Easy Shepherd's Pie is a one-pan dinner loaded with savory ground beef or lamb plus colorful veggies. This skillet Shepherd's Pie recipe is also perfect for using up leftover mashed potatoes!
Today's Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe is one of those pretty-much-perfect weeknight dinners, for a variety of reasons.
Why Make Easy Shepherd's Pie?
For one thing, it makes good use of leftovers, which is always a plus. In fact, my family loves this recipe so much that when I make mashed potatoes to accompany a meal, I almost always boil an extra 1 ½ pounds of potatoes. Because I know that the leftovers will once again shine later in the week crowning an Easy Shepherd's Pie!
Reason número dos to love this recipe is that it's a skillet supper...and who doesn't love a complete dinner that only dirties one dish?! Even if you don't have leftover taters on hand and have to whip those up from scratch, that can quickly be accomplished in one small additional pot. So any way you slice it, this is supper via minimal dishes, which is always a big plus in my book.
In addition to being quick and easy to throw together, this Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe is pretty much a complete and balanced meal in and of itself! You've got protein, you've got carbs, you've got veggies. You have an assortment of vitamins and nutrients. You have a variety of textures and flavors and vibrant colors.
Each ingredient is distinct from the others yet everything melds together beautifully. But the very best part is that if you're feeling unmotivated to cook a few vegetable-ish side dishes, you don't have to. Plenty of veggies are already included here!
Shepherd's Pie with Ground Beef
Traditionally, Shepherd's Pie is made with ground lamb (you know, since shepherd's herd sheep). The ground beef version is called Cottage Pie. Alas, over the years, the names (at least in America) have blurred. So when most people here search for a Shepherd's Pie recipe, they're anticipating ground beef.
And since I always have a freezer full of ground beef, I always make my Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe using said ground beef. But I give you the option of making it with either ground beef or ground lamb! Just know that if you make it with ground beef, it's technically called Cottage Pie.
And know that if I don't make that disclaimer, the internet police will come get me. 😉
So what does it take to make Easy Shepherd's Pie?
- Ground beef or lamb. Already disclaimed above. 🙂
- Beef broth or stock. If you use low-sodium, you can better control the overall salt in your recipe. But if you don't want to crack open a whole carton of beef broth for just half a cup, you can definitely use water plus a dab of Better than Bouillon instead.
- Seasonings + flavorings. Namely, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, dried oregano, and salt and pepper. Don't leave any of 'em out!
- Veggies. I like to include garlic, mushrooms, carrots, peas, and corn in my Easy Shepherd's Pie, but feel free to switch up the vegetables to your family's liking. For example, if you'd enjoy onion and/or celery in this recipe, you can add and cook a medium diced onion and/or a stalk of chopped celery during the same step that you add the garlic, mushrooms, and carrots.
- Mashed potatoes. These can be leftover, or you can make 'em fresh.
- Grated cheese. I usually go with sharp cheddar, but use your favorite cheese! Monterey jack or even pepper jack would also be yummy.
The SECRET Ingredient
I know that there are plenty of Shepherd's Pie recipes out there, but I have to encourage you to try this one because I really feel like it's better than the rest. And I'm pretty sure it has to do with the proportions of vegetables and the specific amount of...wait for it...tomato paste.
Yeah, I know. That sounds kind of crazy. But I've made this before and just carelessly plopped some tomato paste in the skillet and it just didn't turn out the same.
Using exactly four tablespoons of tomato paste seems to bring out the savory flavor of the beef and the sweetness of the veggies.
If you add less, the flavor is a tad bland. If you add more, everything starts to taste too tomato-y and slightly acidic.
So take my advice and measure the ingredients accurately the first time you make this! I swear it makes a difference in this particular recipe.
How to Make Shepherd's Pie
(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)
This recipe couldn't be any quicker or easier to throw together:
- Brown and drain your ground beef or lamb.
- Season with oregano, salt, and pepper, and stir in the beef broth, tomato paste, and Worcestershire.
- Add the garlic, mushrooms, and carrots.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Stir in the peas and corn and adjust the seasonings to taste.
- Stir ½ cup grated cheese into your mashed potatoes.
- Dollop and spread the potatoes over the top of the mixture in the skillet.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Bake until golden brown.
To Make Mashed Potatoes
In case you don't already have leftover mashed potatoes on hand, it's simple to quickly whip up a small pot of them.
- Place 1 ½ pounds of peeled and cubed potatoes in a pot and cover with an inch of cold water.
- Set over high heat, bring to a boil, stir in 1 teaspoon of salt, and reduce to a simmer.
- Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are nice and tender.
- Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, and add ¾ cup warm milk and 4 tablespoons melted butter.
