This Classic Shepherd’s Pie Recipe is gravy-soaked beefy goodness, with peas and carrots, covered with 5 pounds of potatoes. Because there are NEVER ENOUGH MASHED POTATOES. The best Shepherd’s Pie, done right my friends. Originally published February 23, 2016.
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Have you ever taught a kid to roller skate before? Turns out I am literally the worst person in the world for this job. (Where is my parenting manual?? I know I’m going to need it come 6th grade math, too. Don’t judge me.) This about sums it up:
Here’s Charlotte and I at her cousin’s birthday party at the skating rink. You will note that I am most certainly not wearing roller skates. If I had, we would BOTH be sprawled out under the disco lights.
“Stand straight. Lean into it. Glide your skates OUTward. Hold tight. Don’t slip! Find your balance.”
Seriously, “find your balance?” “glide outward”? SHE’S FIVE. It’s like I’m giving yoga instructions to a puppy. No wonder she’s holding on for dear life in that photo. I may as well be telling her to do the crow pose.
I was laughing, but that’s because I only had one kid at the party. You should have seen the moms trying to drag 2 or even 3 kids along. Note: a 5-year-old wielding a roller-skate-clad foot is a danger to innocent feet everywhere.
Now Charlotte is asking for her own pair of roller skates. I am now preemptively collecting donations for her body cast. And for my pair of steel-toed shoes.
Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
Do you love Shepherd’s Pie as much as I do? We didn’t have the traditional version growing up. My mom made “Meat and Potato Stuff.” No, I’m not kidding. (We also had “Chicken and Broccoli Stuff.” Bless your heart Mom.) Meat and Potato Stuff had tomato sauce and was basically Sloppy Joe Casserole. (Which explains why I was not into it. Sloppy Joes are gross. Slop sloppy joes…slop, sloppy joes.)
THIS Shepherd’s Pie however, is anything but sloppy. You make a flavorful gravy with beef broth and ground beef, add some peas and carrots, and cover it up with All The Potatoes. In my opinion, the greatest fault of most Shepherd’s Pies is a serious lack of creamy potato-y goodness. It’s all meat, tiny potatoes. Not gonna cut it for this mashed potato freak. 5 pounds definitely does the trick though!
Top it off with some cheddar cheese that you broil for a few minutes to make it extra crispy. Mm-mm. Invite the neighbors because this casserole feeds a small army!
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s pie is a baked British casserole traditionally made of ground lamb and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes. In this version (and many American versions), we’re making it with ground beef instead of ground lamb since it’s cheaper and easier to find at the store. Technically when this dish is made with beef, it’s called “cottage pie.”
Shepherd’s Pie Origin
Shepherd’s pie had its humble beginnings in the British Isles. It was called “cottage pie” as well as “shepherd’s pie” and was a way to use up leftovers. It’s always satisfying to see that the problems home cooks have today (“You can’t just keep expecting me to make dinner when we have all these leftovers in the fridge!”) also troubled our ancestors.
Shepherd’s Pie vs Cottage Pie
Technically, shepherd’s pie contains lamb or mutton, and cottage pie contains ground beef. You can definitely see why this makes sense, shepherds aren’t taking care of cows. However, I call this recipe Shepherd’s Pie because we don’t really make the distinction as much in the US, where I live, and calling it Cottage Pie would actually be more confusing.
Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients
Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!
For the mashed potatoes:
- Potatoes (5 lbs)
- Salted butter
- Sour cream
- Seasoning salt
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Cheddar cheese
For the beef mixture:
- Frozen peas
- Ground beef (1.5 lbs)
- Beef broth
- Worcestershire sauce
- Beef Better than Bouillon
How to make Shepherd’s Pie
Here’s a quick overview of how to make Shepherd’s Pie. Scroll down to the recipe card below for complete instructions!
- Cut and boil your potatoes until fork tender, then drain.
- Add butter and mash the potatoes, then stir in sour cream, milk, salt, pepper, seasoning salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Cover and set aside.
- Saute onions and carrots until tender in butter.
- Add ground beef and cook. Drain the fat and add the peas.
- Add cornstarch, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Cook and season with salt and pepper.
- Add meat mixture to a casserole dish, then add mashed potatoes, followed by cheese.
- Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly.
What is the point of baking Shepherd’s Pie?
If the meat mixture and mashed potatoes are already fully cooked and ready to eat, why are we baking this thing?? Casserole comfort food, baby. The mashed potatoes start soaking up the beef gravy, the cheese on top melts and browns, and the whole dish is heated through to the same temperature.
You could take this question a step further. What’s the point of putting the mashed potatoes on top of the meat? What’s the point of making dinner at all? What’s the POINT OF EXISTENCE??
