One of the most iconic comfort food meals you'll ever enjoy is this authentic shepherd's pie recipe. A common casserole that originated in the UK, a shepherd's pie is that all-in-one meal that includes richly seasoned beef, vegetables, and a lovely light mashed potato topping. Some have cheese, others include diced potatoes, and still, some have a variety of meats, but this is the one and only classic that my family begs me to make.
Shepherd's Pie Recipe
I realize that this is one meal that just never looks pretty on a plate. It's a bit drab in color, and well, ground meat never looks nice. Don't let that drab appearance fool you. One spoon of this and you are going to fall in love and wonder how you ever lived without it in your life.
Shepherd's pie was not something I grew up eating. I know that my mom prepared many different casseroles, and perhaps this was in her menu on a few occasions, but I have no memory of it being called shepherd's pie if so.
As an adult, I saw it mentioned a lot, but have to confess to never making it until I was well into my 30's. Once I found the right combination of seasonings, I realized this could be a perfect addition to my comfort meal rotation, and I never looked back. I've even made this as a vegetarian dish using meat substitute crumbles and absolutely loved the results!
What's the Difference Between a Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie?
A true shepherd's pie is made with lamb while a cottage pie is made with beef. In the US, I notice that it is often called a shepherd's pie when it really is just a cottage pie.
Since the type of meat used is the only real difference in this dish, I find most have a version using beef that they call shepherd's pie even if it technically isn't. Our family often grabs beef for this since lamb isn't as readily available in our grocery stores. That said, I much prefer the truly authentic version using lamb.
If you are watching your red meat intake, you can use ground turkey, ground chicken, or even ground pork in place of lamb or beef. While that will keep it from being truly authentic, the flavors can still be fantastic.
What Vegetables Go in Shepherd's Pie?
The most traditional vegetables you will find in this dish are carrots, peas, and onions. That isn't the only mixture that is known, and our family loves the addition of some corn. Below are some other vegetables that I have seen in a cottage or shepherd's pie and know are still considered pretty true to original flavors.
- Shredded cabbage
If you want to stick with a truly authentic meal, these are the ones you should turn toward. For families that have different vegetable preferences, use whatever you wish. It's my opinion that while there are some things that I would use, cooking is truly personal experience. Turn this recipe into one that fits your needs and it will be a masterpiece you prefer.
Can I Use Instant Potatoes Instead of Fresh Mashed?
The purist in me says, "please, no!". That said, you can definitely use instant mashed potatoes in a pinch. I don't personally like the flavor, even when "doctored up" as my husband would say. Instant potatoes are a hard no from me, but that doesn't mean they are for others.
Freshly made mashed potatoes are so easy to whip up that I don't see the need for a substitute, but again, do what works best for you and your family.
What to Serve with Shepherd's Pie
Since this meal has vegetables, protein, and starch all in one spoon, you don't have to serve anything alongside the meal. Much like a pot pie, this meat pie is one that really doesn't need additional sides.
However, if you are like our family and like to load up on vegetables on the side, then definitely serve up more! Anything from a simple side of green beans to a side salad will work. Since this is a rather heavy and richer meal, you'll probably want to avoid fried foods or heavy sides. Instead, consider the fresh greens or green veggies to go with this.
One of my favorites is this recipe for roasted garlic parmesan asparagus spears. They are super easy to cook while your pie is cooking, and they pair really well with this rich dish.
Tips for Freezing This Recipe to Cook Later
This is for those busy moms that like freezer meals. There is no better easy freezer meal than a shepherd's pie! It's so fast and easy to whip up, you can make several at a time, wrap, and freeze them for later!
I prefer two methods for making this as a freezer meal.
- Prepare as directed, but place the meat and potato dish into a disposable aluminum pie plate. Wrap this in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, or slide the entire pie plate into a large freezer storage bag once it has been wrapped. Label and date it to be used within 3 months of preparing. When ready to cook, you can pop it directly from the freezer into the oven and cook for an additional 20 minutes to heat through completely.
- Prepare the meat mixture, allow it to cool completely, then portion into freezer storage containers or freezer storage bags. Label and date these to use within 3 months. When you are ready to make the shepherd's pie, thaw the meat overnight in the refrigerator, then make your mashed potatoes fresh the day of baking. Simply pour the meat into the baking dish, top with potatoes, and cook as directed.
How to Reheat Shepherd's Pie Leftovers
If you prefer to avoid using the microwave, simply cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes on 375°F. Heat until the internal temperature is at least 165°F internally.
