You likely know Shepherd's pie as a homey, comforting casserole — one that combines a flavorful stew of ground beef, peas, carrots (and sometimes corn) with mountains of creamy mashed potatoes. This skillet version has all those classic components, but takes less than an hour to make and skips the fresh vegetables (and the prep that comes with them) in favor of the frozen kind — letting you focus your efforts on the creamy potatoes.
This Shepherd's pie is a complete meal in a single skillet, and just the kind of dinner you want to tuck into as the weather cools. Plus, it's so easy you can make it on a weeknight.
Easy Shepherd's Pie: Watch the Video
Everything You Love About Shepherd's Pie — But Way Easier
Shepherd's pie and its brethren really got their start as a way to use up stewed or roasted meat and leftover vegetables, but it has since come to represent a comforting Sunday night dinner. It's a shame, really, that we don't eat Shepherd's pie more regularly, because a chilly Tuesday night is actually when we need this cozy dish the most.
Here, we've figured out how to simplify the recipe without sacrificing the deliciousness of everyone's favorite part: the potatoes.
Shepherd's Pie Versus Cottage Pie
By definition, this classic meat pie falls into one of two categories: Shepherd's pie, which traditionally was only made with stewed or ground lamb, and Cottage pie, which is defined by its beefy filling. When these meat pies migrated to the U.S., they co-mingled and are now both referred to as Shepherd's pie.
4 Key Steps for Easy Shepherd's Pie
- Buy some shortcuts. I actually find chopping to be quite therapeutic, but when it comes to shepherd's pie, peeling and chopping carrots is the last thing I want to spend my time on. Instead, opt for a bag of mixed vegetables from the freezer.
- Focus your efforts on the potatoes. You can totally make shepherd's pie with store-bought mashed potatoes — and you should if you're in an especially big hurry. But in the time it takes to make the beef filling, you can chop four large russets and cook them until tender. The resulting mashed potatoes will have more flavor and a better texture than store-bought.
- Add a yolk to the potatoes for texture and structure. Another benefit to making the mashed potatoes from scratch: you can stir in an egg yolk. Just one yolk makes the mash ultra-creamy, and also helps the potatoes form a crispy crust in the oven.
- Brown the beef in the same skillet you'll serve from. This is key to the ease of this recipe. Use a large oven-safe skillet to brown the beef for the pie — cast iron is best, if you've got it. Once the beef is brown, you'll add your frozen vegetables and a few other ingredients to make a quick gravy, which is the base of the pie.
Baking and Serving Shepherd's Pie
Once the filling is mixed up and the potatoes are mashed, you'll just need to top the beef with the potatoes and bake until they're browned and the filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Be sure to let the finished Shepherd's pie cool for about 10 minutes before serving, which lets the gravy thicken a little more so it's easier to scoop.
How To Make Easy Shepherd's Pie
Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 25 minutes ; cooking time: 45 minutes
What You Need
- For the potato layer:
russet potatoes (4 to 5 large), peeled and diced
kosher salt, divided
whole or 2% milk
large egg yolk
- For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds
lean ground beef
1 (10-ounce) bag
frozen vegetable medley, such as carrots, peas, green beans, and corn
12-inch oven-safe skillet
Measuring cups and spoons
Chef's knife and cutting board
3- to 4-quart pot with lid
Heat the oven to 400°F. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes.
Boil the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large (3- to 4-quart pot). Cover with about 2 quarts of water, stir in 1 teaspoon of the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling.
Brown the beef. Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet — 12-inch cast iron is best — over medium-high until shimmering. Add the beef and salt, breaking it into large chunks as you add it to the pan. Let the meat brown for 1 to 2 minutes undisturbed, then use a spatula to break up the chunks into smaller pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes total.
Add the vegetables and sauce ingredients. Add the vegetables, water, flour, ketchup, onion powder, and garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until simmering, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Don’t worry too much if the browned beef mixture looks a little soupy -- it will thicken in the oven.
Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk, and egg yolk. Drain the potatoes and return them to the now-empty pot. Add the milk, butter, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and mash to desired consistency (for shepherd’s pie we like a pretty smooth mixture). Stir in the egg yolk.
Top beef mixture with the mashed potatoes. Use a large spoon to dollop the mashed potatoes over the beef. Use the spoon to smooth the potatoes into an even layer.
Bake for 30 minutes. Bake until the potatoes just begin to brown and the filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes to let the sauce thicken slightly before serving.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Using a casserole dish: If you’d rather serve in a casserole dish or do not own an oven-safe skillet, transfer the filling mixture to a 3-quart casserole dish before topping with the potatoes.