Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

This Homemade Comfort Food Classic Is Sure to Be a Family Favorite

This Traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie is the epitome of comfort food. A delicious layer of ground lamb, mixed with peas and carrots, is topped with a crusty layer of smooth mashed potatoes and baked to perfection. Your family is sure to enjoy this meal either as a special treat on St. Patrick's Day or as a delicious weekend meal.

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I love Shepherd’s Pie! The combination of meat and veggies topped with mashed potatoes is just perfection. I recently published a very easy Beef Shepherd’s Pie and it has been a huge hit. I was eager to try a traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie made with lamb instead of beef. Since St. Patrick’s Day was coming up, I hit Ryan up with the challenge.

What is a Shepherd’s Pie?

Shepherd’s Pie is a comforting mixture of ground lamb with peas and carrots and just the right seasonings. It is topped with mashed potatoes and baked to perfection. It’s not a complicated dish and it is an Irish staple. We usually make it at home with beef, in which case it would be called a cottage pie. It’s called Shepherd’s Pie when made with ground lamb, because, well, the shepherd takes care of the lambs!

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I had never tried lamb until recently. When my neighbor found out I had never had it, he sent us over some homemade lamb patties and lamb chops and oh dear they were amazing! It was love at first bite. So I knew I definitely wanted to publish a traditional Shepherd’s Pie recipe made with lamb for St. Patrick’s Day.

Since I was already busy working on some extra delicious dessert recipes for St. Patrick’s Day, (like my Instant Pot Irish Car Bomb Chocoflan and my super easy Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes), I decided to ask my personal head chef for help in creating this recipe. That would be my husband, Ryan!

Ryan Hits the Kitchen

For those of you that know us, you know Ryan does a lot of the cooking at home. We spend a lot of time together in the kitchen. He’s an awesome recipe creator. If you don’t believe me, try his super popular Instant Pot French Dip recipe! To this day, it’s one of my family’s favorite recipes on the blog.

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But Ryan likes to create special recipes. He likes making things from scratch and loves experimenting in the kitchen. So when I wanted this special recipe for St. Patrick’s Day, I knew it was best left to him! Well, he certainly delivered!

The Perfect Meal for a Special Occassion

This Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is not necessarily an inexpensive meal. Ground lamb is not cheap most of the time. However, my supermarket puts it on sale several times a year, so I recommend you keep an eye out for sales at your local stores. Other than the lamb, though, the rest of the ingredients are all basic staples you probably have at home.

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If you don’t buy lamb often, I suggest you make this dish for a special occasion. St. Patrick’s Day, of course, is a perfect excuse to have Shepherd’s Pie. But, I’m confident you’ll want to make this more often since it’s so good. You can use ground beef instead if you want to make it more often and keep the costs lower.

Kitchen Prep Tools, Utensils & Appliances

Here is a list of the kitchen prep tools, utensils, and appliances I used to make this recipe.

Prep Tools & Utensils

This shepherd’s pie recipe is a little more involved than my usual recipes, but that’s ok because this dish is so wonderful for special occasions. Here are the prep tools and utensils that you will need:

  • Since this recipe has a few steps and requires various ingredients, I like to measure out all the ingredients and set them aside in small prep bowls before getting started. That way I know that I’m not going to forget something. Plus, it just makes the cooking process run much smoother. For this step, you will need a liquid measuring cup and a set of measuring spoons.
  • For prepping the potatoes, you will need a vegetable brush, a knife, and a cutting board
  • When cooking the ground lamb, you will need a spatula or spoon. I recently got one of these ground meat choppers and it really does make breaking the meat into smaller pieces so much easier.        
Appliances & Cookware

You’ll be cooking both on the stovetop and in the oven for this recipe. This is the cookware you’ll need:

  • You will be boiling the potatoes in a large stock pot and cooking the lamb on a large skillet. I’ve had this set of stainless steel pots and pans for a couple of years and love them.
  • You’ll be layering the meat and the potatoes in a baking dish.

During Ryan’s testing, as a matter of fact, he used ground beef, until he perfected the recipe enough to use the lamb. It was perfectly tasty and the kids loved it just as much with ground beef. But I will say, once we had it with lamb, it was on another level!

My family absolutely loves this Traditional Shepherd’s Pie and I’m certain yours will too. Let me know in the comments when you try it.

