Updated Sep 19, 2023
This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy.
This easy shepherd’s pie checks all the boxes for a classic comfort food dinner that goes far beyond St. Patrick’s Day. The base is a simple a mix of ground lamb and vegetables, simmered in a savory sauce. Then, it’s topped with fluffy and creamy mashed potatoes that form a golden crust!
What Is Shepherd’s Pie?
If you didn’t know, shepherd’s pie came about from Irish women getting creative with leftovers back in the 1800’s. Ground meat, mirepoix vegetables, and mashed potatoes were common ingredients and dishes served. So I’m sure those ladies thought, why not combine them for the ultimate cozy meal?
The basic structure of shepherd’s pie is a savory minced lamb filling topped with a layer of mashed potatoes. And the filling is usually simmered with onions, carrots, celery, and peas.
Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients
If you’ve ever had cottage pie, shepherd’s pie is really similar. The only difference is that 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 actually a cottage pie, not a Shepherd’s pie. Oh, semantics! But here’s what you’ll need to make this.
- Ground Lamb: As I mentioned, 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 recommend you use beef broth.
- Tomato Paste: This helps create thickness and flavor in the sauce (without the use of flour).
- Worcestershire Sauce: Adds a depth of flavor to the meat filling, because Worcestershire sauce itself is very layered in flavor. If you’re gluten-free, make sure to read my note below!
- Mashed Potatoes: Deliciously fluffy and whipped spuds on top of the meat filling finish off a classic shepherd’s pie. Just follow my mashed potato recipe – it’s easy!
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
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).
How To Make Shepherd’s Pie
The first thing you’ll make is mashed potatoes. You can make this the day of, or you can make it a day before expedite the process. Once that’s done, you’ll move on to the meaty filling and preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
Saute all the veggies and meat together until cooked through. Then, add in all the flavorful herbs and aromatics and let it simmer for just a few minutes, until the sauce thickens a bit. Just remember to leave the frozen peas until the end as those can get mushy fast if they cook for too long!
The last step is dolloping and spreading the mashed potatoes on top. Once that’s done, transfer the shepherd’s pie to the oven, and let it cook for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it so that the top of the mashed potatoes doesn’t get burnt!
Helpful tip: I prefer to use a large oven-safe pan rather than a casserole dish. But you could transfer everything to a casserole dish as well.
Shepherd’s Pie Variations
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s easily modifiable. 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 and use non-dairy milk.
- Vegan/Vegetarian: swap the lamb for a mix of mushrooms and lentils.
- 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 cornstarch or arrowroot powder to thicken it up.
Prep This Ahead Of Time
If you plan to make this ahead of time, store the mashed potatoes and filing in separate containers in the fridge. 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!
Complete Your St. Patrick’s Day Dinner
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with classic Irish recipes! If you want a festive Irish spread on the table, accompany the Shepherd’s Pie with:
- Sautéed Cabbage (or this Fried Cabbage)
- Corned Beef and Cabbage
- Irish Lamb Stew
- Cabbage Soup
- Potato Leek Soup
- Irish Coffee
More Easy Comfort Food Ideas
Are you in the mood for more comfort food? These tasty dinner recipes will surely hit the spot.
This easy shepherd’s pie is about as comforting as they come. If you make it, I’d love to know how it turned out in a comment below. Your review helps other in the community!
Easy Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- Cast Iron Pan This braiser is my favorite large cast iron pan!
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup butter
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 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
- 1½ pounds ground lamb or ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth, or if using ground beef use beef broth
- 1½ 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
- 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 to 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°F (200°C). In a large oven-safe saute pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a minute. Then add the diced carrots, diced celery, and lamb. Cook for 8 to 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 to 30 minutes. You can broil the top for 1 to 2 minutes as well.
©Downshiftology. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
Originally posted December 2019, but updated to include new information.