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Shepherd’s Pie is comfort food central! A hearty, homestyle dinner that sticks to your ribs and satisfies. Perfect for cold weather days!
This is a very simple and classic recipe, you can make it ahead and bake on a busy night, or you can make extra (recipe includes extra) and freeze some portions for later.
The Best Shepherd’s Pie
This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to bake, or baked on the day you make it. You can make this from start to finish in about 45 minutes.
This perfect comfort food dish is a rich beef filling, topped with creamy mashed potatoes
This not a traditional Shepherd’s Pie, because it uses ground beef. The original recipe for this uses ground lamb (hence the name “Shepherd”). This is technically Cottage Pie. See my notes below.
If you are one of those folks that hates personal stories in blog posts, you might want to skip on down to the recipe post.
I grew up eating shepherd’s pie, so I can probably credit my Mum for this one. I am a 3rd generation New Zealander but my grandparents/great grandparents descend from Scotland (and northern England) – where Shepherd’s Pie originated.
I remember my mother repurposing the leftover roast beef from Sunday dinner, and making a whole different dinner for Monday night. My brother and I both hated eating the same meal 2 nights in a row, so this is how my clever Mum fooled us!
As a mother myself now, I especially like this because it’s a one-dish dinner that feeds the hungry husband, the boys and me with no complaints. Like complaints are even accepted at my house anyway.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s a casserole, essentially. Ground meat and vegetables, cooked together with gravy, and topped with mashed potatoes and baked until it’s golden on top.
Simply put – the true definition of shepherd’s pie is that it contains ground lamb – it’s Shepherd’s pie (because shepherds cared for sheep) and Cottage Pie is made with beef.
If you add breadcrumbs or cheese to the top, it is called “Cumberland Pie”. I still call it “shepherd’s pie” regardless. I don’t care what you call it, just make it, eat it, love it!
Yes! This recipe freezes well. Just thaw in the fridge while you go about your day, and bake in the oven when you’re ready to eat. You’ll need a little extra baking time to get it piping hot if it’s chilled.
Depending on how deep your dish is, you will bake it for 30-60 minutes.
Yes! Check out the ingredients to be sure.
- 8 x 8 casserole dish
- Wooden spoon
- Large pan or skillet
Recipe Ingredients and Possible Substitutes
The full list of ingredients and quantities is found in the printable recipe card below.
- Ground Beef. I use a 97/3 beef, but 80/20 is fine too if you be sure and drain the fat. Any meat will work for this including ground chicken, turkey or lamb.
- Onion. Chop this up relatively small.
- Carrots. Dice these the same size as the onion.
- Tomato Paste. This adds flavor to the gravy
- Worcestershire Sauce & Soy Sauce. This is a great way to add a savory flavor to the gravy. Don’t skip! If you are gluten-free – you can use tamari and the Lea & Perrins brand of Worcestershire Sauce
- Dried Thyme. This can be subbed for fresh thyme, but you will need more than you would if you used dried. Rosemary is also pretty good in this recipe.
- Beef Stock. I use an unsalted stock. If you use salted, watch your seasoning and taste test to make sure it’s not over salty or super bland! I regularly use chicken stock or vegetable broth instead of beef broth/stock.
- Frozen Peas. You can sub in mixed vegetables, or use beans, or corn. Whatever you have, is going to be awesome.
- Corn starch & Water. This is used for thickening the gravy. Mix it together to make a slurry
- Potatoes. I like Russet potatoes or Yukon golds for this.
- Salt and Pepper. I use kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.
How to make this recipe
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The full list of ingredients, quantities and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.
Make the filling
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat. Drain any excess grease.
Add the diced onions and carrots, and cook until onion is soft, and the carrots begin to soften.
Add tomato paste, thyme, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for around 15 minutes.
Turn the heat up, then add cornstarch to the water and mix. Add the mixture to the skillet, and cook until it thickens.
Add the frozen peas, and mix in (the heat from the meat mixture is enough to cook the peas).
Cook and mash the potatoes
Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until tender (you’ll need to use just enough water to cover the potatoes), then mash with the butter, milk, salt, and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Pour the ground beef filling into an 8 x 8 baking dish.
Spread the mashed potatoes in an even layer over the top of the ground beef mixture.
Smooth the top, then score the potato topping with a fork (for crispy peaks).
Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and crispy.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve.
Add some parmesan cheese to the top for a yummy flavor boost!
Replace the potatoes with mashed sweet potatoes.
Switch up the vegetables with frozen mixed vegetables, or just peas, or green beans. You choose what your family likes!
Use ground lamb (or bison, or venison if that’s your jam) instead of ground beef.
Add cheese to the top of the mashed potato – it goes all bubbly and melt-y. And yummy.
This recipe can be frozen before baking. Make recipe until right before baking. Cool completely. Wrap the dish tightly in foil, then wrap in plastic wrap.
Bake from frozen for 1 hour.
Love Homestyle Dinners? Check out these easy recipes
- Tuna Noodle Casserole – will bring you right back to childhood. Budget-friendly and easy to double for a crowd!
- Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Pasta – A big bowl of comfort, this Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Pasta will stick to your ribs and have everyone fight over leftovers!
- Freezer Friendly Baked Ziti – comfort food at its very finest. Cheesy, gooey, with a tasty meat sauce, pasta, cheese and sour cream. Freezer friendly – this dish is a winner!
- Salisbury Steak with Onion Gravy – is fried patties made from ground beef, smothered in a delicious onion gravy, and served with mashed potatoes.
- ALL WEEKNIGHT MEALS
- ALL MAIN MEALS
Easy Shepherd’s Pie (or Cottage Pie)
- parmesan cheese (for the top)
Make the filling
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat. Drain any excess fat.
- Add onions and carrots, and cook until onion is soft, and the carrots begin to soften.
- Add tomato paste, thyme, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for around 15 minutes.
- Turn the heat up, then add cornstarch to the water and mix. Add the mixture to the skillet, and cook until it thickens.
- Add the frozen peas, and mix in (the heat from the meat mixture is enough to cook the peas).
Cook and Mash Potatoes
- Boil the potatoes until tender, then mash with the butter, milk, salt, and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Pour beef mixture into an 8 x 8 (square) dish.
- Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the beef mixture and score the top with a fork (for crispy peaks).
- Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven until the top is brown and crispy.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve.
- Is this recipe gluten-free? Yes! Check out the ingredients info above, to be sure.
- Can you freeze Shepherd’s Pie? Yes! This recipe freezes well. Just thaw in the fridge while you go about your day, and bake in the oven when you’re ready to eat. You’ll need a little extra baking time to get it piping hot if it’s chilled. Depending on how deep your dish is, you will bake it for 30-60 minutes.
- Replace the potatoes with mashed sweet potatoes.
- Switch up the vegetables with frozen mixed vegetables, or just peas, or green beans. You choose what your family likes!
- Use ground lamb (or bison, or venison if that’s your jam) instead of ground beef.
- Add cheese to the top of the mashed potato – it goes all bubbly and melt-y. And yummy.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Update: This post was originally published in 2013, and has been updated to improve reader experience in February of 2022. The recipe is essentially the same (just clearer!)