Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Janette Fuschi | Culinary Ginger

Traditional Shepherd's Pie is an amazing comfort meal you can make ahead. Pop in the oven when you're ready!

Did you know that traditional shepherd's is made with ground lamb and not beef? The name makes sense if you think about it.

Lamb is a sheep and a shepherd is a person who tends to sheep, hence the name.

The pie made with beef is traditionally called cottage pie, made by the poorer people who lived in cottages, from leftover beef.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Photo

Both pies derive from the 18th Century, but as time has gone by, beef has becoming increasingly popular and more widely used than lamb, and so the recipe using beef is now commonly known as shepherd’s pie.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Picture

This recipe is made the traditional way using ground lamb, but if you are not a lover of lamb, use ground beef.

I like to add Guinness to my shepherd's pie. Over the years of making this, I found gives it that extra depth of flavor you just cannot get without it.

The topping is made using mashed Yukon gold potatoes, as they make for soft and creamy mashed potato.

I have been known to add a small rutabaga to the mash, which takes it to a new flavor level, if you would like to try.

As an extra bonus, the dish makes a little gravy as it cooks so you can reserve it and use for spooning over the top when serving.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Image

I like to make this recipe in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or oven-proof sauté pan) that be transferred to the oven.

If you don’t have a cast iron or oven-proof skillet, you can start this recipe on the stovetop in whatever pan you have that will work, then transfer to a casserole dish of about the same size to finish in the oven.

This dish is also a perfect make ahead meal. Just make up to the point of baking, but don’t bake.

Allow to the dish to cool, cover and refrigerate until ready use.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 25 minutes until the top is browned.

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Traditional Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

    8 Servings


For the Potato Topping:
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup Milk, warm
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
For the Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds Ground Lamb, or beef
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 7 ounces Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Fresh Thyme
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1 pound Carrot, diced small
  • 6 ounces Parsnip, diced small
  • 1 cup Frozen Peas
  • 3/4 cup Guinness Draught
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 cup Beef Stock


For the Potatoes:

  1. To a large pan add the potatoes, add cold water until the potatoes are covered and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn down to a low boil and cook for 20 minutes until tender.
  3. Drain the potatoes a colander, and add back to the pan.
  4. Mash until smooth and add the butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mix well and set aside.

For the Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Add vegetable oil to a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 1/2 of the ground lamb. If the pan is too crowded, the meat will not brown, it will boil. Season with half of the salt and pepper, sauté until browned, breaking up the meat as it browns.
  3. Drain the meat keeping the fat in the pan and transfer to bowl or plate and repeat with the other 1/2 of the lamb, salt and pepper.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until softened.
  5. Add the garlic and thyme, cook for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and mix well.
  6. Add the carrots, parsnip, peas, Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock and cooked beef.
  7. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the carrot and parsnips are tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat.
  8. Spread the potato mixture (or pipe with a piping bag for a decorative look) over the ground meat mixture. Make sure you make little peaks so they get a nice brown color in the oven.
  9. Place the pan onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Cooking Method:
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Related Recipes:
British Recipes, Pie Recipes, Easy Dinner Recipes, Dinner Recipes, Potato Recipes, Lamb Recipes, Easy Recipes, Baking Recipes, Baked Recipes, Carrot Recipes, Parsnip Recipes, Pea Recipes, Beer Recipes
Recipe Yields:
8 servings
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:
Related Post:
Author: Janette Fuschi
Recipe Yields: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 70 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe 8

Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 218
Calories 411

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g
  Saturated Fat 12g
Sodium 684mg
Total Carbohydrate 21g
  Dietary Fiber 3g
  Sugars 6g
Protein 16g

* Percent Daily Value are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
** Nutrition Facts are estimated based on ingredients and data provided by Fat Secret. Please consult a doctor if you have special dietary needs.
Janette Fuschi

About Janette

Janette is a British ex-pat living in Southern California. On her blog, Culinary Ginger, you'll learn all about it. On Food Fanatic, you'll see her favorite British classics, and ours too!

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