Shepherd’s Pie

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Shepherd's Pie

The epitome of simple, homey comfort food, shepherd’s pie is a casserole consisting of creamy mashed potatoes atop a rich and bubbly stew.

Shepherd's Pie

The epitome of simple, homey comfort food – and one of my husband’s favorite things that I cook during the winter – shepherd’s pie is a casserole consisting of creamy mashed potatoes atop a rich and bubbly stew. The dish originated in sheep country in the UK and Ireland, so it is traditionally made with lamb. In the States, shepherd’s pie is typically made with beef (though this version is often referred to as cottage pie).

Shepherd’s pie was originally conceived as a way to use up leftover pot roast or stew, but most modern versions are made with ground meat, which cooks much faster. For this version, you begin by making a batch of mashed potatoes and setting those aside. Then, you make a flavorful ground beef stew with bacon, vegetables, and wine. At this point, you can either spread the mashed potatoes over the stew right in the skillet (as I do) or assemble the layers in a separate casserole dish for baking.

What you’ll need To Make Shepherd’s Pie

How To Make Shepherd’s Pie

Before starting with the mashed potatoes, it’s important to tenderize the beef. To do so, place the beef, baking soda, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 tablespoon of water in a medium bowl.

how to make shepherd's pie

Mash with your hand to combine, and set aside for 20 minutes. As it rests, the baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and making the beef tender.

how to make shepherd's pie

While the meat tenderizes, place the potatoes in medium saucepan and add enough cold water just to cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes. The potatoes should be soft and fork-tender.

how to make shepherd's pie

Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan.

how to make shepherd's pie

Place the pan over medium heat and stir the potatoes with a wooden spoon or potato masher until they are dry and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

how to make shepherd's pie

Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream, butter, half & half, and the remaining teaspoon of salt.

how to make shepherd's pie

Using a potato masher, stir and mash the potatoes with the other ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Set aside.

how to make shepherd's pie

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat and add the bacon.

how to make shepherd's pie

Cook, stirring frequently, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan.

how to make shepherd's pie

Add the onions and carrots to the bacon fat.

how to make shepherd's pie

Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

how to make shepherd's pie

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

how to make shepherd's pie

Add the wine and increase the heat to high; bring to a boil, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan, until the liquid reduces by about half.

how to make shepherd's pie

Add the flour and stir until dissolved.

how to make shepherd's pie

Add the reserved ground beef mixture, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce.

how to make shepherd's pie

Continue cooking over high heat, breaking the meat apart with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

how to make shepherd's pieAdd the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

how to make shepherd's pie

Add the thyme, pepper, peas, and reserved bacon.

how to make shepherd's pie

Cook to warm the peas, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

how to make shepherd's pie

Dollop the mashed potatoes evenly over the filling.

how to make shepherd's pie

Use a rubber spatula to spread evenly all the way to the edges of the skillet.

how to make shepherd's pie

Drag a fork across the top to make ridges.

how to make shepherd's pie

Place the skillet on a baking sheet or large sheet of foil to catch any drips. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes. (For more color, turn on the broiler and broil for the last 5 minutes, or until the top is golden.)

how to make shepherd's pie

Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Shepherd's Pie

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Shepherd's Pie

The epitome of simple, homey comfort food, shepherd’s pie is a casserole consisting of creamy mashed potatoes atop a rich and bubbly stew.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-in chunks
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 4 oz bacon, diced (about 3 slices thick-cut bacon)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Place the beef, baking soda, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 tablespoon of water in a medium bowl. Mash with your hand to combine. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. While the meat tenderizes, place the potatoes in medium saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are soft and fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and stir the potatoes with a wooden spoon or potato masher until they are dry and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream, butter, half & half, and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Using a potato masher, stir and mash the potatoes with the other ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Set the mashed potatoes aside.
  4. Heat a 12-in oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onions and carrots to the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the wine and increase the heat to high; bring to a boil, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the flour and stir until dissolved. Add the reserved ground beef mixture, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce; continue cooking on high heat, breaking the meat apart with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth; bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the thyme, pepper, peas, and reserved bacon, and cook until the peas are warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  5. Dollop the mashed potatoes evenly over the filling. Use a rubber or offset spatula to spread the potatoes evenly over the stew and all the way to the edges of the skillet. Drag a fork across the top to make ridges. Place the skillet on a baking sheet or large sheet of foil to catch any drips and bake until the filling is hot, the topping is lightly browned, and the edges are bubbly, about 30 minutes. (For more color, turn on the broiler and broil for the last 5 minutes, or until the top is golden.) Sprinkle with chives and serve.
  6. Note: If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the meat mixture to a 2.5-qt casserole dish and then spread the mashed potatoes overtop.
  7. Make-Ahead Instructions: The stew portion of the recipe can be made several days ahead of time and refrigerated. Before assembling the pie, reheat the stew, adding a little broth if necessary if it seems dry. The mashed potatoes should be made right before assembling and baking the pie.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 650
  • Fat: 33 g
  • Saturated fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50 g
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 33 g
  • Sodium: 1243 mg
  • Cholesterol: 122 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I LOVE this recipe. I’ve made it several times and have never had a need to change a thing but lately I’ve been trying to limit my carb intake so when I saw your cauliflower puree recipe I got creative and used that as my topping instead of potatoes for the shepherd’s pie. Delish! Will definitely make this again and for anyone interested, you may want to double the Cauliflower puree recipe if you are subbing for the mashed potatoes. Thanks for all you do!

