Shepherd’s pie is a classic comfort food recipe that’s healthy, hearty and filling. The bottom layer is a simple a mix of ground lamb and vegetables, simmered into a delicious savory sauce. Then, it’s topped with fluffy and creamy mashed potatoes that form a golden crust. It’s an easy, cozy meal the whole family will love!
What Is Shepherd’s Pie?
Originating from the early 1800’s, shepherd’s pie is a traditional Irish recipe. It’s a hearty dish where women had to get creative with leftovers. Similar to how we create leftover casseroles today!
The basic structure is having a savory minced lamb filling topped with a layer of mashed potatoes. The filling is usually simmered with onions, carrots, celery, and peas.
Sounds like a cottage pie right? Except, cottage pie uses beef and shepherd’s pie uses lamb or mutton. So when you eat a Shepherd’s pie in the US that swaps ground beef for lamb, that’s truly a cottage pie, not a Shepherd’s pie. Oh, semantics.
If you don’t eat a lot of lamb, I say give this traditional version a try. I think you’ll love it! But no matter which type of meat you choose, this is true comfort food that will warm you from the inside out during the winter months.
Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients
While this is a fairly simple recipe, there’s a few key ingredients needed.
- Ground Lamb: It’s traditional to use ground lamb, but you can also use ground beef or even ground turkey.
- Vegetables: I’ve included carrots, celery, frozen peas, and onions. But feel free to always toss in more vegetables.
- Broth: Chicken broth tastes best with lamb. But if you’re using ground beef, I suggest you use beef broth.
- Tomato Paste: To help create thickness and flavor in the sauce (without the use of flour).
- Worcestershire Sauce: Adds a depth of flavor to the meat filling.
- Herbs: Finely dice some fresh rosemary and thyme into the mix.
- Mashed Potatoes: Simply follow my mashed potatoes recipe for deliciously whipped spuds.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
Read The Labels On Your Worcestershire Sauce
Diving into the meat filling, you’ll see that Worcestershire is a key ingredient. This is a vinegar based sauce made from fermented onions and garlic, along with molasses, tamarind, anchovies, spices and more. Yep, you can say this sauce has an intense depth of flavor, making it perfect to add to meats.
But if you’re gluten-free, you’ll need to be mindful of the brands you buy. Worcestershire often includes a wheat-based soy sauce to get that deep dark brown color. So, I recommend purchasing one of the below brands that are gluten-free (always double check labels as ingredients may change).
How To Make Shepherd’s Pie
Now that you’ve gotten a quick rundown of what’s inside a classic shepherd’s pie, let’s get cooking. I prefer to use a large oven-safe pan rather than a casserole dish (making it almost a one-pan meal), but you could transfer everything to a casserole dish as well.
Mashed Potato Topping
- Prep and cook the potatoes. Peel and cut them into large pieces, then boil in a large pot until tender. Make sure to add a generous amount of salt to flavor the potatoes.
- Make the butter mixture. Drain the potatoes and return them back into the pot. Then in a small saucepan, melt the butter milk mixture and pour it over the potatoes.
- Mash it up! I normally like to use a hand masher, but you can also use an electric beater. Then taste test to see if it needs any additional salt or pepper.
Lamb and Vegetable Filling
- Cook up the initial filling. Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a large pan, saute the onion and garlic first. Then add the carrots, celery, and lamb for 8 to 10 minutes until the meat is browned.
- Add in the aromatics. Drain the fat from the pan and add the chicken broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- Add the frozen peas. Give it a stir until it’s warmed through and turn off the stove. Grab your spatula and gently press the meaty mixture down into an even flat layer.
- Dollop the mashed potatoes on top. You can use a large spoon or spatula to flatten the edges. But, have fun creating any fun textures on top!
- Bake away. This will take about 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is slightly golden. You can also broil the top for 1 to 2 minutes.
Shepherd’s Pie Variations
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s easily modifiable. My version is of course gluten-free, but here are some other variations to enjoy:
- Low-Carb/Keto: swap the mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower.
- Dairy-Free: swap the butter in the mashed potatoes for ghee or a dairy-free spread and use non-dairy milk.
- Vegan/Vegetarian: swap the lamb for a mix of mushrooms and lentil.
- Paleo/Whole30: swap the peas for green beans (you can chop them up) and use mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes or even mashed butternut squash.
And if you want a richer shepherd’s pie, feel free to add a generous splash of red wine with the chicken broth and use a little arrowroot powder to thicken it up.
Prep This Ahead Of Time
If you plan to make this ahead of time, I suggest keeping the mashed potatoes and filing separate at first. Store them away in the fridge in sealed containers. When you’re ready to bake, let the potatoes and filling sit at room temperature to soften before assembling. Then, pop it right into the oven for baking.
When it comes time to freeze leftovers, just place them in freezer safe containers for up to 3 months. This could be a great option if you also plan to meal prep this on a Sunday night. Just bake it, divide it into 6 sections, and freeze it!
Serving this up for St. Patrick’s Day?
If you want a whole Irish spread on the table, accompany the Shepherd’s Pie with…
Shepherd’s Pie Recipe Video
You’re gonna love this recipe, promise. Watch how I make it on the video below!
More Cozy Comfort Food Ideas
Are you in the mood for more comfort food? These tasty dinner recipes will surely hit the spot.
- Best Ever Chili
- Mini Chicken Pot Pies
- Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- Apple Sausage Stuffed Butternut Squash
- Poached Chicken And Winter Vegetable Soup
This easy shepherd’s pie is about as comforting as they come. And one I guarantee will be a family hit. If you make it, I’d love to know how it turned out in a comment below!
Easy Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalk, diced
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth, or if using ground beef use beef broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, see notes above
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Place the potatoes in a pot on the stove and cover with cold water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook for 13-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander, then return to the pot. Add the milk, butter, salt and pepper and mash until creamy.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit (200 celsius).
- In a large oven-safe saute pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a minute. Then add the diced carrots, diced celery, and lamb. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the meat is browned. Use your spatula to break up the meat while cooking.
- Drain the fat from the pan and add the broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- Add the frozen peas and stir together. Turn off the stove and use the back of your spatula to flatten the meat mixture into a single layer.
- Dollop the mashed potatoes on top of the meat and use a spoon or spatula to spread it flat to the edges. If desired, create texture in the potato topping with a spoon or fork.
- Bake the Shepherd's pie until slightly golden, about 25-30 minutes. You can broil the top for 1-2 minutes as well.
- If you’d like to make this recipe vegetarian or vegan, you can substitute the ground lamb for veggies such as mushrooms and lentils.
- You can use ghee instead of butter and non-dairy milk for the milk as well.