Shepherd's Pie is classic comfort food and this is our easy, fuss free version. It's hearty and filling, with lots of options for added vegetables and just the kind of warming dish you need on a cold day. It's always a family favourite, and it freezes really well, making it a great batch cook meal to make those busy days a little bit easier.
Tender lamb in a rich vegetable packed gravy, topped with fluffy mashed potato with a crispy top. Tell me something more comforting. I bet you can't!
I think that most people who grew up in the UK have fond memories of eating Shepherd's Pie. It's easy to make and so comforting that it's basically a hug on a plate. Learn how to make this simple recipe and I promise you will be making it over and over again.
Why you will love it
- Comforting - Tender lamb in a thick gravy, topped with hearty mashed potato is just so comforting. There is just something about meat and potatoes that gives you a nice pick-me-up.
- Easy - This is actually far easier to make than it looks. Once the vegetables are softened and then lamb is browned, then it's just a matter of adding the gravy and letting it cook and then topping with the mashed potatoes (which you can make in advance).
- Adaptable - Use this as a base recipe and then feel free to adapt it based on your own tastes and what you have that needs using up. We have given a few of our favourite ways to adapt this below.
- Freezes well - We love any meal that we can batch cook and keep in the freezer and this Easy Shepherd's Pie is perfect for that. Perfect for when you know you are going to have a busy day - just get it out the night before and it will be defrosted by dinner time. All storage and reheating information in the FAQs below.
- Oil - This is what the vegetables are cooked in. We like to use a good quality olive oil (a staple in our kitchen), however you could use vegetable or sunflower oil instead.
- Onion, Celery and Carrot - This is what is often referred to as the 'holy trinity' and is the base of our easy shepherd's pie. It not only adds texture and flavour, but colour as well. Save yourself some time by using diced frozen onion.
- Lamb - It's not a shepherd's pie without minced lamb. You could swap it for beef, but that would be a cottage pie instead. If you want to make a lighter version of this, then you could use reduced fat lamb mince, but you won't get the same flavour. The majority of the flavour is in the fat after all.
- Stock - This is where the sauce comes from. We used a really good quality beef stock pot and it adds so much flavour, you can of course use a lamb stock pot, but we couldn't find any in the shop. You can swap it for vegetable stock, but always make sure to use a stock pot, rather than a stock cube, as they just have a more intense flavour.
- Gravy - This will really thicken up the sauce and give it that gravy consistency that a shepherd's pie needs.
- Tomato puree (paste) - This adds a little bit of freshness and colour to the gravy and helps to thicken it without using flour.
- Worcestershire sauce - A must in a shepherd's pie in our opinion. It adds so much flavour.
- Potatoes, butter and cheese - This is what is used to make the mashed potatoes. You can use any potatoes, however starchy and fluffy potatoes work the best. King Edwards, Maris Piper, Russets, Yukon golds, Desirée or Rooster (which is what we used) work really well for making the perfect mashed potato. We like using a mature cheddar, as it has such a strong flavour that you can get away with using less of it.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: Heat the oil in a large heavy pan. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook on a low heat for 6-7 minutes until softened.
Two: Add the lamb mince and use a wooden spoon to separate the meat and mix well. On a gentle heat, brown the mince for 4-5 minutes.
Three: Add the water, stock pot, gravy, tomato puree, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and stir well. Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, until thickened.
Four: Meanwhile, make the mashed potatoes by peeling and chopping the potatoes and adding to a pan of boiling water. Simmer for 15 minutes, drain and mash with the butter and cheese.
Five: Add the lamb mixture to a large oven proof dish and top with the mashed potatoes. Use a fork to run around the mashed potatoes, as this will help to make it nice and crispy on top.
Six: Put it in a preheated oven at 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 for 20 minutes.
Health benefits of lamb
There are lots of ways that you can add vegetables to this shepherd's pie, however the lamb itself is actually really nutritious.
Lamb is not only a rich source of protein, but it is also a great source of many vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Although lamb does have a higher fat content compared to other meat, you could make this even leaner by using reduced fat lamb mince.
Meat - For it to be a traditional shepherd's pie, you have to use lamb mince. There is a lot of debate about this, however an easy way to remember it is that shepherds heard sheep, not cows. However, you could swap this for beef mince (to make a cottage pie) or even make it with chicken mince to make it super lean. All the flavour does come from the lamb though.
