Easy Shepherd’s Pie Recipe For a Meaty and Savory Comfort Food Classic

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Shepherd’s pie is a hearty dish of Scottish origin that’s now a classic American staple and the ultimate comfort food, especially during the colder months. Thanks to its simple ingredients, it’s an inexpensive dish that can feed multiple people, making it a home chef’s best friend. What’s more, its speedy, effortless preparation makes it comfort food for those making it as well. Shepherd’s pie is a no-fuss meal home chefs can cook with no intention to impress, but it does its job feeding people and bringing joy in the process.

In this article, we’ll walk you through how to make shepherd’s pie, explain how it’s different from cottage pie, outline some recipe alternatives, and answer some FAQs. If you find you’re missing some ingredients, you can order them here and have them on your doorstep in a matter of minutes. But with ingredients as common as these, they’re likely in your kitchen already. Let’s get started.

Shepherd’s pie recipe

This recipe for shepherd’s pie makes eight servings, takes 20 minutes to prepare, and 30 minutes to cook, with a total time of 50 minutes.

Ingredients

Potato topping

2 pounds potatoes

8 tablespoons butter, divided

3/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Meat filling

1 onion, diced

1.5-2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey

Vegetables

3 cups frozen vegetables such as peas, corn, and diced carrots

Directions

Make the potato topping

  1. Clean and cut potatoes. You can leave the skin or peel them. 
  2. Place them in a large saucepan and fill it with cold water until the potatoes are covered.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15-20 minutes until they’re slightly tender.
  4. Once they’re ready, drain the water from the pot and mash the potatoes with four tablespoons of butter and milk. Make sure to double-check your measurements of milk and butter, as you want firmer mashed potatoes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Joe Gough – stock.adobe.com

Make the meat filling

  1. As the potatoes are cooking, melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and fry the onion until it’s softened, which usually takes about two minutes. 
  2. Stir in the ground beef and sauté until it’s fully cooked but not overcooked. Break it up into smaller pieces as you stir.

Assemble the casserole

  1. Preheat the oven to 425℉.
  2. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, evenly spread the cooked ground meat to cover the bottom.
  3. Next, add your frozen vegetable as the second layer.
  4. For the third layer, spoon the mashed potatoes evenly over top of the other ingredients and smooth them out with the back of your utensil. Leave some ridges in the potatoes or add a ridged pattern using a fork.
  5. Melt and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of butter over the top of the potatoes.
  6. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are golden. For crispier potatoes, bake for 25 minutes and broil for five minutes.
  7. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Nutritional values

Calories: 346

Fat: 17 grams

Saturated fat: 10 grams

Cholesterol: 85 milligrams

Sodium: 210 milligrams

Potassium: 958 milligrams

Carbohydrates: 26 grams

Fiber: 6 grams 

Sugar: 2 grams

Protein: 24 grams

Original recipe: Bowl of delicious

Note: if you’re looking for a shepherd’s pie video or visual, Elizabeth of Bowl of Delicious provides beautiful photos of the process in the link above.

Shepherd’s pie vs. cottage pie 

The difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie is the meat. Despite folks calling this ground beef casserole shepherd’s pie, cottage pie is the dish that traditionally contains ground beef and shepherd’s pie ground lamb. After all, shepherds specialize in, well, shepherding lambs. So technically, this is a cottage pie recipe, but the names are often used interchangeably in America. Across the world, you’ll find many similar dishes such as “pastel de papa” in Chile and “hachis parmentier” in France. You may also get a strange look for calling the beef casserole shepherd’s pie, especially if you happen to be in the United Kingdom and most definitely in Scotland.

Is there a low-carb version?

fkruger – stock.adobe.com

Yes, you can make a low-carb version of shepherd’s pie by using mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Here’s how to make mashed cauliflower.

  1. Cut a medium head of cauliflower into florets and boil until tender in a large saucepan, which takes about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain the water well and remove any excess water by absorbing it with a clean dish towel.
  3. Return it to the pot and mash it using a fork or potato masher.
  4. Add three ounces of cream cheese and a quarter cup of milk. Continue mashing until the ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

How to make a gravy base

Adding a gravy base to your shepherd’s pie is optional. Once the beef mixture is ready, you can do this by sprinkling two tablespoons of flour over the beef. Stir the mixture to coat the meat and add one and a half cups of beef broth. Continue to cook the mixture until it thickens.

Shepherd’s pie FAQ

Can I make this ahead of time?

Yes, you can. Follow the steps in this recipe, and before baking, cover the dish tight and place it in the freezer. You can store it in the freezer for up to six months. To defrost your pie, put it in the fridge for two days. Alternatively, you can thaw by placing it in the oven at 350℉ for 45 minutes before following the baking directions listed in this recipe. However, take caution as some baking dishes will shatter with quick temperature changes.

You can also keep it in the fridge for up to three days until you’re ready to bake it. Follow the baking directions listed in this recipe and add an extra five or 10 minutes if needed.

How do you keep shepherd’s pie from falling apart?

To keep your shepherd’s pie from falling apart, ensure your measurements are correct when adding the butter and milk to the mashed potatoes. Firm mashed potatoes will help keep everything together. Additionally, letting the casserole stand for 10 minutes before serving will help it set. However, no need to worry if it falls apart. It’s still edible and enjoyable.

What do I serve with shepherd’s pie?

Pairing shepherd’s pie with a side dish is tricky because it already contains a starch, meat, and vegetables. However, various sides go with shepherd’s pie, such as more peas, carrots, or corn. Other vegetable suggestions are broccoli, cauliflower, squash, green beans, or roasted beets. If you’re craving some additional starch, pair your pie with baked beans, Yorkshire pudding, or dinner rolls. Salads also pair well with this dish.

Where’s the beef?

Joshua Resnick – stock.adobe.com

This easy shepherd’s pie recipe is bound to become a go-to for busy days and when you need some classic comfort food. When you need something even quicker, another comfort food you can make using ground beef is a microwave burger. Or you can turn to macaroni and cheese for something just as warm and welcoming as shepherd’s pie.

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