Shepherd’s Pie, also known as cottage pie, is British pub food at its finest. This easy meat-and-potatoes casserole features ground beef (or lamb), vegetables, and a savory gravy baked underneath a thick, fluffy layer of mashed potatoes. Dig in before it disappears.

Shepherd’s Pie is the ultimate all-in-one dinner solution. It’s exactly the kind of hearty, stick-to your-ribs food I (and so many of you) grew up on.

Everything in this recipe is made from scratch, but it’s also a fantastic way to use up leftover mashed potatoes after a holiday feast. Just brown some ground beef, make the gravy, and go. The mashed potato topping crisps up in the oven. Every bite is rich, meaty, and completely satisfying.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Shepherd's Pie ingredient shot.

Ingredient notes

  • Ground meat: “Minced” beef or lamb is traditional. In the UK, Cottage Pie is made with beef while Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb. But in the United States, beef is often used in either case because lamb isn’t as widely consumed.
  • Beer: Any beer you like: lager, stout, etc. You only need a little, but if you don’t want to cook with beer, bump up the chicken broth in the recipe.
  • Russet potatoes: Starchy baking potatoes like Russets make the best, fluffiest mashed potatoes.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven t o 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. After that, add the ground meat, along with some salt and pepper, and brown it, breaking up any large clumps with a spoon.
    Shepherd's Pie filling in a saucepan.
  2. Add the flour and tomato paste and stir, cooking, for about 1 minute until the paste darkens. Then pour in the broth, soy sauce, beer, and thyme. Turn the heat down to medium and let the mixture simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
    Shepherd's Pie filling in a saucepan.
  3. Add the peas and carrots and mix gently. Season one last time with a little salt and pepper, then pour into the bottom of an oven-safe baking dish.
    A baking dish full of Shepherd's Pie before the potato topping is added.
  4. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until they’re tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
    A sliced, boiled potato being held over a silver colander.
  5. Drain the potatoes, return them to the hot pot, and mash them. A potato ricer, pastry cutter, or handheld masher all tackle the job really well. Once mashed, stir in the melted butter. Then fold in the milk and season with salt and pepper. Gently spread the mashed potatoes over the ground meat and vegetables from edge to edge, then smooth with a rubber spatula. (If you have a pastry bag, you can pipe the potatoes over the top in a pretty design, similar to my recipe for Duchess potatoes, but it will taste delicious even if you don’t.)
    A baking dish full of Shepherd's Pie before baking.
  6. Brush the whole top with the beaten egg, then make cross-hatch marks over the potatoes with a fork, or make a swirl pattern using the back of a spoon.
    A baking dish full of Shepherd's Pie before baking.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees until hot and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before digging in.
    A baking dish full of Shepherd's Pie.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: One recipe baked in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish should make 8 servings.
  • Make ahead: Make (but don’t bake) the casserole, let cool, and refrigerate for up to 2 days before you need it.
  • Storage: Store the leftovers in the refrigerator and finish them up within 3 to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Assemble the casserole, but don’t bake it. Wrap tightly in plastic and foil, label, date, and freeze. Bake straight from the freezer at 325 degrees until piping hot inside, about 1 hour.
  • Cheese: YES! I did not specify cheese in this recipe, but I have in the past and if that appeals to you, I highly recommend it. (Life Tip: If you’re wondering if you should add cheese, the answer is always yes.) Grated cheddar on top would be delicious, but so would Boursin mashed potatoes.
  • Breadcrumbs: Homemade breadcrumbs or garlic breadcrumbs sprinkled over the top of the mashed potatoes is delicious, too. That’s called a Cumberland Pie, in case you’re wondering.
  • Sweet potatoes: Heck yes, you can top the casserole with mashed sweet potatoes (or even cauliflower mashed potatoes) for something different. You can even make this recipe with leftover mashed potatoes, if you have them. Just make it.
A slab of Shepherd's Pie in a bowl.

More delicious, hearty recipes

A baking dish full of Shepherd's Pie.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie, also known as cottage pie, is British pub food at its finest. This easy meat-and-potatoes casserole features ground beef (or lamb), vegetables, and a savory gravy baked underneath a thick, fluffy layer of mashed potatoes. Dig in before it disappears.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 5 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Irish
Calories 588

Ingredients 

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef or ground lamb (see note 1)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup beer (see note 2)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 11-ounce bag frozen peas and carrots (about 2 cups)

For the topping:

  • 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (see note 3)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter melted (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup milk plus more for desired consistency
  • 1 egg beaten

Instructions 

To make the filling:

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter until foaming. Add onions and cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the meat, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a spoon to break up any clumps of meat. 
  • Add flour and tomato paste and cook until paste begins to darken, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in chicken broth, beer, soy sauce, and thyme. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick but saucy, 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • Stir in peas and carrots, season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to a broiler-safe 9-inch by 13-inch dish.

