Shepherd’s Pie

4.92 from 45 votes
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Enjoy a classic dish with this shepherd’s pie recipe, where savory meat and vegetables are crowned with golden, fluffy potatoes. This timeless favorite promises a blend of rich flavors and textures for a heartwarming and satisfying meal.

Shepherds pie in a cast iron skillet with a spoon scooping a serving.

Shepherd’s pie is a traditional English dish made with lamb and inexpensive ingredients. In the United States, beef is more commonly added and is sometimes called cottage pie. My recipe has the best of both worlds. I use the two types of meat to balance the earthy flavors and make a heartier filling.

The dish blends meats, carrots, onions, peas, and potatoes. This combination lets the subtle gamey taste of lamb shine through. However, instead of serving a side of mashed potatoes, it’s spread on top and creates a creamy crust when baked.

“Another big time favorite of ours. Total comfort food. Super easy and super tasty. Made it in a 16 inch cast iron pan for an entire group. Everyone loved it.”—Gregg

Recipe ingredients

  • Lamb: Shepherd’s pie traditionally has just ground lamb or mutton. The latter, aged sheep around three years, provides a gamey and fattier flavor. I use an equal ratio of ground beef and lamb for this recipe to balance the taste and prevent the sauce from becoming too greasy.
  • Beef: I recommend between 80 to 90% lean ground beef. Although, the higher the meat percentage, the drier the texture due to the fat level.
  • Vegetables: A classic mirepoix of onions, celery, carrots, and minced garlic.
  • Seasoning: Tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper bump up the umami flavor.
  • Herbs: Fresh or dried thyme and rosemary add herbaceous notes.
  • Flour: Used to thicken the filling, creating a sauce to coat the ingredients.
  • Stock: Beef stock or broth enhances the meaty taste of the filling.
  • Potato Topping: Russet potatoes are the best for potato topping. They are a starchy type of potato that more efficiently breaks down into light and flaky pieces when cooked. It’s combined with butter, milk, salt, pepper, and egg yolk for a smooth topping.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Saute the vegetables and aromatics

Diced carrots, onions, celery, and chopped herbs sauteing in a skillet.

Step 1: Use a large 12-inch cast iron skillet or another sizeable oven-proof pan. I find the dish more flavorful if you saute the onions, carrots, and celery to enhance the texture and aroma. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes.

Briefly saute the minced garlic to mellow out the raw flavor. Rosemary and thyme are robust herbs that complement the unique taste of the lamb. Tomato paste adds a touch of sweetness to the dish.

Cook the meat

Ground beef and ground lamb cooking in a cast iron skillet.

Step 2: Add both ground meats to the pan. Break up and cook the lamb and beef until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. This adds more flavor to the surface.

Thicken the filling

Flour sprinkled on top of a pan with ground beef.

Step 3: Two ingredients help create a gravy-like consistency in the shepherd’s pie recipe: tomato paste and flour. The concentrated tomatoes disperse and lightly thicken the beef stock. The flour is stirred with the meat and then swells and reduces as the liquid simmers.

These add body to the dish, so it’s not runny when served. Tangy Worcestershire sauce has vinegar, tamarind, and anchovies to bring out the savory umami taste of the dish. The beef broth or stock enhances the meaty flavor.

Add the peas

Green peas being mixed into a pan of ground beef.

Step 4: Add the peas to the meat filling, and cook until just warm, about 1 minute. Sweet peas are delicate; cook them briefly before baking to preserve the flavor and texture. Give the mixture a taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Preheat the oven

Step 5: Preheat the oven while preparing the creamy mashed potato topping. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, transfer the filling to a casserole dish or baking dish. I recommend a deep 9-by-13-inch size.

Prepare the potatoes

Step 6: Grab a pot, add water and salt, and bring it to a boil. Peel and cut the Russets into 1-inch chunks. I recommend rinsing the potato starches off to prevent a gummy texture before cooking.

Pro Tip: Mashed potatoes are a popular side dish with meat and vegetables, but in this case, they become the crust on top. Using my classic mashed potato recipe ensures a fluffy consistency.

Make the mashed potato topping

Spoon pressing russet potatoes through a fine mesh sieve.

Step 7: Cook the potatoes in boiling water until they are fork-tender. The process takes about 15 minutes. Drain, then briefly rinse with hot water to remove any residual starches.

The essential step is using a sieve to press the potato pieces through to create a light, airy mouthfeel. A potato masher works, too, for a more rustic texture. The potatoes are gently combined with butter, warmed whole milk, and egg yolk for richness and color.

Spread potatoes over the filling

Spatula spreading mashed potatoes over shepherds pie meat filling.

Step 8: Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat filling using a rubber spatula. I like to make a wavy design with a spoon or the tines of a fork that can be seen after broiling.

Make Ahead Tip: If desired, the entire dish can be prepared and assembled three days ahead. Make sure to cover and refrigerate until ready to bake and serve. You may need to cook longer since the pan and ingredients will be cold.

Bake and broil

A cooked shepherds pie with golden brown potato topping.

Step 9: Bake the shepherd’s pie at 400ºF (204ºC) until hot, about 20 minutes. Then, broil for a few minutes to deepen the golden hue and form a lovely crisp crust. 

Step 10: Wait to serve for 10 minutes to allow the layers to set, making it easier to serve. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and chopped parsley.

Flavor variations

Now that you know how to make shepherd’s pie, try these tasty ways to switch up the taste!

