Easy Shepherd’s Pie, a rich, savory casserole of ground meat and vegetables baked with mashed potatoes on top, was one of my favorite dinners as a kid (mostly for the potatoes). Today I love it even more for the hearty filling, especially today’s succulent recipe!
Technically speaking, what my mom cooked for us was cottage pie, since the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie is the kind of meat used.
Shepherd’s pie uses ground lamb, while cottage pie uses ground beef.
Most of the time in the U.S., we say “shepherd’s pie” for both.
While lamb might be the most traditional shepherd’s pie, I’ve made it both ways, and both are delish! Feel free to use whichever meat you or your family prefer.
History of Shepherd’s Pie
The origin of shepherd’s pie can’t be traced to any specific person or place, but we know it got its start somewhere in the United Kingdom. It was created as a way to repurpose leftovers and reduce waste.
Shepherd’s pie is called shepherd’s pie because it is typically made with lamb meat.
How to Make Easy Shepherd’s Pie
Don’t let the stodgy sound of ground meat and potatoes fool you—this shepherd’s pie with gravy is scrumptious.
I’d proudly serve it to a group of friends and know everyone would be pleased.
- To make this an easy shepherd’s pie, I used a bag of frozen peas and carrots, instead of chopping the veggies myself, which cuts down on prep time.
- If you make the mashed potatoes ahead, you can have it in the oven even faster.
- The shepherd’s pie seasoning includes garlic, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and thyme. They are simple and yet make all the difference in creating a rich shepherd’s pie filling.
- Mashed Potato Topping. Luscious mashed potatoes are mixed with butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper, milk (or half-and-half), and an egg yolk for a topping that’s rich, creamy, and absolutely delicious!
- Ground Beef. Packed with iron, protein, and vitamins, ground beef helps make this shepherd’s pie hearty. For more ground beef recipes, check out Ground Beef Dinner Ideas.
- Onion + Garlic. Powerful flavor builders.
- Tomato Paste. Instead of an easy shepherd’s pie with tomato sauce, we’re using tomato paste. It adds rich, concentrated tomato flavor to the meat mixture.
- All-Purpose Flour. Helps thicken the meat mixture, creating a gravy-like consistency.
- Beef Broth. Savory, and deeply flavorful, the beef broth adds liquid to the base of the dish.
- Worcestershire Sauce. Adds wonderful umami flavor.
- Fresh Thyme + Bay Leaf. Earthy, herby additions that cut through the richness.
- Frozen Vegetables. You’ll love that this is an easy shepherd’s pie with frozen vegetables! I used a bag of frozen peas and carrots to easily sneak in extra veggies.
- Cut, boil, and drain the potatoes.
- Mash with the butter, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
- Stir until the butter is mostly melted. YUM.
- Whisk the milk and egg yolk together.
- Stir the milk mixture into the potatoes.
- For the filling, sauté the onion.
- Add the garlic and tomato paste.
- Stir in the meat.
- Sprinkle the flour over the meat.
- Add the broth, Worcestershire, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme and bay leaf.
- Stir in the frozen vegetables.
- Spread the meat mixture into the bottom of a baking dish coated with nonstick spray.
- Add the topping, spreading it into an even layer. Bake easy shepherd’s pie at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, then DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm shepherd’s pie in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, prepare the mashed potato topping as directed. Refrigerate it in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Turn leftovers into meal prep paradise. Carefully remove portion-sized pieces from the baking dish, and transfer them to the wells of a muffin tin (keep the mashed potatoes on top). Once you’ve transferred all your leftovers, freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen shepherd’s pie “muffins” to an airtight, freezer-safe ziptop storage bag for up to 3 months. Remove and thaw the “muffins” as needed for a comfort food fix.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. Beautiful and perfect for making this recipe.
- Potato Masher. An easy way to mash the potatoes.
- Large Skillet. Great for browning meat and sautéing veggies.
Did you grow up eating shepherd’s pie or cottage pie?
Once you try this easy version of traditional shepherd’s pie recipe, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Adding beer to your dish is a delicious and fun twist. For an Irish shepherd’s pie, swap the beef broth for Guinness.
If you don’t have russet potatoes on hand, swapping Yukon gold potatoes is the best substitute (Pioneer Woman’s easy shepherd’s pie uses them). If you’d prefer to make a sweet potato shepherd’s pie, you could experiment with swapping sweet potatoes instead.
To make this a gluten free recipe for shepherd’s pie, swap the all-purpose flour for a 1:1 gluten free flour like this one.
Easy Shepherd’s Pie
For the Mashed Potato Topping:
For the Meat Filling:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 pound lean ground beef or ground lamb
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup less sodium beef broth or chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 (10- to 12-ounce) bag frozen peas and carrots no need to thaw
- Boil the potatoes for the topping: Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a medium saucepan. Add enough cool water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Cover the pot and bring to boil over high heat. As soon as the water is boiling, uncover, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle, steady simmer, until potatoes are fork tender, about 12 to 16 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. If the potatoes are very moist, heat the saucepan over low, shaking it occasionally, until any liquid on the surface of the potatoes has cooked off, about 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
- Mix the topping together: With a potato masher or wooden spoon, mash the potatoes well. Scatter the butter pieces over the top. Add the Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
- With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir a few times, until the butter is mostly melted.
- In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the milk and egg yolk.
- Add to the potatoes. Stir to combine. The potatoes should be rich and fluffy.
- Make the filling: Coat a 9×9, 8×10, or 11×7 casserole dish with nonstick spray. Place rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once it is hot and shimmering, add the onion and cook until it is beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and tomato paste. Stirring continuously, cook 30 seconds.
- Add the beef (or lamb), salt, and pepper. Cook, breaking apart the meat, until it is browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. If there is excess grease in the pan, carefully drain it off (this should not be a problem if your beef is around 93% lean).
- Sprinkle the flour over the top, and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute.
- Stir in the broth, Worcestershire, thyme, and bay leaf. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck-on browned bits. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, then cover the pan and let simmer gently until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme and bay leaf. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
- Stir in the peas and carrots.
- Transfer the meat mixture to the prepared dish, spreading it into an even layer.
- Add the mashed potatoes by spoonfuls over the top, starting around the edges to create a “seal” (this will prevent the filling from bubbling up). With a spatula, gently spread the potatoes into an even layer.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, then place the dish on top (this will catch any parts of the filling that bubble over). Bake the shepherd's pie uncovered on the center rack for 25 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes prior to serving.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm shepherd’s pie in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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