This Easy Shepherd’s Pie, also known as Cottage Pie, is the ULTIMATE simple comfort food, with only 6 main ingredients! It’s super cheap to make, freezable, gluten free, and it’s great for beginner cooks. This version is made with ground beef and has no gravy, but if you’re feeling fancy, you can easily use lamb and/or make a gravy base for it.
Shepherd’s Pie is one of the first things I learned how to cook. To this day, I make it at least once a month in the cooler weather. It’s so comforting and hearty!
The thing that makes it extra simple: unlike other recipes for shepherd’s pie, this version contains no gravy.
Since the beef is not thickened with flour and broth, it makes it gluten free and a bit lighter tasting. But don’t worry, if you’re a gravy fiend (I usually am!), it’s easy to whip up a gravy base for this shepherd’s pie.
And while it takes a little to prep and cook, shepherd’s pie can be assembled on the weekend, kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for months, and popped in the oven when needed! And this recipe makes a TON, so you’re sure to have leftovers.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie
This shepherd’s pie recipe is so easy to make- just layer cooked ground beef and onions, frozen vegetables, and mashed potatoes in a baking dish. Drizzle with melted butter, bake, and you’re done!
- First, make mashed potatoes. Boil yukon gold potatoes until tender in heavily salted water. Then, add some butter to them, along with some whole milk, salt, and pepper. Mash, and set aside. Here are more details on how to make the best homemade mashed potatoes.
- Meanwhile, cook the beef and onions. Sauté the onion in some butter until it’s softened, and then add the beef and continue cooking until it’s done. Season with salt and pepper.
- Layer in a baking dish. First the ground beef and onions, then the frozen veggies (you don’t even have to defrost them!), then the mashed potatoes.
- Smooth out the potatoes, but leave little ridges. The more texture you have on the top layer, the more browned crispy bits you’ll get.
- Pour melted butter on top. YUM.
If you want gravy…
Just add two tablespoons of flour to the ground beef once it’s finished cooking. Then, stir in 1.5 cups of broth (beef or chicken), and stir and continue cooking until it’s thickened. This little extra step will ensure a super juicy, moist meat layer!
Tips for success
- Leave the potato skins on. Did you know that the skin of fruits and vegetables is where most of the nutrients and fiber are? Who likes peeling potatoes, anyway? Just give them a good scrub (preferably with a good vegetable brush) before boiling to make sure they’re as clean as possible.
- Don’t overcook the beef, especially if you aren’t making a gravy! Otherwise, the meat layer may be dry. If you do overcook it, I recommend making a gravy or adding 1/2 cup or so of beef or chicken broth to the meat.
- Use a lean ground beef, so it’s not greasy. If you do use a high fat beef, remove all but a couple of tablespoons of the juices before adding it to the baking dish.
- Use LOTS of salt and pepper. The ingredients here are very bland and need a lot of seasoning.
- Broil for the last 5 minutes to get a super crispy golden layer on top of the mashed potatoes.
What kind of veggies to use
Here’s what I love about this easy shepherd’s pie recipe- you can use any veggies you want! And it’s extra easy because you just buy a bag of frozen mixed veggies and dump it right in- NO DEFROSTING NEEDED! No chopping, no peeling… ahh, life is good.
I almost always use a mixture of peas, carrots, and corn. You can also use green beans, soy beans, broccoli, sweet potato… anything you want!
And you can also use fresh veggies if you want. If you do, I recommend giving them a quick sauté or steam to soften them up a bit before adding them to the shepherd’s pie. Frozen veggies come partially cooked, since they’re blanched before freezing.
- Make it paleo/whole30 by using ghee instead of butter, green beans and carrots for the veggies, and chicken stock instead of milk in the mashed potatoes.
- Make it low carb by using mashed cauliflower in place of the mashed potatoes. Here’s a recipe for low carb shepherd’s pie made in a skillet!
- Make it lighter: Use ground turkey in place of the beef, and less butter. Even healthier: make a ground turkey and sweet potato shepherd’s pie!
- Use lamb instead of or in addition to the beef, if you prefer.
- Add flavor: other shepherd’s pie recipes use garlic, spices, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine in the meat mixture. Feel free to experiment!
How to Freeze Shepherd’s Pie
To freeze shepherd’s pie, just store it before baking tightly covered in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Defrost it completely before baking by leaving it for 2 days in your fridge. Or, you can bake it covered with foil at 350 degrees for 45 minutes straight from the freezer and uncover it to continue baking at 425 according to the directions.
Sometimes, I like to divide this recipe into two smaller baking dishes (like these Pyrex 11-cup glass baking dishes– they come with covers for storage in the fridge or freezer!). That way, I have one for now and one for the freezer for later!
I love forgetting about it in the freezer- it’s like finding $20 in a winter coat. Only wayyyyyy better.
Other Comfort Food Recipes
Other Easy Ground Beef Recipes
If you have any leftover mashed potatoes, try out these leftover mashed potato cakes.
Easy Shepherd's Pie
- 2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes washed, cut into 2" chunks
- 8 tablespoons butter divided
- 3/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
- 1 onion diced
- 1.5-2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
- 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables peas, carrots, corn, and/or green beans
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Cover potatoes with cold water and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- While potatoes are cooking, sauté the diced onion in 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet until softened (about 2 minutes). Add the ground beef and sauté until JUST fully cooked, breaking it up with a spoon into small pieces (about 5-7 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Don't overcook it or it will be dry (see notes).
- When potatoes are soft enough to pierce easily with a fork, drain, and mash with 4 tablespoons butter and the milk (3/4 cup). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Layer ground beef mixture, frozen vegetables, and mashed potatoes in a 9x13 baking dish. Alternatively, divide the ingredients into two smaller baking dishes to freeze one (see notes).
- Use the back of a spoon to smooth the potatoes, leaving some ridges, or use a fork to "rake" a ridged pattern into the potatoes.
- Melt remaining tablespoon butter and drizzle evenly on top of potatoes.
- Bake at 425° F for approximately 30 minutes, or until potatoes begin to brown. Run the broiler for the last 5 minutes for extra crispy potatoes.
- Optional: to make a gravy base, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour on the beef and stir to coat. Add 1.5 cups chicken or beef broth and continue to heat, stirring, until thickened. You can also just add 1/2 cup of broth without the flour for a gluten-free version that stays more juicy and moist, especially if you overcooked the beef by accident.
- Time saving tip: cook the beef and onions in a large, oven-proof skillet, such as cast iron. Then, layer the veggies and potatoes right on top to pop into the oven.
- If you prefer, you can use ground lamb instead of beef, or a combination of both kinds of meat.
- You can prepare this ahead of time and keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 days and in the freezer for a 6 months. Defrost completely before cooking by transferring from freezer to fridge 2 days before cooking.
- For a Paleo/whole30/dairy free version, make sure to use only carrots and/or green beans for the veggies and use chicken broth instead of milk in the potatoes. Use ghee instead of butter.
- For a low-carb version, use mashed cauliflower in place of the mashed potatoes.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.
This post first appeared on Bowl of Delicious in November 2012 as “Simple Shepherd’s Pie.” It has been updated with new photos, updated text, and clearer recipe instructions.