How to Make Shepherd’s Pie

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Cravings can be a tricky thing especially when you’re not even sure what it is you’re craving. You want something rich and savory, hearty and filling, warm and comforting and plenty of other things all wrapped into one. While there are several things that may come to mind with these descriptors, few fit them better than a shepherd’s pie.

Shepherd's pie on a light towel, and one slice on a clear glass plate with a fork.

Essentially a meaty gravy topped with mashed potatoes in pie form, the shepherd’s pie is one of the best kinds of comfort food ever invented. Its long history may seem intimidating if you’ve never tried the dish before but this can be easily remedied with a bit of reading.

Let’s not delay as we learn how to make shepherd’s pie at home since you definitely don’t want to waste any time in taking that first bite.

One slice of Shepherd's pie on a clear glass plate.

Step #1. Prepare Ingredients

Shepherd's pie ingredients.
Lamb shoulder in a roasting pan.
  • 1 lamb shoulder (around 2 kg.)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 12 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
  • 2 tbsp. Butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • ½ tbsp. dried rosemary
  • Sea salt
  • Roasting pan
  • Pie plate
  • Pot
  • Skillet
  • Foil

Step #2. Preheat the Oven & Prepare the Lamb Shoulder

Lamb shoulder in a roasting pan, drizzled with olive oil.

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a roasting pan with foil and place the lamb shoulder on top. Drizzle the lamb with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt on both sides.

Lamb shoulder in a roasting pan, drizzled with olive oil.

Step #3. Bake the Lamb

Lamb shoulder cooked in a roasting pan.

Bake the lamb for around 3-4 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when it smells fantastic, it’s golden brown and the meat separates easily from the bone. When it’s done, let it cool.

Lamb shoulder cooked in a roasting pan.

Step #4. Boil the Potatoes

Pot of hot water.

When the lamb has been cooking for around 3 hours, begin preparing the pie. First, boil the potatoes in salted water until soft (around 20 minutes). Reserve 2 cups of the water from boiling the potatoes and drain the rest.

Pot of boiling potatoes.

Step #5. Mash the Potatoes

Boiled potatoes on a plate, with a fork.

Mash the potatoes using a fork. Add ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1 tbsp. of butter and salt, to taste. Mix well.

Potatoes, cheese and butter on a plate.
Potatoes, cheese and butter on a plate.

Step #6. Sauté the Onions

Sliced onions in a pan.

Heat a skillet to medium-low heat and add the other tbsp. of butter. Sauté the onions with dried rosemary for around 20 minutes, or until starting to brown. Set aside.

Step #7. Shred the Lamb

Lamb shoulder cooked in a roasting pan.

When the lamb has cooled, shred the meat with two forks and cut the skin into small pieces.

shredded lamb shoulder on a plate.

Step #8. Complete the Shepherd’s Pie Filling

Roasting pan with grease and hot water in it.

Pour 2 cups of boiling water (you can use the reserved liquid from the potatoes) into the baking tray to remove the grease and all cooking juices from the lamb. Pour some of this liquid over the lamb’s meat (just enough to moisten it), and mix it with the onions to complete the filling. Season the filling, to taste.

Step #9. Add First Layer of Potato to Pie Plate

Potatoes, cheese and butter mixture on a plate.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. To make the pie – grease a pie plate with olive oil and cover with ½ of the mashed potatoes – use your hands to spread it evenly.

Step #10. Add the Filling

Potatoes, cheese and butter mixture on a plate with shredded lamb.

Add the lamb filling over top of the potatoes.

Step #11. Cover the Pie with Final Potato Layer

Raw shepherd's pie on a baking plate.

Cover with the other half of the potatoes and spread it with your hands to cover the shredded lamb. Spread the other ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese over the pie. Use a fork to make a rim around the pie.

Raw shepherd's pie on a baking plate.
Raw shepherd's pie on a baking plate.

Step #12. Bake the Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's pie on a light towel.

Bake for about 30 minutes in the preheated oven – until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Shepherd's pie on a light towel, and one slice on a clear glass plate with a fork.
Shepherd's pie on a light towel, and one slice on a clear glass plate with a fork.
Shepherd's pie on a light towel, and one slice on a clear glass plate.
One slice of Shepherd's pie on a clear glass plate with a fork.
One slice of Shepherd's pie on a clear glass plate with a fork.
Shepherd's pie on a light towel, and one slice on a clear glass plate with a fork.
A piece of Shepherd's pie on a fork.

