The Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

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.

Two plates with shepherd's pie and the casserole dish in the background.

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.

MY OTHER RECIPES

An overhead shot of two plates of shepherd's pie and the casserole dish with servings scooped out.

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.

A skillet with the cooked meat mixture for shepherd's pie.

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.

The meat mixture for shepherd's pie is in a casserole dish with the mashed potato topping being spread on top.

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.

An overhead shot of the casserole dish with the assembled shepherd's pie.

Can Shepherd’s Pie Be Made Ahead and/or Frozen?

Yes!

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.

A plate of shepherd's pie with carrots and parsley in the background.

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!

A plate of shepherd's pie with the casserole dish in the background.

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

Watch How to Make Shepherd’s Pie:

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Best Shepherd's Pie Recipe

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.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ medium carrots (106 grams), finely chopped
  • 1½ pounds (680 grams) ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup 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

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Recipe Notes:

  • 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!

(Recipe from The Country Cooking of Ireland)

All images and text ©Brown Eyed Baker, LLC.

This recipe was originally published on March 13, 2014.

[photos by Whitney Wright]