Shepherd’s pie pairs a hearty meat and vegetable filling with a fluffy mashed potato topping for a satisfying dinner the whole family will love!
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When it comes to cozy casserole dinners, it’s hard to beat shepherd’s pie. Kind of like Cheeseburger Casserole and Baked Ziti, this is a dish that was made for chilly evenings when you’re craving some comfort food goodness.
It all starts with a meaty base made with a variety of vegetables and ground meat—lamb is the traditional choice across the pond, but here in the US, beef is probably just as common, if not more so. On top of this is a layer of fluffy, flavorful mashed potatoes. (Who needs crust when you can use mashed potatoes instead?!)
Classic Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
The beautiful thing about shepherd’s pie is its versatility. You can make all kinds of changes and tweaks to the ingredients (I share some suggestions below!), you can make it for a weeknight dinner and plan on leftovers for the next day, or serve it up for a party or potluck.
If you want, you can also get a head start! Make the mashed potatoes or filling ahead of time, or make them both. And if you make both, you can either store them separately in the fridge, or assemble the entire shepherd’s pie and refrigerate that until you’re ready to bake and eat.
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
For the Potato Topping:
- Potatoes – I use Russet potatoes, but Yukon gold work too.
- Unsalted butter
- Whole milk – Whole milk adds a nice richness to the potato topping.
- Garlic powder
- Sour cream
- Egg yolk – The egg gives the topping texture and color.
- Salt & black pepper
For the Filling:
- Canola oil – Vegetable oil works too.
- Onion – Yellow or white, or switch things up and use two shallots instead.
- Ground lamb or beef
- All-purpose flour
- Tomato paste – Freeze the leftovers so you don’t have to open a can next time you need a little bit of tomato paste!
- Chicken stock – Or use beef broth if you have it on hand.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Dried oregano
- Fresh thyme – Dried can be used instead; a good rule of thumb is to use 1/3 of the amount of dry herbs compared to fresh.
- Frozen corn
- Frozen peas
- Salt & black pepper
- Switch up the topping – Use mashed cauliflower for a lower carb option, or try mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash for something different.
- Change up the veggies – Not a fan of peas? Try green beans instead. Use fresh corn when it’s in season, or substitute sautéed mushrooms, lima beans, or peppers.
- Make it meatless – You can use your favorite plant-based ground beef substitute in this recipe.
- Add some cheese – Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top of the mashed potatoes.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie
- Prepare: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.
- Cook the Potatoes: Place the potatoes in a pot and cover them with an inch of water, then add two generous pinches of salt. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until they’re easily pierced with a fork.
- Warm the Milk and Butter: In a separate saucepan, bring the milk, butter, and garlic powder to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
- Finish the Potato Topping: Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Mash them, then add the milk mixture while stirring constantly. Stir in the sour cream and egg yolk, then season to taste.
- Make the Filling: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven (or large skillet) set over medium-high. Cook the onion and carrot for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the meat and break it up with a spoon while it browns. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and chicken stock; bring to a boil and add the Worcestershire sauce, oregano, and thyme, then season to taste. Add the corn and peas and cook for 5 minutes more.
- Assemble: Transfer the meat mixture to a 9×13 casserole dish, then spread the mashed potato mixture over the top. Tip: If you have time, you can scoop the mashed potatoes into a piping bag and pipe the potato topping over the meat. If you use a star tip, the ridges will brown and get slightly crispy in the oven.
- Bake: Set the baking dish on a parchment-lined baking sheet to catch any filling that bubbles over the edge and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned. Let the casserole rest for 15 minutes, then serve.
How to Store Leftover Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie can be stored in the fridge for up to four days. Reheat individual portions in the microwave, or reheat the entire casserole in a 350ºF oven until warmed through.
The difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie is the type of meat that is used in the filling. Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb, while in the UK, cottage pie is the term used when this recipe is made with beef. (In the US, it’s usually known as shepherd’s pie either way.)
In the US, shepherd’s pie is often made with ground beef. In the UK, it’s made with ground lamb or mutton.
Shepherd’s pie is originally from either Ireland or the United Kingdom—there’s some debate about exactly where it originated! These days, it’s popular in both countries, and in the US too.
You can freeze shepherd’s pie for up to three months; thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
More Satisfying Ground Beef Dinners
For The Potatoes
- 1 ½ lb potatoes
- ½ stick unsalted butter
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 egg yolk
- Salt & black pepper to taste
For The Filling
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 medium onion diced small
- 2 carrots diced small
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb ground lamb or beef
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp fresh thyme chopped
- ½ cup frozen corn
- ½ cup frozen peas
- Salt & black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Add 2 large pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until very soft, about 15 minutes.
- Add the milk, butter, and garlic powder to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low and set aside.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain in a colander and return to the pot. Mash with a potato masher or push through a tamis or food mill. Slowly add the milk mixture while stirring constantly to combine and emulsify. Add the sour cream, egg yolk, and stir to combine. Season to taste and set aside.
- For the filling, heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion and carrot and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the meat, breaking it up with a spoon, and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.
- Add the flour and stir. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and chicken stock and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
- Add the Worcestershire, oregano, and thyme. Season to taste. Add the corn and peas and cook for 5 more minutes. Pour meat mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Top with the potatoes making sure to pay attention to the edges to make a tight seal. Smooth with a spatula. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the potatoes are browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.