Irish Shepherd’s Pie

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m excited to share a truly Irish recipe with you today! Not only is this dish a festive one, but it’s a really easy and tasty dinner that’s sure to please all those “meat and potato” lovers out there.

I’d recommend serving a big green salad on the side in addition to the veggies that are already included in the recipe. This one was a HUGE hit with my kids (and my husband, too). Enjoy!

Shepherd's Pie on 100 Days of #RealFood
Shepherd's Pie on 100 Days of #RealFood

Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Joy of Cooking. I'm excited to share a truly Irish recipe with you today! This Shepherd's Pie was a HUGE hit with my kids (and my husband, too). Enjoy!
4.7 from 18 votes
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Print Recipe
Servings: 4 people


For the potatoes:

  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes such as Yukon Gold or Russet
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 carrot peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb (or ground beef which according to Joy of Cooking, makes this “Cottage Pie”)
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup beef broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste (just a little)


  • Set a pot of water over high heat and cut the potatoes into 1 to 2″ sized pieces (keep the peel on). Boil until tender when pierced with a fork, about 16 to 18 minutes. Once done, drain the potatoes and blend (with an electric mixer or potato masher) along with the butter, milk and salt. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and start chopping the veggies. Dice the onion, celery and carrot and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized sauté pan over medium heat and add the veggies and garlic to the pan. Cook until softened but not brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the ground meat to the pan, breaking it up with a spatula, and cook until the meat is brown all the way through (about 5 minutes). Drain off the excess fat and discard. I find that making a tiny crack with the lid of the pan is the easiest way to pour off fat.
  • Keeping the heat on medium, sprinkle the meat and veggie mixture with the flour. Once it’s absorbed add the broth, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper to the pan. Cook while stirring occasionally for a few more minutes until the broth thickens.
  • Pour the meat mixture into the bottom of an 8″ or 9″ square, round or oval casserole dish. Carefully add the mashed potatoes on top. I find it easiest to add dollops all around the pan before attempting to spread it out. Then the key is to make “peaks” in the potatoes with a rubber spatula so it will brown nicely in the oven (I did this by making indentions with the spatula so the peaks would naturally form around it). Bake until the peaks are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!


We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition Facts
Irish Shepherd's Pie
Amount Per Serving
Calories 530 Calories from Fat 315
% Daily Value*
Fat 35g54%
Saturated Fat 15g94%
Cholesterol 96mg32%
Sodium 1243mg54%
Potassium 1102mg31%
Carbohydrates 28g9%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 25g50%
Vitamin A 2770IU55%
Vitamin C 22.4mg27%
Calcium 114mg11%
Iron 8.1mg45%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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56 thoughts on “Irish Shepherd’s Pie”

  1. it is in the oven right now! I had a hard time creating the peaks, my potatoes were too crumbly. I gave up and did my best so it was not a smoth top. i even tried using a cupcake tip but no luck. Oh well! i love shepherds pie, is one of my favorite irish dishes. It has been a long while since the last time I made it. let’s hope the kids like it. I tasted the meat filling and it was delicious. I did not have fresh rosemary or thyme so I used dried and it is still so good!!

  2. Tracey Hewison

    I guess you mean ‘sprigs’ of rosemary, not ‘springs’, but thanks for the chuckle! Can’t wait to give this a try tonight for dinner :-)

  3. Jean Kimlicka-Mills

    I do something similar with our leftover pork roast and cabbage dish we make in our pressure cooker. I shred up the pork roast and cabbage and use as the base instead of the beef or lamb in this recipe. The juice in the pressure cooker is a wonderful base for soups or recipes like this where a broth is needed. I just skim most of the fat out first.

  4. 4 stars
    My kids love this with ground beef or lamb – i just use whatever i have that week. I also add corn in between the meat in the bottom and potatoes on top and most recently stopped transferring it to a casserole dish and just using the skillet (oven proof) to save myself another pan to clean – rustic and the kids could care less :-) yum!

  5. 5 stars
    My daughter, a very picky eater at the moment, just loved this. She said it would even be better than pizza. We will definitely have this again.

  6. 5 stars
    We’re doing the six week challenge and I saw this recipe on the suggested meals so I tried it out with a salad tonight and it went over great! I used ground turkey (because it was on sale this week and that’s what I had ), so not exactly the same but tasty nonetheless. My meat and potato loving husband said it was one of his favorite meals he’s had lately, so thanks for healthy recipe ideas that make the whole family happy!

