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Feb 25, 2023

Shepherd's Pie

This shepherd's pie, made with ground beef and fluffy mashed potatoes, is pure comfort food perfect for the whole family. 

Shepherd's Pie in a bowl.

How beautiful is the concept of shepherd's pie, especially when the weather is cold and you want something warming that checks all of the comfort food boxes. Plus, it's so retro! 

Meat, gravy, and some vegetables topped with creamy mashed potatoes sounds pretty amazing, right? I've been thinking about (craving) shepherd's pie for quite awhile. 

Shepherd's Pie in the frying pan.

Shepherd's pie is typically made with either ground beef, or more traditionally if you're Irish, ground lamb. You can make this with either one. Ground beef is much easier to find in most grocery stores. P.S. If you're Irish, you might call the beef version "cottage pie." 

This recipe comes together so easily with ingredients you probably already have on hand. 

Ingredient List and Notes:

Lean ground beef or lamb: Buy the leanest you can find because you won't be browning and draining the meat. Instead, the meat is poached in beef broth. 

Russet Potatoes: Use these for their extra starchiness. 

Vegetables: Chopped white mushrooms, chopped onion, chopped carrots, and thinly sliced scallions. 

From your Pantry and Fridge: An egg yolk, milk, garlic cloves, tomato paste, Worchestershire sauce, flour, beef broth, cornstarch, baking soda (to tenderize the meat), salt, and pepper. 

You'll also need a bay leaf and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, plus a couple of tablespoons of ruby port wine or Madeira. 

Shepherd's Pie in the pan with a slice removed.

You will need only two pans for making this dish, a large saucepan for boiling the potatoes, and a lidded 10-inch skillet that is broiler proof for both cooking the meat, topping the meat mixture with the potatoes, and serving this shepherd's pie. 

Four Preparation Tips:

First, twenty minutes before cooking this wonderful retro dish, you will definitely want to tenderize the ground beef with a baking soda and salt solution. Break up the meat and toss it with baking soda dissolved in water and then sprinkle the meat with salt before tossing again. This is a great tip for making any casserole that uses ground meat. 

Second, a great way to remove extra water from boiled potatoes before mashing them is to return them to the pan and cooking them for an additional minute. 

Third, add an egg yolk to the milk that you mix in with the potatoes after mashing them. This helps the potatoes brown in the oven. 

Fourth, you will want to build up quite a "fond" on your skillet after cooking the onions and mushrooms by adding flour and tomato paste. Once you deglaze the pan, scrape up the fond for extra flavor. 

Once you have cooked the beef mixture, top it with the mashed potatoes, drag a fork through the potatoes to create a ridged design (illustrated below), and then broil the casserole in the oven. 

Shepherd's Pie mashed potatoes before baking.

If you'd like to make this casserole in advance, you can make the hamburger mixture and the potatoes a day ahead and then assemble the shepherd's pie the next day. In this case, you will need to bake the dish in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes (before briefly broiling). 

Helpful Tools:

My Favorite Potato Masher

Colander - for straining the potatoes

10-inch oven-proof covered skillet

Shepherd's Pie in the pan.

When you broil this shepherd's pie, be sure to monitor it to make sure it doesn't burn on top when broiling. Each oven is different. Set the timer to check halfway through. I set my rack in the middle and kept turning the pan to make sure the potatoes were evenly broiled. 

More Irish-Style Dishes You May Also Like:

Irish Champ - an amazing mashed potato recipe. 

Potato Cakes

Dublin Coddle (an Irish Sausage, Bacon, and Potato and Stew)

Lamb Stew


Fisherman's Pie

Shepherd's Pie in a bowl.

I have many more Irish recipes, along with retro and comfort food recipes. Be sure to use the search box to find them using the terms "irish" and "comfort food." I'm pretty sure you'll love them all. 

My newest retro recipe is a cheesy shrimp noodle ring, but I also have these French bread cheese puffs that take me back to the 1970s and my mom's charity cookbook! 

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Retro Recipes

We share Recipes From Our Dinner Table! Join our group and share your recipes, too! While you're at it, join our Pinterest board, too!

Updated recipe: Originally posted February, 2013. Updated in February 2023 with a printable recipe card and new photos. 

Shepherd's Pie in a bowl.

Beef Shepherd's Pie

Beef Shepherd's Pie
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 1 HourInactive time: 15 MinTotal time: 1 H & 30 M
This shepherd's pie, made with ground beef and fluffy mashed potatoes, is pure comfort food perfect for the whole family.