Vegetables - We have kept it traditional with just the onion, carrot and celery, but there are so many other options here. At the same time as cooking the onion, carrot and celery, you could add diced bell peppers, mushrooms, courgettes (zucchini) and aubergine (eggplant). You could even add some chopped spinach and/or frozen peas to the meat mixture just before it goes in the baking dish. Frozen sweetcorn works well too.
Topping - This is topped with creamy and fluffy mashed potato. However, if you want to give this easy shepherd's pie a vegetable boost then why not try topping it with our Vegetable Mash. You could also just boil some cauliflower at the same time as the potatoes and mash it all together for an easy hidden vegetable mash.
Protein - There is lots of protein from the lamb mince, however if you wanted to reduce the amount of meat that is used, then you could swap it for some cooked lentils or chickpeas.
What to serve it with
This dish really does have it all. It's got protein, it's got vegetables and it's loaded with carbs on top. However, we always try to serve plenty of extra vegetables on the side to make it a more nutritious balanced meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
As we have noted above, lamb does lots of nutrients, however it is high in fat so portion control is key here. You could swap some of the meat for lentils to make it lower in fat. You can also give this dish a vitamin boost by adding some of the different vegetables we have added in the variations section.
Once it is fully cooled, you can store it in air tight containers in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Yes, this freezes really well making it a great batch cook meal. We portion it out in to freezer containers and it will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Make sure it has fully defrosted and then you can either heat it through in the microwave for a couple of minutes or put it in the oven for 15 minutes.
Yes, you can definitely make this in advance. You can either prepare just the mashed potato in advance and then make the lamb from fresh and top it with the pre-prepared mash or you can make both in advance and then just put them together before it is ready to go in the oven.
You will have to make sure that the Worcestershire sauce and stocks you are using are gluten free for this to be a gluten free recipe, and for there to be no cross contamination.
If you wanted to make a lower carb version of this, then swap the mashed potato for just mashed cauliflower.
Yes, you can double the recipe with no adjustments to the cooking time - just make sure you have a big enough dish to fit it all in.
• For a richer flavour, add a splash of red wine at the same time as the stock.
• If you want to make a vegan version of this, swap the lamb mince for mushrooms and lentils and make a vegan mashed potato.
• For something a little different, top this shepherd's pie with sweet potato mash.
• For extra flavour, add a spoonful of mint sauce at the same time as the gravy. Mint and lamb go perfectly together.
• Cool the meat mixture a little before adding the potatoes. This allows it to thicken up, and also makes it easier to spread the potatoes on top. The creamier the potatoes, the easier they are to spread.
More lamb recipes
Easy Shepherd's Pie
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion - diced
- 2 medium carrots - finely diced
- 2 sticks of celery - diced
- 500 g lamb mince
- 1 beef stock pot
- 250 ml boiling water
- 4 tablespoon gravy graules
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoon tomato puree
- 4 medium potatoes - peeled and diced
- 10 g butter
- 40 g mature cheddar - grated
- Heat the oil in a large heavy pan. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook on a low heat for 6-7 minutes until softened.
- Add the lamb mince and use a wooden spoon to separate the meat and mix well. On a gentle heat, brown the mince for 4-5 minutes.
- Add the water, stock pot, gravy, tomato puree, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and stir well. Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, until thickened.
- Meanwhile, make the mashed potatoes by peeling and chopping the potatoes and adding to a pan of boiling water. Simmer for 15 minutes, drain and mash with the butter and cheese.
- Add the lamb mixture to a large oven proof dish and top with the mashed potatoes. Use a fork to run around the mashed potatoes, as this will help to make it nice and crispy on top.
- Put it in a preheated oven at 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 for 20 minutes.
- For a richer flavour, add a splash of red wine at the same time as the stock.
- If you want to make a vegan version of this, swap the lamb mince for mushrooms and lentils and make a vegan mashed potato.
- For something a little different, top this shepherd's pie with sweet potato mash.
- For extra flavour, add a spoonful of mint sauce at the same time as the gravy. Mint and lamb go perfectly together.
- Cool the meat mixture a little before adding the potatoes. This allows it to thicken up, and also makes it easier to spread the potatoes on top. The creamier the potatoes, the easier they are to spread.