Classic Shepherd’s Pie
This Shepherd’s Pie recipe is an Irish classic! You can use ground lamb or beef, and the whole casserole is topped with beautifully browned mashed potatoes. Absolute comfort food at its finest.
Can we talk about the epitome of comfort foods that is shepherd’s pie? A completely from-scratch casserole that’s topped with mashed potatoes, of all things.
I have always loved learning about food traditions in different cultures, so I absolutely devoured the Country Cooking of Ireland cookbook when I first received it. I had long wanted to try shepherd’s pie, so when I saw a version listed in that cookbook as the “best ever”, I was sold.
It’s a simple mixture of meat and vegetables in a savory sauce and topped with mashed potatoes, baked until browned and bubbling, and is absolutely phenomenal.
Why is it Called Shepherd’s Pie?
Historically, any type of dish that used leftover beef and was topped with mashed potatoes was called “cottage pie”. If the dish used lamb, it was referred to as “shepherd’s pie” because a shepherd looks after sheep.
However, nowadays the two terms are used interchangeably in most recipes, whether they use beef or lamb.
What Kind of Meat is in Shepherd’s Pie?
Traditionally, shepherd’s pie was only made with lamb, however beef can be used as a substitute with great results, as well.
A lot of versions use a stew filling as the base, while others use ground beef or lamb. For this particular recipe, I went the traditional route and used ground lamb.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie
A simple mixture of ground lamb and finely diced onions and carrots are simmered together with tomato paste, Dijon mustard and beef or chicken stock to make a rich sauce, then topped with my favorite mashed potatoes, and baked in a casserole dish until golden brown.
Can Shepherd’s Pie Be Made Ahead and/or Frozen?
You can prepare the entire shepherd’s pie up to two days in advance, cover and refrigerate. Add 15 to 20 minutes to the baking time if the casserole goes straight from the refrigerator to the oven.
To freeze shepherd’s pie, it should be baked and cooled completely, then covered tightly in plastic wrap and again in aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then heat, covered, in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour, or until heated through.
This is comfort food at its finest, and perfect as we head into the cooler months soul-satisfying recipes like this are the ticket.
Do you have a favorite version? Feel free to share it in the comments below!
Watch the Recipe Video:
If You Like This Shepherd’s Pie, Try These:
One year ago: Guinness Beef Stew and Grasshopper Pie
Two years ago: Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Irish Cream Cheese Frosting and Grasshopper Mint Chocolate Bark
Three years ago: Guinness, Whiskey and Irish Cream Cupcakes
Five years ago: Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1½ (1.5) medium carrots, 106 grams, finely chopped
- 1½ pounds (680.39 g) ground lamb
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup (225 g) beef, lamb or chicken stock, warmed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 recipe Perfect Mashed Potatoes, or 4 cups prepared mashed potatoes
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft but not browned.
- Increase the heat to high, add the lamb, and cook until it is well-browned. Stir in the tomato paste and mustard, then add the stock. Reduce the heat to low, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the stock is mostly (but not completely) evaporated.
- Transfer the meat mixture to a 1½-quart casserole dish. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Brush the top of the mashed potatoes with the melted butter. Bake for 50 minutes, or until evenly browned on top. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- You can substitute ground beef for the lamb.
- Assemble up to two days in advance, cover and refrigerate. Add 15 to 20 minutes to the baking time if going straight from the refrigerator.
- To freeze: bake and cool completely, then cover in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until warmed through.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
This recipe was originally published on March 13, 2014.
[photos by Whitney Wright]
I’ve made this recipe twice now and it always comes out really good!
I made this Shepard’s Pie for St Patrick’s Day. Because of the Corona Virus rush there was no hamburger at the grocery store. I used lean shaved steak instead. It turned out delicious! The Perfect Mashed Potatoes were outstanding. This recipe is a keeper.
I love this recipe. I use a combination of lamb and venison. I also add peas to the mixture. Finally, I put shredded cheddar on top of the mashed potatoes. But other than those changes…:)
I have made this recipe 5-6 times and it has always been PERFECT. I use bison meat because I love how lean it is, and always your special mashed potato recipe.
I used ground bison meat, and my husband raved for a week about how this was the best shepherds pie he had EVER had.
I’ve bookmarked to make again!
Hi Gen, Thanks for the tip about ground bison meat! I’ve had bison burgers before and they’re delicious!
I loved this recipe !!
Can u use canned vegetables in the recipe?
Hi Mary, You COULD, but I highly recommend fresh!
