Lamb shanks in yogurt sauce

November 7, 2020  •  Category: ,

This dish is called laban emmo. The literal translation is: “his mother’s milk”; it is traditional to make it for New Year, when everything is supposed to be white, to symbolize the new beginning. It is one of my favorite stews.  I love yogurt sauce, creamy and a bit sour, flavored  with cilantro pesto (and mastic sometimes). It is recommended to make this dish over two days, otherwise it will seem very time-consuming. One day for making the lamb stock, the other for making the yogurt sauce and the rice with vermicelli (called ruz besh3ariyyeh). The lamb portion can even be done a week or more beforehand and kept safely in the freezer.


Lamb shanks in yogurt sauce

Joumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern November 7, 2020 Main Dish, Meats, pesto, yogurt sauce, ricepilaf, garlic, cilantro, lamb shanks, lebanese food,

4-6 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 3 hours


2 lbs lamb shanks
1 lb pearl onions (prepped, see notes)
1 1/2 lb Greek yogurt or thick whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup cilantro pesto (more if desired)
Spices: cinnamon, allspice, black pepper (or white pepper), cumin, or cardamom, salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)
Optional: mastic crystals ground with 1 tsp salt till powdery
Oil to brown lamb shanks (1 Tbsp)
1 large egg
3 Tbsp cornstarch diluted in 1/2 cup water



  1. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides in a deep skillet and add the spices. Add 3 or 4 cups of water (or meat stock) and simmer, covered first then uncovered, for about one hour or until the lamb shanks are fully cooked and fall off the bone.  About 20 minutes before the end of cooking, add the pearl onions and simmer a bit till cooked. Strain the stock to remove unsightly bits, keeping both onions and lamb bits aside.

2. Measure the lamb stock; you should get about 3/4 cup. If not, simmer it some more until it reduces. Add the yogurt and start stirring the sauce over medium heat. Add the egg and the cornstarch mixture and start stirring with a plastic whisk in the same direction until the sauce thickens and bubbles gently.

3. Right before serving, add the cilantro pesto in delicate touches here and there, keeping some on the side for extras. Spread it around with a spoon to flavor the sauce evenly. Serve the laban ummo warm with a side of vermicelli rice or bread.

Recipe Notes

The pearl onions can be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes, then drained under tap water and peeled more easily prior to cooking.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Thank you!

Add a Comment