Now you’ve got all the know-how to make your very own delicious shepherd’s pie from scratch whenever you fancy. A simple but hearty homemade treat, it offers restaurant-quality taste while keeping things simple and straight to the point like a home cook likes.

If you’re looking for ways to spice up the recipe, it’s a fairly easy affair. Adding more vegetables like carrots, peas or even corn (that puts you on the way to making a variant called Pâté chinois, in fact) or cleaning the pan with some added broth or a dry red wine are both great ways to boost the flavor of your shepherd’s pie. You can even switch up the texture by using ground lamb.

One thing we get asked a lot in this area is about the meat, however. Specifically, there are questions about whether you can use something like ground beef in place of lamb. The answer to that is, “Of course!” but know that this would technically make it a different kind of dish known as ‘cottage pie’.

So, what is the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie? Whether you use beef or lamb is the difference, both being delicious but distinct meat pies with their own flavor profiles worth trying.

While the names have historically been used somewhat interchangeably, current culinary terminology sets things straight in the way outlined.

No matter how you make it, though, you’re sure to come up with something delicious with our recipe. What’s your favorite part about a well-made shepherd’s pie? The savory meat? The creamy mashed potato? The crispy top? Let us know along with any suggestions for future recipes you want to see us tackle.

Shepherd's pie on a light towel, and one slice on a clear glass plate with a fork.

How to Make Shepherd’s Pie

Joss D
Essentially a meaty gravy topped with mashed potatoes in pie form.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine British
Servings 6
Calories 779 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 lamb shoulderaround 2 kg.
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 12 medium potatoespeeled and quartered
  • 1 cup cheddar cheeseshredded, divided
  • 2 tbsp. Butterdivided
  • 1 large onionsliced
  • ½ tbsp. dried rosemary
  • Sea salt

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a roasting pan with foil and place the lamb shoulder on top. Drizzle the lamb with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt on both sides.
    Lamb shoulder in a roasting pan, drizzled with olive oil.
  • Bake the lamb for around 3-4 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when it smells fantastic, it’s golden brown and the meat separates easily from the bone. When it's done, let it cool.
    Lamb shoulder cooked in a roasting pan.
  • When the lamb has been cooking for around 3 hours, begin preparing the pie. First, boil the potatoes in salted water until soft (around 20 minutes). Reserve 2 cups of the water from boiling the potatoes and drain the rest.
    Pot of boiling potatoes.
  • Mash the potatoes using a fork. Add ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1 tbsp. of butter and salt, to taste. Mix well.
    Potatoes, cheese and butter on a plate.
  • Heat a skillet to medium-low heat and add the other tbsp. of butter. Sauté the onions with dried rosemary for around 20 minutes, or until starting to brown. Set aside.
    Sliced onions in a pan.
  • When the lamb has cooled, shred the meat with two forks and cut the skin into small pieces.
    Lamb shoulder cooked in a roasting pan.
  • Pour 2 cups of boiling water (you can use the reserved liquid from the potatoes) into the baking tray to remove the grease and all cooking juices from the lamb. Pour some of this liquid over the lamb’s meat (just enough to moisten it), and mix it with the onions to complete the filling. Season the filling, to taste.
    Roasting pan with grease and hot water in it.
  • Preheat oven to 400ºF. To make the pie – grease a pie plate with olive oil and cover with ½ of the mashed potatoes – use your hands to spread it evenly.
    Potatoes, cheese and butter mixture on a plate.
  • Add the lamb filling over top of the potatoes.
    Potatoes, cheese and butter mixture on a plate with shredded lamb.
  • Cover with the other half of the potatoes and spread it with your hands to cover the shredded lamb. Spread the other ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese over the pie. Use a fork to make a rim around the pie.
    Raw shepherd's pie on a baking plate.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes in the preheated oven – until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
    One slice of Shepherd's pie on a clear glass plate.

Equipment

Roasting pan
Pie plate
Pot
Skillet
Foil

Nutrition

Calories: 779kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 66gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 190mgSodium: 369mgPotassium: 2534mgFiber: 11gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 350IUVitamin C: 51mgCalcium: 314mgIron: 19mg

Nutrition information on In the Kitch is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. It may not include toppings and/or sauces.

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Looking to further enhance your cooking skills? Check out…How to Make Cajun Fries

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