Try this easy shepherd's pie recipe then check out our vegetarian shepherd's pie, spiced shepherd's pie, classic cottage pie and more comforting pie recipes.

What is a shepherd's pie?

Shepherd’s pie was originally an old English recipe invented as a way to make the leftover meat from a Sunday roast go further, chopping the meat into small chunks, mixing with veg and onions and making a stock from leftover bones. Topped with mash and baked this provided an extra meal for families. Modern recipes are more likely to start from scratch, cooking the lamb from raw.

What's the difference between and shepherd's pie and a cottage pie?

Shepherd’s pie and cottage pie use exactly the same method and share many similar ingredients, the only real difference being shepherd’s pie uses lamb and cottage pie uses beef. In both cases mince is the most commonly used cut.

How do you make the best shepherd's pie?

The secret to a really good shepherd’s pie is packing flavour into the base. Browning the mince properly gives a deep colour to the finished filling and extra flavour from the caramelisation on the meat. Adding a mix of gently cooked onion, carrots and celery gives a savoury depth to the filling. A little flour stirred into the meat and veg before the stock is added will make sure your gravy has a decent body. Extras like a splash of Worcestershire sauce will give depth to the finished sauce. Strong woody herbs lie thyme and rosemary are best in this recipe.

If you want to get more veg into your pie, then then you can bump up the amount of carrots and celery or use other root veg like parsnips and sweet potato or even a couple of handfuls of frozen peas.

How do you make the best mash for shepherd's pie?

You want the mash for your shepherd’s pie to be quite dense as if it’s too loose you will end up with a sloppy pie that doesn’t keep its shape. For a lighter mash push the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer then beat in diced butter. Season the mash really well – potato is bland so it can take it. Before baking dot the mash with a little extra butter, this will help the surface get really golden and crisp up on the peaky bits.

Easy shepherd's pie recipe


  • 500g lamb mince
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 tsp of chopped leaves thyme
  • 1 tbsp of chopped leaves rosemary
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 600ml light lamb or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1.5kg floury potatoes (such as King Edward or Maris Piper), peeled and quartered
  • 50g butter, plus extra for the top


  • STEP 1

    Heat a non-stick pan until hot and add the lamb mince. Fry, turning now and again, until it’s well browned. Break it up as it cooks so you don’t get big lumps. It will give out a lot of liquid to begin with, but keep cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Season well.

  • STEP 2

    Stir in the onions, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add the herbs and cook for 2 minutes.

  • STEP 3

    Sprinkle over the flour and stir into the mince. Cook for 2 minutes then pour in the stock and add the worcestershire sauce and tomato purée. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, then tip into the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish and cool a little.

  • STEP 4

    Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain, then use a potato ricer to rice the potatoes back into the pan or mash with a regular masher. Beat in the butter and season.

  • STEP 5

    Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Put large spoonfuls of the mash on top of the lamb mix, then use a fork to rough up the surface. Dot with a little more butter.

  • STEP 6

    Bake for 40-45 minutes until crusted and golden on top and the sauce is bubbling.


Janine Ratcliffe Portrait
Janine RatcliffeFood director

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