Shepherd’s Pie isn’t something I make very often, but every time I do I’m, like, “Dang, this is so good. I need to make this more often.” Ha! It truly is one of the most comforting dishes in the world. Meat and veggies in a flavorful tomato-based sauce, creamy mashed potatoes on top, and a layer of melty cheese…all your favorite textures in one dish! Boom baby!
My kids are some of my biggest fans, but they can also be my harshest critics. I have one child that I have in mind every time I make a casserole-type recipe. I can picture the disappointed face and hear the whining before I even get it in the oven…especially if it has peas in it…his least favorite food in the whole world. Sometimes I’m tempted to leave the peas out to avoid the whining, but I leave them in most of the time and encourage him to try it. He usually eats it but definitely doesn’t go back for a second helping. Well, with this Classic Shepherd’s Pie, he not only ate three helpings (peas included), he told me I make the best Shepherd’s Pie in the world. That just might be the highest praise I’ve ever gotten and will ever get from him.
So take his word for it and give this classic and delicious recipe a try! I can’t wait to hear if it’s a hit with your family.
More Family-Friendly Casseroles
- Chicken Cordon Bleu Stuffing Casserole
- Easy Cheesy Breakfast Casserole
- Creamy Beef and Green Chili Casserole
- Easy Lasagna Casserole
- Broccoli Chicken Casserole with Egg Noodles
- Mexican Casserole
Step-by-step pictures of how to make Classic Shepherd’s Pie
Frequently Asked Questions for making Classic Shepherd’s Pie
Can I use ground turkey?
Yes, or you can use half ground pork, half ground beef. The most authentic flavor will come by using beef or a mixture of beef and pork.
What can I substitute for dried thyme?
If you don’t have dried thyme, you can substitute dried Italian seasoning to get a similar flavor. Dried basil or rosemary would also be good options.
Can I use tomato sauce instead of tomato paste?
If you need to use tomato sauce instead of tomato paste, you will need to adjust a few things. First, you will need to add 1 extra tablespoon of flour (with the 2 tablespoons you stir in with the cooked beef). The tomato paste helps thicken the meat mixture, so you need to make up for that with extra flour.
The condensed flavor of the paste is different than tomato sauce too. So another way to adjust is to add 1 tsp of sugar to the mixture. You also need to add 1/2 cup sauce in place of the 2 tbsp paste. Those adjustments should help the recipe still come out great if you use tomato sauce instead of paste.
Can I use INSTANT POTATOES?
Yes, of course. Using instant potatoes is a great way to make the recipe come together quickly. Making the mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot also can save on time.
Does it matter what type of cheese I use?
No. The type of cheese is a personal preference, but cheddar or colby jack cheese are the more classic choices for this recipe.
Can this casserole be frozen?
Yes. If you want to freeze it to serve later or want to take it as a freezer meal to someone, prepare the meat mixture and top it with the potatoes. Next, cover with foil. I put the 2 cups of cheese in a Ziploc bag on top of the foil. I write the instructions for baking on a 3×5 card and leave that on top of the foil layer as well. Then cover the top in plastic wrap to keep everything securely attached to the casserole.
If you freeze it, you can let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours and then bake, or put it in completely frozen. Leave the foil on while baking until you are ready to add the cheese. A thawed casserole will need to bake for 1.5 – 2 hours, and a frozen one will need 2.5 – 3 hours. You will know it is done when the center is hot and the sides are bubbly. Remove foil, sprinkle with the cheese, and return to the oven or put under the broiler until the cheese is nice and melted.
- 9×13 Baking Dish
- Large Skillet with Lid
- Ground Beef Chopper
- Potato Masher
- Cheese Grater
- Serving Spoon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp dried parsely
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup water + 1 tsp beef bouillon or 1 cup beef stock or broth
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup frozen frozen peas
- 1 cup frozen green beans
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 4-6 cups mashed potatoes (Make fresh or used instant..don't forget to salt them if you make fresh. I like to mash mine with buttermilk and butter. YUM!)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar or Colby Jack cheese
- In a large frying pan that has a lid, add the olive oil, ground beef, onion, salt, pepper, parsley, and thyme. Mix and brown until meat is no longer pink and the onions are translucent. (At this point, you can drain excess fat if desired.)
- Add the all-purpose flour and tomato paste. Stir until completely incorporated and keep cooking for an additional 1 minute while stirring constantly.
- Next, add the water + bouillon or the beef stock/broth, Worcestershire sauce and the bay leaf. Stir well and then add the veggies. Stir and bring mixture to a simmer.
- Once simmering reduce heat to low (make sure it keeps simmering), and put the lid on. Let it simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking dish. Evenly top the mixture with mashed potatoes. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until the edges are bubbly and the center is hot through.
- Remove and sprinkle with 2 cups of cheese. Return to oven for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. If desired, you can put the casserole under the broiler to get that slightly browned look on the cheese.
- Serve and enjoy!