Classic Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Classic shepherd's pie is kind of an ironic dish. It is inspired by the simple, hearty meals a shepherd might bring along out to the fields to keep himself full and nourished during a long day, yet today, many people view the dish as anything but simple and are intimidated by it, preferring to leave the meal as a restaurant-only affair. Once you see how easy it is to make a great shepherd's pie, though, you'll add the dish to the regular family menu. It's a crowd pleasing favorite that even picky eaters will enjoy and that packs in protein, veggies, starch, and of course, plenty of flavor.

Shepherd's pie is also a great dish because it can be made with such easy-to-find ingredients. Chef and recipe developer Nathaniel Lee of Beginner Food says: "I prefer lamb in my shepherd's pie for the flavor, but it is not always easily obtained," thus the common use of ground beef we're showcasing here. But don't think those are your only choices, either. You can use a vegan-friendly ground meat alternative, black beans, cooked and minced seitan, or a number of other substitutes as well. 

Whether you're cooking up a special dinner for St. Patrick's Day or Christmas or you just want to make a meal you know the kids will eat, you'll be doing it right with this meal.

Gather your ingredients for this classic shepherd's pie

Provided you have a large enough baking dish (or Dutch oven) or you want to break the classic shepherd's pie into a couple different dishes, you can easily scale up this recipe to serve a large party of diners. As measured here, you'll have adequate servings for four to six people, depending on their appetites.

You'll need two medium russet potatoes, a pound of ground beef or ground lamb, one yellow onion, diced, one cup of peas, one cup of carrots, diced, one cup of cheddar cheese, shredded, a pinch of rosemary and a pinch of thyme, a half cup of breadcrumbs, two tablespoons of olive oil, and two heavy pinches of salt.

Boil water, prep veggies, and pre-heat your oven for this classic shepherd's pie

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and toss in a pinch of salt. Then wash and cut the potatoes into quarters — you don't have to peel them, you'll do that later. Once the water is boiling, place the potatoes into the pot.

Now, wash and peel the carrots, then chop them roughly. Then, dice the onions and, if need be, mince the thyme and rosemary. (If you are using frozen peas, now is the time to thaw them with warm running water, by the way.) Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook veggies and the meat, then add herbs to your classic shepherd's pie

In a large sauté pan cook, heat the olive oil over a medium to high heat, then cook the onions and carrots, tossing in a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until the onions start to brown and caramelize, which will take about ten minutes.

Now, add the ground beef (or lamb) for your classic shepherd's pie and cook, stirring often, until it browns, which takes about five minutes. Next, toss in your minced herbs (the rosemary and thyme) and stir well, cooking everything for about another five minutes. Finally, add the peas, stir, and then turn off stove.

Layer in the filling, mash the potatoes, and make this classic shepherd's pie

Layer the meat and vegetables into a casserole dish that has been lightly greased, ideally with olive oil. Now, remove the potatoes from the boiling water (assuming they have been allowed to boil for at least 20 minutes) and let them cool for five to ten minutes. Then, remove the skin and mash the potatoes. 

Of this whole classic shepherd's pie recipe, Lee says: "Biggest challenge: mashing the potatoes. I like using a sieve for the smoothest potatoes, but you can use a ricer or mash them by hand with a spoon. Either way, it's a bit of a workout, but do not blend or beat russet potatoes!"

Spoon the mashed potatoes over the meat filling.

Top your classic shepherd's pie and bake

Make sure the mashed potatoes are spread out in an even layer, and then top the dish with evenly spread-out cheese and breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs are not essential, but they do add a nice crisp, toasty layer — plus, they make a great-looking dinner.

Bake the prepared shepherd's pie at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until cheese is browned and the filling is bubbling. Finally, pull the classic shepherd's pie out of the oven and let it rest for at least ten minutes before you serve and enjoy!

And if you want to make extra work for yourself but impress your guests (or family), you can always build individual servings of shepherd's pie in oven-safe ramekins and serve it right like that.

Classic Shepherd's Pie Recipe
5 from 31 ratings
Whether you're cooking up a special dinner or you want to make a meal you know the kids will eat, you'll be doing it right with this classic shepherd's pie.
Prep Time
Cook Time
classic shepherd's pie
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup cheddar, shredded
  • Rosemary pinch
  • Thyme pinch
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heavy pinches salt
Optional Ingredients
  • Breadcrumbs
  1. Boil a large pot of water and a pinch of salt, and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash and cut potatoes into quarters and place in boiling water.
  3. Wash and peel carrots, and dice onions and carrots.
  4. In a large sauté pan, cook onions and carrots in olive oil with a pinch of salt at medium-high until the onions caramelize, which takes about 10 minutes.
  5. Add beef and brown for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add herbs and cook 5 minutes more, then add peas and turn off stove.
  7. Layer the beef and veggie filling into a casserole dish.
  8. Remove the potatoes from the boiling water after 20 minutes and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
  9. Remove skin and mash the potatoes in a bowl, then spoon mashed potatoes over the meat filling.
  10. Top with cheese and breadcrumbs, then bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese is browned.
Calories per Serving 654
Total Fat 40.0 g
Saturated Fat 15.2 g
Trans Fat 1.7 g
Cholesterol 109.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 40.4 g
Dietary Fiber 5.2 g
Total Sugars 6.4 g
Sodium 458.8 mg
Protein 32.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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