From fork-tender braised lamb shank that falls off the bone to aromatic and flavorful Irish Stew, you can prepare lamb dishes to perfection in your crockpot. The slow cooker does the work and you get the credit - sweet! If you’ve never prepared lamb, or never cooked it in a crockpot, relax! Preparation methods for lamb are similar to the techniques you use for beef or pork. It’s flavorful, juicy, and nutritious.
Did You Know Lamb is Good for You?
Lamb is a flavorful, nutrient-rich food and an excellent source of Vitamin B12, niacin, zinc and selenium. A 3-ounce serving of lamb provides nearly five times the essential omega-3 fatty acids and alpha linoleic acid of a 3-ounce serving of beef and fits easily within daily fat, saturated fat and cholesterol dietary recommendations. Forty percent of the fat in lean cuts of lamb is monounsaturated, the same kind of fat found in olive oil. So enjoy!
Shopping for Lamb
A lamb is a sheep that is under one year old, and is known for its flavor and tenderness. Within that broad category are labels that tell you more. Young lamb is milk-fed and 6 to 8 weeks old. It has the palest meat of all lamb. Spring lamb (also called early or summer lamb) is 3 to 5 months old, also milk-fed. Older lambs are grass-fed. In general, the older the lamb, the darker the meat.
Family farmers and ranchers raise lamb in every state in the U.S., so fresh local lamb, produced without hormones, is readily available. Finding and buying lamb is easy at grocery stores, specialty food retailers and butcher shops. Look for lamb with a soft pink to red coloring with white marbling and firm, fine-grained meat with a velvety texture. Moist is good. Avoid dry or slimy - ick!
Choosing Lamb for Crockpot Recipes
One of the wonders of slow cooking is the magical way it transforms inexpensive, and sometimes tougher, cuts of meat into succulent and juicy meals. You can prepare equally delicious dishes using a fine leg of lamb or a more economical lamb breast. All it takes is the right recipe, and we have a great sampling for you here.
Each cut of lamb has its own characteristics. We've summarized the high points of slow cooker-friendly leg of lamb, lamb breast, lamb shank, lamb shoulder, lamb stew meat and ground lamb and selected several crockpot recipes to make the most of each cut.
Leg of Lamb:
The leg works hard, so it tends to be lean and flavorful. It presents beautifully and is often found on the table for special occasions and holidays. You can leave it whole on the bone in for extra flavor or have your butcher bone it for you. Crockpot cooking time is 8 hours. Allow one-third pound of boneless lamb per person. For a bone-in leg of lamb, allow one-half to two-thirds pound each. But don’t worry if you have extra - the leftovers are awesome!
Prepare the whole feast with noodles and vegetables as this cook did, or use just the lamb portion of the meal as the anchor of a simpler meal. The slow cooker instructions couldn’t be simpler. Place ingredients in the crockpot, turn it on and return 8 hours later for your feast.
Mint, rosemary and garlic coat this luscious leg. You can do this part the night before to let the meat absorb the flavors. Brown the herb-coated lamb and let the slow cooker work its magic for the next 8 hours.
From the belly of the lamb, the breast is a very economical cut. It is a bit fatty, but full of flavor. Slow cooking melts off much of the fat and what remains is tender meat that melts in your mouth. Crockpot cooking time is 4 to 8 hours. Long, moist cooking tenderizes this tougher cut of lamb. A half pound per person is a typical serving.
Lots and lots of fresh rosemary and sage play nicely with the full flavor of slow cooked lamb breast. Brown the ribs first to crisp them up, then let the crockpot take over for a few relaxing hours with red wine, onions, potatoes and carrots for a hearty meal. A salad on the side, and you’re done!
This recipe was adapted from a traditional in-the-oven recipe. Both are included here, so you can see what changes were made so you can try your hand at converting other tasty recipes to crockpot cooking. Onions and bay leaves impart familiar flavor, while a touch of anchovies adds a little zing.
Invest 20 minutes in the morning to prep this dish, then give it a long, slow 8 hours in the crockpot to blend the flavors and tenderize the meat. Don’t be shy about the onions - they mellow with all-day cooking and actually add a sweetness to the lamb.
Shanks are from the bottom section of the leg just below the knee and are best cooked long and slow until the meat literally falls off the bone. The gelatinous sinews of this small joint create a rich thick sauce when you slow cook them in wine or stock. You will need one shank per person.
This recipe makes a glorious sauce that you won’t want to waste, so serve with polenta or bread to soak up every drop. Cremini mushrooms absorb the flavors while cooking along with carrots, onion and celery. And there’s red wine. Did we mention the red wine? Put these together for an 8-hour simmer and heed the need to feed.
Pomegranate adds an exotic touch to slow cooked lamb shanks flavored with spices, Merlot and just a touch of honey. Even with the crockpot doing the heavy lifting, this dish is beautiful enough for company with the green parsley and red pomegranate seed garnish.
The slow cooker slowly braises these lamb shanks until they are utterly delicious and totally tender. Your house will fill with the scents of cinnamon, garlic, saffron and lemon for six glorious hours.
Lamb shoulders work hard, even harder than the legs, so they benefit from marinades and slow, moist cooking methods. Crockpot to the rescue! It can be cooked whole, boned and rolled or cut into chops or chunks for stews and kabobs. A typical serving is 3 to four ounces of boned shoulder, but this cut is so flavorful you may want to cook more.
The easy prep and all-day slow cooking transforms this hard-working cut of lamb into a tender and succulent feast. Prepared simply with onion, garlic and herbs, the rich lamb flavor takes center stage.
What could be easier? Rub the spices on the lamb shoulder and place it in the crockpot with the other ingredients. No rush here. About 10 hours, depending on the size of your roast. The sauce that results begs for mashed potatoes, bread, or wild rice.
There are both oven and crockpot versions of this recipe here. The apricots and olives make this dish quite rich. If you like a little crispness to your lamb and veggies, just pop them under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.
Lamb Stew Meat
Trimmed and cubed lamb from the leg or shoulder is readily available at grocery stores for quick and easy stew or kabobs. You can also trim and hand cut stew meat from leg, shoulder or shank roast. Stews and casseroles that feature lamb have a rich flavor, and the meat is super-tender when slow-cooked in the crockpot. Allow 3 to 4 ounces per serving.
Lamb, chickpeas and curry are a perfect match, and slow cooking in the crockpot meld the flavors as one. A bed of basmati rice carries the rich broth to your tastebuds. The fruit salad with organic pineapple and berries is a cool counterpoint to the curry.
Creamy lamb stroganoff is easy in the slow cooker. Use lean one-inch pieces of lamb and lots of mushrooms and onions. Sour cream and sherry provide the distinctive stroganoff flavor in this new take on a classic dish. Serve over wide egg noodles with a salad on the side and you’ve got dinner!
Mellow and mildly flavored, ground lamb contains lean meat and trimmings from the leg, loin, rib, shoulder, flank, neck, breast or shanks. Readily available and the perfect substitute for ground beef in many recipes, ground lamb offers a long list of possibilities for easy weeknight dinners. A typical serving is 3 to 4 ounces.
Moroccan spices, chickpeas, apricots and spinach make this tagine a winner. Adapted from a traditional North African recipe, the flavor of ground lamb permeates the colorful dish. A little couscous on the side and it’s time for dinner!
Shepherd’s Pie is a traditional British comfort food, made modern in the slow cooker. Flavors blend in the base of minced lamb and savory vegetables, and the creamy mashed potato topping is so very inviting. It’s a satisfying meal that teases with tempting aromas for hours.
Want to learn more about slow cooking? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Slow Cookers for slow cooking tips and more delicious slow cooker recipes. And in the comments, share you favorite lamb dish with us! Happy slow cooking!