I use mashed sweet potatoes rather than regular mashies. Adds a little sweetness and some good fiber.
Such a comforting recipe. Since it just me at home (and I cannot eat an entire pie), I make some of it in disposable deep dish pie plates and freeze those. That way, I can pull a single serving out of the freezer.
Complete sacrilege, I’m sure, but my family always puts corn (generally creamed corn) under the potato layer, so I do too.
A friend in England would say this is ‘cottage pie’ since it is made with minced or ground meat. She calls only the stew-like version ‘shepherd’s pie’, which I found interesting. Her mash includes parsnips, which is divine. I like horseradish in my mash if we’re using beef in the filling. So many great ways to vary this.
I too use the Worcestershire, also add egg to the potatoes. Makes them dreamy. Extra special. And the paprika sprinkled on top. Love the wintery recipe now for change of pace.
I’ll have to remember to sprinkle some paprika onto the potatoes next time I make this. Sounds so good!
I’m so glad you did a Shepherd’s Pie recipe. My favorite is an Alton Brown recipe which I think you’d love too. He uses a tiny bit of Worcestershire sauce and adds an egg into his mashed potato topping. The topping browns and forms a thin crust once baked. It’s so good! Also, for a slightly lighter (and healthier) take, I sub in ground turkey at times or do a mix of turkey, beef and lamb, and it’s just as tasty. Have a great week and your kids and pups are adorable. 😊
Thanks for sharing Alex! I love Alton Brown recipes, but haven’t tried that one!
I LOVE a good shepard’s pie recipe. But what to do with all the left over tomato paste?
Hi Darlene, I buy it in a tube and it keeps for a very long time in the fridge!
Before I started buying tomato paste in a tube, I would measure out one tablespoon portions from the remainder in the can. I put them on a plate and froze them. When frozen I put them in a ziplock bag.
Have to say that (of course) I think I have the best recipe for this. Not sure it’s of purely Irish origin, though it might be – as a Brit I know it’s eaten throughout the whole British Isles. My recipe includes a dollop of Worcester sauce, which adds a lot to the flavour. Also, I dot the top liberally with butter, then sprinkle some Paprika over that. If you finish the pie under the broiler for a couple of minutes (watch carefully) it makes a glorious golden brown top.
That sounds fantastic Judy, I’m going to try adding the worcestershire sauce and the butter and paprika next time!
Made my own version last night for supper. Instead of white potatoes I used some of the sweet potatoes I had and it works out AOK. Sometimes I’ve also used ground turkey – changed the seasons a bit and done either the white or sweet pototoe topping. It’s always a hit in the household no matter what season of the year you make it. Yum
Wow this cake recipe is so good thank you for sharing your website
To Candice and Kaylie – the clue is in the name – shepherds look after sheep, so if it doesn’t use lamb, it’s not shepherd’s pie!
I made this yesterday using leftover leg of lamb I had roasted a few days earlier. I finely chopped up the lamb and then followed the recipe exactly. It came out great! I will make this again for sure as it was so fast and easy. The only thing is I couldn’t figure out how to make my potatoes look as good as yours lol!
This was great! The first time I made as-is but with ground beef, which was all I had. It was fairly bland.
However, tonight I made it with ground lamb (Whole Foods), and added peas, Worcestershire, garlic and fresh basil. It was the best! As good as the taverns I have been to in Ireland!!!
Thanks for this great comfort food :)
love the recipe
Where I’m from, we call this cottage pie!
Made this last night, woke up giddy over leftovers, and counted the hours until I could justify lunchtime. I love finding recipes like that. Thanks!
Can you provide some kind of freezing instructions? Would it be best to completely cook before throwing in the freezer, or can I freeze, then bake to perfection? Our oven is down for the next three or so days, and I’m looking for things I can prepare now for when we do get it up and running. We have always been a fan of this, but I have never tried freezing for future baking.
Hi Lisa, I would prepare it up until brushing the potatoes with butter. Wrap in plastic wrap, then foil and freeze. Brush on the melted butter, then bake. You will likely need to increase the baking time.
I have frozen this many, many times, usually in mini pie foil bases. Agree with Michelle, except that I still dot the tops with butter and sprinkle with Paprika. Then just let thaw in ‘fridge overnight, and bake as usual. I always finish for a couple of minutes under the broiler for golden topping.
We just made this last night and my whole family LOVED it! We followed the recipe exact and couldn’t get enough… Will definitely be making again!
We loved this recipe and it was so easy. Used ground turkey, so I guess it’s a cottage pie, also added about a 1/2 cup of Guinness. Spread about a cup of cheddar on top of mashed potatoes during last 5 min.
