Classic Shepherd’s Pie is a comforting casserole that consists of ground lamb, carrots, and peas simmered with Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, and herbs and topped with a cheesy mashed potato layer that’s baked until golden and crisp. Shepherd’s Pie is wonderful any time of year but is especially great for St. Paddy’s Day.

Shepherd's pie in white dish with baking dish in the background.


Our family waits all year long for St. Paddy’s Day for me to make my classic shepherd’s pie.  

The combination of the lamb and veggies simmering with the herbs, Guinness, and Worcestershire sauce creates this outrageous aroma that’s rivaled only by its taste.

The creamy mashed potatoes with their crispy top make the perfect “crust” to this pie and while he makes a lot of it, there are usually no leftovers.

And I’m always left wondering why we don’t make this more often!

For our St. Paddy’s day celebration, we typically serve our shepherd’s pie with our homemade Irish soda bread and corned beef and cabbage, but the pie is substantial enough to serve on its own any time of the year.

And it’s usually followed by this delicious chocolate Guinness cake with Irish cream frosting.

We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as our family does!

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Overhead shot of all of the shepherd's pie recipe ingredients.
  • Lamb. Ground lamb works great, though braised lamb shoulder broken down into chunks is great too!
  • Beef stock. Homemade beef stock or Better than Bouillon reduced-sodium beef base both work well. Skip the box stocks.
  • Heavy cream. You can also use milk.
  • Guinness. Sub dry red wine or omit completely if you don’t want alcohol. If omitting, add a cup more beef stock.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make shepherd’s pie

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

First, start the mashed potatoes process

  1. Peel and halve 3 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes.  Place the potatoes in a stockpot, fill it with enough cold water to cover them, and add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt.  Bring the potatoes to a boil and cook until fork tender, roughly 25-30 minutes. (Photo #1)
  2. Rice the potatoes in a large bowl.  Note: You can certainly make mashed potatoes with a potato masher or hand mixer, but a ricer will yield better results. (Photo #2)
Shepherd's pie recipe process shot collage for the mashed potatoes.
  1. Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream, 8 tablespoons of butter that’s been melted, and 1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Mix together and taste test making any adjustments needed to salt and pepper before you add the egg yolks below. (Photo #3)
  2. Add the yolks of 3 large eggs and mix until combined. (Photo #4)

Meanwhile, begin browning the lamb and making the filling

  1. Dice one large onion, 3 celery ribs, and 3 medium carrots.  Mince 5 cloves of garlic, chop 1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves and remove 1 tablespoon’s worth of thyme leaves from their stems.  Preheat the oven to 400f and set one rack in the middle and the other toward the top third. Heat a large heavy pan or pot to medium-high and add 2 pounds of ground lamb.  Cook the lamb for 7-10 minutes until well browned.  Once it gets nice and brown, break up the lamb with a meat masher or wooden spoon. (Photo #1)  
  2. Add the carrots, onions, and celery along with a pinch of salt.  Saute the mixture until the veggies have softened, about 5-7 minutes. (Photo #2)  
Shepherd's pie recipe process shot collage group number one.
  1. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, then add 3 ounces of tomato paste and stir to incorporate.  Allow the paste to cook for 3 minutes. (Photo #3)
  2. Add 12 ounces of Guinness and turn the heat up to high.  With a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to remove all of the brown bits. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. (Photo #4)
  3. Turn the heat down to medium, add 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, and cook for 1-2 minutes until there is no white flour remaining in the pan. (Photo #5)  
  4. Add 2 cups of low-sodium beef stock, 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce, the thyme and rosemary, and 1 1/2 cups of frozen green peas, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. (Photo #6)
Recipe process collage number two.
  1. Taste test the filling and make any adjustments to salt, pepper, thyme, or rosemary if needed.  You want it to taste really good!  So season well. (Photo #7)
  2. Add the filling to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread with a spatula to ensure an even layer.  Note: I am using two smaller baking dishes in these pics, but all of the ingredients will fit a 9×13″ baking dish perfectly. (Photo #8)
  3. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, begin to add the mashed potatoes on top of the lamb filling. (Photo #9)  
  4. Spread the potatoes to create an even layer and use a spoon or a fork to make to fluff the potatoes to make mounds or points. (Photo #10)  
Recipe process shot collage group number three.
  1. Sprinkle a 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top and place the casserole dish (or dishes) on a baking sheet to help prevent spillage. (Photo #11)
  2. Bake for 20 minutes in the center of the oven.  Then, move the pan to the top rack and broil for 1-3 minutes or until browned, but not burnt.  Be sure to watch carefully!  Let the shepherd’s pie sit and settle for 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy! (Photo #12)
Ovehead shot of shepherd's pie in blue dish with one slice taken out of it.

