How To Make Shepherd's Pie
Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, shows you how to make her recipe for hearty shepherd's pie, with loads of how-to tips along the way. But first, a few words about shepherd's pie, because that's how we roll.
What is Shepherd's Pie?
Think of a deep-dish casserole filled with ground or minced meat, savory gravy, and chopped vegetables, all topped with mashed potatoes and baked until bubbling hot inside and golden brown across the top. This classic comfort food dish goes by different names in various countries where you'll find local versions of shepherd's pie: "hachis Parmentier" in France or "pastel de papas" in Chile, for example. You'll also find it called "cottage pie," but we'll get into that next.
What's the Difference Between Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie?
Shepherd's pie was originally called cottage pie back in the 18th century in Ireland and the United Kingdom as a way to describe a dish made by frugal cottage dwellers to use up leftovers. These days, the two terms are often used interchangeably, but in general, shepherd's pie is made with lamb and cottage pie is made with beef. The mashed potato topper could be replaced with mashed turnips or other root vegetables, or even with a pastry crust (at which point we're getting into pot pie territory).
Related: Our Top 10 Shepherd's Pie Recipes
How to Make Shepherd's Pie
Nicole makes her recipe with both lamb and ground beef for a more nuanced flavor. You can make shepherd's pie completely from scratch, or you can be true to its culinary roots and use up leftover meats and vegetables in your filling and top it with leftover mashed potatoes (a great excuse to make extras). Just make sure you bind the filling with gravy or sauce so you get that perfect bite every time.
Get the recipe for Nicole's Traditional Shepherd's Pie.
- 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup milk
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, divided
- 1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 pound ground beef sirloin
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or to taste
- Place potatoes in large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and place pot over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain.
- Return potatoes to the hot pan and set over the same burner. Add milk and 2 tablespoons butter; allow butter to melt from the residual heat. Mash potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Stir in Cheddar cheese, sour cream, egg yolk, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish.
- Heat olive oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring constantly, until onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add lamb and beef and cook, crumbling with a spoon and stirring often until browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle meat mixture with flour, remaining salt and pepper, rosemary, and thyme. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Add beef stock, tomato paste, and Worcestershire; cook, scraping any flavorful bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring mixture to a simmer. Cook until thickened and vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in peas. Transfer mixture to the prepared casserole dish and top with the prepared mashed potatoes.
- Bake in the preheated oven until golden and bubbly around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Top Tips from Nicole
- This recipe could be made easier and quicker for a weeknight dinner by using two packages of refrigerated mashed potatoes instead of making your own! You can always add the cheese, sour cream, egg yolk, and seasonings to make them taste more homemade.
- You could incorporate more veggies by using frozen mixed vegetables instead of only peas.
- When your filling is done, you could simply mound the potatoes over it and finish the dish in the oven. But for a nicer presentation, Nicole transfers the filling to a casserole dish first. You do you. Just make sure your skillet is oven-safe. (Hello, cast iron!)
- Nicole likes to keep her mashed potato crust looking rustic rather than smoothed out so the peaks get baked to a crusty brown.
More tips, tricks, and ideas from Nicole: