Hearty Dinners

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

August 24, 2019 by Chris Collins

A Shepherd’s Pie made the traditional British way (with lamb). A rich meat layer topped with creamy mash, this is sure to be a new family favourite!

shepherd's pie plated up with green beans blurred in the background

Shepherd’s Pie vs Cottage Pie

First things first, let’s see what we’re working with here. Put quite simply, here in the UK:

Cottage Pie = Beef
Shepherd’s Pie = Lamb

If you’re after a Cottage Pie Recipe, then do check out my Mum’s Traditional Cottage Pie.

How to make Shepherd’s Pie Filling (quick summary)

  1. Add lamb to a large skillet and fry until browned.
  2. Pour into baking dish, then fry onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
  3. Stir in tomato puree.
  4. Deglaze with red wine.
  5. Add back in lamb and stir to combine.
  6. Add beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme & rosemary, gravy granules, bay leaves.
SUB 1: Red Wine – I strongly recommend using this, it adds a gorgeous depth of flavour and pairs beautifully with the lamb. The alcohol will burns off, but if you’re adamant you don’t want to use it, just add more beef stock.
SUB 2: Gravy Granules – Firstly, make sure they’re a good beef gravy granule like Bisto (don’t skimp on a cheap brand). If you can’t find gravy granules then sub 2 tbsp flour, mix in the meat before adding the liquid, then gradually pour in the liquid to avoid lumps.

How to make Shepherd's Pie - 6 step by step photos

Mashed Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Right, mince layer is done, now let’s talk mash.  I like to keep the mash layer fairly simple, but tasty enough to not be overshadowed by the lamb layer. Here’s what you’ll need:

Shepherd’s Pie Mashed Potato Ingredients

  • Potatoes – Peeled, white and diced into 1″ chunks.
  • Cream – can sub milk.
  • Butter – of course.
  • Nutmeg – Adds gorgeous flavour to the mash.
  • Parmesan – To add a crispy layer on top.
Top Tip #1 – Make sure you give the mash a heavy seasoning of salt and pepper. The mince layer is going to be gorgeously rich and flavoursome, don’t ruin it with unseasoned mash. Season well, then season again.

How to make mashed potato for shepherd's pie - 2 step by step photos

Baked Shepherd’s Pie

Okey dokey, mince – done. Mash – done. Time to whack it all together!

Tips for making Shepherd’s Pie

  1. Thickening – Make sure your mince is properly thickened. Because it’ll be under a layer of potato, there will be no room for the steam to escape, meaning it won’t reduce at all. Whatever the texture before the oven will be the texture after. Simmering for up to 45mins will do the trick.
  2. Even Layer of Mash – Go scoop by scoop from outside to inside. This will make sure the mince layer doesn’t clump to one side.
  3. Rest – Let it rest for 5mins or so, just to help retain shape before serving.
Shepherd’s pie is perfect for leftovers! Pop in the freezer, then thaw and pop back in the oven (or microwave). Shepherd’s pie can also be made ahead, either store in fridge and add an extra 5-10mins to oven time, or thaw and bake as instructed.

How to layer shepherd's pie - 3 step by step photos

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

And there we have it! A traditional British Shepherd’s Pie ready for the taking. Perfect for a comfort food family dinner, perfect to make ahead and easy to freeze for leftovers.

Hey, whilst you’re here why not check out my other recipes?

Comfort Food Dinner Ideas

Okay, let’s tuck into this Shepherd’s Pie Recipe shall we!?

scoop of shepherd's pie straight out of the dish

How to make Shepherd’s Pie (Full Recipe & Video)

shepherd's pie plated up with green beans blurred in the background

Shepherd's Pie

A Shepherd's Pie made the traditional British way (with lamb). A rich meat layer topped with creamy mash, this is sure to be a new family favourite! Serves 6 comfortably, would feed 8 with a side.
5 from 6 votes
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Servings (click & slide): 6
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: British
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Calories per serving: 963kcal
Cost per serving: £3 / $3.50


  • Deep 12" Skillet or Large Pot (for meat layer)
  • Large Pot (for mash)
  • 8x12" Baking Dish (for combined)
  • Tray (to place dish on)
  • Chopping Board & Sharp Knife (for veg)
  • Jug (for stock)
  • Potato Masher (for mash)
  • Fine Grater (for parmesan)
  • Wooden Spoon

