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Shepherd’s Pie

posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister
difficulty rating

Shepherd’s Pie is basically a casserole made of cooked meat with gravy which gets topped with a layer of mashed potatoes and then baked. It is comfort food at it’s best! As with all recipes there are many variations of Shepherd’s Pie, including some with a layer of vegetables as well.

Here in America, Shepherd’s Pie is typically made with beef.

In England, Australia and New Zealand Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb or mutton, and “Cottage Pie” is made with beef.

To make this (American) version of Shepherd’s Pie all you will need to know is how to:

Many (more advanced) recipes call for various other vegetables, like chopped onions, carrots, garlic, peas or corn to be added to (or layered on) the beef mixture. Still other recipes suggest that you need to know how to make your own gravy.

But if you’re a beginner cook, it’s perfectly OK to use a jar of store bought gravy, which is what I’m going to do here.

At the grocery store buy:

  • 1 and 1/4 pounds of ground beef
  • A 12-ounce jar of beef gravy
  • 3 large potatoes (about 2 pounds)

You will also need about 1/3 cup of milk and 4 Tablespoons of butter. I’ll assume that you already have those two ingredients in your refrigerator! (If you don’t, do buy some milk and butter as well!)

Start by getting the potatoes washed, peeled, cooked and mashed. I’ve written a post here on mashed potatoes.

While the potatoes are cooking, brown the beef (video) in a frying pan. Be sure to drain off the excess fat.

Stir in the beef gravy.

If you have any extra spices in your cupboard you can add them as well. Some options are: 1/2 teaspoon of garlic or onion powder or 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.

Spread the meat mixture over the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. I’m using an 8-inch square baking dish.

Now spread the mashed potatoes on top.

Using a fork, fluff the top.

Then cut 1 tablespoon of butter into really tiny bits and dot the bits over the mashed potatoes. This will help to brown the top of the potatoes.

(You could sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese or grated cheddar cheese on the top if you like.)

Bake the casserole in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. It will look like the picture below when you take it out of the oven.

Sometime the gravy will bubble up through the potato topping which is just fine.


You can put the Shepherd’s Pie under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top a little bit more, BUT NOT IF YOU USED A GLASS BAKING DISH AS I HAVE DONE.

Generally speaking, (Pyrex) glass baking dishes are suitable for baking only. When used under a broiler, the extreme fluctuation in temperature can cause the dish to crack. If you plan on browning YOUR Shepherd’s Pie under the broiler, use a metal baking pan, not a glass one!


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Joe LaMontagne said:

Great recipe! I make a version of this with a layer of corn between the beef and potatoes. I never thought of adding the gravy to the cooked beef. Great idea.

Ollie said:

Ahh, a classic winter dish. I normally brown off the potato coating under the grill for a couple of minutes for extra crisp.

Jon (Sacker) said:

A really picky point, but what you have described here is a cottage pie. A Shepherds pie is made with lamb mince (obvious once you think about it!). Though that dosn’t stop it being a favourite – and kids love it..

Kathy Maister said:

Joe, I too love adding (either green peas or) corn to my Shepherd’s pie!

Ollie, I was kicking myself for filming this whole dish in the wrong dish! I would have loved to brown the top under the broiler but I could not do it with my Pyrex dish! Even though you see many top notch cooking sites putting a Pyrex dish under the broiler, it is really not recommended!

Joe F said:

My wife makes this all the time for me. She gets a can of peas and carrots as well and mixes that in with the meat. Always good when the weather turns cold.

Cormac said:


I make a version of this similar to the one described but add a half a cup of peas and a chopped onion to the mince, and to REALLY enhance the texture, also add 2 grated carrots to the mince.

Putting some grated cheese on top about ten minutes before the end of baking is also good.

Serve with salad!

It’s a cold winter day outside here (Ireland) so I am actually going to cook this tonight…


Ray Adams said:

It’s even better if you add some diced onion to the ground beef while browning it, after it is browned add some garlic powder. Rather than use plain brown gravy, use a can of cream of mushroom to which you also stir in a packet of “dry” brown gravy mix also while mixing it in with the cooked beef. Top with the cooked mashed potatoes, then completely cover with sliced amercian cheese cook until it is warmed through and the cheese topping is slightly browned! MMMmmmmm YUM!!!! Mom’s Famous Shepards Pie! It’s a family favorite round these parts!

