How To Make Easy Shepherd’s Pie

updated Mar 9, 2023
How To Make Easy Shepherd's Pie

A few smart shortcuts, including a bag of frozen veggies and the use of a cast iron skillet, makes this the easiest shepherd's pie recipe.

Serves6 to 8

Prep25 minutes

Cook45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

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. 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.

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.

Everything You Love About Shepherd’s Pie — But Way Easier

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. The barrier to making that happen? All the fresh veggie prep.

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.

Want to make this recipe even quicker? Swap in our recommendation for instant mashed potatoes.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

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.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

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 instant 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.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

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

A few smart shortcuts, including a bag of frozen veggies and the use of a cast iron skillet, makes this the easiest shepherd's pie recipe.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the potato layer:

  • 3 pounds

    russet potatoes (4 to 5 large), peeled and diced

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1

    large egg yolk

For the filling:

  • 1 teaspoon

    vegetable oil

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    lean ground beef

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 (10-ounce) bag

    frozen vegetable medley, such as carrots, peas, green beans, and corn

  • 1/2 cup

    water

  • 2 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons

    ketchup

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    garlic power

Equipment

  • 12-inch oven-safe skillet

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Chef's knife and cutting board

  • 3- to 4-quart pot with lid

  • Spatula

  • Potato masher

Instructions

Show Images
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes.

  2. 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.

  3. Brown the beef. Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet — 12-inch cast iron is best — over medium-high heat 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

Recipe Notes

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.