This Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is a British comfort food classic loved by all. This is a classic recipe using ground lamb cooked with vegetables and Guinness for an extra flavor boost, topped with fluffy mashed potato and baked. The same recipe using ground beef is called Cottage Pie.

Shepherd's pie with some of the mash topping removed to reveal the beef and vegetable filling

Probably the most popular and recognized recipe from the U.K.

The perfect make ahead, one pan meal. Just make up to the point of baking, but don’t bake. Allow to the dish to cool, cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.  When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350°F/177°C and bake for 25 minutes until the top is browned.

A closeup of the ground beef filling with carrots and peas
What is the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie?

Real shepherd’s is made with ground lamb and not beef. The name makes sense if you think about it.  Lamb is a sheep and a shepherd is a person who tends to sheep, hence the name.

Why is it called a shepherd’s pie?

The pie made with beef is traditionally called cottage pie, made by the poorer people who lived in cottages from leftover beef and lamb. Both pies derive from the 18th Century, but as time has gone by, beef has becoming increasingly popular and more widely used than lamb, and so the recipe using beef is now commonly known as shepherd’s pie.

Viewed from above with a serving spoon and bottle of Guinness

I like to add Guinness to my traditional shepherd’s pie. Over the years of making this, I found that the rich flavor of the beer gives it that extra depth of flavor you just cannot get without it. You can omit if you are cooking for children and substitute with more beef stock.

The topping is made using mashed Yukon gold potatoes as they make for soft and creamy mashed potato. I have been known to add a small rutabaga to the mash which takes it to a new flavor level, if you would like to try.  As an extra bonus, the dish makes a little gravy as it cooks so you can reserve it and use for spooning over the top when serving.

Serving Dish

I like to make this recipe in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or oven-proof sauté pan) that be transferred to the oven. If you don’t have a cast iron or oven-proof skillet, you can start this recipe on the stovetop in whatever pan you have that will work then transfer to a casserole dish of about the same size to finish in the oven.

A spoonful of shepherd's pie

Does shepherd’s pie freeze well?

Yes! You can freeze before baking (just allow to cool) and cover tightly. It will keep frozen for up to 2 months. When you are ready to make, defrost in the fridge overnight then bake as per the recipe instructions. To freeze leftovers, allow to cool and wrap them up well. To reheat, you can bake right from frozen at 350°F/177°C for 1 hour.

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British Steak and Ale Pie

A steak and ale pie with a piece cut showing the chunky filling
Yield: 6

Traditional Shepherd's Pie

Shepherds pie with ground lamb, carrots and peas topped with piped mashed potato

Ground lamb is cooked with vegetables and Guinness for an extra flavor boost, then topped with fluffy mashed potato and baked.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes


  • For the potato topping:
  • 2 pounds (907 grams) potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) milk, warm
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, to taste
  • For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 7 ounces (207 grams) yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound (453 grams) carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) parsnip, peeled and diced small
  • 1 cup (150 grams) frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup (177ml) Guinness
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup (236 ml) beef stock, low sodium * see note


  1. For the potato topping:
  2. To a large pan add the potatoes, add cold water until the potatoes are covered and bring to a boil. Turn down to a low boil and cook for 20 minutes until tender.
  3. Drain the potatoes a colander, and add back to the pan. Mash until smooth and add the butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside.
  4. For the filling:
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F/177°C.
  6. Add vegetable oil to a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add ½ of the ground lamb. If the pan is too crowded, the meat will not brown, it will boil. Season with half of the salt and pepper, sauté until browned, breaking up the meat as it browns. Drain the meat keeping the fat in the pan and transfer to bowl or plate and repeat with the other ½ of the lamb, salt and pepper.
  7. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions to the browned lamb. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and thyme, cook for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and mix well.
  8. Add the carrots, parsnip, peas, Guinness, Worcestershire sauce and beef stock. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the carrot and parsnips are tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat.
  9. Spread the potato mixture (or pipe with a piping bag for a decorative look) over the meat mixture. Make sure you make little peaks so they get a nice brown color in the oven.
  10. Place the pan onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Taste your stock, if it is salty, you may need to adjust the amount of salt in the dish

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 689Total Fat 33gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 131mgSodium 816mgCarbohydrates 61gFiber 9gSugar 10gProtein 37g