This Shepherd’s Pie recipe has a rich gravy with lamb and vegetables under creamy mashed potatoes, all baked in one pan for a satisfying family dinner that everyone loves. It's an Irish classic!

a hand holding a spoonful of shepherds pie above the cast iron skillet


Table of Contents
  1. What is Shepherd's Pie?
  2. We Love this Recipe for Shepherd's Pie
  3. Traditional Shepherd's Pie Recipe Ingredients
  4. Shepherd's Pie Recipe substitutions
  5.  How to make Shepherd's Pie
  6. Tips for making The Best Shepherd's Pie Recipe
  7. Variations of Shepherd's Pie
  8. What to serve with Traditional Shepherd's Pie
  9. Storing this Traditional Shepherd's Pie Recipe
  10. More like this Traditional Shepherd’s Pie
  11. More Irish Recipes
  12. Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Recipe Recipe

If you have ever had bland shepherd’s pie and thought you didn’t particularly care for the dish, prepare to have a total change of heart. Our recipe is easy to make and has the best flavor of any version I have ever tried thanks to using real ground lamb and a few flavor enhancers like just the right amount of herbs & spices to make the filling come to life! No other version on the internet can match the savory deliciousness of this shepherd’s pie recipe and it’s sure to be a new family favorite that will be a keeper for years to come!

We LOVE Irish foods and I like to make them to celebrate my Irish heritage. Other favorites that we make are Irish Apple Cake and Classic Corned Beef and Cabbage.

An image of shepherd's pie made in a cast iron skillet with creamy mashed potatoes on top.
An image of a serving of authentic shepherd's pie made with lamb, vegetables, and mashed potatoes on a plate.

What is Shepherd's Pie?

Shepherd's pie got its name because of the lamb in the dish and the shepherds who cared for them. Lamb was a popular protein source in Ireland and even though this "pie" doesn't have a traditional pastry crust, it's a similar approach where a filling made with a rich, gravy, vegetables, and ground lamb is covered with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes as the top "crust". 

The whole thing is then baked until hot and bubbling and the potato topping is golden brown.

An image of classic shepherd's pie, a traditional Irish recipe, made with ground lamb, vegetables, a rich gravy, and creamy mashed potatoes on top.

We Love this Recipe for Shepherd's Pie

We don't usually eat shepherd's pie on St. Patrick's Day, but that's only because it's so easy and so good that we want to eat it year round! It's delicious for Sunday dinner or comforting weeknight fare, especially when the weather is cold.

Paul has said it's one of his favorite things I make. We may have fought over who got the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Our kids love it too. It’s one of those magical foods that they gobble up without a word of protest on their part or any need for coaxing or encouragement from us to get them to clean their plates. Granted, our kids are good eaters, but this kind of enthusiasm for dinner is next level for them.

This really is the best shepherd's pie recipe and it's one I hope you will turn to again and again to feed your family.

A big helping of Irish Shepherd's Pie is the perfect thing to enjoy on St. Patrick's Day or any cold weather day of the year.

Traditional Shepherd's Pie Recipe Ingredients

  • Vegetables - Onion, carrots, garlic, frozen peas, and corn
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Ground Lamb
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tomato Paste
  • Herbs - Fresh rosemary and thyme
  • Spices - Red pepper flakes and nutmeg
  • Flour
  • Beef Broth
  • Potatoes
  • Heavy cream & butter

Shepherd's Pie Recipe substitutions

  • Protein: If you don’t have ground lamb, you can substitute ground beef, ground bison, or even ground turkey.
  • Mashed Potatoes: If you are looking for a lower carb option, mashed cauliflower might be a good fit for this dish.
  • Vegetables: Chopped green beans or a frozen vegetable mix with green beans or lima beans would be good in this dish also.
An image of classic shepherd's pie, a traditional Irish recipe, made with ground lamb, vegetables, a rich gravy, and creamy mashed potatoes on top.