Just bake your shepherd’s pie–I promise it’s better that way ;-)
What to serve with Shepherds Pie
Shepherd’s pie is pretty much a whole meal all by itself. Protein, carbs, veggies, you’re done! But if you’re making this for something other than a busy weeknight dinner, feel free to add on.
I love serving Shepherd’s Pie with dinner rolls or with a salad. Here are some of my favorites!
Soft and Fluffy Parker House Rolls << so soft. So fluffy.
Big Fat Crescent Rolls, yeah << not just for holiday meals!
Easy Fluffy One Hour Dinner Rolls << sometimes you’ve only got an hour.
Aunt Shirley’s Famous Homemade Dinner Rolls << these are legendary in my family.
Avocado and Grapefruit Salad << beautiful colors, flavors, and textures!
Green Salad with Feta and Beets << NO chopping. If you hate chopping, this is your salad!
Pistachio-Pear Cucumber Salad << simple and refreshing, a perfect contrast with all those cheesy potatoes.
Pineapple Spinach Salad << a fun twist on the traditional strawberry spinach salad!
Storing and Reheating Shepherd’s Pie with Beef
Can you freeze Shepherds Pie?
Yes! Shepherd’s pie is a great one to make ahead, freeze, and defrost and reheat when you need an easy meal. You can freeze individual portions or the whole pie. Either way, you’ll want to let it cool completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in tinfoil. Don’t forget to tape a label on so you remember what it is. It will still be perfectly delicious in 2-3 months (or even longer).
How to reheat Shepherd’s Pie with Beef
If your shepherd’s pie has been refrigerated, you can reheat individual portions in the microwave (covered, so they don’t splatter) or a whole shepherd’s pie in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until warmed through.
If you’ve frozen your shepherd’s pie, let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight (or a few hours for individual pieces) before heating in the microwave or oven as you prefer.
Shepherds Pie Recipe FAQs
No, shepherd’s pie should not be soupy. It should contain a gravy that comes from the juice of the cooked vegetables and juices of the cooked ground beef. This gravy should mostly absorb into the part of the mashed potatoes that is touching the beef mixture; it shouldn’t create a pool of liquid on your plate. The important thing is getting the proportion of beef broth right; I think the amount in this recipe creates just the right amount of gravy.
Yes, but you won’t see “gravy” on the ingredient list. A gravy is naturally created from the juice of the cooked vegetables and juices of the cooked ground beef. It’s super delicious, especially in combination with the creamy mountain of mashed potatoes.
This recipe calls for a cornstarch slurry (just a simple mixture of cornstarch and broth or water), which will thicken the gravy perfectly. Any extra gravy that you see in the beef mixture will be absorbed by the huge pile of mashed potatoes on top.
More casseroles to love!
One Skillet Shepherd’s Pie << subtract the mashed potatoes, add a flaky pie crust. Yes please
Leftover Roast Beef, Carrot, and Creamy Potato Pie << if you thought you loved pot roast, get ready to have your mind blown.
Easy Cheesy Chile Relleno Casserole << it doesn’t get easier or cheesier than this!
Easy Pizza Casserole << for the kids, or the kids at heart. So stupid easy.
Easy Cheesy Ravioli Lasagna << family classic right here! Huge crowd pleaser.
Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping << comfort food at its finest.
John Wayne Casserole from Casserole Crissy
Mexicali Chili Tater Tot Casserole from Not Entirely Average
BBQ Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole from The Forked Spoon
If you make this Shepherd’s Pie, snap a photo and tag #TheFoodCharlatan on Instagram! I love seeing what you’re making! Here’s a link to a pin where over 150 people have tried this recipe and shared their review. Check it out!
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Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Beef
For the mashed potatoes:
- 5 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 or 2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup salted butter, 1 stick
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup milk, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
For the beef mixture:
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, 1/2 stick
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 4-5 medium carrots, (about 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups)
- 1 & 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 1 & 1/2 pounds ground ground beef
- 1 & 1/2 cups beef broth, *
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon paste*, see note
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Fill a large stock pot with plenty of water. Add the chopped potatoes and make sure the water covers them.
- Bring to a boil, covered, over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and continue boiling for about 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
- Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.
- Add 1/2 cup butter. Mash with a potato masher or mixer until they are as smooth as you like them.
- Stir in sour cream, milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, seasoning salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. All seasonings are to taste. Cover and set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat.
- Add the onions and carrots. Saute for about 8 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
- Add the ground beef and cook and crumble until no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes.
- Drain the fat.
- Add the frozen peas.