Derek said:

Shepards pie is a favorite of mine. Actually I made it last night. But I’ll let you guys in on a secret recipe… Add mushroom soup to the meat once it’s cooked and it comes out sooooo flavorfull

Ian said:

Good tips…

Graham said:

Shepherds Pie should be made with lamb, not beef. This is a Cottage Pie!

Anonymous said:

When you brown the ground beef, save the oils and residue from browning in the pan. Take a jar with lid and shake up some flour and water to a watery slurry consistency and add about 1/2 tsp of corn starch. pour this in the pan with the grease and stir, then add some milk..stir around on med heat and it will start bubbling all over and thickening. Viola gravy! There are probably better descriptions of this process but the gravy you get will be better than the jar kind.

richard said:

I’ve had shepherd’s pie with a sauce on top of it sort of creamy. Do you know what that stuff is and how to make it?

Chad said:

I’ve only ever heard of it being made with Potatoes, Corn and meat (usually beef but I’ve seen chicken too). Never have I seen it with just meat and potatoes. Corn makes it sweet. Putting peas is just wrong. Carrots might be alright. Just a bland New Englander here.

Paul (London) said:

Shepherds or Cottage Pie is always improved by a dash of Worcestershire sauce and grated cheese on top to brown off :)

Josh said:

We use green beans on the bottom, fresh ones. Then you make your gravy and meat, the mashed potato’s on top and don’t forget the most important ingrediant. Thickly sliced chedder cheese all accross the top of the mash potatoes. Awesome.

Kevin Kennedy-Spaien said:

Another great one Kathy!

I appreciate how you stripped this dish down to it’s most essential elements to make it quick and easy.

I hope you bring some of this to Podcamp Boston next year!

vince said:

that’s a very tasty cottage pie!!!

Bill said:

You’ve got meat cooking there, so why use gravy from a jar? It’ll take you like another 10 minutes to make real gravy, which is 20 times better.

Steve said:

How could you forget the cheese?

Heartofgold said:

I will mix Mozzeralla cheese with the potatoes while they are hot. I will also spread the cheese over the meat. Then add corn and put the potatoes on top. The cheese adds flavor and also helps to hold it together. Add as much cheese as you like. Works with any kind of cheese.

I'm Your Manager B said:

similar to my tater tot casserole i made last night which takes as long to make as shepherd’s pie:

turn on stove to 450 degrees & begin browning hamburger.

1 lb. hamburger (brown it in frying pan) marked down to $1.35 for 80% lean

1 can o corn (drain & dump in 9×9 pyrex) $.44

1 can o carrots (drain & dump in pan) $.50

1 can o cream of chicken (dump in pan) $.50

drain browned beef and dump in pan. stir all ingredients up with spatula and even out. cover top with layer of tater tots (about 50) $.50. Slam in oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown. I like my tots extra crispy and turn off the oven and let sit for a few min longer.

Dish it up and enjoy for $3.29 give or take. I like to drown it in Heinz ketchup too. Rachel Ray would say YUM-O!

Neo said:

How do you cut a tablespoon of butter into really tiny bits?

Joel said:

Appreciate the recipe. I have never had this believe it or not, looks really good.

Jason said:

I’m Your Manager B, that’s a really interesting way of making tater tot casserole!

I make mine slightly different. I brown 2lbs ground beef and then dump it in a big bowl and fill it with frozen tater tots and two cans of cheese soup from campbells. I then mix it all together and toss it in a 13×9 Pyrex dish and cook it at 350 for an hour. Serve it up and eat with fresh diced onions and tomatoes on top. And of course cover it in Heinz :)

David's Inner Geek said:

How many shepherd’s does it take to make shepherd’s pie? One, if you slice ‘em thin enough.

When I was station in England, there was this pub in Brampton, Cambs called The Black Bull. You could order shepherd’s pie every night of the week, and get a differant dish every night. It is a very flexible recipe. If you can, get a bottle of Daddies Brown Sauce, and pour it over the pie as you serve it. Lovely!

Zack said:

I remember my grandmother making this when I was 8, but somehow she baked a cornbread or biscuit-like bread beneath the bottom layer. I still can’t figure out how she managed to do that.

