Shepherd’s Pie

Close up of spoon scooping Shepherd's Pie out of a white baking dish, fresh out of the oven

Shepherd’s Pie is the sort of food that brings a smile to everyone’s face! That saucy, deeply flavourful filling, that creamy potato topping, and that awesome golden cheese crust.…

While Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with lamb, beef is just as tasty in this recipe. This is a timeless classic – make this once and you’ll make it over and over again!

Close up of spoon scooping Shepherd's Pie out of a white baking dish, fresh out of the oven

When I shared my Cottage Pie on Facebook, there was almost an all out cyber-war about whether it was in fact Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie. 😂

So let me just answer the burning question first, to get that out of the way:


Cottage Pie is made with beef and Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb.

Shepherds herd sheep. Not cows. That’s how I remember it!!

Other than beef vs lamb, they are essentially exactly the same recipe.

So a Shepherd’s Pie made with beef is Cottage Pie, and Cottage Pie made with lamb is Shepherd’s Pie!

Shepherd's Pie in a rustic bowl with a spoon, ready to be eaten

SHEPHERD’S PIE – a timeless classic

If you’re new to Shepherd’s Pie, let me be the first to welcome you to your new favourite comfort food. Essentially, it’s lamb and veggies smothered in a gravy – and who doesn’t love an excuse for tons and tons of gravy? All those times you were limited to just a small drizzle on a few slices of roast lamb because there wasn’t enough to go around… Bah! This is how you get your gravy fix!!

Preparation steps for Shepherd's Pie

How to make Shepherd’s Pie

A really good Shepherd’s Pie should always start with a soffrito – that is, onion, garlic, carrots and celery sautéed on a lowish heat until sweet. It’s the secret to a great flavour base that’s a technique used widely by many cuisines, such as Italian cooking (for example, this Italian Shredded Beef Ragu).

After this, we cook the ground / mince meat – traditionally lamb but equally delicious made with beef – before adding flour (which thickens the sauce) and gravy flavourings (beef broth, tomato paste, beef bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce and red wine which is optional).

Simmer until the sauce is thickened, spread in a baking dish then top with creamy mashed potato (the creamier = easier to spread). To make the top beautifully golden and extra crispy, I like to drizzle with a bit of butter and parmesan. You’ll see how amazing it looks when it comes out of the oven in the recipe video!

How to make Shepherd's Pie

Tips for making Shepherd’s Pie

There are a few stages to making Shepherd’s Pie, but it’s a straightforward recipe. There’s just two little things that you don’t see in most recipes, little things that bugged me:

Cool the filling before topping with potato: It thickens and makes it easier to spread the potato across the top and it stops the potato weeping into the filling;
Creamier mashed potato = easier to spread and just an all round better eating experience. I just don’t like dry, very firm mash. When I break through the mash, I want it to be borderline collapsing, rather than being able to cut cleanly through it like cake.

I stress again – these are little things that bug me, so feel free to by-pass them! – Nagi x

PS One last time – Cottage Pie is made with beef. Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb! 😂 (Shepherd’s herd SHEEP!)


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Overhead photo of spoon scooping Shepherd's Pie out of baking dish, fresh out of the oven.

Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Sometimes it helps to have a visual, so watch me make this Shepherd’s Pie recipe!

Shepherd's Pie

Recipe video above. Shepherd’s Pie is one of those foods that brings a smile to everyone’s face – especially when you get seconds! While it’s traditionally made with lamb, this is equally delicious made with beef (and makes it a Cottage Pie!) Terrific make ahead! GF option in Note 4.

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves (, minced)
1 onion (, finely chopped)
1 carrot (, finely chopped)
1 rib celery (, finely chopped)
3/4 tsp each dried thyme and rosemary ((or 2 sprigs fresh thyme + 1 sprig rosemary))
750 g / 1.5 lb ground lamb (mince) OR beef
¼ cup / 35g flour (, plain/all purpose)
¼ cup / 55g tomato paste
2 cups / 500 ml beef stock / broth
1/2 cup / 125 ml red wine ((or water))
1 beef bouillon cube (, crumbled)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 dried bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas

Mashed Potato

1.2 kg / 2.2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" cubes
2/3 cup / 165 ml milk ((whole or low fat))
2 tbsp / 30g butter


2 – 3 tbsp grated parmesan (, optional)
2 tbsp / 30g butter (, melted)
Fresh thyme leaves, optional garnish

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Then add carrots, celery, thyme and rosemary. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened and sweet.

Turn heat up to high. Add lamb and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.

Add flour and mix in. Add tomato paste, broth, red wine, bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir well.

Bring to simmer, then turn down heat so it is simmering rapidly – I have it on medium. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces down to a thick gravy consistency (Note 1) (see video).

Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Transfer Filling to 1.5 litre / quart pie baking dish. Stir through peas. Cover, then refrigerate to cool for 1 – 2 hours or overnight (optional, Note 2)


Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain then return to pot on turned off stove. Allow to steam dry for 30 seconds or so (Note 3).

Add butter and mash until melted, then add milk, salt and pepper. Mash until it’s soft and smooth (ie spreadable, but not sloppy), adjusting with a touch more milk if required.

Spread mash onto pie, use a fork to draw squiggles over the surface. Sprinkle with parmesan, drizzle with butter.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until deep golden on top and bubbling on the edges. Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.

Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh thyme leaves if desired.

* Carrots and celery are used to make a truly great mirepoix / soffrritto flavour base for this pie. However, they can be omitted, but add 1 tsp of sugar instead.

1. Whatever the thickness of the sauce when you pour it into the dish, that’s what it will be once baked – no steam escapes while baking to allow it to reduce any further. So keep cooking until it’s the consistency you want – you don’t want it too runny otherwise it’s like lamb soup! 

2. Cooling the filling ensures that the potato doesn’t weep into the filling and makes it much easier to spread. If you are in a rush – as I often am – pop it in the freezer while you make the potato. That works pretty well.

3. Watery potatoes drops excess liquid into the filling which makes the sauce watery and can make the potatoes weep into the filling. So don’t skip the step of steam drying the potatoes! Also, make sure the mash is hot when spreading onto the pie. Cold mash is hard and impossible to spread.

4. Variations: If I’m making this for company or am on a calorie-blow-out mission, I add a big handful of cheese into the potato (cheddar, tasty, gruyere, Monterey Jack). It doesn’t need it, it’s a bonus. 🙂

For the filling, sometimes I reduce the amount of lamb and add chopped veggies like zucchini and spinach (frozen thawed or fresh).

GLUTEN FREE OPTION: Skip the flour. Use 2 tbsp of cornflour / cornstarch, mix with a splash of water. Stir into the sauce at step 4, it will thicken as it heats.

5. Make ahead instructions: Fabulous for making ahead. Assemble pie but don’t bake it. Once cool, then either refrigerate or freeze. Thaw if frozen (it will take way too long to bake from frozen) then bake as per recipe.

6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 6 servings.

Originally published June 2018. Updated for housekeeping matters January 2019 – no change to recipe.


Flashback to when Dozer destroyed his ACL (rear knee) back when I first shared this recipe in June 2018. He underwent surgery and was 2 weeks into a 4 month recovery period, and under strict instructions to remain confined to a small space.

It was very challenging for this highly active dog. But his patience was rewarded, and I’m happy to report that 6 months on, he is back to his wild antics at the beach!

Dozer the golden retriever confined to a play pen

The post Shepherd’s Pie appeared first on RecipeTin Eats.

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