Top tips

  • Potatoes. Similar to our potato gnocchi, we recommend using russets as their dryer and hold less water.  They will help create an airy mashed potato which will help to make a crispier crust.  A ricer works great for making mashed potatoes.
  • Lamb.  Classic shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with ground lamb.  If you don’t like lamb and prefer to use beef, you can certainly do so.  Making this substitution would result in cottage pie, rather than shepherd’s pie.  
  • Guinness.  Guinness gives a great depth of flavor to Shepherd’s pie.  If you can’t find Guinness any dark ale, porter, or stout will do.  Red wine can also be used.  If you can’t have alcohol, simply replace the Guinness with beef stock.
  • Taste test! Be sure to taste test your mashed potatoes before you add the egg yolks.  Also, taste test the lamb filling before adding it to the casserole dish.  You really want to ensure both layers are seasoned very well so you have the best possible shepherd’s pie!

Ovehead shot of slice of shepherd's pie in white dish.

More comforting recipes you’ll love

  • Meatloaf with brown gravy – classic meatloaf with ground beef and brown mushroom gravy.
  • Italian beef stew – tender chunks of beef with carrots, celery, and mushrooms.
  • Classic chili – ancho and chipotle chiles with beef, beans, and just a touch of cinnamon and dark chocolate.

If you’ve enjoyed this Classic Shepherd’s Pie Recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.

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Shepherd’s Pie

4.98 from 38 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 6
This classic shepherd's pie combines ground lamb, carrots, and peas simmered with Guinness and beef stock and layered with creamy, cheesy mashed potato crust that's baked until golden.

Ingredients 

  • 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/4 cups Parmigiano Reggiano grated, divided
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream plus more if too dry
  • 1 stick butter melted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large egg yolks

For the filling

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 celery ribs diced
  • 3 medium carrots diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of Guinness
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves only
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped, leaves only
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions 

For the mashed potatoes

  • Fill a stockpot with the potatoes, cover with cold water, and mix in 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender (about 25-30 minutes).
  • Rice the potatoes in a large bowl. Combine with the heavy cream, melted butter, and 1 cup of parmesan cheese. Taste test the potatoes and season very well with salt and pepper to taste. Once satisfied with the taste, mix the egg yolks into the potatoes.

For the Shepherd's pie

  • Preheat oven to 400f and set one rack in the middle and one towards the top 1/3 of the oven.
  • While the potatoes are boiling make the filling. Heat a large heavy pan or pot to medium-high heat then add the lamb.
  • Cook until well browned (about 7-10 minutes), then break up the lamb with a wooden spoon or meat masher. Next, add the carrots, onions, and celery along with a pinch of salt. Saute until the veggies are soft (about 5-7 minutes) then add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add the tomato paste, stir, and cook for 3 minutes. Next, add the Guinness and turn the heat to high. With a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pot to remove all of the brown bits. Cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated (about 3-4 minutes).
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until there is no white flour remaining in the pan. Add the beef stock, thyme, rosemary, peas, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
  • Taste test the filling and adjust salt, pepper, thyme, or rosemary if required.
  • Add the filling to a 9×13" baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on the top and with a fork or spoon fluff the potatoes making mounds or points. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of grated parmesan.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in the center of the oven. Move the dish towards the top of the oven and broil for 1-3 minutes or until well browned but not burnt. Watch carefully! Let the shepherd's pie sit for 10 minutes before eating so that it can settle. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Taste test the mashed potatoes before adding the egg yolks to ensure proper seasoning.  Be sure to also taste test the lamb filling and make any adjustments to the salt, pepper, or herbs as needed.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated.