Dave said:

we make “cheeky shepherd’s pie” by adding some very hot chilli-peppers to the meat

Cynix said:

Canned beef gravy? NO WAY. It’s ketsup and worchestershire. You mix the two into the cooking beef. When fully cooked, drain the beef. This gives the pie a slightly sweet flavor. It’s wonderful.

I’d never used the canned stuff, but it’s shepherds pie. It’s a peasant meal. You’re supposed to use what you have. And if all you have is canned gravy then that’s what you use.


caine dean said:

It was a great recipe, I love it very much and i would like to share with this website, it provided great cooking information

Jun said:

I love your podcast! i’ve just started cooking and your podcast (from “how to boil an egg” to “cooking beef stews”) provides me with a great deal of info and it simply helps! Thanks, Kathy!

4MoreBushes said:

Where’s the milk used? It’s in the list of ingredients but not in the recipe. It goes in the spuds, I’m guessing.

I used a beef stock cube because I had no gravy but it should be ok, I hope.

karina bellamy said:

In many countries we do not have tinned gravy etc. therefore it would be appreciated if we could get receipes that we can prepare from scratch.

However thank you, I enjoyed reading about it.

rgds, Rina

ria salcedo said:

i just wanna thank you for this website. thank you for sharing your great ideas and God bless you more and more

Julien said:

Kathy, for all the times I’ve cooked at home (and there haven’t been many!), you have been responsible for at least half, if not more. Thanks for that.

REPOST said:

How to cook a Shepherd’s Pie:

brown off 500g quality lamb mince, drain, reserve the juice

finely chop 2 carrot, 2 stick celery, 1 leek, 1 onion – gently simmer these in the lamb juices for 10 mins

return lamb to pan, add good squirt of HP sauce, 3 spoons tomato puree, dash worcester sauce, and 300ml of chicken stock – simmer for 20 mins until thickened. Add some frozen peas.

Place sauce in a baking tray. Spoon over mashed potato that has been mashed with butter, cheddar cheese and a dash of single cream. Dot butter on it.

Bake 30 mins.


Proper Shepherd’s Pie

Abby said:

Thanks for the simple recipe idea! I really wanted to make shepherds pie for my family and couldn’t remember the whole recipe – only some of the ingredients. You saved the day!

Kathy, thank you again. Most of us appreciate the help.

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Abby.

There’s never just one way to prepare any dish, and I hope that everyone who joins in our conversations will share my goal of trying to be truly useful to the beginner.

Cheers! Kathy

T.Hudson said:

If I make this the night before should I bake it then put it in the fridge or should I put it together and bake it the night we eat it?

Kathy Maister said:

Bake it just before you eat it…Enjoy!

Lea said:

First, thank you for this site. I haven’t cooked much in the past few years, and am really out of practice. This is a great place to start.

Now, my son totally hates “real” mashed potates. Can you use instant instead?

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Lea! I’ve never eaten instant mashed potatoes so I really have no clue how they taste. Perhaps you could gradually introduce your son to the real thing by combining half of the instant with half of the real thing.

Jessica said:

Lea, I make shepherd’s pie with instant potatoes all the time! I just add a little more seasoning to the meat. It tastes great!!

Juan said:

Hello Kathy,< ?xml:namespace prefix =" o" ns =" "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office"" />

I tried this recipe and it turned to me into an accident! I opened the gas and kept the cooker’s door closed. The match didn’t light up immediately and when the match light up and went to switch on the gas a big blue flame burn all my right hand! I went to hospital for recovery and treatment and after 3 weeks now my hand is completely recovered and back as it was although I have a big mark on it!

Off course I didn’t cooked this pie but my mother cooked and and said it had a good tase

Thanks Katy for posting delicious recopies and sorry for mentioned this dull moment I had while trying your recipe!



Kathy Maister said:

Jaun, I am so sorry to hear of your troubles! I hope your hand heals quickly. Perhaps the next time you turn on the stove, your mom should be right there watching to make sure that never ever happens again. All my good wishes to you for a speedy recovery.

ollie said:

One suggestion is chopping a couple of leeks up in slices and scattering them on the top of the potato and covering with cheddar cheese before whacking in the oven.