  7. 3 stars
    I grew up on shepherd’s pie and cottage pie. To me, they’re essentially the same thing, but the first uses lamb, the second beef.. Our family quite often subsisted mid-week on baked beans on toast or just plain chips (french fries) on Catholic no-meat Fridays. We all hated fish.

    But Mom always tried to have a roast on Sunday, and the leftover cooked meat made a really tasty pie the next day. She had a meat grinder attached to the kitchen counter just to prepare these pies.

    This recipe is close to what we had, but a bit fancier. The recipe *always* called for ground meat, not sliced or shaved or whatever. It was just ground cooked meat from the day before, with an onion, carrots, and a bouillon cube to keep things soupy. Not a chance of a sprig of rosemary or thyme. No garlic or tomato paste. Just a traditional meat base.

    And the potatoes, mashed with just milk, were carefully plopped on top of the meat base and then scored all over with the tines of a fork to create a delicious crust when it came out of the oven. A spatula might work for (lightly) spreading the mashed potatoes, but it takes a fork to create that crispy browned crust.

    That’s what these pies are: yummy meat base, crusted mashed potatoes on top. It’s a peasant meal, delicious without additives. Poor Mom was always annoyed that we preferred Mondays to Sundays, but we did.

  8. Wow!! This recipe is soooo good! Used ground lamb as suggested, added frozen peas and used homemade chicken broth instead of beef (thanks to your awesome whole chicken recipe!). I didn’t have rosemary but it was fine without. My 3 toddlers and husband gobbled it up. I will definitely be adding this to my family’s meal rotation. I can’t decide if I like this or your pot pie recipe better but both are amazing!!!

  9. Am definitely trying this! I like to double up and freeze, would this be okay to make (without potatoes) and freeze, then defrost and add the mashed potatoes? Thanks for the recipe, I’ve made quite a few from your website and cookbook, and all of them have been repeats on our menu.

  10. 5 stars
    I made this tonight for my family. I doubled the recipe since there are so many of us. The only change I made was I put each of them in an organic pastry shell first then baked them. I also diced the vegetables really small so anyone who doesn’t like them didn’t notice they were in there. This dinner was a hit! The taste is amazing! I plan on making this again soon!

  11. 4 stars
    I’m only thirteen, but I found this website and me and my ma made this. I was so good, and I’ll definitely ask my mom to make this again.

  12. I have made this recipe twice now and pretty much followed it as written although both times I made it I did not have thyme, and it still turns out wonderful. My two kids, 5 and 8, gobble this up. Very good recipe Lisa!

  13. 5 stars
    I’ve never made any variation of shepherds pie before and I really enjoyed this recipe! I used organic ground beef. next time I would love to try lamb that sounds wonderful!

  14. Congratulations! You have come the closest to what I was looking for. I wanted to find out who cooks it and how it’s used. You’d be surprised how many, so called, Irish restaurants in the New York area, are preparing it very wrong (using beef, and God knows what).

    The first thing is – well, it’s called a Shepherd’s Pie. That means, guess what? What meat are we supposed to use? You guessed it.

    Second of all, there is no need to ground/grind the lamb. You can make a beautiful lamb stew starter out of lamb shanks, lamb chuck, whatever, cooked slowly, and cut beforehand into small pieces. Fry them initially on all sides to brown, then stew.

    Lamb chunks like that are much better. The stew and vegetables are the most important part. It should be falling off the bone.

    Now your mash potatoes, you can mash, and milk and salt, if you like. Make them fluffy, and not too watery. But I would add, the nicest, tastiest, Irish Cheddar I could find. And I didn’t say American Cheddar. There’s a very big difference. There’s a Dublin Cheese I can buy here in my local Costco, here in NJ. It’s a very different, grass fed, dairy cheddar. Taste the difference, then try and melt that into your potatoes, then use that to cover up your lamb stew over the top, and brown in the oven.

    Lamb stew (Irish Shepherd’s Pie). OK?

  15. We make one similar but loaded with veggies! We add diced zucchini, green beans, peas, carrots, and sometimes corn! I sauté the veggies and then toss them with the meat and a can of organic tomato sauce, then season and top with the potatoes. I have 4 little boys and they will eat every bite without picking around the veggies!

  16. 5 stars
    Delicious! This Irish girl loved it! My minor change ups were I added some shredded cheddar cheese to the top of the potatoes, which added a delicious twist. I also threw in a bag of frozen baby peas as I just love peas in my Shepherd’s pie. My husband has Celiac disease, so I used Jules gluten-free flour mix in place of the whole wheat flour. DEELISH!!

