Shepherd’s pie is really good, but the first time I tried it, I said, “Never again.” I was in college and had gone with some friends to eat in one of the campus dining halls. As I made my way along with the buffet table, I came across what looked like dirty mashed potatoes, slathered in some kind of runny gravy.
Limp vegetables poked out of the sunken mass. Options were limited when it came to campus cuisine, so I reluctantly scooped some of the mess onto my plate. It was disgusting. I didn’t try the stuff again for years.
I’ve learned since then that shepherd’s pie can actually be quite tasty. There are different ways to make it, and you can customize it to dish it up just the way you like. We’ll give you some ideas on what to put in your shepherd’s pie, and what to serve it with, to make a meal you’ll love.
Origin of Shepherds Pie
The mashed potato pie enjoyed all over the world originated in the United Kingdom in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Just like a lot of us today, home cooks back then were having a hard time getting their spouses and kids to eat leftovers.
These home chefs got creative, and soon there were different recipes being made and shared widely. While there’s no one way to make shepherd’s pie, some components are fairly consistent among recipe variations. The meal almost always consists of a mashed potato base and topping with a minced meat filling, usually beef. A tweaked version, called Cottage Pie, has mutton or lamb in the middle. The meat simmers in gravy and vegetables — carrots, celery, and peas.
What to Serve with Shepherds Pie
Shepherd’s pie is a casserole, so anything you serve it with is a side. There are several items that pair well with this comfort food.
- Roasted carrots with thyme
- Mushy peas
- Buttered cabbage
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Green beans
- Butternut squash
- Roasted beets
- Dinner rolls
- Soda bread
- Baked beans
- Broad beans
- Yorkshire pudding
- Garden salads
- Carrot and apple salad
- Beet and goat cheese salad with wine vinegar dressing
- Apple walnut salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Looking for sides that are a little more off the beaten path? Try these.
- Smoky roasted cauliflower
- Garlic sautéed Swiss chard
- Garlic lemon green beans
- Roasted eggplant
- Honey balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts
- Brown butter peas with mint
- Roasted garlic asparagus and mushrooms
- Lemon artichokes
- Roasted bacon and butternut squash
- Shaved Brussels sprouts salad with lemon and pecorino
- Deviled eggs
Shepherd’s Pie Recipes
We’ll start out with a really simple recipe. This is even easier if you already have leftover mashed potatoes on hand.
Easy Shepherd’s Pie
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
- 1½-2 pounds potatoes, quartered and peeled (That’s about 3 large potatoes).
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
- 1½ cups onion, chopped (1 medium onion)
- 1-2 cups vegetables (corn, peas, diced carrots),
- 1½ lbs ground beef (Ground round works well)
- ½ cup beef broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like.
- Boil the potatoes. Place quartered peeled potatoes in a medium pot and cover with at least an inch of water. Add a teaspoon of salt. Bring them to a boil, then simmer at reduced heat for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- Sauté the Vegetables. While the potatoes simmer, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the chopped onions and cook for 6-10 minutes, until they’re tender. If you’re adding other vegetables, put them at the right times to make sure they cook thoroughly. Carrots take a while, so you can throw those in the sauté pan at the same time as the onions. If you want peas and corn in your pie, you can put them in toward the end of the onions’ cooking time, or even after the meat starts browning. Peas and corn don’t need much cooking time, you’re mostly just warming them up.
- Add ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth. Add the ground beef to the sauté pan with the vegetables. Cook until it no longer looks pink, then season it with salt and pepper.
- Bring the broth to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook the beef mixture uncovered for ten minutes. If needed, add more broth to prevent the meat from drying out.
- Mash the boiled potatoes. When the potatoes are tender (you can test them by sticking a fork in them), place them in a bowl with the remaining 4 Tbsp butter. Use a fork or potato masher to mash them. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Layer the meat mixture and homemade mashed potatoes in a casserole dish. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Then, spread the meat-and-veggie mixture in an even layer in a 9″x13″ casserole dish.
- Top the ground beef with mashed potatoes. Spread the potatoes over the meat and veggies to cover them. Then run a fork through the mashed potatoes to make peaks or creative designs. (Have fun with this). The peaks and designs will look great when they brown in the oven.
- Bake the Pie. When the oven is done preheating, bake the casserole at 400°F until browned and bubbling. This will probably take about 30 minutes. You may want to broil the dish for the last few minutes of baking time to brown the tops of the potatoes.