(The leeks go all crispy and the cheese bubbles and browns) I place this under the grill (English) broiler (USA)

Try it…



Kathy Maister said:

Ollie that sounds wonderful! For those of you who do not know what a leek is…click here!

connie said:

dice up 1 onion 2stalkes celery one green pepper cook with 1lb ground beef drain grease off make mashed potatoes and top with cream corn this is the best ever put potatoes in a 9×13 glass dish then beef mixer and top with cream corn bake for 20 min and eat.

by connie’

Kathy Maister said:

Connie that sounds great but I would have to skip the green pepper and use a red pepper instead. I find green pepper to be slightly bitter!

angela said:

thanks i’m thinking of making a variation of this as a french canadian pate chinois. i usually go a bit bold in spicing so i would do meat with onion, garlic, seasoning salt, beef stock, savoury , worchestireshire, garlic powder, habanero sauce, black pepper. then add a layer of cream corn on the meat then the mash (for which my secret ingredient is mayo in addition to the butter milk n salt)

hungry jack said:

here’s also a recipe i like.

but would using leftover beef make the pie taste better?. i dont want to end up wasting an entire pie if using leftovers would make the pie worse. yea know?

here’s what the website states:
Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie are very similar. Shepherd’s Pie is made from lamb whereas Cottage Pie uses beef. In this version of Cottage Pie we use fresh minced beef, however you can also use leftover Roast Beef.

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 500 grams / 1 lb of beef mince
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce (ketchup)
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce (Lee & Perins)
  • ½ cup of peas
  • ½ cup of corn kernels (optional)
  • 1 bouquet garni or a small bunch of herbs chopped finely and one whole bay leaf
  • ¾ to 1 cup of beef stock
  • 3 to 4 large potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • salt and pepper

Peel and chop the onion and carrot finely. Heat the oil in a large frypan or saucepan, add the onion and cook until the onion is clear or translucent. Add the minced beef and sauté using a wooden spoon break up the mince so it is nice and fine. When the mince is thoroughly browned stir through the flour and cook for one minute. Add the tomato sauce, Worcester sauce, finely chopped carrot, peas, corn and herbs. Stir thoroughly to combine. Gradually add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover, simmering for 10 to 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be quite thick. Remove and discard the bouquet garni or whole bay leaf and set mixture aside.

Peel the potatoes, chop into quarters and place in a medium saucepan with cold water just covering the potatoes. Add a little salt to the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. When the potatoes are cooked, drain and place back on the heat for a few seconds to let any extra water evaporate. Mash the potatoes with one tablespoon of butter until the potato is very creamy – add a little milk if necessary. Add salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F or gas mark 5. Spoon the mince mixture into a pie dish, then spoon or pipe the creamy mashed potato over the mince. Sprinkle grated cheese on top if desired and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is heated through.

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Hungry Jack for the recipe. This looks like a great recipe for those startcooking fans with a bit of experience under their belt.

Angela, I love the idea of adding extra flavor and a bit of a kick with the hot sauce! My guess is that the mayo smooths out the flavors and gives it a very rich taste and texture!

Thanks for the great suggestions!

Larry Braverman said:

This is a great recipe I found sometime ago on and it was delicious. I can’t wait to try yours.

1 lb Lean Ground Beef

1/2 tsp Dried Basil

8 oz Hot Italian Sausages (cut lengthwise in half and a 1/4″ thick)

1 tsp Salt

16 oz Whole Peeled Tomatoes

1/4 tsp Dried Oregano, Crumbled

1 1/2 c Sliced Fresh Mushrooms

Fresh Ground Pepper To Taste

1 Clove Garlic, Minced

2 lb Potatoes (peeled and cut into 1″ pieces)

2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

3/4 c Milk

1 c Frozen Peas

1/2 c Grated Parmesan Cheese

1 tbsp Chopped Fresh Basil Or

6 tbsp Butter, Room Temp.

Place ground Beef and sausages in a medium skillet. Cook, breaking

up Beef, over medium high heat until Meat loses some of its pink color

and releases juices. Add tomatoes, mushrooms, Garlic and vinegar.

Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes,

about 10 minutes. Stir in peas, basil, 1/2 tsp salt, oregano and pepper.

Simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, boil potatoes in water to cover until tender, about 20

minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to large mixing bowl. Beat in

milk, Cheese, butter, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste;

continue to beat until smooth. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon Meat

mixture into 2 quart casserole dish. Spoon potato mixture on top and

Spread evenly to edge. Bake until golden annd bubbling, about 45-50

minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve Hot. 436

calories per serving.