- Mash until smooth, seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
I feel the need to note that you should cook your potatoes in an uncoated, stainless steel pot if you wish to mash directly in the pot. If you boil your potatoes in a coated, non-stick-type pot, don't mash your potatoes in that pot using a metal potato masher or you'll scratch it.
Oh, and did I mention that you can totally put this Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe together ahead of time?
(But unless you're going to bake it off the same day, I would probably recommend transferring the meat & veggie mixture to a casserole dish before adding the mashed potatoes and cheese on top.)
Simply cover, pop in the refrigerator, and bake it off when you're ready to eat! Just be sure to remove the dish from the fridge to let it start coming to room temperature as the oven preheats, and make sure they center is heated through before serving.
This little trick is helpful when you have a chunk of time earlier in the day to work on dinner, since focusing on meal prep at "the witching hour" (AKA, 5:00 p.m. at our house) sometimes feels next to impossible between after school activities, homework, sibling bickering, and end-of-day toddler meltdowns.
(Coincidentally, I've heard it rumored that, in some parts, "the witching hour" is also known as "it's wine-o'clock somwhere." Ahem.)
This recipe also freezes beautifully.
I would recommend transferring the cooked meat and veggie mixture to a casserole dish, spreading the mashed potatoes on top, sprinkling with cheese, and then tightly covering in a double-layer of freezer-thickness foil.
Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
The day before you'd like to enjoy your Shepherd's Pie, transfer the dish to the refrigerator to thaw.
Then when you're ready to bake it off, remove from the fridge while the oven preheats. Bake, uncovered, as the recipe directs. Just make sure that the center gets piping hot.
If the top starts to turn too brown before the center reaches temperature, you can always lay a sheet of foil on top of the dish for the last few minutes of cooking time.
The next time you end up with leftover mashed potatoes, embrace your good fortune and put this Easy Shepherd's Pie on the menu!
It's comforting, warm, and hearty...perfect for busy weeknights and lazy weekends alike. And I'm pretty sure that once you give it a try, it'll become a keeper recipe in your files, just like it is in mine.
More Comfort Food Bliss
Easy Shepherd’s Pie
- 1 pound ground beef OR lamb
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup beef broth OR stock
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ cups carrots, julienned OR shredded
- 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned & chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 4 cups mashed potatoes, see NOTES for recipe if you don't have leftovers
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, DIVIDED
- Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cook beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink; drain and discard grease. Season the beef with oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Stir in the tomato paste, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the carrots, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and corn; taste and adjust the seasonings.
- If using leftover mashed potatoes, briefly warm them in the microwave so that they can be stirred until smooth (add a splash of milk, if necessary). Stir ½ cup cheddar into the mashed potatoes, then dollop and spread them over the top of the meat/veggie mixture in the skillet. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup cheddar on top.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately.
- Feel free to change up the veggies to your liking. If you enjoy onion and/or celery in your Shepherd's Pie, you can add and cook a medium diced onion and/or a stalk of chopped celery during the same step that you add the garlic/mushrooms/carrots.
- If desired (or if assembling ahead of time), you may transfer the meat/veggie mixture to a 2-quart oval casserole dish (or similar sized dish) and top with mashed potatoes before baking.
- If you'd like to prep this Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe ahead of time, assemble (without baking) and then tightly cover and refrigerate for several hours up to 3 days. Allow the dish to come to room temperature while the oven is preheating and then bake, uncovered, as directed.
- Similarly, if you'd like to freeze this recipe for up to 3 months, transfer the cooked meat/veggie mixture to a casserole dish before topping with the mashed potatoes and cheese. Tightly cover with a double layer of freezer-thickness foil and label. The day before you'd like to enjoy it, transfer the dish to the refrigerator to thaw overnight. When it's time to bake it, remove the dish from the fridge to come to room temperature while the oven preheats. Then bake as directed, uncovered, until heated through.
- If the surface starts to get too brown before the center reaches temperature, you can lay a piece of foil over the top for the last few minutes of cooking time.
- TO MAKE MASHED POTATOES: (in case you don't have leftovers)
- 1 ½ pounds potatoes, peeled & cut into cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cups milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Garlic salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with 1 inch of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. While the potatoes are cooking, microwave the milk and butter until hot (or heat in a small saucepan). Once the potatoes are done, drain the water and return the potatoes to pot. Pour the hot milk/butter over the potatoes and mash them directly in the pot (as long as it's not a pot that can be scratched, such as coated/non-stick). Season with garlic salt (or regular salt, if you prefer) and fresh pepper, to taste.
Post originally published on October 26, 2014, and updated on February 2, 2021, and February 18, 2022.