Caution: Pyrex and other glass dishes may break in the broiler. The high heat is safe for ceramic or metal baking dishes.
Tweak this Easy Recipe
Want to try a slightly different take on this? Add a layer of creamed corn between the ground beef and mashed potatoes. Before baking, spread a layer of shredded cheddar cheese over the top of the potatoes.
Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
You can do this recipe a few different ways. To make classic shepherd’s pie, use minced lamb. To make cottage pie, use beef. Instead of red meat, use ground turkey.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 lb 90% learn ground beef (or ground lamb)
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 cup mix or frozen peas and carrots
- 1’2 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1½-2 pounds russet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes peeled and cubed)
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Add the oil to a large skillet. Place it over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Toss in the onions and cook for 5 minutes., stirring occasionally.
- Add the ground beef (or ground lamb) to the pan and use a wooden spoon to break it up. Put in the rosemary, salt, thyme, parsley, and pepper. Stir well to combine everything. Cook the mixture for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and garlic until well blended. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the flour and tomato paste. Stir until there are no more tomato paste clumps and everything is thoroughly combined.
- Add broth and frozen vegetables. After bringing the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Set the meat and veggie mixture aside. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Let them remain there for 1 minute to evaporate any leftover water.
- Add the butter, half-and-half, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes and thoroughly mix all the ingredients together.
- Stir in Parmesan cheese until everything is thoroughly combined.
- Make the casserole. Pour the meat mixture into a baking dish measuring either 9″x9″ or 7″x11″. Spread it out to form an even layer. Top the meat with the mashed potatoes in an even layer.
- If the dish is filled to the brim, put it on top of a baking sheet in case it overflows in the oven. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Let stand to cool 15 minutes before you serve it.
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
There’s a vegetarian take on this familiar comfort food too. Here’s how to make it.
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 3 large potatoes)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup packed grated Parmigiano cheese or vegetarian Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup French lentils
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 3-1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 8 oz sliced mixed mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake)
- 1 large leek (only use the white part), thinly sliced about 1-1/2 cups
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- In a large pot, bring 2 tablespoons of salt and a gallon of water to a boil over high heat. Place the potatoes in the water and boil for 15-20 minutes or until tender. (A fork will go through them with little resistance).
- Prepare the filling in a 10-inch skillet with high sides or an enameled cast-iron braiser. Bring the lentils, thyme, 2 cups of broth, and one teaspoon salt to a simmer on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and continue cooking the lentils, partly covered, until they’re tender and most of the liquid has evaporated (probably about 20 minutes). Pour the cooked lentils into a bowl.
- Put the finishing touches on the topping. In a small saucepan or the microwave, heat together 6 tablespoons of milk and butter until the butter melts. Drain the potatoes well and put them back in the pot. Use a potato ricer or masher to mash the potatoes to a smooth consistency. Incorporate the hot butter mixture and sour cream until just blended. Stir in half of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the topping and set it aside.
- Finish the filling. Set the oven to 375°F. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in the 10-inch skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook until they’re a deep golden brown (8-10 minutes). Stir them frequently with a wooden spoon as they brown. Lower the heat to medium. Add leeks, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes until tender. Put in salt and pepper to taste. Incorporate the tomato paste until it’s well-combined (2-3 minutes). Sprinkle flour over the mixture. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add 1½ cups of broth, peas, and lentils. Simmer the mixture until it thickens. Remove thyme stems. Put in just enough lemon juice to taste.
- Top the lentils and vegetable mixture with dollops of mashed potatoes. Spread them out in an even layer. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Place the pie in the oven. If the skillet is filled to the brim, place a foil-lined baking sheet under it in case of spills. Bake until the potatoes are bubbling and have begun to brown (about 30 minutes). Let stand to cool for 15 minutes when done.
Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping
- 1 lb grass-fed lamb, bison, or beef
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 small green pepper, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary or another preferred herb
- 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 6 tbsp (3 oz) organic tomato juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Place ground beef, veggies, and garlic in a skillet over medium heat.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, until carrots are soft. Start working on the topping while the meat mixture simmers.
- When the carrots are done, pour in the water, tomato paste, and seasonings (including salt and pepper).
- Bake the sweet potatoes at 375°F until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Then, place all the topping ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If you’re using regular potatoes, mash them by hand instead.