Kathy Maister said:

This recipe looks really interesting! The balsamic vinegar and the Italian sausage must give this dish really great flavor. Thanks for sharing!

tiffanys said:

In many countries we do not have tinned gravy

Felix said:

Exellent Reciepe!! Bu maybe you really should tell people what mesurements you’re using, cause here in Australia, Ovens don’t go up 400 degrees (Celcius)


Kathy Maister said:

Hi Felix,
It would be soooooo much easier if measuring was the same world wide! Here is the metric conversion of this recipe:

  • 900 g of potatoes
  • 56 g of butter
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 3 g of salt
  • 1 1/2 g of ground pepper
  • 680 g of ground beef
  • 1 jar of beef gravy (360 ml.)

400º F = 200º C = gas mark 6-moderately hot

Clive the butler said:

I add, weird as it sounds, a squirt of anchovy paste ( or a whole anchovy) as it really brings out the beef’s flavor ( no fishiness at all).

Or I add some diced chicken livers for extra richness.

Kathy Maister said:

Clive that is actually quite brilliant!

Worcestershire Sauce is a common ingredient that is used to boost the flavor of everything it is used in. One of the main ingredients in Worcestershire Sauce is…anchovies!

Recipes using Worcester Sauce include things like meatloaf, spare ribs, stews, soups, marinates, Bloody Mary drinks, etc.

You are right in that when added to recipes there is no fishy taste or smell.

Thanks Clive!

Heidimarie said:

I can’t believe people are on here to argue about what it’s called! Call it what you will, it’s good eats baby. Don’t be so petty, appreciate the Cook’s time and readiness to share with us all. Sheesh!

Good-on ya!

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks HM!

Steve said:

My family has been enjoying this dish… and many variations of it) for years. It’s simple… hearty… and has wonderful flavor no matter what it’s called! Whether you call it Shepherd’s Pie… or Cottage Pie. (Those across the pond should remember that here in the states, we don’t consume nearly as much lamb or mutton as they do.)

All I can say is … “A rose by any other name …. ”

Best Wishes to All & Happy Eating! ; )


Kathy Maister said:

I’m with you Steve!
(In fact my grocery store often does not even have ground lamb!)

Kerri said:

I cannot wait to try this recipe! I’m so glad that I thought of it and goodled Shepherd’s Pie and that it brought me to your page :). I am definitely a beginner when it comes to cooking but I have been starting to try more and more recipes and I have found that I LOVE to cook and attempt making my own creations, even though they don’t always turn out magnificent! Yours was much more simple than other recipes I found. Although I only have a 10.5 can of beef gravy, I’m hoping it will turn out ok. Thanks!!

Kerri said:

OOPS—i meant googled as i’m sure you probably figured but i thought i’d clarify that anyhow. =)

Kathy Maister said:

Kerri, You will be just fine using 10.5 oz of beef gravy!

Good Luck and welcome to!

Sean said:

I LOVED this recipe. I am very new to cooking. when I first made this I wanted to add something to it. My girlfriend is allergic to corn and doesn’t really like veggies much. so I put in a layer of pepperoni’s on top of the meat. it tasted great!!! I also added about 2/3 cup of milk. i like my taters creamy

Shantiqua said:


This probably be the best Shepherd’s Pie I have ever eaten!. Thanks for the recipe.

I made this for my kids and while it was in the oven, they came running into the kitchen to see what smelled so good.

This is a great recipe for the kids. I did add some carrots to the pie and my kids ate the whole thing!

Kathy Maister said:

Sean and Shantiqua,

I am thrilled you both have had such success with this recipe. It is a great hearty meal – perfect for a cold winter’s night!

Super Mario said:

Wow! I love shepherd’s pie and this looks easy enough. I wanna make mine with some corn and carrots. Let you know how it goes. Thanks!

Maria said:

the way i make shepherds pie is i add tomato paste not gravy this is how i make it

cook the hamburger meat drain the fat n then add frozen mix vegs n then add tomatoe paste mix it all together then put it all in a cassaroll dish make mash potatoes then put the mashed potatoes on top of the meat n everything spread it all out n then add ur cheese place in the oven to let the cheese melt n its done the tomato paste keeps everything together n everyones loves it that way

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