Easy Rustic Shepherd’s Pie with The Cheesiest Mashed Potatoes
My take on the classic shepherd’s pie recipe! A soul-warming shepherd’s pie scented with herbs and spices and topped with the cheesiest Irish cheddar mashed potatoes. You’ve never had Shepherd’s Pie like this!
Have mercy. Would you look at that bubbly brown, cheesy crust?
This isn’t any old shepherd’s pie recipe. Sure it’s humble food, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bland and boring. It starts with sauteed onions that we’ll cook down until they’re tender, celery, carrots, and of course, tons of garlic, because when do we not use ample amounts of garlic around here? Then there’s also this herb and spice-scented ground lamb (or beef) all blanketed with cheesy Irish cheddar mashed potatoes. It’s fall/winter/spring comfort food, and who can even say no to that?
There’s something so magical about this easy shepherd’s pie recipe. Sure, every family has a version, and sure with every version, you’ll find something that is a little different. Most of the time, I find shepherd’s pie to be a little on the bland side. It’s your simple mirepoix with ground lamb and mashed potatoes on top. And yes, that does sound comforting, but I like to use a few additional ingredients to amp this dish up to a whole new level.
Shepherd’s Pie? Yes. Bland and boring? Heck no.
So much goodness all up in this.
How to make Shepherd’s Pie:
Ingredients for homemade shepherd’s pie:
- Ground lamb: I try to find the leanest ground lamb that I can for this recipe. If yours happens to be regular, make sure to drain as much of the grease from the meat once you’ve browned it in the skillet, before adding the other ingredients.
- Mirepoix: A mirepoix is a combination of chopped onions, carrots, and celery. For this recipe, you’ll want to use equal parts of all three.
- Frozen peas: I always have a bag stashed in the freezer. Just be sure to rinse the green peas under cold water to thaw them before using.
- Garlic: Press the garlic in a garlic press or mince it finely. I also like to have a few cloves on hand for the mashed potatoes!
- Tomato Paste: Adds depth to the recipe.
- Fresh herbs: I use fresh rosemary, thyme, and a bay leaf. The herbs just simmer in the beef gravy for a bit before fishing them out. I don’t like to leave them in because I find it annoying to get a big bunch in a serving! Feel free to leave them in if that doesn’t bother you.
- Seasonings: You’ll need the obvious ones like kosher salt and black pepper, but for my recipe, I also like to add a dash of ground cinnamon and nutmeg. It just amps up all the other flavors. Instead of using flour to thicken the mixture, I use cornstarch. This makes the recipe gluten-free friendly as makes the sauce silky smooth!
- Liquids: Beef broth and Worcestershire sauce are critical to any good shepherd’s pie recipe. You can also use chicken broth instead of beef if you prefer.
- Potatoes: Feel free to use Yukon gold potatoes or russet potatoes for this recipe. I’ve tried it with both, and they work equally well.
- Softened Butter: you’ll need a few tablespoons of unsalted butter for this recipe. We’ll soften the butter and then add it to the mashed potatoes along with the cream cheese and cheddar cheese.
- Cheese: You’ll need both Irish cheddar cheese (or any other white cheddar) as well as softened cream cheese. Instead of using sour cream in my mashed potatoes, I like to use cream cheese for this one as it gives it a more delicious flavor.
- Egg: you’ll need just the egg yolk. I fold this into the mashed potatoes. Not only does it give the potatoes such a rich and delicious flavor, but it also makes for a golden crust!
- Half and Half: Thins out the potatoes. Feel free to use whole milk here instead to make these a little lighter if you’d like.
Classic shepherd’s pie recipe
- Prep the potatoes. Start by peeling the potatoes, cutting them into pieces, add them to a large pot of salted water and boil until they’re fork-tender. I like to toss in a few cloves of garlic while they’re boiling to give them extra flavor! When the potatoes are done, drain them, and mash it with a potato masher. Stir in the egg yolk, cream cheese, butter, and Irish cheddar.
- Make the shepherd’s pie mixture. In a cast iron casserole dish, cook and crumble the ground lamb until the fat has rendered off. Drip the pan to remove the excess grease, or use a napkin to soak it up. Add some oil to the pan and then cook the mirepoix vegetables until it softens. Season with salt and cook them down. Add garlic and season with spices and cornstarch.
- Make the gravy. Start by preheating the oven. While that’s preheating, continue adding the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, all the herbs, bay leaf, and beef broth. Bring everything to a simmer over medium-high heat and then lower and let it all hand out for 15 minutes. Take out the herbs, add in the peas, taste the filling, and adjust with more salt and pepper as you’d like. Smooth out the layer of filling.
- Bake and serve. Drop the potatoes in large dollops and then smooth it out with a rubber spatula. If you used a pot that isn’t oven-safe, transfer the filling to a baking dish before topping it with the mashed potatoes. Bake until the potatoes are warmed through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm!
FAQs about this recipe
The difference between these two pies is the type of meat. Shepherd’s pie is made with ground lamb, and cottage pie is made with ground beef.
You can. Just follow the instructions on the instant mashed potatoes package, making sure to use at least 3 tablespoons of butter.
For a weeknight-friendly version, try my cottage pie topped with crispy potato bites
Yes, follow my garlic and herb mashed potato recipe here, following steps 1 and 2.
Yes, any ground beef alternative would work for this recipe, you could even use ground turkey or chicken if you prefer. You’ll just need a bit more oil for these ingredients.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Chicken Tetrazzini
- Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits
- Chicken Pot Tater Tot Hot Dish
- Best Easy Homemade Sloppy Joes
- One-Pot Lasagna Soup
Original recipe shared March 2018. Updated with new post, minor recipe edits, Jan 2023.
- 1 lb ground lamb (or beef)
- 3 cups mirepoix ( equal parts chopped onion, carrots, celery)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons EACH: tomato paste and cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon EACH: ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- fresh herbs (a few sprigs rosemary, thyme, and a bay leaf)
- 1 1 /4 cups low sodium beef stock (or chicken)
- 1 1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed + drained
- 2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 4 ounces EACH: cream cheese (softened) and shredded Irish cheddar
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup room-temp half and half (or milk)
- POTATOES: boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until fork tender. Sometimes I'll throw in a couple cloves of garlic in with the potatoes too. Drain, mash and mix in the remaining mashed potatoes ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- BEEF FILLING: heat a large oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb and crumble the meat using a wooden spoon. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the meat browns, drain any excess grease leaving just the tiniest bit. Add the oil and mirepoix and season the veggies with a small pinch of salt and allow the veggies to cook down until translucent, about 7-9 minutes. Add the garlic and let cook another 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- GRAVY: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF. Sprinkle the ground meat mixture with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch, stir to combine and let cook for 15 seconds before adding the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, herbs, bay leaf, and beef stock. Allow the gravy to come to a simmer before reducing the heat to low and letting it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the herbs, stir in the peas, taste and adjust with salt and pepper as desired.
- BAKE: Drop large dollops of the prepared mashed potatoes on top of the beef gravy then smooth out gently. Bake for 15 minutes then, finish it under the broiler if you want it to be golden brown on top. Let cool for several minutes before serving.
- You can also make the potatoes in the instant pot. Here's how; just follow steps #1 and #2.
- If you don't have a dutch oven or an oven-safe pot, transfer everything to a greased baking dish.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 613Total Fat: 36gCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 5gProtein: 30g
The nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. To get the most accurate information, please input the ingredients you've used into a nutrition calculator.