    • — Alina on May 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! I want to double the shepherd’s pie recipe but wasn’t sure if I would double ALL ingredients. Your recipes are amazing!❤

    • — Grace A Virbitsky on April 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the recipes! Yes, I would double all the ingredients. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 24, 2021
      • Reply
  • Amazing! I’d had Shepherd’s Pie while in London and did not think much of it. But being St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d give it a try and just happened upon this recipe. I’d read the reviews and wanted to see what everyone else was so enthused about. Well…this recipe did not disappoint. I’m not a huge meat lover, but this pie was so delicious I kept wanting to eat more. I only changed one thing. I reduced the amount of salt by half in both the meat/veggie section and the potatoes section. My husband and I were both so happy I did. It was more than plenty salty and not at all under seasoned. I am one that always wants more salt, but in this recipe I didn’t want any. Next time I will double or triple the veggies. I would also like to try shredded or ground chicken. I’ve never cooked with ground lamb. Maybe that would be good too.

    • — Julie on April 18, 2021
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    • Forgot to say I did not have any bacon to cook in the house, but I did have bacon fat and just used what I thought was the correct amount.

      • — Julie on April 18, 2021
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  • Great recipe. Made mistake and made potatoes earlier in day but reheated in microwave to soften them to spread. Also used 1 lb of ground beef and 1/2 lb of ground lamb.

    • — Chris on March 25, 2021
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  • We just thought it was very bland. We made it exactly as the recipe states. It’s out first time trying this dish, so I don’t know if it is usually this bland.

    • — Kimberly Garcia on March 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • Just a quick note – shepherd’s pie is a British “pie” and is traditionally made with left over roast lamb which is then ground or finely chopped. If beef is used, it becomes Cottage Pie. As a Brit, the names reflect two completely different items. Your recipe looks lovely and I will be making it (cottage pie that is). 😊

    • — Laine on March 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! I cannot wait to make this on Sunday. I want to prepare it on Saturday.

    1. You said if you want to make ahead it’s okay for the meat mixture, but do the potatoes just before serving.
    If I do prepare the whole dish (with potatoes) on Saturday, what would be the downside?
    I would take it out of the fridge an hour before baking.

    2. If I don’t use a skillet, what size baking dish, pie dish would you recommend?

    Thanks so much! Ally in New Jersey 🙂

    • — Ally O'Connor on March 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Ally, in answer to your questions:
      1. If you’d prefer to make and assemble the whole thing ahead, I think you can get away with it. I would reheat it in the oven covered with foil until heated through. Once the center is heated through you can remove the foil and let the potatoes brown a bit.
      2. If you don’t use a skillet I think this would work in a 9 x 13“ baking dish or a 2-1/2 quart baking dish. Hope that helps and please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 19, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thanks Jenn!! I will! 🙂

        • — Ally-O on March 22, 2021
        • Reply
  • To celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, I made this shepherd’s pie recipe, and it was a hit! Unfortunately, the bunnies have eaten my chives in my garden, so I had to omit that this time. LOL! Still it was incredibly delicious and way better than any shepherds pie I have eaten in Great Britain!
    Jenn, what would you substitute for the flour if you were going gluten free? I’ve used tapioca flour in the past, but want to get your expert opinion:)

    • — Brenda on March 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed it! Tapioca or a general gluten-free flour are both fine here. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Oh my goodness this was amazing. Not easy to make – not a weeknight dish for sure (though I made it on the evening of St. Patrick’s, I would save it for the weekend next time): lots of prep, lots of steps. But it was absolutely delicious and everyone in the family loved it. Even the mashed potato recipe by itself is one I will use again – love the trick of fluffing them up over heat. This is going in the rotation, even if turns out to be only once a year. Eire Go Brach!

