Shepherd’s Pie is a hearty, warming dish that everyone will love! Made with minced lamb and topped with mashed potatoes, it’s perfect comfort food.
We have been making this classic Shepherd’s Pie recipe for years and it’s always a winner! My Instant Pot Beef Stew, Instant Pot Chili, and this comforting casserole are probably my family’s favorite things to eat when the temperature drops or when we need something warm and comforting in our bellies.
A saucy filling, with lots of veggies, that is bursting with flavor, topped with creamy mashed potatoes, studded with cheddar cheese – this is comfort food at it’s best!
This recipe calls for lamb, but if you’re looking for a recipe for shepherd’s pie with ground beef, it works too! In fact, most of the time we use ground beef for this recipe because we always have some in the freezer.
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
It’s an Irish casserole dish traditionally made with minced lamb that is topped with mashed potatoes and then baked in the oven. In the US, the shepherd’s pie you get in a restaurant is usually made with beef.
What is the difference between shepherds pie and cottage pie?
Originally, “cottage pie” referred to a pie made with any kind of meat and mashed potato. Today it is usually called “cottage pie” if it is made with ground beef and “shepherd’s pie” when it’s made with minced lamb because a shepherd looks after sheep.
How to make Shepherd’s Pie
Detailed measurements and instructions can be found at the bottom of the page on the printable recipe card.
- Onion, carrots, sliced mushrooms, peas: I always try to add lots of veggies to my dinner recipes
- Minced lamb: This recipe works with minced lamb and ground beef. Use whichever you prefer!
- Guinness beer: Adds lots of flavor and the alcohol evaporates, but you can use more broth instead
- Worcestershire sauce: A standard in the English and Irish cuisines. Adds lots of depth of flavor to this dish.
- Coleman’s mustard powder: Another English cuisine staple. You could use regular mustard instead.
- Dried thyme: Fresh works too!
Layering Cottage and Shepherd’s Pie
- Use a large-enough oven-proof skillet or transfer the filling to a casserole dish.
- Drop spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes on top. The mash should be firm so the pie won’t fall apart when serving.
- Use a spatula to smooth out the mash, don’t press too hard or the filling might ooze out.
- Brush the top with egg wash. This helps with browning and makes the ridges crispy – my favorite part!
- Use a fork to make ridges into the mash. Don’t make them too deep or the filling might ooze out.
- Cook the shepherd’s pie in the oven until the top is nicely browned. I use the broiler for the last 2 minutes, but make sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn!
- Can you use other minced meat? Yes, you definitely can. Lean ground beef works well in this recipe.
- Does this dish need gravy? This dish doesn’t require additional gravy because the meat and veggie layer comes with its own sauce.
- Is Shepherd’s Pie Gluten-Free? No, but it could be made gluten-free with a few simple changes. Some Worcestershire sauces contain malt vinegar which isn’t gluten-free, Guinness beer is also not gluten-free, and the flour needs to be switched out.
- Can you make it ahead of time? You can make the filling ahead and refrigerate it for up to two days. I recommend making the mashed potatoes just before assembling.
- How do you keep shepherd’s pie from falling apart? The secret is to make the mashed potatoes pretty firm.
- Does it have cheese on top? It sometimes has cheese on top, but more traditional is to make ridges with a fork in the mashed potatoes so they become crispy. I prefer to stir grated cheese into the mashed potatoes!
What goes with Shepherd’s Pie?
With its hearty sauce, a layer of mashed potatoes, and veggies in the filling, Shepherd’s Pie is already a complete meal. But a salad would go very well with this dish:
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into small slices
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 pound minced lamb, or ground beef
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ cup Guinness beer, optional, or more broth
- ¾ cup beef broth
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ tsp Coleman’s mustard powder, optional
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into slices
- 2 Tbsp butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated cheddar
- 1 egg
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat butter until foaming. Add onion and chopped carrots and cook for 4 minutes, add garlic and mushrooms and cook for about 3 more minutes until carrots are soft.
- Add meat to the pan, season with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned.
- Stir in tomato paste and flour and cook for 1 more minute. Pour in beer to deglaze the pan. Then add broth, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and thyme and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and saucy about 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes in saltwater. Drain. Melt butter in pot, add cream, add potatoes, mash, season with salt (about 1 tsp), stir in cheddar.
- Spread potatoes over filling, using a spatula to smooth top. Brush with egg and drag fork across top to make ridges.
- Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
- You can make this recipe with beef instead of lamb.
- To save time, you can use sliced veggies and instant mashed potatoes.
- You can make the whole dish from start to finish in an oven-safe skillet, a cast-iron skillet works well, or transfer the stew portion to a casserole dish before topping it with mashed potatoes.
- Brushing the ridges with egg wash makes them brown and extra crispy!
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave.