Shepherd’s Pie is a hearty, filling dish featuring ground meat, vegetables, and a savory gravy under a fluffy bed of mashed potatoes. Bake this up for some ultimate comfort food.
You ready for some good old fashioned, comfort food? Well then, Shepherd’s Pie is where it’s at. Tender veggies, hearty meat, luscious gravy, all topped with creamy mashed potatoes flecked with bits of cheddar cheese.
It’s pretty much comfort on a plate.
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s Pie, also known as Cottage Pie, is a casserole of ground meat and gravy topped with mashed potatoes. Traditionally, a cottage pie contains beef, while a “shepherd’s pie” contains lamb. However, since I’m in the US where lamb is expensive and/or hard to come by, I’m using the term loosely.
Shepherd’s Pie is rustic, hearty comfort food. It doesn’t need anything special. According to the Guardian, it’s best served on its own with no special accoutrements other than some bread and butter and a cup of tea.
This Shepherd’s Pie is as easy to make as it is delicious. And it’s perfect for St Patrick’s Day if you’re looking for something more authentic than green eggs and ham or the ever-American corned beef. (Nope, corned beef is not Irish.)
For the filling:
Traditionally, you would stick to using beef or lamb in shepherd’s pie, however, you can really use any kind of meat that you like. Ground beef, lamb, turkey, or pork are easiest for this particular recipe.
And to up the versatility factor, you can include any vegetables you have on hand. My family prefers mushrooms, onions, carrots, and green beans; peas are more authentic, though.
You’ll notice different versions on the web that feature thicker gravy. If you prefer less gravy, reduce the amount of beef stock in the recipe.
For the topping:
Mashed potatoes is classic for topping, with or without the addition of cheddar cheese.
Feel free to get creative by adding sour cream and chives into your mash if you like. My Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes would be a fine topping or if you want to get wild you could use Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
With this recipe specifically, I stuck with the classic cheddar cheese. Yum-O!
Remember you can freeze cheese that you won’t use right away. Package shredded or crumbled cheeses in portion sizes so you can whip up recipes in a matter of minutes.
Can you make Shepherd’s Pie from leftovers?
Shepherd’s Pie is a great dish to use up leftovers from a big holiday meal, so feel free to use poetic license when preparing this recipe. It’s basically cooked meat, a savory gravy, cooked veggies and a topping of mashed potatoes. Like a single crust pot pie, it’s very forgiving.
This dish comes together in several stages. Each is pretty simple and builds on the previous one.
To prepare the filling:
- Chop the vegetables.
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot.
- Add the meat and vegetables to the pot and cook until the onions are clear, the carrots are tender, and the meat is browned.
- Add the flour to the mixture and stir until the flour absorbs all the drippings. This will look a bit pasty. That’s okay, the roux is clinging to the meat and veg, but will dissolve into the beef stock and help thicken the gravy.
- Stir in the beef stock and spices. Bring to a boil and then allow it to simmer until the gravy has thickened to your liking.
- Stir in the peas. There’s no need to thaw them if you’re using frozen peas.
- Now the filling is ready.
To prepare the cheddar mash topping:
- Place the cubed potatoes in a pot of salted water. Boil until very tender.
- Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a large mixing bowl.
- Mash the potatoes until smooth with a potato masher.
- Add the butter to the potatoes, mashing it into the mixture as it melts.
- Stir in the hot milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese.
- The topping is now ready.
To assemble the pie:
- Grease a 2-quart baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour the filling into the prepared dish.
- Top the filling with the mashed potatoes, sealing the potatoes to the edges of the dish. This will help prevent the filling from bubbling out of the dish onto the bottom of your oven.
- Cover the filling with the mashed potatoes, smoothing the top. If you like, you can create a crosshatch pattern in the potatoes.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is hot and the potatoes are golden brown.
- Serve immediately.
Shepherd’s pie makes it a nice addition to your freezer meals repertoire. This pie comes together so easily and is freezer friendly, so it’s totally worth your while to make at least a double batch.
I recommend assembling the pie after the potatoes and filling have cooled off a bit. Do not bake it prior to freezing. Instead, chill it completely, wrap well for freezing, label, and freeze.
You can bake it from frozen, adding about 20 to 30 minutes baking time, or thaw it completely and proceed as directed here.
Knowing how much it costs you to prepare a recipe can help you decide if it’s the type of recipe to make regularly or one you might want to save for special occasions. Let’s crunch some numbers and see how this recipe pencils out.
- oil – $0.02
- carrots – $0.30
- onion – $0.75
- mushrooms – $0.50
- ground beef – $2.99
- beef broth – $0.99
- spices – $0.25
- potatoes – $1.98
- butter – $0.92
- milk – $0.17
- cheese – $1.00
A 2-quart shepherd’s pie that will feed 8 costs about $9.87 or $1.23 per serving when the ingredients are not purchased on sale. In the frozen food section you can find commercially made pies ranging from $2.99 to $3.99 per serving.
Clearly, homemade is the better deal! And you get to control the ingredients.
Love ground beef? Be sure to check out these easy 5-ingredient ground beef recipes.
Save even more:
Shepherd’s Pie already has fairly economical ingredients, but here are some of the strategies from the Good Cheap Eats System that you can use to make this recipe more cheaply:
- Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. For instance, when I see a great price on veggies, potatoes, or stock, I’ll buy lots of them and plan my meals around them. Same goes when I find a good sale on ground beef.
- Use ground turkey. While not traditional ground turkey is generally less expensive than beef, lamb, chicken, or pork.
- Use up leftovers. It doesn’t matter what kind of veggies you throw in. They add great flavor and nothing goes to waste. Feel free to adapt this basic pie recipes to use whatever meats or veggies you have on hand.
It’s a pretty easy recipe, but here are some of the tools you’ll want to have on hand in order to make this recipe quick and easy:
- large stockpot
- potato masher
- glass measuring cup
- plastic cutting boards
- good chefs knife
- my favorite skillet
- wooden spoons
- 2-quart baking dish
Shepherd’s Pie with Cheddar Mash Recipe
For the filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef or lamb
- 1 onion chopped for 1 cup
- 2 carrots (chopped) for 1 cup
- 2 oz mushrooms (sliced) for 1 cup
- ¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 cup beef broth or chicken stock
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
- 1 cup frozen peas or green beans
For the cheddar mash
- 6 russet potatoes peeled and chopped
- ½ cup butter
- 1 cup milk
- 4 oz cheddar cheese (shredded) (1 cup)
- additional salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a large heavy pot. Add the beef, onion, carrots, and mushrooms and cook until the beef is browned and the onion is translucent. Add the flour and stir until the drippings have completely absorbed the flour. Stir in the broth and spices. Simmer until thickened. Stir in the green beans or peas.
- In a large pot of salted water, boil the potatoes until very tender.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and mash the potatoes until very fine. Add the butter and continue mashing, until the butter is melted and incorporated into the potatoes. Stir in the milk and cheddar cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the meat mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- Spoon the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture, taking care to seal the mashed potato topping all the way to the edges of the pan.
- At this point you can chill the pie and refrigerate to bake later or chill, cover, and freeze up to 2 months. Before baking, thaw the pie in the refrigerator .
- Bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the top is golden brown. If the pie is very cold, you may need to increase the baking time up to an hour.
This post was originally published on March 13, 2019. It has been updated for content and clarity.