along something new that many of us may not have heard of or tried before. I’m with you about enjoying Za’tar and know that you will definitely like ras el hanout…the aroma and flavor it adds to a dish is quite lovely. Thank you for the pin and you nice compliment, it is much appreciated.

    1. Hi Chris, I have to agree with you that I don’t cook lamb as often as I should either. If you enjoy lamb, I think you would like this flavorful dish. Thank you!

    1. Hi Tricia, I just found your comment in my spam film. Thank you for your visit and your nice compliment. I’m glad you like the lamb shank dish.

  22. Hi Ksenia, The sweetness of the apricots were a wonderful addition to this dish, especially with the flavors from the spices. Thank you for your nice compliment, I’m glad you like the recipe.

    1. Hi Laura, I’m glad you like the lamb shank recipe. The apricots were a delicious addition, I can see why they are included in many Moroccan dishes.

  23. Bill adores lamb—I really need to pick up some lamb shanks and give these a try. Our weather has been nasty, so that calls for comfort food. And this might be the only way I’ll ever get Bill to eat apricots 😉

    1. Hi Liz, You just might get Bill to try the apricots, once he knows that they soak up all the delicious lamb juices and spices…the shanks are indeed comfort eating at its best.

  24. Hi Lisa, I’m glad that you are familiar with the wonderful aromas a dish like this creates. If I had the storage room, I’d buy a tagine too.

  25. Perfect warming winter dish! I cook lamb shanks so rarely… usually lamb shoulder or leg. Your lovely dish reminds me I shouldn’t neglect this cut either! I know ras el hanout very well. Bought it during my first and last trip to Morocco. The mixture of olives and apricots sounds and looks fantastic!

    1. Hi Sissi, I think we get into a habit when cooking…lamb shanks turn into the most tender meat when slow cooked, they really shouldn’t be neglected. I’m glad you like the combination of ingredients I used, thank you.

    1. Hi Didi, The meat does get so tender that it can fall off the bone. You need to be careful taking it out of the pot for a nice presentation. I’m glad that you like the recipe, thank you.

  26. I need to make a dish like this seems so exotic to me. I looked over the list of ingredient for making Ras El Hanout and ~ would you believe it? ~ I have all those spices and I bought a coffee grinder I’ve reserved for spices. If I can’t find lamb shanks ( a little more than iffy in this part of the woods) I’ll try cubed lamb. I’m intrigued.

    1. How nice Rosemary, that you have all the spices for making you own spice blend. Cubed lamb will definitely work well…I hope you enjoy the dish. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment, Meg. Yes, we are very happy that we made the move to Florida. Looking at all the snow on the news makes us know we made the right decision even though winter hasn’t been too bad in New Hampshire so far this year. 🙂

  27. This is a beautifully presented dish, Karen. I love lamb shanks and in winter, cook them often. They used to be so cheap to buy but now they’re trendy and so the price has shot up considerably. As the butcher tells me (when trying to justify the price), ‘well there’s only two on each animal, you know’. I love how this is served with Moroccan flavours xx

    1. Hi Charlie, The lamb shanks do make for a nice presentation, I’m glad you like the dish…thank you. It appears that all the cheaper cuts of meat are being discovered…prices certainly aren’t what they used to be for sure.

  28. Oh, this makes me so sad because my husband won’t eat lamb. And I don’t know any one else who eats it. Isn’t that terrible? So if I made this I’d have to eat it all myself…..

    1. Hi Mimi, I know some people don’t care for lamb, it is a shame that your husband is one of them. Perhaps he would enjoy this meal prepared with chicken…that is always a safe bet. 🙂

    1. Hi Susan, you really can cut the meat with a fork as it does get very tender. I’m glad you like the dish, it is very flavorful. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi David, I can’t wait to try the spice mix in other dishes, the flavor and aroma is so good. My blend didn’t have rose petals in it but I know some do.

  29. I do lamb chops all of the time, but I’ve never done shanks. These look mouthwatering tender and who doesn’t love the flavor of Morocco. Great dish Karen!

  30. We love lamb and this recipe sounds like a true feast! I’m sure that it just falls off the bone! The spices sound so spectacular, Karen!

  31. This is one very impressive dish – one I’d like to try!! Its strange how Americans don’t seem to eat lamb very much anymore. My mother made roast lamb often and we loved it. She didn’t make lamb chops very often but I remember seeing them on menus. I haven’t seen lamb in sold in stores – at least where I live in Western Mass – for ages. Did you have to go to a butcher shop to buy this lamb in Florida or is it sold in the supermarkets?

  32. These lamb shanks are calling my name. I love North African flavors. I recently cooked a lamb dish in my tagine, complete with all the spices. I have yet to cook lamb shanks, but I do so love them, so will be tempted by your recipe 🙂

  33. Hi Karen, so nice to meet you via Suzanne. I managed to grab a moment and stop by your blog. This is one NICE dish, I love the combo of lamb, fruits and spices and the flavors of North Africa. it’s 100% my kind of dish. Look forward to making it soon!

  34. Ah Karen – so glad to see this post. I’ve been looking for some way to disguise lamb so that my husband won’t know what he’s eating until he actually tries it. This looks wonderful! All of the flavors are making my mouth water but the best thing is that as I look at this I could easily pass it off as almost any kind of meat other than lamb.

    I hope all is well in your new home & that you’re not gloating as you read about our temperature right now!

    1. I was just on your blog yesterday and a little worried as you haven’t posted in a long time…very good to hear from you. This dish might do the trick if you can fool him, it is very good. I hear it is going to be -12 tonight in our old neck of the woods and your area is about the same. I’ll be kind and not mention our weather but needless to say, I won’t be wearing a coat when we go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. 🙂

      1. I don’t know why but I’ve just been in a huge winter blues slump since the fall. It’s crazy too because compared to last winter we’ve been having a Florida winter up until yesterday. I’m glad you’re not going to say anything about your weather 🙂
        I’m just listening to the wind start to kick up tonight & yes, they’re saying our area will be -10 by tomorrow morning. I swear, I took the dog for a quick walk yesterday & my face fell off by the end of our road!
        Hopefully, I’ll get some motivation as I catch up on everyone’s posts and get back into the swing of things. I guess sometimes I just need some down time.

  35. Hi Karen, I hope all is well with you! We are such fans lamb shanks and combining them with ras el hanout, fruit and olives sounds outstanding – a nice balance of fruit and salty/sweet flavors. I’m quite hungry now after seeing your tempting photo. Happy weekend to you!

  36. I’ve been craving lamb, and now I must have some after looking at this gorgeous recipe. Love that you added apricots, that salty and sweet has to taste amazing. Yum, Terra

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