My Debut Cookbook 'Comfy' Is Out Now. ORDER HERE!
Hearty Dinners

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

August 24, 2019 (Last Updated: March 24, 2024) 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.

Shepherd’s Pie Filling

For the meat layer, we’re looking for tender, juicy meat in a thick & rich gravy. To achieve this we’re going to give it a good simmer to really tenderize and soften the meat. We’re also going to be using red wine, Worcestershire sauce and gravy granules to offer a nice deep, rich sauce.

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.

How do I stop the mash from sinking into the lamb?

  • Potatoes – Ensure your potatoes steam dry a little before you mash them. This will allow some of that moisture to escape and help the mash layer firm up.
  • Lamb – Let the lamb layer cool in the baking dish before you top it with mash. Because no steam can escape when it’s baking (as it’s hidden under the mash) whatever the thickness of the meat sauce before the oven, will be similar on the other end.
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 much at all. Whatever the texture before the oven will be the texture after. Gently 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.

Can you make Shepherd’s Pie ahead of time?

Shepherd’s pie can also be made ahead, either store in the fridge and add an extra 5-10mins to oven time, or bring to room temp and bake as instructed.

Can you freeze Shepherd’s Pie?

Shepherd’s pie is perfect for leftovers! Pop in the freezer, then thaw and pop back in the oven (or microwave).

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

Serving Shepherd’s Pie

Once it’s cooked and out the oven, I recommend resting for 5mins or so, just to help retain shape before serving.

What to serve with Shepherd’s Pie?

It’s great by itself, but for a side, you could also add Parmesan Cauliflower, Garlic Green Beans or Roasted Broccolini!

Okay, let’s tuck into the full recipe for 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

Traditional 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
Print Pin Rate Share by Text
Servings (click & slide): 6 - 8
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: British
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Calories per serving: 963kcal
Cost per serving: £3 / $3.50


  • Deep 12" Skillet or Large Pot (for meat layer)
  • Large Pot & Colander (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

  • 1kg / 2.2lb Minced/Ground Lamb
  • 625ml / 2 1/2 cups Beef Stock
  • 120ml / 1/2 cup 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, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 heaped 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)
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp Butter
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup / 40g freshly grated Parmesan
  • 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 and place to one side.
  • 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 / 120ml wine and allow to reduce for a couple of mins. Add back in your lamb and stir to combine.
  • Pour in 2.5 cups / 625ml Beef stock then add 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 heaped tbsp gravy granules, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp thyme and salt & pepper to taste. Allow to gently simmer for 40-45mins or until the liquid reduces is thickens. Check for seasoning, then pour into a large baking dish. Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes, preferably until it forms a thin skin over the top (prevents mash sinking in).
  • Meanwhile, add the potatoes to a large pot of heavily salted cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are knife tender (10-15 mins). Drain and give them a shake, then leave them in the colander for 5 minutes to allow moisture to escape (watery potatoes = sloppy pie). Mash in the pot with butter, cream and generous helpings of salt and pepper (consider 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper). Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
  • Gently top with the lamb with the 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 5-10mins (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 - 35mins 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.

Your Private Notes:


Nutrition Facts
Traditional 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.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart
Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

For a delicious twist on this Shepherd’s Pie check out my Spiced Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie!

For more similar recipes check out these beauties:

Comfort Food Dinner Ideas





Leave a Reply

Recipe Rating


  • Reply
    October 15, 2023 at 6:19 pm

    I love your recipes and am definitely gonna try this one. What would be your recommendation about adding mint sauce to the lamb? Any have would be appreciated.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      October 16, 2023 at 11:41 am

      Hey Maria! If you wanted to add mint sauce I’d add some on the side at the end. Definitely wouldn’t add it in the filling itself. Hope it goes down well 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    Hi, going to cook it tomorrow, but i miss the gravy granules. There’s wrote i can sub it with flour but i dont understand when to add it. in the first step (meat in the pot) or after i put meat in the pot again after cooking veg, and just before adding stock etc? thanks

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      June 28, 2023 at 10:12 am

      Hi Damian! You stir the flour after adding the cooked lamb back into the pot. Hope this helps! C.

      • Reply
        June 29, 2023 at 5:46 pm

        Hi, unfortunately it dont keeped the form, even if i thickened it a lot of time. I also used half of the ingredients while using a similar baking dish as yours so it was basically half of the height. Splattered on the dish once served, but it was the only issue 🙂

        • Reply
          Chris Collins
          June 30, 2023 at 6:30 pm

          Hi Damian! The mash looks quite wet in the photos. Possibly slightly over-boiled potatoes have sucked in too much water. Also try letting them steam dry for a bit next time to allow unwanted moisture to escape. Important to let the meat layer cool to form the ‘skin’ too. Hope you have better luck next time! C.

          • Damian
            July 3, 2023 at 1:50 pm

            yeah, i waited almost nothing after cooking the mash. meat stayed aside for maybe 30m, but it seems its not enough. however the day after, in microwave oven, was almost perfect and keeped the form 🙂

  • Reply
    January 11, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for recipe. you may wish to us amend the water mls I’m the ingredient list to 375.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      January 11, 2022 at 6:08 pm

      Thanks for spotting that!

  • Reply
    February 1, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    Hi Chris! I’m tracking my calorie & fat intake. What is considered one serving? I’m prepping this tonight for tmr’s supper. Hubby doesn’t like lamb, so using lean hamburger.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      February 2, 2021 at 10:36 am

      Hi Jeannette! The recipe offers 6 portions, so 1 serving is 1/6 of the whole recipe. Hope this helps 🙂

      • Reply
        February 2, 2021 at 11:20 pm

        Oh my word! This is so delicious! Other recipes with the mixed veggies didn’t appeal to me. My hubby loved it! I didn’t have red wine so used white. After reading the recipe for cottage pie, I guess that’s what I made. So so good! Will be making this again! Maybe I’ll try to sneak in some lamb. Lol

        • Reply
          Chris Collins
          February 3, 2021 at 6:06 pm

          That’s awesome to hear! So happy it went down well 🙂

  • Reply
    January 1, 2021 at 4:43 am

    Can I use a 9×13 baking dish instead of the 8×12? That doesn’t seem to be a common size here in Canada, as I can’t find it anywhere!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      January 1, 2021 at 11:21 am

      Yep that’ll work just fine 🙂

  • Reply
    October 25, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    5 stars
    This was amazing….SO good! Can t wait to make it again already! Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      October 26, 2020 at 9:52 am

      That’s awesome! So happy to hear it went down well 🙂

  • Reply
    Jere Cassidy
    August 25, 2019 at 4:58 am

    5 stars
    My husbands favorite. Your recipe is a must try. Great tutorial.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks Jere! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 25, 2019 at 3:14 am

    5 stars
    I had no idea shepherds pie was made with with lamb! I love how you explained the difference depending on which kind of meat goes in it! I think I’d prefer the lamb! Yum!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm

      Here in the UK it is anyway! 🙂

  • Reply
    Krissy Allori
    August 25, 2019 at 3:07 am

    5 stars
    Yummy! Talk about a great comfort food. So filling and delicious.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm


  • Reply
    August 25, 2019 at 2:36 am

    5 stars
    Once I made a Shepherd’s Pie, using a recipe of the French chef Hélène Darroze. I loved it. I am going to try your recipe for sure. It sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 25, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      Enjoy!! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 25, 2019 at 2:18 am

    5 stars
    This is a traditional, classic dish – but oh my goodness, it is the best recipe! I will be making this one over and over – no doubt in my mind 🙂 Delicious!!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 25, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      That’s awesome! Enjoy 🙂