Shepherd’s Pie

5 from 7 votes

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A savory ground lamb and vegetable filling topped with cheesy mashed potatoes...Shepherd's Pie is the ultimate Irish comfort food.

Shepherd’s Pie / Carrie Crow / Katie Workman / themom100.com

There are few meals that make my family happier than a meat and potatoes meal — and when the meat and the potatoes co-exist in one homey comfort food, let’s just say happiness and goodwill abound. Shepherd’s pie is the best of those kinds of combo dinners, a classic Irish comfort food. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally topped with mashed potatoes. And while plain old mashed potatoes are delicious — CHEESY mashed potatoes are just all that much more rock-and-roll. I picked two cheeses to blend into creamy mashed potatoes to give them that extra pop of flavor, and the slightest of cheese pulls when you lift up a forkful of the pie. Plain Havarti for its delicate creamy freshness and sharp aged cheddar for its tangy richness. Seriously, I thought the boyfolk in my house might weep. Also, this pie says serves 6…but that night, it served 3.

This can be a standalone dinner, but you might want a nice light salad or veggie side dish to complement it. Try Roasted Broccolini with Lemon, Light Green Crunchy Salad, or Tomato, Avocado, and Cucumber Salad.

Plate and pan of shepherd's pie.

Shepherd’s Pie: A savory ground lamb and vegetable filling topped with cheesy mashed potatoes is the ultimate Irish comfort food (perfect for St. Patrick’s Day).

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Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients

This Shepherd’s Pie recipe really doesn’t require many ingredients, and you can adapt it to suit your needs.

  • Lamb – You can use ground lamb or chopped leftover lamb. And if you prefer beef or other ground meat, go for it (though then it’s not a classic Shepherd’s pie, but more of an English Cottage Pie).
  • Potatoes – These will be mashed with some milk, butter, cheddar, and havarti for the topping. Feel free to double the topping if you want extra cheesy mashed potatoes for another meal later in the week; they reheat easily on the stove or in the microwave.
  • Vegetables – These add heft, nutrition, flavor, and color to the filling. I use very traditional vegetables and aromatics in my Shepherd’s Pie: chopped onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and some fennel (which adds brightness and a slight anise-ey flavor). Then, at the end, a mixture of peas and corn is added, which adds even more color and texture.
  • Milk, chicken broth, and flour – These ingredients are the base of the sauce, which pulls the filling together. The little bit of flour thickens the sauce.
  • Seasonings – Thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper elevate the flavor of the pie.
Shepherd’s Pie and salad on a plate.

How to Make Shepherd’s Pie

  1. Cook the potatoes: Simmer the potatoes in water until very tender.
  2. Brown the lamb. Drain off any excess fat.
  3. Make the filling: Sauté the vegetables in the same pan you used to cook the lamb. Add the flour and stir until it coats the vegetables, about 1 minute. Stir in the lamb and then ½ cup of the milk and the broth, and cook until the sauce thickens. Stir in the corn and peas, Worcestershire sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the mixture into a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.
  4. Mash potatoes and spoon on top of pan: Mash the potatoes with the remaining milk and butter and stir in the cheeses. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the lamb mixture. Use a spoon to make nice wavy peaks and valleys in the potatoes.
Making mashed potatoes and topping them over Shepherd's Pie in pan.
  1. Bake and serve: Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until the top is set and browned. If you want the top a bit more browned, you can run it under the broiler for a minute or two. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Shepherd’s Pie in a round pie dish about to be served.

FAQs

What is Shepherd’s Pie?

Shepherd’s pie is a layered pie or casserole. The bottom is usually a mixture of cooked minced or ground meat (often lamb) mixed with vegetables. The top is a thick layer of mashed potatoes. And in this recipe, the mashed potatoes get even richer and more indulgent with a bit of cheese blended in.

This pie was actually created in Ireland as a way to use up leftover lamb over a century ago, in the spirit of the economy (a similar pie exists in England, called Cottage Pie, but that version uses beef). The name Shepherd’s Pie comes from the fact that a shepherd looks after sheep or lamb; you get it.

