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Irish Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

This traditional Irish shepherd’s pie recipe is a perfect midweek dinner or St.Patrick’s Day dish. It’s healthy, hearty and the perfect meal for kids and adults alike on a cold winter’s day!

Traditional Shepherd's Pie recipe with beef and piped potato

What is Irish Shepherd’s Pie?

Irish Shepherd’s Pie is a simple recipe that involves ground beef or lamb, a beef broth based sauce, some simple vegetables like carrots and peas and a few herbs.

It’s topped with mashed potatoes and baked until the top is crispy. It’s a staple in Irish households, especially during colder months.

It’s hearty, healthy and usually makes for two nights of dinners!

Shepherds Pie with creamy potato on top

Why This Recipe Works

  • It makes 2 night’s worth of dinners (who doesn’t love leftovers!)
  • It’s hearty, filling and delicious. Perfect for a cold winter’s night.
  • Kids and adults alike will love it.
  • It’s really easy to make.

This is the recipe I grew up eating in Ireland. It’s traditional, healthy and really just the perfect midweek dinner or St.Patrick’s Day meal.

Ingredients

The meat filling consists of ground beef (or lamb), tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, and spices – dried thyme, parsley and rosemary.

Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made using ground lamb but most folks in Ireland use ground beef (which technically makes the dish “Cottage Pie” not Shepherds Pie).

You can of course use ground lamb, but it’s not as easy to come by and tends to be a bit greasier. If you do use it, be sure to drain it before continuing with the rest of the recipe. You could also do 50/50 beef and lamb for a less intense flavor.

The worcestershire sauce and tomato paste add a serious depth of flavor, so it’s really important not to leave them out.

The parsley, thyme and rosemary are the perfect herbs to bring out all the flavors, while a touch of garlic and onion adds just a little something extra.

You have more wiggle room when it comes to the vegetables in the filling. I only ever add carrots and peas but mushrooms can be added (or even something like corn if you wish!).

You’ll want to use a high starch potato like Russet or Yukon Gold for the best possible mashed potato topping.

Finally, I like to say that the cheese on top is optional. But its my kids’ favorite part, so it’s never optional in our house.

If you do want to leave it out, put a few pats of butter on top of the potatoes before popping the dish in the oven for a lovely crispy buttery top to the dish.

Irish Shepherd's Pie in a blue baking dish

Variations

  • Ground beef or lamb, or a mixture of the two
  • Cheddar cheese on top, or not
  • Add mushrooms to the filling, or another vegetable like corn or diced zucchini (definitely not traditional additions!).
  • Add a quarter cup of Guinness Stout to the sauce to add extra depth of flavor. Allow it to reduce before continuing with the dish.
  • To make the dish gluten-free, substitute the flour with corn starch.
  • Use frozen vegetables instead of fresh. Just pour them in straight from the bag!
Piece of Shepherd's pie on a plate

Instructions

  • Wash, peel and quarter the potatoes. Add to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the temperature and allow to simmer until fork tender.
  • Drain the excess water from the potatoes, and allow to cool. When ready to top the meat filling, mash with butter (and/or milk) and some salt and mash until no lumps remain.

TIP: I like to make the mashed potatoes a few hours ahead of time and then make the meat and sauce right before baking. Plus, cooled potatoes don’t sink into the mixture like hot ones sometimes do, so that’s another bonus!

Close up of the meat filling in the shepherd's pie. Potato on top with sauce, ground beef, carrots and peas visible below.

For The Meat Mixture

  • In a large skillet, sauté the onion. Once soft, Add the ground beef. Cook until no pink remains.
  • Add the dried parsley, rosemary and thyme as well as the salt and pepper.
  • Then add the Worcestershire sauce and minced garlic cloves. Stir to combine.
  • Add the tomato paste and flour and mix until no lumps of flour remain.
  • Add the beef stock, turn the stove to high and bring to a boil.
  • Add the grated carrot and frozen peas and reduce heat to low for 5 minutes, until the mixture has thickened.
  • Transfer to a large baking dish (I use a 9 x 13).
  • Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top in about 6 dollops. Using the back of a spoon, spread the potatoes out over the meat filling in an even layer. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and you can see the filling bubbling underneath the potato.
Overview of Shepherd's pie including the meat filling

With the creamy (cheesy) mashed potatoes on top and deliciously savory yet sweet filling, this is really one of my favorite midweek dinners AND comfort foods. My kids love it and the fact that we can get two night’s worth of dinners out of it is a bonus!

Other Irish Recipes

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shepherds pie recipe

Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Jenna Shaughnessy
An authentic Irish shepherd's pie recipe perfect for a hearty winter's meal or a special St.Patrick's Day dinner
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Irish
Servings 6 people
Calories 373 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Mashed Potatoes

  • 4 large potatoes, washed, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese optional, to sprinkle on top

Meat Filling

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
  • 2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium carrot, grated

Instructions
 

  • Place the potatoes in a pot of water. Fill the pot with enough water to just cover the potatoes.
  • Place on the stove on a high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiled, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until soft.
  • Remove from heat. Drain water and allow to cool.
  • When ready to top the Shepherd's Pie, add the milk to the potatoes and mash until no lumps remain.

For The Meat Filling

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef. Break into crumbly pieces using a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook until no pink remains.
  • Add the dried parsley, rosemary and thyme as well as the salt and pepper.
  • Then add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Stir to combine.
  • Add the tomato paste and flour and mix until no lumps of flour remain.
  • Add the beef stock, turn the stove to high and bring to a boil.
  • Add the grated carrot and frozen peas and reduce heat to low for 5 minutes, until the mixture has thickened.
  • Transfer to a casserole dish.
  • Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top in about 6 dollops. Using the back of a spoon, spread the potatoes out over the meat filling. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and you can see the filling bubbling underneath the potato.

Nutrition

Calories: 373kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 19gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 414mgPotassium: 1087mgFiber: 5gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1965IUVitamin C: 42mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 4mg
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14 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This Cottage Pie smelled so good that my college student daughter who typically refuses any red meat tried it, went back for seconds, and asked for me to make it again another time. That’s a high honor!

    1. Does multiplying the recipe change the bake time? If I’m making this recipe for 6 or for 12, does it still bake 25-30 mins?

  2. Happy St. Patrick’s day!!! AND what a great meal to serve! This was so easy and delicious! I am sure this will become a yearly meal! Thanks for posting. I must say. I’m not sure I’ve had a better flavor Shepard’s Pie (Cottage Pie in our house. I used beef) in Ireland!! Yummy!!!
    Thanks again,
    Christie

  3. This was so delicious! I will be making this again. My husband had 3 servings :-) I didn’t top with cheese and it was still so flavorful and comforting mmmm

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