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.
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).
- Lea and Perrins Original Worcestershire Sauce
- 365 Organic Worcestershire Sauce
- WanJaShan Organic Gluten-Free Worcestershire Sauce
- The Wizard’s GF/CF Worcestershire Sauce (also vegan)
- New Primal Cooking Sauce (paleo and Whole30 option)
How To Make Shepherd’s Pie
Now that you’ve gotten a quick run-down 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. Watch the video below to see how I make it!
Mashed Potato Topping
- Peel and cut your potatoes into large pieces.
- Boil them in a large pot over high heat until tender. Make sure to add a generous amount of salt to flavor the potatoes.
- Drain the potatoes and return them back into the pot.
- Melt the butter milk mixture in a small saucepan, then pour on top of the potatoes.
- Mash the potatoes using a hand masher until they’re light and fluffy.
- Taste test to see if it needs more salt or pepper.
Lamb and Vegetable Filling
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Saute the onion and garlic in a large oven-safe saute pan.
- Add the diced carrots, celery, and lamb. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the meat is browned. Make sure to break up the meat using your spatula.
- 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 and stir together. Turn off the stove and use the back of your spatula to flatten the meat mixture into an even layer.
- Dollop the mashed potatoes on top of the meat and use a spoon or spatula to flatten the edges. Have fun creating any fun textures on top!
- Bake the Shepherd’s pie for about 25-30 minutes, until it’s slightly golden. You can also broil the top for 1-2 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
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!
More Cozy Comfort Food Recipes
- Taco Soup
- Zucchini Lasagna
- Irish Lamb Stew
- Mini Chicken Pot Pies
- Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
- Apple Sausage Stuffed Butternut Squash
- Poached Chicken And Winter Vegetable Soup
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.
- 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.