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Traditional Shepherd's Pie

Ground lamb and vegetables cooked in a red wine reduction and topped with fluffy mashed potatoes

Rating
5 from 1 vote
Servings
8
DifficultyA Bit More Difficult
Cooking Method(s)
  • Bake,
  • Stovetop
Oven Temp400°
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
1hour:20minutes
Total Time
1hour:50minutes
Recipe by: Valerie Cooper
This Traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie is a classic comfort food perfect for St. Patricks Day or any special occasion. The light sweetness of the ground lamb and vegetable filling is perfectly balanced with the savoriness of the fluffy mashed potatoes. This casserole dish is sure to be a hit for your next gathering.
Cuisine: Irish
Course: Main Course
Category: Casseroles

Ingredients

for the Mashed Potatoes

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes approx. 4 potatoes, rinsed, peeled, and cut
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter cubed, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk warm
  • 1 1/2 tsps kosher salt or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic minced

for the Lamb Filling

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sweet red table wine
  • 3 tbsps Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsps soy sauce
  • 3 tbsps tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 cups frozen peas and carrots 10 oz pkg, fully thawed

for the Topping

  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/8 cup parmesan grated

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°.

making the Mashed Potatoes

  • Scrub the potatoes under running water with a vegetable brush to remove any dirt or debris. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 to 2-inch thick chunks.
  • In a large stockpot, cover the potatoes with cold water and heat to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender in the middle, 20 to 30 minutes. Mine took about 25 minutes to cook through. Use a paring knife to check doneness by inserting the knife into the potatoes. When there is little resistance when inserting the knife, they are done.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse under hot water for 10-20 seconds to wash away any excess starch. Place back in the pot.
  • Add the softened butter and mash thoroughly into the potatoes using a potato masher. Next, add the warm milk, and salt and fold in using a spatula.

making the Lamb Filling

  • While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion to the skillet and sauté until the onion becomes soft and begins to brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and thyme to the skillet. Mix into the onion and cook for another minute to release the flavors and aromas of the herbs.
  • Add the ground lamb and break into small pieces while cooking. Sauté until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the meat and return to the skillet and sauté for another minute or two.
  • Sprinkle the 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, and flour over the lamb and then mix into the meat. Next add the red wine, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and tomato paste to the skillet and mix into the meat. Cook for a few minutes to allow the liquid to reduce.
  • Add the chicken stock and vegetables to the skillet, mix into the meat, and allow to come to a boil. As soon as the liquid begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium and allow to cook while the liquid reduces and thickens, about 10 minutes. Mix occasionally so that the meat doesn't burn to the bottom of the skillet.

assembling the Shepherd's Pie

  • Evenly spread the lamb filling on the bottom of a baking dish. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes evenly over the lamb. Then, lightly brush the top of the potatoes with the beaten egg and sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over the top.
  • Place the baking dish on the middle rack of a preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the peaks of the potatoes begin to brown.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve and enjoy your Shepherd Pie.

Notes

Some things you should know about this Traditional Shepherd’s Pie recipe.

Choosing the wine. I use a local sweet table wine for all of my recipes that call for wine. It’s Llano Sweet Red and it is fantastic. But you can use your own favorite table wine.

Making the recipe without wine. If you would like to leave the wine out of this recipe, you can replace it with an equal amount of chicken stock.

Using ground beef. You can most definitely substitute the ground lamb for ground beef. I would suggest using ground sirloin. I’ve tried this recipe with ground chuck. I expected the higher fat content of the ground chuck to add more flavor to the dish but I was not happy with the result. I prefer the taste of ground sirloin in this dish instead.

Nutrition Facts

While every effort is made to correctly calculate these nutritional facts, they should be used as general guidance as they may not be 100% accurate.

Calories: 677kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Cholesterol: 147mg | Sodium: 1209mg | Potassium: 1189mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 84.3% | Vitamin C: 20.9% | Calcium: 12.4% | Iron: 22.8%

Kitchen Tools

This is a list of the kitchen tools, utensils and appliances I used to make this recipe.

Tips & Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you make this Traditional Shepherd’s Pie recipe your own.

Speed up cook/prep time. You can speed up the cook/prep time by first setting the butter and milk out to warm, dicing the onion, and measuring all your ingredients ahead of time. After that, the first thing you’ll want to do is prep the potatoes and get them boiling. As soon as you get the potatoes going, start following the instructions for making the ground lamb. You should be able to get to the last step of the lamb meat (leaving it cooking for 10 minutes) by the time the potatoes are ready. This will give you time to finish making the potatoes while the lamb finishes cooking.

Smoother potatoes. If you want ultra smooth mashed potatoes, then I suggest using a potato ricer after the potatoes have finished cooking.

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