Shepherd’s Pie (also known as Cottage Pie by some) is a popular dish served in America, and probably overseas as well, with various recipes that have passed down through the generations. It’s a fairly frugal yet hardy meal that most ages enjoy, is able to be served to those with food allergies, and can be easily doubled or tripled to feed the masses. You can choose to change the recipe to make it healthier or enjoy it as creamy and delicious as you want since it’s not inherently unhealthy per say.
Everything in Shepard’s Pie but the meat and potatoes is optional! There are so many variations to try, we’ve written up a mishmash of ingredients and options for you to choose from to build your own family recipe.
Choosing & Preparing Your Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients:
For a 4-serving meal, use 1 lb. of ground beef, lamb, chopped or pulled pot roast, or ground turkey. Be creative and try other meats as well.
Choose 90% lean for a healthier option.
Use your favorite things to spice the meat as desired: 1 garlic clove or some garlic powder, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, etc.
White wine is another option when cooking your meat.
OPTIONAL: Use a pre-cooked 17-ounce pot roast such as one from Hormel, including the juices from the package. There will be no need to add extra spices or flavoring if the roast comes with them already (Hormel’s does). Take into account this is probably not your healthiest meat choice.
Mashed potatoes can be instant or made to order.
If using instant mashed potatoes, make 4 servings.
If making your own mashed, use approx 6 medium potatoes for each pound of meat.
You may also use leftover mashed potatoes!
Another option is to bypass the salt, butter, and milk in mashed potatoes and prepare potato slices in your skillet with the meat.
You’ll need a bit of “cream” too. While all of these are optional, there should be something in your recipe to juice it up a wee bit fr the best baking process. If you choose to skip the options below, you may wish to use a can of cream corn, a creamier mashed potato, a smidge of milk, or 1-2 packages of brown gravy mix, prepared as directed.
The most used option is 1 can of condensed (no water added) cream of mushroom soup.
Or try a healthier variation by using 1 can condensed tomato soup or 1-2 cans of tomato paste.
Veggies are optional, but if you use one or three of them, there is no fast or hard rule here.
You can use up the leftovers you have, or go with 1 cup (or one drained can) of each unless otherwise noted below.
The healthiest veggie option is to choose whatever fresh vegetables are in season.
Other popular vegetable choices are:
Sliced mushrooms, canned or fresh
2 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally
Mixed veggies, canned or frozen
Sweet corn or cream corn, or both of them together if you like!
French style green beans
Tomato chunks or even slices layered into the casserole
1/2 cup shredded cabbage is a nice choice as well
Your preferred amount of chopped or diced chopped
1 package onion soup mix to replace onions if you don’t like their texture. You can mix it into the cream soup, or you can sprinkle it over the meat layer.
Cheese is also optional, especially if you’re looking to cut costs or fat. But if you love cheese, go for it and choose your favorite cheddar and whatever amount you desire.
Most recipes call for 1/4 to 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, but your choice of sharp, medium, or mild.
Other optional ingredients to try:
1 package brown gravy mix
Sprinkle paprika over the potatoes on top instead of cheese
Italian bread crumbs over the potatoes instead of cheese
Beginning Your Shepherd’s Pie:
You’ll begin by browning the ground beef or ground turkey or cooking the other meat options if not using leftovers.
Drain the meat after browning, or don’t. Your choice.
Some will use the drippings to stir in the package of onion soup mix or gravy mix.
Add your choice of spices, Worcestershire sauce, or white wine. If adding wine or sauce, you will need to add extra time to simmer on the stove top on low heat. Some will also choose to pour their soup in at this time and simmer, but this is completely up to you, the size of your pan, and your experience and preferences.
Thaw any frozen vegetables
Sauté any fresh mushrooms.
Sauté or caramelize any chopped or diced onions.
Fresh green beans, carrots, or anything similar should be cooked to soften.
Mashed potatoes should be prepared if not using leftovers.
You may also decide to layer slices of potato under the meat to cook instead of using mashed potatoes.
Preparing To Bake Your Shepherd’s Pie:
If not doubling the recipe, you’ll need an 8″ square or 1.5-quart baking dish. Doubled recipes should fit into a 9×13 baking dish.
You can mix your ingredients together in a bowl with your meat selection, or you can choose a layering process into the baking dish. Whatever works for you!
You’ll begin to layer by adding the meat mixture to the bottom of the casserole dish.
Remember, this may be one bowl of everything added, or may just be the meat.
If you’ve not pre-mixed everything, then begin layering your chosen ingredients in any order you wish.
The mashed potatoes go on top of the rest of the ingredients.
If you love cooking or are serving guests, you can use a pastry bag to pipe the mashed potato over the casserole to give it some panache!
Optional: Layer cheese both over the meat and over the mashed potatoes, or just over the mashed potatoes.
Other preparation options:
Instead of cheese, you can sprinkle whatever other options you’ve chosen over the mashed potatoes like paprika or Italian bread crumbs.
Some will pour gravy over the mashed potatoes instead of using it in the layer below (if they use it at all).
Baking and Serving Your Shepherd’s Pie:
You’ll typically bake at 350, though others might tell you to go as low as 250 or as high as 400.
Bake for 20-45 minutes, until the top of your casserole is “crusty” and/or the cheese has melted.
OPTIONAL: if you’re not using cheese, you can also serve this straight from the skillet instead of baking!
Serve with salad and cornbread or biscuits for a great finish.
You can hold the mushroom soup and use it as a gravy instead.