Shepherd’s Pie

December 15, 2019

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Comforting Shepherd’s Pie! This incredibly hearty, restaurant worthy shepherd’s pie recipe does not disappoint! A flavorful beef, veggie and gravy filling is made in a cast iron pan and layered with fluffy, perfectly creamy mashed potatoes and then it’s broiled until golden brown.

This is how you do chilly day dinners!

Close up image of Shepard's Pie in a cast iron skillet.

The Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

I made shepherd’s pie (AKA Cottage Pie) FIVE times this week to perfect it and I’d have to say I don’t know that it could get any better! This has honestly got to be the coziest meal-in-one out there. And while it may not be the fastest easiest dinner it’s worth every minute of prep and patience!

Hearty ground beef is browned and seasoned with aromatics including fresh veggies and herbs, then red wine and beef broth are added and it’s simmered and reduced to a light gravy. And then comes my favorite part – its topped and finished with the most heavenly mashed potatoes!

Overhead image of shepherd's pie in a cast iron skillet.

Broiled vs. Baking

One thing I found it testing that there was no point in baking the layered pie at high temperatures up to 30 minutes, rather a quick broil kept the potatoes from drying out and the beef filling from scorching and getting tough.

Both the filling and potatoes are freshly cooked and hot so this method only made sense, plus it’s faster this way.

It’s also nice to bake the pie in the same pan the filling is cooked in rather than transferring to a baking dish, this way you save cleaning up one extra pan.

A Comfort Food Classic!

You’ll love that this is just old fashioned, cast iron cooked, classic comfort food that reminds you of home.

If you like shepherd’s pie then don’t hesitate to try this recipe! You’ll learn all the tips and tricks to perfecting it and it’s likely to become a new family favorite!

Image showing ingredients that go into shepherd's pie.

Ingredients in Shepherd’s Pie

  • Russet potatoes: I love the fluffiness of the russet potatoes but if you prefer Yukon gold or red potatoes could be substituted.
  • Butter: salted or unsalted butter works great in this recipe.
  • Half and half: if you don’t have access to half and half use 2 1/2 Tbsp milk and 2 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream.
  • Sour cream: buttermilk may be substituted.
  • Salt and pepper: add this to taste. I like to wait until sauce has reduced to finish seasoning (because the salt in the broth will become more concentrated in flavor).
  • Yellow onion, carrots, celery and garlic: these aromatics add key background flavor to the dish.
  • Lean ground beef: only use lean beef in this recipe. If it’s too fatty it will just be a greasy mess. Also follow my notes about dabbing up excess grease with paper towels to ensure the gravy has a nice clean finish. Ground lamb will work great in this recipe too, just use what you prefer.
  • Tomato paste: this pairs perfectly with the beefy flavors of the dish and also adds a faint sweetness to balance things out.
  • Flour: just use standard all-purpose flour. This helps thicken up the gravy.
  • Fresh rosemary, thyme and parsley: if you’d prefer not to pay the price for fresh then dried may be substituted. Use 1/3 the amounts listed.
  • Dry red wine: if you don’t have wine on hand you can just use more beef broth.
  • Low-sodium beef broth: be sure to use low-sodium because again the salt flavor becomes more concentrated once broth is reduced. Low-sodium chicken broth may be substituted.
  • Worcestershire sauce: this adds great depth of flavor to the sauce mixture, don’t omit it. And remember little goes a long way.
  • Frozen peas: I usually like to use petite peas for best flavor but I didn’t have any on hand. The bigger aren’t as sweet and tender.

Image of steps showing how to boil and prepare mashed potatoes.

How to Make the Best Shepherd’s Pie

To make the mashed potatoes:

  • Add potatoes to pot with water: Place potatoes in a medium pot or large saucepan. Cover with water by 1-inch and season water with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook potatoes until tender: Let gently boil until potatoes are fully tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 – 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under hot water for about 5 seconds to remove excess starches (which could make potatoes gluey).
  • Rice Potatoes: Drain potatoes then pass through a food mill or potato ricer into same pot (alternatively you can just mash with a potato masher).
  • Stir with liquid ingredients: Melt 5 Tbsp butter and add to potatoes along with half and half and sour cream. Stir just to combine while seasoning with salt to taste. Cover and set aside if filling isn’t yet complete.

Image showing steps of making ground beef filling for shepherd's pie.

To make beef filling (do this step while potatoes are cooking):

  • Saute veggies: Melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter in a 12-inch (and deep) cast iron skillet. Add onion, carrots, celery and saute until nearly soft, about6 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.
  • Cook beef: Add ground beef in chunks and cook and break up beef until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. If you find there’s lots of excess fat then dab some up using balled up paper towels held by tongs (leave 1 – 2 Tbsp rendered fat).
  • Add thickeners: Add flour and tomato paste and saute 1 minute.
  • Pour in liquids, let reduce: Pour in red wine, beef broth, Worcestershire, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until reduced by about 2/3 (and alcohol scent has cooked off), about 8 – 10 minutes.
  • Add remaining greens: Stir in peas and parsley and heat through, about 1 minute. Season filling with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Assemble shepherd’s pie: Spread beef filling into an even layer. Dollop spoonfuls of mashed potatoes evenly over top then spread into an even layer (alternately you can pipe potatoes over filling using a resealable bag or piping bag fitted with a star tip for designs).
  • Decorate: Run a fork along top in rows to create a wavy pattern.
  • Bake: Move oven rack about 5-inches below broiler and preheat broiler to high. Transfer to oven and let broil until golden brown on top about 4 – 6 minutes (keep a close on it as every oven varies).
  • Rest: Let rest a few minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Showing how to spread mashed potatoes over and decorate shepherd's pie topping with a fork.