Ingredients (check list):

Lamb Layer

  • 2lb / 1kg Minced Lamb
  • 2.5 cups / 625ml Beef Stock
  • 1/2 cup / 125ml Dry Red Wine (see notes)
  • 2 medium Carrots, finely diced
  • 2 ribs of Celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium White Onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Gravy Granules (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Puree (tomato paste in US)
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
  • Olive Oil, as needed
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste

Mash Layer

  • 4.4lb / 2kg White Potatoes, peeled & diced into 1" chunks
  • 1/2 cup / 125ml Cream (can sub milk)
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup / 35g Parmesan (to top)
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste


  • Add a drizzle of olive oil to a large skillet/pot over medium heat and add your lamb. Break up with a wooden spoon until it begins to brown, then season with salt & pepper. Continue to fry until completely browned and the liquid (if any) has disappeared. Pour into your baking dish.
  • Add more oil as needed to the skillet/pot then add your onion, celery and carrot. Fry until they begin to soften and brown, then add your garlic. Fry for a minute longer, then stir in 2 tbsp tomato puree. Deglaze with 1/2cup / 125ml wine and allow to reduce for a few mins. Add back in your lamb and stir to combine.
  • Pour in 2.5 cups / 375ml Beef stock then add 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp gravy granules, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp thyme and salt & pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 35-45mins or until thickened.
  • Meanwhile, boil your potatoes in salted water until knife tender. Drain and mash in 4 tbsp butter. Once lump free, stir in 1/2 cup / 125ml cream and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Pour your lamb into the baking dish, then top with your mash. I recommend doing this in large spoonfuls dollop by dollop, working from the outside in. This is just so the lamb stays in an even layer and doesn't clump to one end. Top with parmesan, pop the baking dish on a tray and place in the oven at 390f/200c for 20-25mins, or until golden on top and bubbling round the edges.
  • Let it sit for 5mins (just to retain shape) then serve up!

Quick 1 min demo!


a) Wine - I highly recommend adding this. It adds a gorgeous depth of flavour and pairs beautifully with the lamb. Most, if not all of the alcohol will burn off, but if you're adamant you don't want to add it, just sub with more beef stock.
b) Gravy Granules - These are used to thicken the sauce and add flavour. I highly recommend using a trusted brand such as Bisto. Do not sub for a cheap tasteless brand, it'll end up tasting like perfume... If you're struggling to find gravy granules, I recommend stirring in 2 tbsp flour into the mince before the liquid is added. Fry it off for a few mins to get rid of that floury taste, then gradually pour in the liquid to avoid lumps.
c) Thickening - It's important to thicken the mince layer before it's topped with mash. Whatever the consistency is before you add the mash will be the consistency when it comes out the oven (because no steam can escape through the layer of mash). As such, don't skip the timings - 30mins minimum!
d) Seasoned Mash - It's really important to season well, then season some more. The lamb is going to be gorgeously rich, don't ruin it with unseasoned mash.
e) Tray Underneath - The gravy will begin to spill out of the sides of the dish about half way through, which is fine, just make sure your dish is on a tray to catch this (too many experiences of smoking out the kitchen with the gravy burning on the bottom of the oven)
f) Rest - Allow it to rest for 5mins after it's taken out 1. to help to retain posture 2. so you don't scold the roof of your mouth (again, from experience).
g) Serving - I recommend serving with a side of green beans. Will comfortably feed 6, can stretch to 8 with a side.
h) Calories - based on 1 tbsp olive oil, heavy cream and sharing between 6.


Nutrition Facts
Shepherd's Pie
Amount Per Serving
Calories 963 Calories from Fat 410
% Daily Value*
Fat 45.57g70%
Saturated Fat 22.703g114%
Trans Fat 0.001g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.027g
Monounsaturated Fat 17.131g
Cholesterol 187mg62%
Sodium 621mg26%
Potassium 2758mg79%
Carbohydrates 79.21g26%
Fiber 8.3g33%
Sugar 9.14g10%
Protein 53.93g108%
Vitamin A 4049IU81%
Vitamin C 46.9mg57%
Calcium 200mg20%
Iron 6.57mg37%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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