Superior Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Piece of shepherd’s pie

With it’s savory base and creamy mashed potato topping, shepherd’s pie is a timeless comfort food.

History of Shepherd’s Pie

Originating from the British Isles, shepherd’s pie is a hearty and comforting dish that has stood the test of time. Its roots can be traced back to the late 18th century, where it was initially created as a means to utilize leftover roasted meat, particularly lamb, combined with vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes.

The traditional shepherd’s pie begins with a base of savory minced lamb or mutton, although beef is sometimes used as a substitute. The meat is cooked with onions, carrots, and peas, seasoned with herbs such as thyme and rosemary, and often simmered in a rich gravy or stock to enhance its flavor profile. This mixture is then transferred to a baking dish, forming the hearty foundation of the dish.

Mashed Potato Topping

The crowning glory of shepherd’s pie is its topping of creamy mashed potatoes, which are spread evenly over the meat and vegetable filling. The mashed potatoes are seasoned with butter, cream, and sometimes cheese, imparting a rich and indulgent texture to the dish. Once assembled, the shepherd’s pie is baked in the oven until the mashed potato topping develops a golden crust. The result is a savory, delightful, classic comfort food dish.

Shepherd’s Pie (lamb) vs Cottage Pie (beef)

Most people are familiar with what shepherd’s Pie, but not everyone knows that shepherd’s pie refers to the use of lamb, while cottage pie is made with beef. It comes down to availability and personal preference. Being a traditionalist in the kitchen, I usually make mine with lamb.

Why this is the Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

I have tested and tasted many recipes for this classic comfort food and this is one that concluded my hunt. Separating itself from the pack, this recipe’s uses 1/4″ diced lamb instead of ground meat which results in much more refined dish. The tender, diced meat is full of flavor and texture that simply can’t be achieved with ground meats. Additionally, By butchering your own lamb, you have much more control over the fat content, avoiding the often oily result of ground meats. The stew base cooks low and slow delivering a perfectly tender for a soul satisfying meal.

Pro Tips

  • Shepherd’s pie can be made in advance.
  • Make one large family style casserole or in individual, oven safe bowls.
  • This recipe freezes well.

With its comforting warmth and rustic charm, shepherd’s pie remains a beloved classic, continuing to bring loved ones around the table, centuries later.

Piece of shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s Pie

This beloved comfort food layered with rich, savory flavors. Anne Burrell uses diced lamb in this classic recipe which refines this dish and elevates it well above the more common minced meat version.
Course entree
Cuisine British, Irish
Servings 6


  • Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
  • 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 large leeks white part only, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 to 4 cups good quality beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bundle fresh thyme
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes cut into 1-inch dice
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas


  • Coat a heavy duty pan such as a cast iron dutch oven with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and toss with the flour. Shake off excess flour.  Add the lamb to the pan and brown well on all sides. Remove the lamb from the pan and reserve. If there is excess oil left in the pot, remove oil and discard, leaving all the brown bits that remain. Add a splash of new olive oil.
  • Add the leeks, celery, and carrots to the pan. Season the mixture with salt and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and very aromatic, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the lamb back to the pan and stir to combine.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste starts to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the wine and cook until it reduces by 1/2. Add enough stock to just cover the surface of the lamb. Add the Worcestershire Sauce. Add the bay leaves and thyme bundle. Bring the stock to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Partially cover and simmer for 1 hour, or until the lamb is tender. When the stock level reduces replace with more to keep the meat submerged.
  • Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover by 1-inch with tap water. Season the water with salt and bring the water to a boil. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the water from the potatoes and pass them through a potato ricer or food mill. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Stir the butter into the cream and stir in the hot cream into the pureed potatoes. Taste and season with salt. The potatoes should be creamy and very flavorful.
  • Remove the lid and simmer for about 15 minutes more to allow the stock level to reduce. Add the peas for the last 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. When done, the lamb mixture should be thick and stew-like. Remove the bay leaves and thyme bundle and discard.
  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Transfer the lamb to a single flameproof baking dish or into individual bakers. Spread the mashed potatoes over the lamb mixture in an even layer. (A piping bag works well for this!) Place the baking dish under the preheated broiler. Broil until the potatoes are golden brown and crispy (about 5-8 minutes.) DO NOT BURN! 

Share socially… 

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

More to explore

For a seafood lover, nothing is better than a loaded lobster roll in summer. Decadent chunks of lobster meat are lightly dressed with a blend of mayonnaise, lemon juice and seasoning then nestled perfectly inside a toasted split-top bun.
This carefully curated selection of Father’s Day gifts includes handpicked kitchen gadgets, gourmet foods, artisanal ingredients and more. This guide is designed to elevate your gifting game and show your appreciation in a meaningful way!
Asparagus is the most quintessential of all spring vegetables and preparing it couldn't be easier. Simply toss with olive oil, salt & pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes until tender.