If you’re craving a savory comfort-food casserole, it truly doesn’t get any better than this classic Shepherd’s Pie recipe. The meaty filling and mashed potato topping burst with flavor! Serve this for St. Patrick’s Day or anytime you’re in need of a cozy meal.
Up until recently, I’d only ever tried shepherd’s pie while dining in pubs (often as part of a special St. Patrick’s Day menu). Now, I love pub grub just as much as the next grubbing gal, but I was never overly wowed by the dish. I realized that the versions I had tried were often… kind of bland. A casserole full of meat, gravy, and mashed potatoes should be anything but!
Trust me, this version is definitely not bland.
I learned a few things while working on this shepherd’s pie recipe. For starters, a true shepherd’s pie uses lamb and not beef. If you make this dish with ground beef, it’s known as cottage pie. Either will work in my recipe. Personally, I prefer using ground beef.
Also, shepherd’s pie (at least my version) tastes better after it sits for awhile so the flavors have a chance to mingle. I enjoyed this recipe when it was fresh out of the oven, but I loved it upon subsequent reheats. That makes this a great make-ahead meal.
Tips For How to Make Shepherd’s Pie
- Make sure to use lean ground lamb or beef. You don’t want the meat to be swimming in fat, and it doesn’t get drained from the pan (the small amount of fat adds richness to the gravy).
- I used this 3-quart casserole dish, but you can use any similar sized dish. A 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 quart casserole dish would also be fine, and it doesn’t have to be round.
- You can experiment with adding different chopped vegetables to the dish. Some recipes add corn. I almost omitted the peas since I’m not a huge fan, but they worked well here.
- My recipe instructions include multiple references to deglazing the pan as an optional step. This is a technique I learned in culinary school, and it adds a ton of flavor to casseroles, soups, and stews. It’s very easy; you let the ingredients develop a brown layer on the bottom of the pan as they cook. Before the brown layer has a chance to burn, you splash a small amount of water in to the pan, which loosens up the brown bits (also known as fond). Then you can use a spatula or wood spoon to scrape up the brown bits and stir them back into the other ingredients as the water evaporates. This is the same process used for caramelizing onions. It adds depth and savoriness. You can do it once, twice, or as many times as you like. The more, the better!
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s pie is a meat casserole topped with a layer of mashed potato. It’s traditionally prepared with ground or minced lamb. When prepared with ground or minced beef, it’s technically known as cottage pie. While there are many variations on this dish, the defining ingredients are meat, gravy, onions (sometimes other vegetables like peas and carrots), and mashed potatoes.
Can Shepherd’s Pie Be Reheated?
Yes, in fact I recommend it! It tastes better this way, in my opinion. You can reheat the dish in a 350 degree F oven for about 25-35 minutes, or until warmed through. Cover the top of the casserole dish with foil to prevent drying out. Alternately, you can reheat individual servings in the microwave.
More St. Patrick’s Day Recipes
Looking for more St. Patrick’s Day recipes to serve alongside this Shepherd’s Pie? Check out my Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, Bailey’s Ice Cream, and Savory Meat and Mushroom Hand Pies! I also love this Irish Apple Cake from Baking a Moment!
For The Filling
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (a little over 1/2 cup)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1 3/4 - 2 pounds 85-90% lean ground beef or lamb (I used beef)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 3/4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or beef stock
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced thyme leaves
- 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
For The Topping
- 2 - 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 3 large), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg yolk
- Ground black pepper to taste
Prepare the Filling:
- In a large skillet (preferably nonstick), heat the butter over medium-high heat until bubbly. Add the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8-10 minutes. If you aren't using a nonstick pan, you can optionally allow the ingredients to brown on the bottom of the pan, deglazing periodically with a splash of water and scraping the brown bits up with a spatula. This will enhance the flavors.
- Add the meat, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break up meat, until browned, about 12 minutes. You can optionally continue deglazing with water during this time.
- Stir in the flour and tomato paste and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cream and cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the gravy is thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in peas, and taste the gravy to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to a 3-quart casserole dish. (2 1/2 quarts will be fine as well).
Prepare the Topping:
- Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position, then preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the saucepan, then mash with the cream, butter and yolk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon dollops of mashed potatoes over the filling, then use a spatula to create a smooth, even layer. Drag a fork across top to add texture.
- Bake until filling is bubbling around the sides, about 15 minutes. Turn on the broiler and let the top develop a brown crust (this can take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your oven. Watch closely to prevent burning).
- Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. For best results, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours or prepare the night beforehand, so the flavors have a chance to mingle. Reheat in a 350 degree F oven for about 25-35 minutes, or until warmed through (cover the top of the casserole dish with foil to prevent drying out). You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave. Enjoy leftovers within 1 week.
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