There is no way to describe Shepherd's Pie other than pure comfort food. This homey casserole has a base of ground beef and veggies in a luxurious sauce, topped with creamy mashed potatoes. It's made on the stove but ends up in the oven for a crispy finish.
Beef Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Growing up in New England, Shepherd's Pie meant one and one thing only: a ground beef casserole. It wasn't until I was in my adult years that I discovered Shepherd's Pie is actually a dish that originated over the pond, and typically includes ground lamb (hence the mention of the shepherd in the title). As it turns out, cottage pie--a similar casserole made with ground beef-- is technically what I had growing up, though my parent's called it "Shepard's Pie". I was so torn whether or not I should title this recipe as I had always known it. Well, it turns out there is a rift in the recipe development community as to what exactly is the correct title! With that being said, I'm pushing forward with what I've always known this dish to be. This homey beef casserole is hearty and warm and surely takes the trophy for ultimate comfort food. The correct title aside, this dish is a winner for most everyone and should definitely be on your weekly winter dinner rotation.
Ingredients for Shepherd's Pie
- Mashed potatoes
- Ground beef (you can also use ground lamb here)
- Veggies (this recipe calls for mushrooms, onions, carrots and peas)
- Salt and pepper
- Potato starch (for gluten-free) or all-purpose flour
- Tomato paste
- Worcestershire (or soy sauce or tamari)
- Dried Thyme
- Beef broth
Looking to make this classic comfort food with dietary restrictions? There are a few options.
It's already offered as gluten-free, thanks to the use of potato starch. This is pretty inexpensive to buy and most major grocery stores will carry it. If you can't find it in store, it's easily found online. Sometimes, Worcestershire can have gluten in it, so be sure to check those labels. You can substitute in Tamari or Coconut Aminos if you can't find a gluten-free one.
Swap out the potatoes for equal amount of cauliflower for a lower carb dish.
The mashed potatoes are the ingredient that involves dairy. You can substitute the 4 tablespoons of butter for about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and trade in the cow's milk for your favorite dairy-free milk. You'll need to adjust the seasoning to make up for the loss of butter and whole milk.
Use the dairy-free and gluten-free options, and omit the peas.
Steps to Make Shepherd's Pie
This dish has 3 steps to complete, but they aren't difficult or very time consuming. Some can even be done ahead of time. You can make the entire dish up to the point of baking, up to 3 days ahead of time. Or, you can make the two different components ahead of time.
Step 1: Make Mashed Potatoes
Boil the potatoes until tender. Once tender, drain them, and add in the milk, butter, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Mash together with a potato masher until just combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, and add in more milk if necessary. You want the potatoes to be creamy enough to be delicious, but not so thin that they fall apart when scooped.
Step 2: Make Beef Filling
This recipe was developed with the idea that you can make the filling in a cast iron pan or other oven safe skillet and then assemble the dish directly in that skillet. One less dish to wash, after all!
To make the filling, start by cooking the mushrooms. Cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. If you've ever cooked mushrooms before, you know that at first they soak up any oil in the pan and seem like they are really dry. If you keep cooking you'll see that they'll start to exude liquid and that is what you are looking to evaporate. Next add in the onion, carrot, salt and pepper and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Next, add in the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
Add in the garlic, potato starch, tomato paste, Worcestershire and dried thyme, mixing together. You just want to toast the flavors here, so cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then, deglaze that pan with beef broth and stir to combine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. The mixture will simmer until thickened and the beef is tender. At the end, stir in the frozen peas. No need to cook these as they are delicate and will cook through in the oven.
Step 3: Assemble and Bake
The oven needs to preheat to 425ºF and a rack placed in the upper part of the oven.
Spoon the mashed potatoes on top gently and carefully spread them out in an even layer, covering the entire meat mixture. If desired, run a fork or a spoon over the mixture to create texture in the oven. Those textured potatoes will crisp up better in the oven if you are into that sort of thing.
Once the dish is assembled, bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until filling is browned and bubbling.
Freezing and Make Ahead Instructions
The good news here is that Shepherd's Pie keeps and freezes really well. The recipe as written makes enough for a medium sized family, serving roughly 4-6 portions. This recipe can be doubled if you wish to make enough for now and some for later.
To do so, you can either increase the size of the pan it is made in, or make it in two. This recipe was developed to be made inside of a medium cast iron skillet, about 8-10" inches. To double the portions is can be made in a 12" cast iron skillet.
Alternatively, you can assemble and bake it in an oven safe dish. For a single batch, bake in an 8" baking dish or for a double batch bake in a 9" x 13" dish.
If you want to freeze this meal, I recommend assembling and baking it in a disposable aluminum foil container. Let the casserole cool completely before freezing. Wrap well with one tight layer of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil.
More dinner recipes:
- Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
- Ricotta and Pepperoni Pie
- Kale, Asiago and Potato Pie
- Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion and Feta Pie
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There is no way to describe Shepherd's Pie other than pure comfort food. This homey casserole has a base of ground beef and veggies in a luxurious sauce, topped with creamy mashed potatoes. Double the recipe, if desired to make some for now or some for later.
For Mashed Potatoes:
- 1-½ pounds (680 grams) yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- ⅓ cup (70 grams) whole milk, more as needed
- 4 tablespoons (60 grams) unsalted butter
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For Meat Filling:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounce (226 grams) button or crimini mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and diced
- 1 medium onion, diced fine
- 2 medium carrot, peeled and diced fine
- 1 teaspooon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef (or lamb)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons (14 grams) potato starch or ¼ cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire (or soy sauce)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1-¼ cup (283 grams) beef broth, or more as needed
- ½ cup frozen peas
Make Mashed Potatoes:
- Add potatoes to a medium pot with enough water to cover them by 2″. Boil the potatoes until tender, about 20-25 minutes
- Once the potatoes are tender, drain them, return them to the pot and add in milk, butter, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Mash together with a potato masher until just combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, and adding in more milk if necessary.
Make meat filling:
- Preheat oven to 425ºF and place a rack in the upper part of the oven.
- Heat oil in an 8-10” cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Once hot, add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add onion, carrot, salt and pepper and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
- Add in the garlic, potato starch, tomato paste, worcestershire and dried thyme and mix together. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the beef broth and stir to combine, scraping up any browned bits of the bottom of the pan. Bring up to a boil and then lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Shut off the heat and taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the frozen peas.
- Spoon the mashed potatoes on top and carefully spread them out in an even layer, covering the entire meat mixture. If desired, run a fork or a spoon over the mixture to create texture in the oven.
- Cook in preheated oven in the upper rack for 15 minutes, until filling is browned and bubbling.
- Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- This can be made and baked all in one dish if using a cast iron or other oven safe skillet. If not available, this can be cooked in any skillet and then transferred to an oven safe 8" baking dish.
- This recipe can be doubled and baked in a large 12" cast iron skillet or 9" x 13" baking dish to make some for now and some for later.
- Shepherd's Pie freezes really well. You can make a double batch and freeze one for later and serve one for dinner.
Keywords: Shepherd's Pie, Beef Shepherd's Pie Recipe
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