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Shepherd’s Pie

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!

Shepherd's pie in a white baking dish.

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 cooking on the stove.

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.

Making Shepherd's pie and dolloping mashed potatoes on top.

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).

Shepherd's pie straight out of the oven.

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

  1. Peel and cut your potatoes into large pieces.
  2. Boil them in a large pot over high heat until tender. Make sure to add a generous amount of salt to flavor the potatoes.
  3. Drain the potatoes and return them back into the pot.
  4. Melt the butter milk mixture in a small saucepan, then pour on top of the potatoes.
  5. Mash the potatoes using a hand masher until they’re light and fluffy.
  6. Taste test to see if it needs more salt or pepper.

Lamb and Vegetable Filling

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic in a large oven-safe saute pan.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

A single scoop serving of Shepherd's pie.

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.
  • 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!

An individual serving of Shepherd's pie on a plate.

More Cozy Comfort Food Recipes

Are you in the mood for more comfort food? Here’s a list of soups, side dishes, and main courses that will hit the spot.

Taking a serving out of the Shepherd's pie recipe.
5 from 26 votes

Easy Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
This is an easy, classic Shepherd's pie recipe is made from a creamy mashed potato crust and ground lamb and veggie filling, simmered into a delicious sauce. It's hearty, filling and delicious!

Ingredients

Potato Topping

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup milk, or non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, or ghee
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Meat Filling

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Lisa's Tips

  • If you'd like to make this recipe vegetarian or vegan, you can substitute the ground lamb for veggies such as mushrooms and lentils.

Nutrition

Calories: 606kcal, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 40g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Cholesterol: 105mg, Sodium: 758mg, Potassium: 1160mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 3928IU, Vitamin C: 26mg, Calcium: 88mg, Iron: 4mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: shepherd's pie, shepherd's pie recipe
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62 comments on “Shepherd’s Pie”

  1. You’ve done it again, Lisa! It’s like you just *get* simple, delicious, and healthy cooking. Ugh. Thank you!!!

  2. This is the first time I used lamb in a Shepard’s Pie. WOW! What a game changer! This was so flavorful and delicious! It really is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter night! I didn’t have Worcestershire, so I substituted steak sauce…(similar flavor)…. but otherwise, follow the easy directions and it turns out so yummy!

  3. Love, Love, Love this recipe.  It is so flavorful.  I used ground round for the meat.  This is now one of my main meal recipes.  This will be great to serve for guests, especially if they are gluten free!!!!  A good recipe to share if you bring a meal to someone’s home also.  Thank you again Lisa!!!

  4. I made this yesterday and it was soooo good! The thick layer of potatoes made it (I made them with almond milk and ghee). Tonight was leftover pie, just heat and serve. Recommend!

  5. My husband and I made this for our Christmas Eve dinner and it was a big hit! Loved how simple the recipe was to follow with minimal ingredients and how delicious it tasted!

  6. First of all I got to say that when I saw this recipe on IG I have no idea of what a shepherd’s pie was, so I google it lol 😄 but just the fact that was one of Lisa recipes I need to try it and let me tell you; I followed each of the steps in this recipe and when I saw the final result I felt like a professional chef. I shared it with some friends and family and they loved it.

  7. Fantastic recipe Lisa! I made this the week of Christmas and it did not disappoint. I made the recipe as is with the ground lamb… yum!

  8. Delicious delicious delicious!!! The perfect winter meal:) going to be making this again very soon.

  9. THIS WAS SO GOOD! WOULD MAKE AGAIN.

  10. I absolutely loved this meal! It was so easy to make that I made it for my friend who is a new mama as well. :) Between this recipe and other Shepard’s pie recipes, I will choose this one every time!

  11. Amazing! I made this dish for my family for New Years dinner and it was a hit! We substituted the lamb for beyond beef (I’m Vegan), added in some beer to the sauce and it was delicious. We topped half with mashed sweet potatoes and the other half with russets for a nice mix! Will definitely be making this dish again in the near future – Lisa never disappoints!

  12. Hi Lisa, 

    I am always inspired by everything you make.  Recently, I broke my foot and have limited mobility.  My husband has been a saint waiting on me and assisting me every step of the way.  His favorite dish is Shepherds Pie so I decided to try your recipe.  OMG!!!!  It was absolutely the best recipe I have ever made.  Hands down the best Shepherds Pue we have ever had!  He loved it so much!  Thank you for all you do.  Happy New Year!  ❤️❤️❤️

    • Hi Robin – I am so sorry to hear about your foot! I hope it heals soon and you are so sweet to make this for your husband. Happy to hear he loved this recipe so much :) Definitely one to keep on hand for him. Happy New Years to you as well and can’t wait to show you what I have in store in 2020!

  13. Thanks Lisa! I made this today and it was so yummy! Next time,  I’ll try lamb as you suggested. This dish is also ideal for meal preps. 
    By the way, I love your serving plates? What brand is that? 