  17. 5 stars
    This was so delish! The entire family loved in and not a drop was left! The 1 1 /2 lbs. was 5 small-medium potatoes from the potato bag. I didn’t have dried rosemary or fresh, but had dried thyme (not powdered, but flakes) so used 1 tsp. of that and the flavor was great! Can’t wait to try with the rosemary! Thanks for all of the awesome recipes. I always come to your site when I need something new and I’m never disappointed! Keep doing what your doing! Thanks!

  18. I used to make shepherd’s pie a lot. I know that Lisa is a big fan of ‘making the meat go further’ so I thought you would like to know that you can pad out the meat mixture with a tin of lentils (or Trader Joe’s vacuum packed lentils) and it just kind of blends in to the overall gravy. Even lentil-haters won’t realize they’re in there. Also, you can add peas as well as the carrots and celery. Yum!

  19. 5 stars
    Made tonight for dinner, very yummy. Had a bit of hard time spreading the potatoes but I probably just need more practice :)

  20. This is such a good recipe to hide many ‘un-liked’ veggies in when you have fussy kids. You can also substitute the potato with mashed cooked cauliflower, sweet potato or my kids favourite, mashed potato & parsnip. I will try your recipe this week.
    Love your site too!

  21. Have just made this but am a bit confused with the fresh herbs. (Apologies I am an amateur cook who has to follow recipes to the tee!)
    when you say a sprig do you slice up the sprig rather than popping it in whole? pull it off the stem???…..feel daft asking this but I am trying to feed healthy meals to my family and my cooking skills are improving :-)

    1. When using a sprig of rosemary or thyme, you can pull the leaves off of the stem, chop them, then throw them in. Alternately, of you plan to boil them for a bit, you can throw them in whole, then remove when cooked (like a bay leaf). Just don’t eat the stems either way, they are tough.

  22. 5 stars
    Big hit at my house too! I made it tonight with ground chicken and organic chicken stock (the rest of the ingredients were identical to the recipe) and I couldn’t stop eating it. It was delicious and comforting :-) My husband is happily taking the rest for lunch tomorrow. Thanks!

    P.S. I’m in my second week of making the switch over to whole foods. I was getting compliments on how I looked before the first week was out. I feel fantastic and I’m noticing that my mind is now ready for bed before my body is – I used to pass out in a sugar coma by 7:30 or 8:00. Now I have to make myself go to bed at 11:00 :-)

  23. We make a similar recipe frequently here too. Love cottage pie! I just learned a new twist on this dish that I bet your family would love. Rachael Ray has a recipe up that uses creamed cauliflower on top that is DELICIOUS.

  24. 5 stars
    This was delicious! I’m so glad I doubled the recipe! We used red potatoes, half & half in place of milk, and garlic powder in place of the minced garlic.

  25. We made this last night for dinner and it was a HUGE hit!!! My husband said this needs to make it into the rotation at least once a month. Thanks for a great recipe!

  26. Instead of flour just add blended cooked white kidney beans, one can that has been drained and rinsed. Add it the same time as the broth. I do this in all my soups instead of a roux. It works great and makes it thick enough that you don’t need milk or cream so it makes it Gluten and dairy free.:-)

  27. Try my born in Ireland mother’s recipe. Take Sunday’s leftover roast, preferably mutton but lamb and beef also work, mashed potatoes and gravy. Mix sliced meat with gravy and put in a baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes. Heat in the oven.

  28. This is the sort of thing we have regularly, substituting normal pots for sweet potatoes is just on of the variations we would have. I have celeriac and leek mash on mine, obviously not a true Shepard’s pie but still lovely all the same.

  29. Your picture looks mouth watering! Sadly, I am out of ground lamb, but I will definitely be making this once the outdoor farmers market starts up again. I’ve seen Gordon Ramsey use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip to pipe the masked potatoes on top of his Shepards pie. I plan to try that.

  30. Plan on making this with my daughter tonight. I only have dried herbs on hand to use. I’m wondering if the 1/2 tsp dried spice to 1 sprig conversion works for all spices.

  31. Is it possible to subsitute coconut flour for the whole wheat, and coconut milk for the regular milk? I would love to make this but we are a dairy and wheat free houshold. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I checked with our FB moderator (who eats gluten-free) and she suggested arrowroot powder or cornstarch instead. I think the milk sub will work fine except it will add a coconut flavor, of course. Enjoy!

      1. For gluten free I used brown rice flour. And almond milk instead of regular milk. It turned out delicious. Thanks for the recipe Lisa. :)

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