- In a small bowl, stir together beef broth* and cornstarch.
- Add this mixture to the meat, as well as the Worcestershire sauce.
- Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture boils and the sauce has thickened. Cook and reduce until it has reached a consistency you like.
- Season with salt and pepper. Taste it and see how you like it! Add other seasonings if you want.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Pour the meat mixture into a deep 9×13 inch casserole dish.
- Top with the mashed potatoes and spread evenly.
- Top with cheddar cheese.
- Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly. (You could do 375 if you are in a hurry. Check it at 20 minutes.)
- Broil on the top rack for about 2 minutes if you are obsessed with crunchy brown cheese like my family is. Don’t walk away!!
- Now invite over the neighbors. Because this pie feeds a crowd!
Getting excited to make this dish for the 5th time in a row for St Patty’s day. But this year I am thinking about making it the day ahead? Any tips/tricks/suggestions? Is this a bad idea? I know potatoes can dry out sometimes. This is the absolute best dish!!!!
Hi Cassie! Shepherd’s pie is just fine to make ahead. You can make it completely, start to finish, and store it tightly covered in the fridge. You can also prepare it through adding the mashed potatoes and cheese on top of the filling, but wait to bake it until the day you’re serving it. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!
What flavor of better than bouillon do you use?
Beef bouillon Emily! Enjoy!
Coming back years later to give a five-star review. This is an absolute favorite in my family. Like, truly delicious. I’m making it this week for a friend who just had surgery, and doubling it to make it for my family as well. Love it!
Well this is the sweetest! Thank you for coming back to review Coby! I’m sure your friend is going to love you even more now :) SO glad you have loved the recipe, thank you for taking the time!
You have described the recipe so nicely that really helped me. I am pretty sure now to make it at home like yours. Looking forward for more of such delicious recipes in future too.
My first serving of this Shepherds Pie was way back in the 60’s, in school when cafeteria ladies actually cooked from scratch. I loved it so, but never had a easy, delicious recipe. You make it so easy, I am going to try this. It has everything in it that I love, and enough to share with my niece and her family. Thanks so much, and for bringing back the almost lost memories.
Can I freeze this? Baked or unbaked? I’ve read the potatoes become mush when frozen.
Hi Marcy! I would not freeze mashed potatoes, it doesn’t go well. But you can freeze the other part and have it ready all ready to go!
This recipe is so underrated. I’ve used it for about 2 years now, typically for my husband who loves it or for potlucks, everyone asks for the recipe. It also introduced the glory of Better Than Bouillon!
I’m so glad you have been enjoying it Cassandra! Thank you so much for the 5 star rating! I just implemented the rating system on my site (like, last week), so people have not had the opportunity to rate it much yet. But a 5 star rating on any of my recipes is always appreciated so thank you!
I don’t care if it’s called Shepherd’s pie or cottage pie, this recipe is fantastic! The second time I made it I didn’t drain the beef fat. It adds so much depth to the flavor!
Very good recipe. I do have to take note that as a Brit, this is technically not Shepherd’s Pie, this is Cottage Pie. A lot of non-English folks get this wrong. ;-) Shepherds pie is Lamb meat, cottage pie is beef. In our house, my mum use to add an extra layer of cheese, which made it especially gooey. This is a very tasty recipe though.
Hi Karen! I’ve never made an apple pie, and we never had them growing up, because my mom is allergic to apples. I’m trying my hand at making my first apple pie with your recipe. I just recently starting cooking a little more than quick meals and I’m super excited. Your instructions are so thorough, so I believe I can do it! Have a great weekend!!!
This recipe is EXCELLENT! I have made it many times and it’s a family favorite. In fact, it’s what’s for dinner tonight! I have made some changes as follows, without changing the recipe’s integrity, I think. Please note these tweaks came after making the dish as is the very first time, which for folks who prefer less spice (the added powders) is still awesome!
For mashed potatoes:
***I use 3.5 – 4 lbs (instead of suggested 5 lbs). We have found that when I have used 5 lbs, the potatoes really absorb the liquid and there just isn’t much in the leftovers the 2nd night.
***I double the seasoning salt, garlic powder & onion powder
For beef mixture (we like to have leftovers):
***I use 2 lbs of ground meat, which just creates an overall bigger dish
***To balance the added meat, I add more carrots
***I am generous with the Better Than Bouillon paste (2-3 tsp). No doubt, this ingredient is so good!
***The Better Than Bouillon is fairly and so I don’t usually add anymore salt than called for.
***I also add more beef broth and little more cornstarch, to balance out the fact that I add more meat and carrots.
Those are my tweaks after making the dish as is the very first time