    • — Anne Scott on March 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • Best Shepherd’s Pie we’ve ever eaten and we’ve been making it every year for many years. Made it exactly as the recipe was given and wouldn’t change a thing. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    • — Lorie Greene on March 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • My question concerns the onions used in your shepherds pie, which is the best I’ve ever made! I want to make this for a friend whose cancer treatment does not allow onions. Is there a replacement I can use that will enhance the flavor? Thank you!

    • — Linda on March 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Linda, Glad you like this! You could replace the onions with additional carrots, celery, or fennel. (Fennel has a licorice-like taste, but it mellows when it’s cooked.) Please LMK how it turns out w/ whatever tweak you make!

      • — Jenn on March 17, 2021
      • Reply
  • Jenn
    I saw where you said that lamb could be substituted for the beef without tenderizing and that the bacon isn’t necessary with lamb. Can I still do the bacon with the lamb?
    Thanks

    • — Laura Pitten on March 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, if you’d like to include bacon, it’s perfectly fine. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 17, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made this last night and my family loved it. It was the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever made. It tastes so authentic ☘️
    Thanks Jen for another fabulous recipe!

    • — Janet on March 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • Best shepherd’s pie ever!

    • — Lorraine Rossi Marier on March 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Love all your recipes but this is labor intensive and took me an hour and 45 minutes prep time. It’s delicious but 30 minutes prep time might be an under-estimate.

    • — Karen Lynch on March 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Karen, Thanks for your feedback on this, and sorry that it took you so much longer than the recipe indicated. I increased the prep time a bit.

      • — Jenn on March 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • Could I use a cast iron skillet to cook this in?

    • — Janet on March 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • Yum. The seasoning was just right. You give great instructions. I love, love, love your recipes. Thank you for doing such a great job.

    • — Kim on March 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the best I’ve ever had…family devoured it! All of your recipes have been so good…thanks!

    • — Joyce on February 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn!

    I have subscribed to a lot of ‘recipe email feeds’ the past year, given that I am home all the time and have a lot more time to cook, but yours is by far my favorite! I have made Shepherds Pie many times, several different ways, and used your recipe last night. What a Hit! The family loved it. I’ve never made the pie in my stainless steel pan in the oven, but did so last night; so much easier than dirtying another pan! I actually used ground turkey instead of beef, and it turned out amazing. Just a thought for those that want to try something different!

    Thanks again for all the great recipes!
    Vinny

    • — Vincent M Tarantino on February 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you’ve been enjoying the recipes! 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made this yesterday and my husband was in heaven. Had about a cup of frozen corn lurking in my freezer so I added that too. This just epitomizes comfort food at its best.

    • — Karen Gaylin on February 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • One of the best Shepard’s pie recipes, nice depth of flavors.

    • — Bonnie Caldwell Miller on February 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this yesterday and we all love it ! Everyone is eager to have the left overs tonight , which in this family says it all ! I substituted chicken broth for the wine but did everything else exactly as written. Another terrific recipe from Once Upon a Chef 🙂

    • — Terri Milloy on February 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have never been a huge fan of shepards pie, until now! This was so delicious. The rich flavor of the meat was fantastic. Made the meat and potatoes the day before and assembled prior to baking. Served with a salad of boston lettuce, shaved carrots, carrot greens, almonds & honey mustard orange vinaigrette. Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe!

    • — Denise on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • This Sheperd’s pie is the absolute best ever!
    My family loved it, it is added to the family favourites cookbook.
    Thank you Jen for another wonderful tasting and easy to make recipe.

    • — Louise Hale on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • You have become my “go-to” chef for recipes when looking for something new. I gave this a try, as my hubby loves Shepherd’s Pie and I’ve tried to wing it by making one. Couple of fails, so gave this a try and followed your recipe to the T.
    Epic success –it turned out so delicious and the presentation was as good as your photos. Juicy, but NOT greasy, full of flavor –just the right amount of seasonings. Thanks again, Jenn, for sharing a winner with me.

    • — Cheryl Middleditch on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    First I want to say your blog has become my ‘go to place’ when I’m looking for a new recipe!
    I love how you give explanations and tell the science behind the steps you take!

    Second, I’ve been cooking (lots) for over 50 years and still enjoy learning a new recipe. Having said that – I consider a recipe a ‘jumping off place’ to start. Sort of a suggestion. This being said, I tried very hard to stick to your exact recipe. It was delicious and a perfect ‘comfort food’ for a cold weather day. I did add some sliced celery with the carrots and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese (grated) over to potatoes. This recipe is a keeper!

    • — Deb Jensen on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • Yes, it tastes so good! Only variation was the meat. I went with vegan substitute. Still very tasty.

    • — Rafael Araya on February 2, 2021
    • Reply

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