This Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is a British comfort food classic loved by all. This classic recipe uses ground lamb cooked with vegetables, along with flavor boosting Guinness, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and beef broth or beef stock for an extra boost of flavor. This ground meat mixture is topped with fluffy mashed potato and baked. The same recipe, when using ground beef, is called Cottage Pie.

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

Everyone who knows and is a fan of British food, and this is probably the most widely known recipe from the United Kingdom. 

This savory pie ranks among beloved comfort foods like Chicken Pot Pie, Mac and Cheese, and Chili just to name a few family favorite meals.

What is the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie?

Real shepherd’s is made with ground lamb (lamb mince) and not ground beef (beef mince). 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. In addition, don’t forget there’s an apostrophe in there: shepherd’s not shepherds pie.

A closeup of the ground beef filling with carrots and peas

Make Ahead Shepherd’s Pie

To make this easy shepherd’s pie recipe ahead, prepare up to the point of baking, but don’t bake it. Allow the dish to cool, cover it, and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C and bake for 25 minutes until the top is browned.

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 date back to the 18th Century, but as time has gone by, beef has become increasingly popular and more widely used than lamb. 

Viewed from above with a serving spoon and bottle of Guinness

Meat filling flavor additions

I like to add Guinness to my classic shepherd’s pie recipe (which you could call a traditional Irish shepherd’s pie and would be perfect for St Patrick’s Day. Over the years of making this, I’ve found that the rich flavor of the beer gives it that extra depth you just cannot get without it and really does make for the best shepherd’s pie beef mixture.

You can omit the Guinness if you are cooking for children and substitute with more beef stock or beef broth. If you’re not a beer fan, red wine is also delicious which is use in Minced Beef and Dumplings

Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, if you want to elevate this great recipe, you could top it with Irish Colcannon, which is mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage.

Shepherd’s pie mash topping

The classic layer of creamy mashed potatoes is made with Yukon gold potatoes, as they make for soft and creamy mashed potatoes. 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 rich gravy as it cooks, so you can reserve it and use it for spooning over the top when serving.

A spoonful of shepherd's pie

Serving Dish

I like to make this recipe in a 10-inch (25 cm) 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 or deep baking dish of about the same size to finish in the oven.

Freezing unbaked Shepherd’s Pie

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. 

Freezing cooked Shepherd’s Pie

You can freeze an entire, fully baked recipe. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a 350°F/177°C oven until warmed through.  I also like to portion out leftovers and freeze individually. Defrost and reheat the same way.

If you’ve tried this Traditional Shepherd’s Pie or any other recipe on the blog then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how it turned out in the comments below, or ask a question. I love to hear from my readers!

Yield: 6

Traditional Shepherd's Pie

Fluffy and piped mashed potato on top of ground beef and vegetables

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 or broth, 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