For those who don't mind using a microwave, simply portion and heat on medium power for 60-90 seconds then check the temperature. Continue in 30-second increments until heated through.
Ingredients for Meat Mixture
- Ground lamb (or beef)
- Worcestershire sauce
- Chicken or beef broth
- Olive oil
Ingredients for Mashed Potato Topping
- Heavy cream
- Sour cream
How to Make the Meat Filling
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat then add in the onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and thyme.
Cook this mixture for 2-3 minutes stirring regularly.
Now, add the meat and stir to combine. Cook the meat and vegetable mixture for another 5-7 minutes stirring regularly to break up the meat. Cook until there is no pink left in the meat.
To the skillet and meat mixture, add the Worcestershire sauce, green peas, corn, and tomato paste then stir to combine.
Season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the flour into the meat mixture and stir until it has dissolved.
Pour in the chicken broth and stir to combine, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 4-5 minutes or until thickened.
Set the meat mixture aside and preheat the oven to 400°F.
How to Make Mashed Potato Topping
While the meat mixture is cooking, you will place your peeled potatoes into a pot of salted water and bring to a boil.
Cook the potatoes for 20 minutes or until fork-tender.
Drain the potatoes reserving ¼ cup of the water.
Pour the potatoes back into the pan and add in the water then begin mashing.
When the potatoes are mostly mashed, add in the melted butter, heavy cream, and sour cream.
Stir and mash to combine.
How to Make a Shepherd's Pie
Pour the meat mixture into a 9"x9" baking pan or deep-dish pie plate.
Spread the potato mixture over the top in an even layer.
Place the pie into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbling and the potatoes are nicely browned on top.
Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
Don't miss more of my favorite comfort food meals. This simple old fashioned goulash recipe is one you'll fall in love with making. Of course, the kids will love my southern-style baked mac and cheese. For the meat and potatoes guys, these skillet pork chops with pan gravy are a perfect choice.
When making this meal to serve to guests, go the extra mile and use a piping bag to add the mashed potatoes on top. A large drop flower or open star tip work great for this addition to the dish. I prefer using Wilton piping tips but you can use any brand that you have on hand.
Prep Time 15 minutesCook Time 45 minutesTotal Time 1 hour
- 1 lb ground lamb (or beef)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1 cup whole kernel corn
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken or beef broth
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
Optional in Meat Mixture
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
Mashed Potato Ingredients
- 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
- ¼ cup water (from cooking potatoes)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- In a large skillet, heat oil, onions, carrots, rosemary, thyme, and garlic over medium heat cooking for 1-2 minutes;
- Add in the beef and continue cooking for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked through;
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the Worcestershire sauce, salt pepper, green peas, and corn. Add the tomato paste at this time if desired, and stir to combine well;
- Mix in the flour and stir until it is dissolved;
- Pour in the chicken broth, stir to combine, and let simmer on low for another 5 minutes then remove from the heat and set aside;
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
For Mashed Potato Topping
- In a large stockpot, add water, peeled potatoes, and salt then bring to a boil;
- Cook the potatoes for 20 minutes or until fork tender then drain reserving ¼ cup water from boiling;
- Add the potatoes and water back into the stockpot and begin mashing;
- Once the potatoes are mostly mashed, add in the melted butter, heavy cream, and sour cream then continue mashing to your preferred smoothness (I like little chunks of potatoes, but you can mash or even whip until smooth if preferred;
- Season with salt and pepper to taste;
How to Assemble the Shepherd's Pie
- Pour the meat mixture into a 9"x9" baking dish (or deep dish pie pan);
- Now, top the meat mixture with your prepared potatoes smoothing into a flat layer;
- If desired, you can sprinkle with additional salt and pepper or even a bit of parmesan cheese;
- Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the top is bubbling and golden;
- Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top.
- Adding 1 tablespoon tomato paste to the beef mixture while cooking adds a deeper flavor that many enjoy. While this isn't always found in shepherd's pie, I do include it as an optional ingredient for those that want a little more flavor in their mixture.
- If you want to reduce cooking time for your potatoes, feel free to dice them after peeling so the pieces are smaller and cook faster.
- Save yourself time washing dishes by using the cast iron skillet you cooked the beef in as your baking dish for the casserole. Just add the potatoes on top and pop into the oven!
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- Wilton Piping Tips Set
- AmazonBasics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet Pan, 15 Inch
- Potato Masher and Vegetable Peeler
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- English Dinner Tea Towel / Kitchen Towel - Lovingly Made In Britain
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 716Total Fat: 52gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 169mgSodium: 876mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 5gSugar: 7gProtein: 31g