Can I Use Left Over Mashed Potatoes?

If you have some leftover mashed potatoes to use up then yes you can use those instead. Just keep in mind the fluffiest, best tasting mashed potatoes will be those that are made fresh.

Can I Make Shepherd’s Pie in Advance?

Yes it can be made in advance but keep in mind you won’t want to store it in the cast iron pan as it will cause rusting, instead:

  • Assemble the pie in a baking dish or casserole dish.
  • Cover and refrigerate.
  • The following day remove from the fridge while the oven preheats to 350 degrees.
  • Bake covered with foil about 25 – 30 minutes until heated through, then broil closer to broiler element to brown the topping.

Shepherd's Pie

Tips for Homemade Shepherd’s Pie:

  • Use a potato rice or food mill versus just mashing the potatoes if you’d like silky smooth, lump-free potatoes.
  • If possible use red wine for a robust finish.
  • Use lean beef and dab up excess fat so dish isn’t overly greasy.
  • Avoid cooking in a glass dish as it may shatter under the heat of the broiler. If you don’t own a cast iron pan use another deep oven safe pan or a metal or ceramic baking dish.

Cut serving of shepherd's pie on a serving plate.

More Beef and Potato Recipes You’ll Love:

Shepherd's Pie

5 from 10 votes

This incredibly hearty, restaurant worthy, comforting shepherd's pie recipe does not disappoint! A flavorful beef, veggie and gravy filling is made in a cast iron pan and layered with fluffy, perfectly creamy mashed potatoes and then it's broiled until golden brown.

Servings: 6
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 6 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup half and half or cream, then a little more if needed
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 large celery rib, thinly diced (1/2 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (1 Tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (85 - 93% lean), or ground lamb
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (or more beef broth)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Instructions

To Make Mashed Potatoes

  1. Add potatoes to pot with water: Place potatoes in a medium pot or large saucepan. Cover with water by 1-inch and season water with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

  2. Cook potatoes until tender: Let gently boil until potatoes are fully tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 - 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under hot water for about 5 seconds to remove excess starches (which can make potatoes gluey).

  3. Rice Potatoes: Drain potatoes then pass through a food mill or potato ricer into same pot*.

  4. Stir with liquid ingredients: Melt 5 Tbsp butter and add to potatoes along with half and half and sour cream. Stir just to combine while seasoning with salt to taste and adding an extra 1 -2 Tbsp half and half to thin if needed. Cover and set aside if filling isn't yet complete.

To Make Beef Filling (prepare while potatoes cook)

  1. Saute veggies: Melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter in a 12-inch (and deep) cast iron skillet. Add onion, carrots, celery and saute until nearly soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.

  2. Cook beef: Add ground beef in chunks and cook and break up beef until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. If you find there's lots of excess fat then dab some up using balled up paper towels held by tongs (leave 1 - 2 Tbsp rendered fat).

  3. Add thickeners: Add flour and tomato paste and saute 1 minute.

  4. Pour in liquids, let reduce: Pour in red wine, beef broth, Worcestershire, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until reduced by about 2/3 (and alcohol scent has cooked off), about 8 - 10 minutes.

  5. Add remaining greens: Stir in peas and parsley and heat through, about 1 minute. Season filling with salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Assemble shepard's pie: Spread beef filling into an even layer. Dollop spoonfuls of mashed potatoes evenly over top then spread into an even layer**.

  7. Decorate: Run a fork along top to create a pattern of wavy rows.

  8. Bake: Move oven rack about 5-inches below broiler and preheat broiler to high. Transfer to oven and let broil until golden brown on top about 4 - 6 minutes (keep a close on it as every oven varies).

  9. Rest: Let rest a few minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Recipe Notes

  • *Alternatively you can just mash with a potato masher they just won't be perfectly smooth.
  • *Rather than spooning potatoes you can pipe potatoes over filling using a resealable bag with the corner cut or you can make a design with potatoes using a piping bag fitted with a star shaped piping tip.

Possible Variations:

  • Add other vegetables like mushrooms and zucchini. If doing so brown beef separately. And transfer mixture to a metal or ceramic baking dish since it won't all fit in the cast iron pan.
  • Sprinkle potatoes with parmesan cheese before broiling for extra flavor.
  • Want even richer potatoes? Use heavy cream in place of half and half.
Nutrition Facts
Shepherd's Pie
Amount Per Serving
Calories 568 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Fat 27g42%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Cholesterol 115mg38%
Sodium 408mg18%
Potassium 1583mg45%
Carbohydrates 47g16%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 31g62%
Vitamin A 4352IU87%
Vitamin C 28mg34%
Calcium 103mg10%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Shepards Pie
Author: Jaclyn