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.
Our family waits all year long for St. Paddy's Day so Jim can make his 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.
We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as our family does!
How to make shepherd's pie
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
First, start the mashed potatoes process
- Peel and halve 3 ½ pounds of russet potatoes. Place the potatoes in a stockpot and fill it with enough cold water to cover them. Bring the potatoes to a boil and cook until fork tender, roughly 25-30 minutes.
- 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.
- Add ¾ 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.
- Add the yolks of 3 large eggs and mix until combined.
Meanwhile, begin browning the lamb and making the filling
- 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.
- Add the carrots, onions, and celery along with a pinch of salt. Saute the mixture until the veggies have softened, about 5-7 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- Turn the heat down to medium, add ¼ cup of all-purpose flour, and cook for 1-2 minutes until there is no white flour remaining in the pan.
- Add 2 cups of low-sodium beef stock, ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce, the thyme and rosemary, and 1 ½ 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.
- 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.
- Add the filling to a 9x13" 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 9x13" baking dish perfectly.
- Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, begin to add the mashed potatoes on top of the lamb filling.
- 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.
- Sprinkle a ¼ cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top and place the casserole dish (or dishes) on a baking sheet to help prevent spillage.
- 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!
Top tips for classic shepherd's pie
- 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 ground 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!
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.
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- 3 ½ pounds russet potatoes peeled
- 1 ¼ cups Parmigiano Reggiano grated, divided
- ¾ 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 ½ cups frozen peas
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 celery ribs diced
- 3 medium carrots diced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 3 ounces tomato paste
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 12-ounce bottle of Guinness
- ¼ 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
For the mashed potatoes
- Fill and stockpot with potatoes and cover with cold water. 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 ⅓ 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 9x13" 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 ¼ 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!
- 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.
Best recipe 😋 for shepherds pie! Thank-you!🙂
Hi Diane, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed the recipe!
This is the perfect shepherd’s pie recipe. Uncomplicated but traditional. I can’t wait to make it! The only thing missing is watching you make it, Jim!
Thanks for this and all your recipes! I can’t wait for a cookbook!!
Hi Bev, thanks for the comment and we should have a video up for this one within the next several weeks (definitely before St. Paddy's Day).
The Best! Thank you.
So happy you liked the recipe, Debbie. Thanks!
Although I haven’t made this recipe yet, I plan to for St. Patrick’s Day . I have no doubt it will be as wonderful as all yours!! (I’ve made many of them with superb results.) Thanks so much for all the great recipes!!
Hi Madeline, thanks for the comment and really hope you enjoy it!
Wonderful chef. Thank you very much.
Hi Renee, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed it!
Can I substitute something for the beer and would it still be good? Love all your recipes, your taste testers and the way you demonstrate how to make the dish. Thanks!
Hi Marge, you can just use stock in place of the Guinness. So happy you're enjoying the recipes and videos!
Thank you Jim! I've been looking for the perfect recipe to make next week for the O'Briens. I love your addition of the Parmigiano Reggiano.
Hi Janice, thanks for the comment and hope you all enjoy it!
Loved the recipe. I also loved the bowls you had the peas and cheese in (blue and yellow). Do you have a link to purchase them? I‘ve purchased a few items from your link before but I don’t see the bowls anywhere.
Hi Michael, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed the recipe! I don't have a link for those bowls, sorry. I bought them at Costco about 10 years ago.
Can’t wait to try this recipe. Might have to use ground hamburger or chicken since I have a family that is picky and doesn’t like to venture out for new tastes!!! Always rice my potatoes but never thought about sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top.
Hi Sue, you can definitely use ground beef in place of the lamb. Hope you enjoy!
Looks wonderful, Jim. I am getting ready to leave the house now to get the ingredients and will make this later today.
I have one question, however. Since a member of my family has celiac and cannot eat wheat products, could I use corn starch instead of the flour to thicken the sauce, and if so, do you have any idea how much I should try using with the 2# of lamb?
Sincere thanks in advance.
Hi Anthony, thanks for the comment. You can use cornstarch - it has double the thickening power of flour. Start with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with water to create a slurry. Then add it at the end to thicken it up, bring to a boil to thicken, then remove from the heat.
Jim I’m not a lamb fan can I use Gr beef in this recipe? I just love your recipes thank you for sharing so manny I’m a big fan
Hi Maryann, yes, you can definitely use ground beef. When this recipe is made with ground beef it's known as "Cottage Pie" instead of shepherd's pie.
Another keeper! I did add more seasonings; garlic and onion powders but that’s just me because I add it to almost everything. The lamb flavor was so good and the potatoes were absolutely delicious! Never thought of adding yolks to mashed potatoes but it worked and gave them such a pretty color! Thanks Jim!!
Hi Linda, so happy you enjoyed this one and really appreciate the comment!
Jim you absolute menace. Your cooking knows no bounds does it.
Haha, thank you!
Followed your recipe and it was absolutely fab-u-lous,my husband has had chemotherapy and it has completely changed his taste buds , consequently so many dishes he used to like ,he now doesn’t so thank you for this recipe . Love watching you cook and your beautiful children sampling everything. Lovely family xx
Hi Jill, thanks for the comment and so happy you liked the recipe. I appreciate the kind words and wish you and your husband all the best.
My favorite recipe!! I follow you on Facebook. You're a great cook. Thank you
Hi Kat, so happy you enjoyed and really appreciate the comment! Thanks!
Love this recipe one question I always heard you should buy the Guinness from a can because the flavor is better. Have you heard that or is it a myth
Hi Maggie, if I am going to drink a Guinness I prefer the one from the can as the cans have the floating widget that releases nitrogen into the Guinness giving it that creamy consistency you'd get from a tap. As far as flavor goes, I find the can is similar to a bottle and if you're going to cook with it, either would be fine. Just my opinion! 🙂
Can you make this ahead of time then bake it?
If so, how long would you bake it?
Hi Chris, you can make the entire thing (including baking it in the oven to cook the eggs in the potatoes, etc) ahead of time. Then, just heat in the oven at 350 until warmed through before you're ready to serve.
I've never made a shepherd's pie or even cooked with lamb, but I made this today and it was one of the easiest recipes ever, and it turned out incredible. I will definitely be making this at least a few times a year, especially in the winter!!
Hi Aaron, I'm so happy you enjoyed the shepherd's pie and really appreciate the comment!
Looking forward to trying this! I was wondering, what do the yolks accomplish in the mashed potato portion?
Hi Deirdre, the egg yolks help to emulsify and bring everything together. You don't have to add them if you don't want to. Hope you enjoy!
Found you on YouTube and have made several of your soup recipes. Made this for St. Patrick's Day for the family. As we have someone with celiac, did the corn starch slurry instead of the flour and used red wine in place of the Guinness. It was absolutely delicious.
Thank you for all the recipes you post (here and on YouTube). It has helped with my meal prep routine and helped me become a better home chef. Keep the recipes and videos coming!
Hi Scot, thanks for the comment. I really appreciate you sharing your adjustments to make this GF - I know this comment will help others who are also looking to modify. I'm so happy you enjoyed this one and the videos and recipes in general!
Excellent recipe, thanks for sharing! I made this for a St. Patrick's Day feast with friends and it was the star dish of the evening.
Hi Susan, I'm so happy you enjoyed the shepherd's pie and really appreciate the comment!