  • 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch square pieces
  • 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 8 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces chopped white mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ruby port wine
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


  1. Break the ground beef into 2 inch chunks. Toss the ground beef with 2 tablespoons of the water mixed with the baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, in a bowl. Let it all sit for 20 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, in a saucepan, add the potatoes, cover with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and for 8 to 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender all of the way through.
  3. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan.
  4. Cook the potatoes in the same pan over low heat until the moisture has evaporated, approximately one minute.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat, mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Stir in the butter.
  6. Whisk the milk and egg yolk together and add the mixture to the potatoes. Add the scallions and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover until you are ready to top the prepared beef and vegetable mixture.
  7. Heat the oil in a oven/broiler safe 10-inch skillet until fully heated.
  8. Add the onion, mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. The vegetables should begin to soften, and there should be brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the tomato paste and the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. The bottom of the pan should be dark brown.
  10. Add the port and continue to cook, scraping up the dark brown bits from the pan. Continue to cook for about a minute, until the wine has evaporated.
  11. Add the flour and cook for about a minute, stirring.
  12. Add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and the carrots.
  13. Bring the mixture to a boil and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  14. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the beef chunks and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, breaking up the meat chunks halfway through.
  15. Mix the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl and add it to the mixture and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from heat.
  16. Remove the thyme and the bay leaf and add salt and pepper to taste.
  17. Place an oven rack on the middle and heat the oven on broil.
  18. Dollop the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture. Smooth out the potatoes with a spatula or the back of a large spoon. Make ridges on the surface with a fork.
  19. Put the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet and broil for about 15 minutes. The potatoes should develop a golden crust and the filling should be bubbling.
  20. Allow to cool and set for about 10 minutes before serving.
  21. Garnish with more scallions or parsley.

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

12.57 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

6.33 g

Carbs (grams)

33.89 g

Fiber (grams)

3.15 g

Net carbs

30.75 g

Sugar (grams)

4.17 g

Protein (grams)

23.89 g

Sodium (milligrams)

363.02 mg

Cholesterol (grams)

94.13 mg
shepherd's pie
main course
American, Irish
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Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, November, 2012. 

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Would you like to comment?

  1. Oh my this Shepherds pie is hard to resist! I was getting ready to turn off my laptop when I saw your nice comment on my post. Same here ~ so glad to connect. Thanks for sharing this recipe & the nice blog visit!

    1. Thank you BettyAnn! I am looking forward to trying recipes on your blog.

  2. Oh I am a HUGE shepherds pie fan! Yours looks lovely and it's making me hungry just looking at it. I love Cook's Illustrated too! Such a wonderful publication and a great resource.

  3. Oh your pie looks perfect! I have made lots of good ones, but never such a beautiful one! Thank you so much for sharing this at Wednesday Extravaganza - hope to see you there again this week with more of your deliciousness :)

    1. Thank you! And thanks for the Extravaganza.

  4. There is no beating Cooks Illustrated. Bought this issue just for the Shepards Pie. It did not disappoint! Hubby went bonkers.

  5. Looks great! I'm curious though, why the egg yolk in the mashed potatoes? Is it to keep them fluffy, or cook faster? (I'm clueless, lol).

    1. It's there to bind them together pretty much. It works!! =)

  6. Hello, I made this today, and I'm loving it. I've never had shepherd's pie, but I am looking forward to hearing what my daughter and husband have to say. Thanks for sharing...

  7. This is one of those dish where you don't feel like you're missing out on anything because there are so many fab textures and flavours! :D

  8. I love beef. I love potato and I love your shepherd's pie. It's so great at the look and must be yummy. Thanks Karen for sharing this great recipe with us.

  9. I love Cook's Illustrated! Just made this shepherd's pie and I have zero things bad to say about it. It is wonderful! Thanks for posting.

  10. I use half ground lamb and half ground beef for a richer flavor. My family loves it!

    1. I happen to have some ground lamb in the freezer! Must try!

  11. A real classic!!!! I have not made it this year, so there is definitely something wrong with me

  12. Such a great comfort food! This is my husband's idea of heaven!

  13. We recently went to a playhouse that serves dinner and this was on the menu. So good and now I have every reason to make it at home with your recipe.

  14. This is one my husband's favorite dishes! I should make it for him. We do a mock version of this he calls hamburger pie. LOL


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