 How to make Shepherd's Pie

  1. Start by preparing the filling. In a cast-iron skillet or other large pan, saute chopped onion in a little oil for 5 minutes until soft, adding in some minced garlic in the last 30 seconds or so.
  2. Add the carrots and cook another 5 minutes to soften slightly.
  3. Push the carrots and onions to the side of the pan (or transfer to a plate) and add the ground lamb, stirring and breaking it up until browned. Then season with the salt and pepper and mix the vegetables and browned lamb together.
  4. Add Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Then sprinkle the flour over the top and stir that in as well, cooking for 1 minute. 
  5. Add the peas, corn, and beef broth and stir until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. Make the mashed potatoes by peeling the potatoes and cutting them into small chunks. Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil for 12-15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  7. Drain the water from the potatoes and add some warmed cream, butter, and salt. Mash the potatoes (or use a potato ricer if you have one), then use to top the lamb and vegetable filling, spreading all the way to the edges. I like to make sure not to make this too smooth because the ridges and bumps of roughly spread mashed potatoes will get golden brown while the shepherd's pie bakes in the oven and it's so good that way!
  8. Transfer the shepherd's pie to a 375 degree F oven and bake for 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and hot and the potatoes are starting to turn golden brown on top.
  9. Cool for 10-15 minutes before eating.

Making this Recipe for Shepherd's Pie in advance

For a make-ahead version, you can cook both the filling and the mashed potatoes 1-2 days ahead and assemble it, then refrigerate until ready to bake.

Shepherd’s pie even freezes well and can be cooled, then covered tightly with foil and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake according to the regular instructions, or it can even be baked straight from frozen by adding an extra 30 minutes to the bake time.

An image of the best shepherd's pie recipe being made step--by-step, first sauteing onions and carrots, then adding ground lamb and browning it in the same skillet.
An image of the steps for how to make Irish shepherd's pie with lamb for St. Patrick's Day.
An image of the best shepherd's pie filling in a cast iron pan, ready to be topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until hot and bubbly.
An image of mashed potatoes on top of a savory lamb filling for a classic shepherd's pie recipe.

Tips for making The Best Shepherd's Pie Recipe

  • Let the filling cool before topping with the potatoes. This helps the mashed potato layer stay a little more distinct.
  • If you don't have beef broth on hand, you can absolutely substitute chicken broth and it will work just as well.
  • Add either 3-4 tablespoons of horseradish to the mashed potatoes for an extra kick of flavor that, while not traditional, is still super delicious!
  • Sprinkle 1 cup of cheddar cheese (either white cheddar or an orange sharp cheddar) on top before baking for another non-traditional but tasty variation on shepherd's pie.
  • If you don't have an oven-safe cast-iron skillet, you can make the filling in a pan and then transfer it to a square baking dish. I just love using my cast-iron skillet because it means one less pan to wash, and I like the rustic presentation it gives to serve the shepherd's pie this way on the table.
  • Some people prefer to transfer their mashed potatoes to a piping bag fitted with a piping tip and pipe the potatoes on for a decorative finish. I kind of prefer the rustic approach of spoon-made swirls instead.
  • Place a baking sheet underneath the shepherd's pie in the oven to catch any spillover while baking.
An image of a baked shepherd's pie in a cast in pan ready for serving with creamy swirls of golden brown mashed potatoes on top.

Variations of Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie is a classic British dish traditionally made with ground lamb or mutton, vegetables, and topped with mashed potatoes. However, here are some creative twists you might want to try:

  • Cottage Pie: Similar to Shepherd's Pie but made with ground beef instead of lamb.
  • Vegetarian: Replace the meat with lentils, beans, or a mix of vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, and peas for a hearty vegetarian version.
  • Sweet Potato: Instead of regular mashed potatoes, use mashed sweet potatoes for a slightly sweet and colorful twist.
  • Cheesy: Add cheese to the mashed potato topping or layer it within the meat and vegetable mixture for a gooey, cheesy Shepherd's Pie. This is one of our favorite variations.
  • Spicy: Incorporate spices like cumin, paprika, or chili powder to give your Shepherd's Pie a bit of heat and a unique flavor.
  • With Guinness: Add a splash of Guinness or another stout beer to the meat mixture for a rich and robust flavor.
  • Indian-inspired: Use Indian spices like curry powder, cumin, and coriander in the filling, and top with mashed potatoes or cauliflower mash.

What to serve with Traditional Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie is a hearty and satisfying dish and a complete meal in itself with the veggies, meat, and carb, but there are plenty of side dishes that can complement its flavors. Here are some ideas for what to serve with Shepherd's Pie:

  • Green Salad:
    • A simple green salad with a light vinaigrette can provide a refreshing contrast.
  • Roasted or Steamed Vegetables:
    • Roast a medley of vegetables such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus for a flavorful and colorful side. Steamed broccoli, green beans, or peas are quick and easy side options that add a touch of freshness.
  • Bread or Rolls:
  • Mashed Peas:
    • A simple side of mashed peas with mint can be a tasty and traditional accompaniment.
  • Cranberry Sauce:
    • If you enjoy a touch of sweetness, consider serving cranberry sauce on the side for a contrast in flavors.