  • Meat: This recipe for shepherd’s pie can be made with just one kind of meat instead of lamb and ground beef. If you want to make a poultry version, use ground turkey or chicken and chicken broth or stock.
  • Vegetables: Add other vegetables to the pie, like turnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or mushrooms.
  • Flour Substitute: You have a few options to make the recipe gluten-free. Use equal amounts of cassava flour. Mix 3 ½ tablespoons of arrowroot powder with ⅓ cup of water. Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with ¼ cup of water.
  • Dairy Substitute: Use unsweetened oat, soy, cashew, or almond milk. Use margarine or vegan butter.
  • Wine: Add dimension to the meat filling with red wine. A splash of balsamic vinegar can be used instead to add sweetness and tanginess to enhance the taste of the meat.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

What is shepherd’s pie?

A baked savory meat pie topped with mashed potatoes that originated in British sheep country. It’s a hearty meal using inexpensive cuts of ground or diced lamb.

Can the pie be made into individual servings?

Yes! Evenly portion the meat filling into 8-ounce, or larger, ramekins or oven-safe bowls. Top with the mashed potatoes and bake until hot. Broil for a few minutes to get the topping golden in color.

What is the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie?

Traditionally, cottage pie is made with beef, while shepherd’s pie is made with lamb. However, it’s common for recipes to include a mixture of both.

Spoon of shepherds pie being scooped out of skillet.

Starches affect the mashed potato texture

One trick is to rinse the starch from the raw diced potatoes before cooking and then again for 30 seconds with hot water after cooking. This process prevents excess starches from sticking together and swelling when cooked, creating a gluey and thick texture.

Shepherd’s Pie

I love making shepherd's pie because it's a comforting and hearty meal that is perfect for feeding a crowd or for meal prepping ahead of time.
4.92 from 45 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine English

Ingredients 
 

Meat Filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, ¼” dice
  • ¾ cup carrots, ¼” dice
  • ½ cup celery, ¼” dice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 pound ground beef, 80 to 90% lean
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted beef stock, or broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ cup peas, fresh or frozen and defrosted

Potato Topping

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Instructions 

  • Saute the Vegetables – Set a large 12-inch oven-safe skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Once hot, add the onions, carrots, and celery. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add rosemary and thyme, and saute for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and saute for 1 minute.
  • Cook the Meat – Add the ground lamb and beef to the pan. Saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Thicken the Filling – Stir in salt, pepper, and flour. Add beef stock and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the Peas – Stir in the peas and cook until warmed, about 1 minute. Taste the filling and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position and the temperature to 400ºF (204ºC). If your pan is not oven-safe, the filling can be transferred to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
  • Prepare the Potatoes – In a large pot, add water and 1 teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Add them to a colander and rinse under cool water until the starchy water is transparent. Drain well.
  • Cook the Potatoes – Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse them with hot water to remove any residual starches, 30 seconds.
  • Mash the Potatoes – Set a food mill or fine mesh strainer over the pot used to cook the potatoes. Press and pass them through into the pot. Alternatively, use a potato masher. Add butter and gently fold it in.
    Microwave the milk for 30 to 45 seconds until warm, about 120ºF (49ºC). Add ½ teaspoon of salt to the milk and whisk to dissolve. Gradually fold the milk into potatoes in three additions until the milk is absorbed. Add egg yolk and stir until combined.
  • Add Potatoes to the Pan – Evenly spread the mashed potatoes over the meat filling. Make sure to cover the edges of the dish to keep the filling from rising up the sides.
  • Bake and Broil – Cook in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes to warm the potatoes and dry the surface. Turn the oven to the broil setting and cook until the surface is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Serve – Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with black pepper and chopped parsley.

Notes

  • Make it Gluten-Free: Use equal amounts of cassava flour instead of the all-purpose flour. If using arrowroot powder, mix 3 ½ tablespoons with 20 teaspoons of water. For cornstarch, mix 2 tablespoons with ⅓ cup of water.
  • Make it Dairy-Free: Use unsweetened oat, soy, cashew, or almond milk. Use margarine or vegan butter.
  • Storing: Cool completely, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freezer for 1 month.
  • Reheating: Cover and reheat individual portions in a microwave-safe bowl on high in 30-second increments until hot.
  • Make-Ahead: Assemble the entire pie in the pan, tightly cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Increase bake time as needed to keep pie layers hot.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 686kcal (34%)Carbohydrates 43g (14%)Protein 34g (68%)Fat 43g (66%)Saturated Fat 17g (85%)Polyunsaturated Fat 3gMonounsaturated Fat 19gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 153mg (51%)Sodium 1369mg (57%)Potassium 1365mg (39%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 6g (7%)Vitamin A 3144IU (63%)Vitamin C 24mg (29%)Calcium 273mg (27%)Iron 9mg (50%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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28 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Melody says

    This was so good, everyone in the family loved it! The filling was the perfect consistency and held up well.

  2. Joetta says

    This turned out so good!! I cut the meat and potatoes half because there is only two of us and I only have a 10″ cast iron skillet, and we still have leftovers. The flavors are amazing. Best mashed potatoes I have ever made. I made the Roasted Brussel sprouts for a side, AMAZING! I finally got them right, but that is a different review.

  3. Gregg says

    Another big time favorite of ours. Total comfort food. Super easy and super tasty. Made it in a 16 inch cast iron pan for an entire group. Everyone loved it….🤗❤

  4. sarah says

    this turned out amazing! the mix of lamb and beef is perfect (i’ve had all beef before and it feels chewier and more one dimensional). we also added a little parmesano reggiano to the potatoes and on top . it was awesome!

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