traditional shepherd's pie casserole with lamb filling inside

The Best Classic Shepherd’s Pie Recipe (video)

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Learn how to make the most delicious and aromatic classic shepherd’s pie! This incredible potato and lamb casserole is made with a saucy ground lamb filling with peas, corn, carrots, red wine and Worcestershire sauce! Plus, fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary and parsley add even more aroma and flavor! I top it off with creamy garlic and parmesan mashed potatoes. You’ll love this easy, classic dish for Easter, or any time you’re craving some delicious comfort food! Not a fan of lamb? Make this dish with ground beef instead.

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Making the Lamb Filling

The incredible saucy and savory ground lamb filling is what makes this Shepherd’s Pie recipe so special! It’s packed full of incredible flavor! I start by first browning the ground lamb in a large frying pan. I break apart the meat into small pieces with my spatula so there’s meat in every bite. After removing the browned lamb, I add a few tablespoons of butter and sauté the onion and carrots before adding the garlic, corn and peas. I use frozen, thawed sweet peas and canned corn for this recipe. I then return the browned lamb back into the pan. Next, it’s time for the seasonings! I add fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley, plus some paprika, salt and pepper.

Next, it’s time for the wine and Worcestershire sauce! I like to use a robust, red wine such as Cabernet for this dish. Wine isn’t a traditional ingredient in Shepherd’s Pie but I think it adds an incredible amount of flavor. The Worcestershire sauce adds tons of umami flavor to the dish, making it extra savory! Next, I add the tomato paste and ketchup, but you can also use tomato sauce. I like to use ketchup because it has a bit of sweetness and saltiness, making the filling really pop! To make the filling thicker, I also add a couple tablespoons of flour. And the last ingredient in beef broth. Once I add the beef broth, I let the filling simmer for a couple minutes and it’s ready!

close up of shepherd's pie filling with mashed potatoes

Can I use Ground Beef?

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb, which is a popular meat choice for the Easter holiday. Even if you don’t usually enjoy lamb, I highly recommend giving it a try for this recipe. The tomato paste, ketchup and red wine really help mellow out the gamey flavor that’s common for lamb. The filling turns out so delicious and not gamey whatsoever! If you really don’t enjoy lamb and would prefer to use ground beef instead, that will work great, too! I recommend using a 80% lean ground beef, which has 20% fat. The extra fat will make the filling more juicy and more flavorful!

Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

This classic Shepherd’s Pie is topped with the most delicious garlic and parmesan mashed potatoes! I love how the potatoes add even more flavor to the dish, besides just being the topping for the casserole. I start the potatoes while I’m making my savory lamb filling. I peel and cube about 5 to 6 medium sized potatoes, then cook them until they’re fork tender and drain them. Next, it’s time for the butter. I love to use a high-quality salted butter because it adds lots of great flavor. I mash the potatoes until they’re smooth, then I add the garlic powder, parmesan, parsley and a touch of thyme.

These mashed potatoes will be slightly on the drier side but it’s for a good reason! As the casserole bakes in the oven, moisture from the filling will rise and make the potatoes softer and wetter. I make the potatoes drier to begin with so they don’t get too soggy and turn into soup later.

classic shepherd's pie with mashed potatoes in white casserole

Assembling & Baking the Shepherd’s Pie

Once I have my ground lamb filling and mashed potatoes ready, it’s time to put together the dish! I like to use a medium-sized casserole pan – not too big, not too small and with taller sides. Using a medium sized pan will give the shepherd’s pie a good ration of meat to potato. First, I add the lamb filling into the casserole and make sure it’s even and level and then add the potatoes on top.

Here’s a neat trick to make your Shepherd’s Pie extra fancy: try piping the mashed potatoes over the filling. I love to do this because it creates a perfect, even layer of potatoes and I’m not displacing the meat filling by pressing down on it. Once I have the pie assembled, it’s off to the oven for about 30 minute at 400F. I like to turn on the broiler for a couple minutes at the end to make the potatoes extra golden on top. After the casserole is baked, let it stand for at least 20 minutes to cool slightly. It’s going to be very hot out of the oven so be extra careful!

shepherd's pie on a plate, garnished with fresh parlsey

History of the Recipe

This delicious comfort food dish originated in England and Ireland and has been popular staple in Europe for hundreds of years. Shepherd’s Pie was originally called ‘cottage pie’ but the names can be used interchangeably. The original idea behind the recipe was to use any leftover meat from the day before and simply layer it with potatoes. The idea became an instant hit! It’s also a popular dish in France, where it’s considered a homely or commonplace food. I’m sure glad someone come up with the idea many years ago! Now, it’s a popular dish that’s often enjoyed for Easter all over the world, since lamb is a popular meat choice around the holiday.

More Recipes!

Enjoyed this easy and delicious comfort food dish? Check out some of my other recipes you’re sure to enjoy!

  • Easy Potato & Lamb Casserole – have this easy dish in oven in 15 minutes! It’s made with potatoes, carrots, herbs and cubed leg of lamb.
  • Roasted Leg of Lamb – my all-time favorite recipe for leg of lamb, with loads of garlic, mustard and fresh herbs.’
  • Ukrainian Braised Pork – tender, fall apart pork shoulder in a savory tomato sauce, served with mashed potatoes! It’s the best of Eastern European cuisine!
  • Braised Beef Short Ribs – you can never go wrong with this classic recipe! Extra tender, fall-off-the-bone beef ribs in a red wine sauce, served with mashed potatoes!

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The Best Classic Shepherd's Pie video recipe

Supplies/Tools

Need some supplies to make this recipe? You can get them here (Amazon affiliate links):

  • White Casserole Dish – I like to use a medium-sized, deeper casserole pan for this Shepherd’s Pie recipe. And, it comes with a lid!
  • Potato Masher – I love this potato masher because it’s easier on your hands and quickly mashes anything!
  • Disposable Pastry Bags – I always use these disposable bags! They come in a bulk roll and last forever, too!
  • Mauviel Frying Pans – my obsession with copper pans is real! I love these pans because they heat quickly and evenly, not to mention so pretty!
  • Ateco Tip #829 – this is the tip I used for piping the mashed potatoes.
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