    • Hi Jacek – I’m so glad you loved this recipe! You will definitely need to try it with lamb next time :) As for my serving plates, you can find them in my Shop Page on my website!

  14. Shepherds Pie has been a stalwart in my cooking repertoire for 60 years but recently I felt my cooking had lacked something.  Having loved everything Lisa has shared I thought I would skip my own memory of a recipe and follow hers step by step.  The result is absolutely delicious, incredibly tasty and flavoursome.  what’s more I found my missing ingredient – I confidently went to my cupboard for the Lea & Perins and was surprised to find it wasn’t there – at sometime I must have run out.  No wonder my own recipe had come up short.  A new ingredient for me was chicken stock which added another layer of flavour.  Another ingredient for you though Lisa is Nutmeg ground on the top of the meat and the potato just before going in the oven – a very old trick, unusual but delightfully warming.  Thanks for bring back all the wonderful memories of eating this dish through the years.

    • I’m so happy you loved this recipe Catherine! And yes, that worcestershire sauce is definitely key. Love the tip of nutmeg as well, I’ll have to try that next time! :)

  15. Delicious and filling. Easy to make too!

  16. We will try this recipe with beef and without rosemary. My wife doesn’t like lamb and I don’t like the taste of rosemary.

    Thanks for the recipe, Lisa!

  17. I made Lisa’s Shepherd’s Pie this weekend for the first time. My family loved it! It was very easy to swap out a few things to make it adaptable to our diet of no tomatoes or vinegar. I also used ground turkey instead of lamb and it was very tasty. Definitely will be adding this one to our rotation. 

    • Hi Athena – Glad to hear you were still able to make this with a few substitutions! Can’t wait for you to whip this up again :)

  18. Totally delicious

  19. My mom used to make Shepard’s Pie (actually cottage pie) when I was a kid, it was one of my favorites. She used can veggies and veggie soup. I was so excited to try this fresh vegetable version and of course it didn’t disappoint. Like all the recipes I’ve made by downshiftology, it was easy to make, easy to follow the recipe and delicious! I added corn and used ground turkey for the meat (I love that Lisa encourages additions and variations). My family loved it! I will definitely be making this again. 

    • Hi Christy – So glad you loved this recipe! I love how you added some corn and used ground turkey instead. This really is a recipe where so many variations can taste delicious :)

  20. Will be making this tonight! 

  21. Made this recipe for dinner tonight! Needed to make a gluten free dinner and this one was a hit. Cold and rainy in Ontario Canada today too.
    Thank you for this recipe!. It’s being added to my tried and keeping recipe binder 😃

  22. Vegans will also want to
    — use a vegan Worcestershire sauce substitute; commercial Worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it. There are vegan varieties available, and recipes online for DIY versions. 

    — either omit the butter entirely From the mashed potatoes, or substitute vegan margarine, another veggie fat or a vegan cheese substitute. 

    Can’t wait to try this I’m new to cooking vegan meals for my partner, and I hadn’t thought of taking on shepherd’s pie!  Thanks!

  23. Made this tonight with a mashed cauliflower topping, the pie was super delicious with a great flavor! And very easy to make!

  24. These pies are great for cleaning out the fridge. Out of peas, but have some zucchini? Sure. No celery or carrot? Try some radish and sweet potato. No Thyme or Rosemary? I’ve used dill, Herbs de Provence, Italian seasoning, etc. No onions? Powdered is fine. No broth? Bullion and water is fine. I bet I could make a pretty good pie with a packet of French Onion dip mix.

    I do like a bit of cheddar on or in the potatoes, assuming I haven’t eaten it all.

    I’ve made this with instant mashed potatoes, and I’ve made it with leftover rice. Homemade mash is definitely the best, but this dish is down to go with the flow. There’s no ingredient that can’t be substituted.

  25. This sounds wonderful!  I was thinking of dividing this into individual portions(meal prep), and then freezing before the final bake.  How long do you think it might need to cook, once thawed?

    • Hi Kimberly – I mentioned how you can prep this meal ahead of time towards the bottom of the post :) I suggest to keep the mashed potatoes separate from the meat filling, then assemble once everything has thawed, and pop it right into the oven for the same baking time.

  26. Looks like a delicious pie recipe to me. I am loving the idea of preparing this ine ahead of time.

  27. Creamy, beefy, and make ahead-able – this is what I love best in a dinner recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

  28. Yum!! We had this for family dinner last night, and it was enjoyed by all!! Thanks for a great recipe!

  29. Oh this is just what these cold winter months needs – comfort in a casserole dish! Delicious, I’m warmer already!

  30. I love a good shepherd’s pie, and this recipe is all sorts of deliciousness! Thanks for sharing the different variations on this as well! 

  31. Shepherd’s pie is my absolute favourite comfort food. It’s so moreish that I always end up eating 2 helpings! I also tend to call it shepherd’s pie even when making it with beef, but with lamb is my preferred recipe!

    • Hi Jacqueline – I also almost finished 2 servings in one sitting! The filling meat can be varied, so I’ve provided a few other suggestions as well 😊