Nutrition

Calories: 797kcal | Carbohydrates: 60.8g | Protein: 59.4g | Fat: 33.2g | Saturated Fat: 17.4g | Cholesterol: 264mg | Sodium: 646mg | Potassium: 1826mg | Fiber: 9.5g | Sugar: 13.9g | Calcium: 317mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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79 Comments

  1. Joanne says:

    4 stars
    The best Shepherd’s Pie I have ever made. I made it with left over lamb from a leg of lamb. Delicious. Definitely a recipe I will use over and over again. I am looking forward to trying some of your other recipes from your website.

    1. Tara says:

      We’re so happy you enjoyed it, Joanne!

  2. Don Druker says:

    5 stars
    John, Would the quality suffer in any way if I prepared the dish on, say, a Friday night, but didn’t bake it and finish under the broiler until Saturday evening? I would love to serve to our friends, but would love to avoid the hassle of making it from scratch at the same time that I’m doing all the other prep for dinner.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Don, the shepherd’s pie will still be great if you prepare a day ahead and then finish under the broiler before serving. Hope you enjoy!

  3. Carol says:

    5 stars
    Quite a bit of work but oh so worth it! Absolutely delicious. Made it yesterday for St. Patrick’s Day. Thank you Jim and Tara.

  4. Linda Godek says:

    5 stars
    I made this yesterday,, I actually substituted ground turkey for the lamb. It was delicious!! At first my company thought it was beef 🙂 I also made the corned beef and cabbage and the soda bread. Everything was fabulous! Thank you, Jim and Tara!

    1. Tara says:

      We’re so happy to hear the ground turkey substitution worked well for you, Linda, and thanks for the comment!

  5. Gina Wallace says:

    5 stars
    Happy St. Patrick’s day! I had some ground lamb and ran across this recipe. I used what I had im my fridge…purple cabbage, kale and carrot with shallots instead of onion (no peas in my house…ever). And had used up the last of my parmesian making your lasagna recipe a few weeks ago, so used cheddar instead. It was very rich and very filling. I’m glad I used Guiness because I’m not sure I would have liked it as much with wine. Will be doing it again, but maybe with ground beef next time. Hub’s idea. He loved it!

  6. Kathy says:

    Would love to add this dish to my St Patrick’s Day dinner! Can I put it together the day before and refrigerate?

    1. Tara says:

      Absolutely! Hope you enjoy it, Kathy!

  7. Linsey says:

    5 stars
    Made this for my parents and it was a hit! I used only beef broth and it was still delicious. It was a perfect way to say thank you to my parents after they hosted us for Christmas.

  8. Monte says:

    Hi Tara,
    I’m planning on making this for our local Eagles Club and will be scaling it up to serve 40. Any suggestions on tweaking this recipe for scale? also will be using a larger convection oven (no broil setting) any advice one cook time/temp adjustments?

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Monte, we don’t have any tips for scaling to 40 servings other than increasing the ingredients as needed to accomodate that many servings. For convection ovens, you’d need to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and cook for about 75% of the time. As far as the broiler goes, Jim uses the broiler in this recipe to lightly brown the potato topping. If you don’t have a broiler, the top won’t get brown but will still be good.

  9. Tammy says:

    5 stars
    This went down a treat with everyone. Loved the flavour of the Guinness. Takes mince to next level. And the mashed potato is best I’ve ever tasted. The perfect topping. I wouldn’t change a thing.

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Tammy, I’m so happy you enjoyed the shepherd’s pie and really appreciate the comment!