A classic recipe for Shepherd's Pie featuring a homemade gravy, ground beef, creamy mashed potatoes, and cheese...this recipe is chock full of flavor and ease. Get it in the oven in 15 minutes. Perfect for busy weeknights when you are looking for a healthy comfort food classic.
NOTE: I prepare and bake this dish all in my cast iron pan. If you don't have a cast iron pan, simply use a saute pan to make the meat mixture and transfer to a greased 9 by 9 or 10 by 10 pan (loaf or pie pan also works) and bake it in that.
Like Tater Tot Hotdish and Swedish Meatballs, Shepherd's Pie had its beginnings in leftovers. In its original form, this dish was created with leftover potatoes, veggies, meat, and fat drippings from the previous evening's meal. The ingredients were layered up with a bit more spice or fresh herbs on top to pretend it's not last night's supper, and put into the fire to get hot and bubbling. Humble beginnings are the trademark of all great comfort foods and this easy shepherd's pie with beef is a great one for utilizing leftover mashed potatoes and veggies or with ingredients purchased purposely for this recipe.
What is the difference between cottage pie and shepherd's pie?
Traditional Shepherd's Pie is made with ground lamb. Most of us make Cottage Pie because, instead of lamb, we use ground beef in our recipe. I think most of us would prefer using ground beef, anyways. So technically, this dish should be called a cheesy COTTAGE pie because of the use of ground beef rather than ground lamb. If we are going by traditional English terms. However, here in the US we mostly use the term shepherd's pie to refer to most anything with ground meat and a mashed topping.
- Ground Beef. Use turkey or chicken, if you prefer. Or simply sub in a can of black beans for a meatless version.
- Frozen Mixed Veggies. I keep this easy by using frozen peas & carrots, most days. However, sometimes I will make up a version using fresh veggies I have on hand. If you use fresh veggies, take into account any additional cooking time that you might need.
- Beef broth, tomato paste, Worcheshire sauce. This recipe utilizes a homemade gravy. You can, however, use your own favorite jarred gravy by simply adding the jarred gravy into the meat mixture in step 5 and skipping straight to step 8.
- Potatoes. Prepared potatoes can be found in the dairy section and make this recipe so, so easy. Keep the salt down by choosing a variety that isn't already flavored. Or, make your own mashed potatoes. Sweet potato, cauliflower, or parsnip are a great alternative.
- Cheese. I love using gouda cheese in this because gouda provides a deep, rich flavor that elevates this classic dish. Your family might prefer the more traditional use of cheddar cheese. Just be sure to choose a cheese that melts nicely.
Skip adding the cheese to the potatoes, or use dairy-free cheese, and this dish is easily dairy-free.
Swap the all-purpose flour for rice flour or create a cornstarch slurry and add it tablespoon by tablespoon to the lightly boiling broth mixture (step 7), stirring it constantly, until it thickens up.
This recipe is an easier, faster, and less intimidating version of Shepherd's Pie that anyone can tackle. I utilize frozen veggies and pre-made potatoes to keep it easy and fast! This recipe can easily be adapted and customized to meet any family's preferences.
- Saute the onions until translucent.
- Add the ground beef and saute.
- Mix in the spices, and flour to create a thick paste.
- Stir in the liquids and bring to a gentle boil.
- Mix the potatoes, cheese, and spices together.
- Top the meat with the potatoes and use a fork to create ridges.
- Bake until hot and bubbly.
- Broil to get the top extra brown and bubbly.
- Try mashed sweet potatoes or cauliflower in place of traditional potatoes.
- Green beans & corn are kid-faves for this recipe.
- Add in chopped onion and garlic when sauteing the meat.
- Stir in mushrooms just before baking.
- Try provolone or gouda cheese, or another cheese that melts well.
- Add a crunchy topping like French Fried onions, crushed chips or crackers, or slivered almonds.
- Stir in fresh rosemary or thyme for added flavor.
Make ahead & Storing:
- This recipe is easily made ahead, covered with plastic or aluminum, and kept in the fridge until ready to be baked for a full day, easily. Just add about 10-15 minutes of baking time (you will be starting with a completely cold dish!)
- Store the leftovers in a sealed container for up to 3 days. You can also freeze them for up to two months.
- The leftovers re-heat beautifully! They are, after all, left overs :).
P.S. Don't be surprised to see ketchup on the table with this meal. It seems to be a common thing.
What type of potatoes are best for shepherd's pie?
The general consensus is that russet potatoes are the best potatoes for shepherd's pie. Basically, you just want a potato that's good for mashing. Honestly, you can use cauliflower if you want (which sounds delicious!), it's just based on preference. Or, purchase already made potatoes in the deli section of your grocery store.
What can I serve with shepherd's pie?
We serve salad or fresh bread when we make shepherd's pie. Of course, you can also make vegetables like asparagus or broccoli. We try to stay away from things like peas or corn as a side as those are already in the pie. Of course, serve whatever you'd most like to eat. There is no correct answer. (Although, we think it'd be fun to have pie for dessert. Then it's a complete pie meal!)
Cheesy Shepherds Pie
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablepoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cups frozen mixed veggies
- 1 cup beef broth, low sodium if possible.
- 1 teaspoon Worschershire sauce
- 1 24 oz pkg mashed potatoes depending on the size of your pan you may find that you don't use the whole thing.
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup shredded gouda cheese
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- NOTE: I prepare and bake this dish all in my cast iron pan. If you don't have a cast iron pan simply use a saute pan to make the meat mixture and transfer to a greased 9 by 9 or 10 by 10 pan (loaf or pie pan also works) and bake it in that.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large cast iron pan (or medium skillet if you aren't using a cast iron pan), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes or until they are translucent.
- Add the ground beef and saute until cooked through and no longer pink.
- Add the garlic, pepper, parsley, tomato paste, salt, and flour. Saute, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes to create a thick paste (often called a roux).
- Stir in the broth, veggies, and Worcestershire sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan to get off any little bits.
- Bring to a gentle boil and remove from the heat. (If you are using a baking pan, transfer the meat mixture to your baking pan.) This, my friends, is your delicious homemade gravy!
- In a separate container, stir together (you may need to use a small bowl, sometimes the potatoes come in a large enough package to simply mix them in the package) the potatoes, cheese, garlic powder, and salt.
- Spread the potato mixture on top of the meat mixture in the cast iron pan or 10 by 10 pan, if using instead.
- Use a fork to create cross hatches (like the edge of a pie crust or a peanut butter cookie top) so that you'll get nice browning on top.
- Bake at 400 degrees, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Broil, if needed, for an additional 5 minutes or until golden and brown on top. Note: if your pan is quite full it is wise to put a baking dish under it to catch anything that might spill over and make a mess.
- Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.