If you make shepherd's pie for St. Patrick's Day this year, be sure to enjoy a traditional Irish dessert too! Like sticky toffee pudding or Irish apple cake with custard sauce!

Storing this Traditional Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Allow the Shepherd's Pie to cool to room temperature before storing it. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for 1-2 days.

If you want to freeze leftover shepherd’s pie, first let it cool completely. If you have a large amount of shepherd's pie left over, consider dividing it into smaller, meal-sized portions. This makes it easier to reheat only what you need.

Wrap the entire dish or each portion tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Alternatively, transfer portions to airtight freezer-safe containers. Freeze for up to 2-3 months.

Reheating Shepherd's Pie

If frozen, thaw the Shepherd's Pie in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. This helps maintain the texture and flavor.

To reheat in the oven, preheat your oven to 350°F. Remove any plastic wrap and cover the dish with aluminum foil, then bake until heated through, approximately 30-40 minutes for a full dish, or 15-20 minutes for individual portions.

If reheating individual portions, you can use the microwave instead. Use a microwave-safe dish and cover with a microwave-safe cover or paper towel to prevent splatters. Heat in short intervals, stirring in between, until heated through.

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Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

5 from 8 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Irish
Servings 6 servings
A rich gravy with lamb and vegetables tucked under creamy mashed potatoes make this the BEST Shepherd's Pie recipe.  Ever.  Okay, in my opinion.  But I'm pretty confident about this Irish comfort food classic.

Ingredients
  

Filling

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds ground lamb
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cup beef broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup frozen corn

Topping

  • 3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • ½ cup heavy cream, warmed
  • ¼ cup salted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon salt, more or less, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron pan over medium low heat.  Add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. 
  • Add the carrots to the onions and cook for another 5 minutes.  Transfer the vegetables to a plate or just push off to one side of the pan.
  • In the same pan, add the ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Season with the salt and pepper, then mix the lamb with the vegetables and cook, stirring and continuing to break up the chunks of meat frequently, until the lamb is browned, about 10 minutes.
  • To the lamb and vegetable mixture, add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg.  Stir to combine.  Sprinkle with the flour, then stir in to the meat mixture until evenly dispersed, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the beef broth and cook for 3-5 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Then stir in the frozen peas and corn.  Remove from heat and let cool while working on the mashed potatoes.  Either leave in the cast iron pan, if it is oven safe, or transfer to a square baking dish.
  • Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to cover them by about an inch.  Bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain well.
  • Add the warmed cream, butter, and salt to the potatoes and mash using a potato masher or ricer, then use to top the shepherd's pie filling in either the cast iron pan or a square baking dish, spreading to the edges and leaving craggy swirls on top instead of smoothing out.
  • Bake for 45 minutes at 375°F until hot all the way through and the mashed potatoes on top have nicely browned spots in a few places.  You may want to place a pan under it in case any filling drips out.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Notes

If you don't have fresh rosemary or thyme, you can substitute with 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary or thyme.

Nutrition

Calories: 633kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 130mg | Sodium: 958mg | Potassium: 1051mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 4288IU | Vitamin C: 38mg | Calcium: 84mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. tiffany says:

    A classic shepherds pie has celery but not corn.

  2. Lou says:

    5 stars
    Truly delicious. Will be making again St Patrick's week.

  3. Nicole says:

    5 stars
    Followed this pretty much exactly, however I had a large sweet potato on hand so baked it then mashed it and used it as a mid layer. I used mashed cauliflower instead of regular potato on top. My boyfriend asked me to make a gravy on the side but then agreed that the recipe itself was so flavorful no additional gravy was needed. Will definitely make again but if I was making for guests I would probably portion into crocks so that it served a little more upscale.

  4. Lorraine says:

    How many people would your shephard pie serve

    1. Amy says:

      It easily serves 6 but you could probably serve 8 with a salad or bread or some kind of side like that. Although if we are talking teenage boys or husbands then maybe it's more like 4? We are a family of 4 and usually have enough for 2 people for lunch the next day and we all fight over who gets it. 🙂