I enjoy your blog, your recipe looks very tasty. Great pictures
Just curious, does anyone know where ground lamb rates on leanness? For example, ground bison and ground turkey are the leanest, everyone knows beef isn’t particularly lean, but I never did know about lamb.
Hi Alisha, Lamb is not very lean. I don’t know what the % would be, but it does lean toward the fattier end of the spectrum.
LOVE that you used the lamb which is traditional (correct) ingredient, not ground beef or ground turkey which many American cooks seem to think is correct. It is “shepherd’s” pie – thus named as sheep were the livestock of choice! I get an even richer tasting pie by carmelizing the onion and celery after giving those a good really long “sweat”. More time consuming and just my taste, not everyone’s. Thank you for a wonderful fabulous blog I read every day!
I haven’t had shepherds pie in forever! This looks like a great recipe! I like the fancy design in your mashed potatoes
This similar to my mom’s recipe. Hers is a bit more bland, but she searves it with a savory homemade peach chuckney to keep it interesting.
Oh, I love a good shepherds pie! Pure Comfort Food. This looks fantastic!
My husband calls it “Chinese Pie” although our version includes a layer of corn. My family likes Shepherd’s pie, but I do not care for it, so we don’t have it very often (only if DS wants to make it when I am not going to be home for dinner :-) I can’t see using lamb in this because it seems like the flavor of the lamb would be covered up with the tomato and mustard.
Hi Lynne, It’s such a small amount of tomato paste and Dijon, the lamb flavor TOTALLY comes through!
Shepherd’s pie is always a favorite!! I love the golden brown top :)
Delicious recipe and looks very simple too!
I’d love to try this with sweet potatoes on top! Yum!
I can’t argue with anything that is topped with mashed potatoes! This is pure comfort and looks so delicious!!
This looks delicious!!
Thanks for adding the mashed potato recipe – its usually an afterthought (plus yukon golds are my FAV). Good job, Michelle!
Shepherds pie sounds great and yours looks amazing!
Looks divine! I recently tried the Cook’s Illustrated version of shepherd’s pie and it was pretty spectacular, too (as all of their recipes are). I cheated and made a shepherd’s pie burger this past weekend — you might enjoy it :)
Katy, wow! What a great idea. I am going to give this a try.
Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favorites! It looks amazing!
One of my favorite comfort foods and it goes together so quickly. I’ve added a bag of frozen mixed vegetables to mine and it is always a hit. Can’t wait to see what’s next on your blog for us to drool over.
This pie looks great. I love lamb but don’t cook with it very often. This is a good excuse for sure. On another note, there was a wondeful story on Good Morning America today about Golden Retreiver service dog. The 2 year old dog’s owner is a wounder soldier but as a puppy, the dog was pre-trained by another soldier who was suffering from PTSD. It was such a moving story about this dog and how he has bonded these two men together. I imagine you can pull it up on the GMA website. It is worth seeing…so sweet and the dog, Gabe, is so handsome and smart.
I love Sheppard’s Pie but unfortunately I am the only one in my house that does so I rarely make it. This looks very good. I am going to go for it and make sure I double my activity level for the week LOL
Shepherd’s pie is a favorite in our house. Thanks for posting this wonderful recipe.
Ah, this (and cottage pie; they get kind of mixed up) is one of those ultimate childhood comfort things if you’re a Brit I think – if I can suggest a couple of additions though? Try grated (sharp cheddar) cheese sprinkled on top of your mash rather than butter.
And if you can find it, a dash or so of (Lea & Perrins) Worcestershire sauce added to the gravy (and peas. I love peas in there too) :-)
Hello and thank you for your interesting posts, varied recipes and interesting expressions of life and living. The photographs are wonderful as well. Living abroad, your site gives me snippets of ‘home’. Thanks.
Your ‘Shepherds Pie’ post was most interesting to me this morning, as I heard an explanation at of the differences of Shepherd and Cottage pies just last night. It was new to me. The term Shepherd pie it seems is always used in relationship to lamb (sheep need a shepherd), while Cottage pie is used with other meats. Thank you for this ‘best’ recipe. Off to purchase lamb…..
In Maine, it’s the perfect time of year for Shepherd’s Pie. This recipe looks totally yummy!
Love this recipe and that you’ve used lamb! MMMMMMM
The Macadame. xx
What kind of stock did you use with lamb? Looks delicious!
Hi Marla, I used chicken stock since I had exactly 1 cup leftover from a carton :)