To make the topping:

  • Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • In a large pot or dutch oven over high heat, bring potatoes, 1 tablespoon salt, and enough water to cover the potatoes 1 inch to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Drain well, return potatoes to pot, and mash until smooth. Stir in butter until incorporated. Stir in milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.)
  • Spread potatoes over the filling in casserole dish and use a rubber spatula to smooth the top, or pipe with a pastry bag and tip. Brush with egg and swirl the top with the back of a spoon, or drag fork tines across to make hatch marks.
  • Bake until the filling is hot and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Ground meat: “Minced” beef or lamb is traditional. In the UK, Cottage Pie is made with beef while Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb. But in the United States, beef is often used in either case because lamb isn’t as widely consumed.
  2. Beer: Any beer you like: lager, stout, etc. You only need a little, but if you don’t want to cook with beer, bump up the chicken broth in the recipe.
  3. Russet potatoes: Starchy baking potatoes like Russets make the best, fluffiest mashed potatoes.
  4. Yield: One recipe baked in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish should make 8 servings.
  5. Make ahead: Make (but don’t bake) the casserole, let cool, and refrigerate for up to 2 days before you need it.
  6. Storage: Store the leftovers in the refrigerator and finish them up within 3 to 5 days.
  7. Freezing: Assemble the casserole, but don’t bake it. Wrap tightly in plastic and foil, label, date, and freeze. Bake straight from the freezer at 325 degrees until piping hot inside, about 1 hour.
  8. Cheese: YES! I did not specify cheese in this recipe, but I have in the past and if that appeals to you, I highly recommend it. (Life Tip: If you’re wondering if you should add cheese, the answer is always yes.) Grated cheddar on top would be delicious, but so would Boursin mashed potatoes.
  9. Breadcrumbs: Homemade breadcrumbs or garlic breadcrumbs sprinkled over the top of the mashed potatoes is delicious, too. That’s called a Cumberland Pie, in case you’re wondering.
  10. Sweet potatoes: Heck yes, you can top the casserole with mashed sweet potatoes (or even cauliflower mashed potatoes) for something different. You can even make this recipe with leftover mashed potatoes, if you have them. Just make it.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 588kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 26gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 751mgPotassium: 1051mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 754IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 82mgIron: 4mg
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Meggan Hill

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Comments

  1. I made this last week and it was the best Shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had!

    I want to make it again and have everything but the beer. Do you think I could substitute red wine or would that be weird?

    1. Not weird! Delicious! Red wine tastes great with beef, and it would be awesome in Shepherd’s Pie. I haven’t made it that way myself, I should disclose, but it’s one of those substitutions that I can just tell would be awesome. Thanks Nicole! -Meggan

  2. Lots more flavorings than in mine.  I must try this version. I add creamed corn but with your heavy cream already in there, plain kernel corn would work.  I like the idea of carrots.  Maybe I’ll just throw in a partial bag of thawed, frozen mixed.

    When serving, don’t forget a gallon of butter.5 stars

  3. Thanks for helping me decide what to make for dinner tomorrow night.
    This is totally on my food plan (minus the heavy cream) and I have ground lamb in the freezer. (I use 1/2 beef and 1/3 lamb).
    I love it when I have everything to make something!

    1. Made this for dinner and didn’t use heavy cream in the filling or the potatoes and I also used 3 cups of the frozen mixed vegetables that I had in the freezer. It was delicious.
      (I’m all about loading up the vegetables so we don’t have to have another veg on the side…)
      this was great with a side salad.5 stars

  4. Ahhhh, now today you’re truly speaking my language, Meggan!

    I’m really interested to see you’ve added cream to your Shepherd’s pie. Now that would be one delicious shepherd’s pie!

    I’ll let you into a secret. Millions of Brits (including myself) grew up eating shepherd’s pie almost weekly, and most of us call it shepherd’s pie even if it’s made with beef (which it usually is).

    Your version looks and sounds amazing!5 stars