- Place the filling into a 9″x9″ baking dish or 10-inch oven-safe skillet. Top it with a creamy mashed potato layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and chili pepper.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
Chicken Pot Pie
Here’s an easy recipe for an American favorite: chicken pot pie.
- 2 cups potatoes (peeled and diced)
- 1-i3/4 cups sliced carrots
- 1 cup butter, cubed
- 2/3 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- 4 cups cubed cooked chicken
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 4 sheets refrigerated pie crust
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Place potatoes and carrots in a large saucepan. Add water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover the potatoes, cook them for 8-10 minutes, then drain them. They should be crisp-tender.
- In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Blend in flour and seasonings. Gradually, stir in butter and milk. Bring to a boil and, stirring constantly. Cook melted butter mixture until thickened — about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken, corn, peas, and potatoes and remove from heat.
- Unroll 1 pie crust into each of two 9-inch pie pans. Trim them so they line up with the rims. Add the chicken filling. Place remaining crusts, unrolled, over the filling. Trim, the edges, seal them and cut slits on top.
- Bake until lightly browned, about 35-40 minutes.
(You can freeze unbaked pies. When you’re ready to bake them, take them out of the freezer 30 minutes beforehand, but don’t thaw them out).
What to Serve with Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie is comfort food that can stand alone as a meal. But if you want something to go with it, serve side dishes that are mild in flavor, so the pie can still stand out.
Looking for something to serve alongside a scrumptious pot pie? Here are some ideas.
- Sliced veggies (as an appetizer)
- Roasted vegetables (one of the top choices is broccoli. Just coat it with olive oil, sprinkle some Parmesan on top, and place it in the oven.
- Spinach salad has plenty of fiber to balance the starches in the chicken pie. Toss together spinach, nuts, berries, cheese, orange slices, and top with citrus vinaigrette.
- Cauliflower macaroni and cheese (use the vegetable instead of pasta)
- Apple or cranberry sauce
- Watermelon slices a summer favorite
- Fruit salad
- German potato salad
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Bacon and Brussels sprouts
- Corn on the cob
- Glazed carrots and parsnips
- Sweet iced tea
How do you prevent chicken pot pie crusts from getting soggy?
To keep pie crusts from falling apart, follow these tips.
- Brush the crust with a beaten egg white.
- For single-crust pies, prebake crusts before adding the filling. This helps seal the crust and prevent it from absorbing the liquid filling.
- Bake pies on a lower oven rack. This places the crust closer to where the heat is concentrated.
- Pour the filling into the crust while it is still hot. Place the pie into the oven immediately. The heat from the filling helps the crust set.
Can you use beef stock instead of broth in the recipes?
Yes, a lot of people use these ingredients interchangeably. Beef stock is made from beef bones and cartilage, which makes it rich in collagen. This gives it a richer texture and taste than ordinary broth. In fact, you can even use chicken stock (or broth) in lieu of beef broth.
What else can you put in Shepherd’s pie?
There’s no set way to do it. Some cooks add a bay leaf for a little extra flavor. Some recipes call for cornstarch to thicken the filling. For a more authentic addition, try Irish cheddar cheese instead of regular cheese. Other recipes list cream cheese and cheddar as ingredients.
How should you store shepherd’s pie?
Shepherd’s pie’s lifespan in the fridge depends on how old the ingredients are. If you’re using leftovers, remember that cooked meat is good for 3-5 days from the day you first cook it, not from the day you baked the pie. Fresh ingredients last 3-5 days.
You can also store shepherd’s pie in a sealed container in the freezer for up to two months. When you’re ready to eat it, bake it at 350°F.
Can you make small shepherd’s pies that serve one?
Yes. Here’s what you need for a one-serving shepherd’s pie:
- 4-5 oz ground meat
- 1/2 frozen or canned mixed vegetables
- 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 1 tablespoon dried pieces (whatever kind you like)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Yukon gold potato
- 2 tablespoons butter
Make it as you would a regular-sized shepherd’s pie. Since it’s so small it cooks quickly — only 10-15 minutes at 350°F.
What was traditional shepherd’s pie like?
The first shepherd’s pies baked more than two centuries ago didn’t resemble the kind we eat today. You could call them “sweep the kitchen” pies. Many cooks who concocted the dish were especially frugal, so they put in the pies whatever they had on hand. For some, that even included birds like crows and pigeons. In long-ago Scotland, they made it with a pastry crust.