Pro Cooking Tips

  • While ground lamb makes this a pie to make any night of the week, do think of this recipe any time you make a roast of lamb, whether it’s a shoulder, a leg, or a loin. Try very hard to make sure there are leftovers, and then dice them finely and use them in this comfort food pot pie.
  • If you want to make the top of the pie even more browned, you can broil it for a minute or two at the end. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t get too browned.

Leftovers and Reheating

Leftover Shepherd’s Pie can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Heat in a 300-degree oven until warmed throughout, or heat them in the microwave.

What to Serve With Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie and salad on a plate next to a knife and a dark drink.

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5 from 7 votes

Shepherd’s Pie

A savory ground lamb and vegetable filling topped with cheesy mashed potatoes…Shepherd's Pie is the ultimate Irish comfort food.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6 People
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Ingredients 

  • 3 large all-purpose potatoes (peeled and halved; about 2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1 ½ pounds ground lamb
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter (divided)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped fennel
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk (divided)
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen corn
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen peas
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar
  • ½ cup shredded havarti

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Place the potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan and add cold water to cover. Salt the water, then place over high heat until the water simmers. Lower the heat to medium-high and continue to simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and cook, stirring frequently to break up the meat, until brown and crumbly, about 5 minutes. Turn into a colander and carefully wipe out the skillet.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same large skillet over medium-high heat, and when it is melted, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, and thyme and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until the vegetables are lightly golden and tender. Add the flour and stir until it coats the vegetables, about 1 minute. Stir in the lamb and then ½ cup of the milk and the broth and cook until the liquid thickens and coats the mixture as sauce, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Stir in the corn and peas, and season with salt and pepper. Add the Worcestershire sauce and continue cooking until everything is well combined and hot, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixture into a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.
  • Drain the cooked potatoes. In the saucepan you used to cook the potatoes, heat the remaining ¾ cup milk and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until barely simmering. Put the cooked potatoes through a food mill or ricer, or use a potato masher to mash and add them to the simmering milk. Stir in the cheddar and havarti, season with salt and pepper, and stir to blend well until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the lamb mixture in the pie pan. Use a spoon to make nice wavy peaks and valleys in the potatoes; the peaks will then get nicely browned and beautiful in the baking.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until the top is set and a bit colored. If you want the top a bit more browned, you can run it under the broiler for a minute or two, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t get too brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • While ground lamb makes this a pie to make any night of the week, do think of this recipe any time you make a roast of lamb, whether it’s a shoulder, a leg, or a loin. Try very hard to make sure there are leftovers, and then dice them finely and use them in this comfort food pot pie.
  • If you want to make the top of the pie even more browned, you can broil it for a minute or two at the end, but watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t get too browned.
  • Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Heat them in a 300-degree oven until warmed throughout, or heat them in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 604kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 40g, Saturated Fat: 20g, Cholesterol: 120mg, Sodium: 282mg, Potassium: 1159mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 2384IU, Vitamin C: 28mg, Calcium: 225mg, Iron: 7mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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5 Comments

  1. A-net says:

    Love love LOVE this recipe! Used Idahoan instant mashed potatoes when I was in a time crunch, and they worked out great with me adding the cheese.
    After hunting season – cooked a deer roast on the grill and ground it up for our meat.
    This recipe is great because it is easy to modify if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand.
    Thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. Brennan says:

    FYI – you forget to say “add celery” with the other veggies, so I left it out until the end and forgot about it! Lol

    1. Katie Workman says:

      damn! fixed now….sorry.

  3. Jane Robinson (Oxford UK) says:

    Just FYI, this is actually a Cottage Pie recipe – Shepherd’s Pie always uses lamb mince (clue’s in the name)!

    Nice recipe though!

    1. Katie Workman says:

      Hi, Jane – it does have lamb in it actually!