Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (2024)

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By Heather @ Team Crumbs Published Last Updated May 22, 2020 11 Comments

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I hope all of you enjoyed a restful and worshipful Christmas last week just as my family did! We had a wonderful time celebrating Christ’s birth and visiting family and friends.

But, for us, the week after Christmas is also a treasured time of relaxing and enjoying time together. My husband is home from work and we do our best to sleep in, lounge around, and watch as many bowl games as we possibly can!

Oh, the simple things!

After all the homemade eggnog and holiday cookies last week, it feels good to get back to the basics in the kitchen too – easybreakfasts, from-scratch soups, and simple family dinners return to the menu. And at the top of our list of family favorite dinner recipes is this Shepherd’s Pie.

Shepherd’s Pie – A simple and hearty comfort food recipe!

Shepherd’s Pie originated among poor farm families in Scotland and northern England around 150 years ago and, as its history suggests, it’s the most basic of comfort foods – meat, potatoes, peas, carrots, and a little cheese. Nothing fancy – just a delicious and hearty meal that your family will love!

I pride myself on cooking wholesome foods that my family enjoys. But, truth be told, there are only a handful of dinner recipes that every member of my family raves about – and this is one of them! I usually double the recipe and serve it two or three nights in a row, and I get clean plates back every. single. time.

Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (3)

Healthy and Affordable Comfort Food

In addition to the simple, savory flavor of this Shepherd’s Pie recipe, I love that it’s also healthy and budget friendly. All of the ingredients can be found at any local grocery store, and can easily be adapted to make it even healthier and more affordable.

Here are a few ideas for healthy and money-saving recipe adaptations:

  1. For grain free: substitute arrowroot for the flour.
  2. Boost the veggie value: Double the carrots and add half a bag of frozen English peas.
  3. Save money by reducing the meat and cheese: Use only one pound of ground beef instead of two. Likewise, the cheese can be reduced by half. We love the meatier version, but I made it with half the meat when I was in a pinch before and it was still wonderful.

From Tiff: I wonder if you could swap sweet potatoes for white if that’s what you had, or maybe even add some lentils or beans to help stretch the beef? What do you guys think?

Shepherd’s Pie – a Classic Comfort Food Recipe

Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (4)
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★★★3 from 1 review

When you’re looking for comfort food, nothing beats a classic shepherd’s pie. Simple to make, easy to stock & frugal to boot – as low as $1.73 per serving!!

  • Author: Back To The Book Nutrition
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Meals
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

For the Mashed Potatoes:

  • 3 pounds Russet potatoes, chopped into 1″ pieces (I leave peels on for added nutrition, but you can peel the potatoes before chopping if you prefer)
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1/21 cup milk or cream (I use raw), to your liking
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the Meat and Vegetable Mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 2 pounds ground beef (can reduce to 1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth/stock
  • 24 Tbsp flour (I like more for a thicker, gravy-like consistency)
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste


For the Mashed Potatoes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. (Start chopping your vegetables while the potatoes cook)
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and allow to cook until soft (about 10 minutes). Drain.
  4. Slice butter into several pieces and add to the hot potatoes, allowing it to melt.
  5. Add the milk/cream and use an electric mixer to beat the potatoes just until smooth.
  6. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste, then beat on high until the texture is to your liking.

For the Meat and Vegetable Mixture:

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan.
  2. Add garlic, onion, celery, and carrot, and beef and saute, stirring often.
  3. Turn heat down to low and season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat 1/2 cup beef broth and whisk in 2-4 Tbsp flour until smooth. Pour over the meat/vegetable mixture, stirring well. Continue to cook on low heat until sauce thickens slightly.
  5. Transfer meat mixture to a 13×9″ casserole dish or divide evenly into 6 smaller bowls/bakers.
  6. Sprinkle shredded cheddar evenly across the top of the meat mixture.
  7. Spoon mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly across the surface with the back of a spoon.
  8. Cook for about 20 minutes or until mixture is heated through and the surface begins to firm slightly.
  9. I usually broil for 1-2 minutes to get a nice, light crisp and golden brown on the surface of the potatoes.


This dish can be assembled ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to cook, and it makes excellent left overs!

Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (5)

Cost Breakdown

Original Version

  • Ground beef: $9-14
  • Pastured butter: $0.63
  • Onion: $0.25
  • Celery: $0.25
  • Carrots: $0.25
  • Garlic: $0.25
  • Flour: $0.05
  • Beef broth/stock: free (from reserved bones)
  • Potatoes: $3
  • Milk: $0.30
  • Cheese: $1.75

Total Cost for Classic Shepherd’s Pie = $15.73 for six servings, or $2.62 each

If the budget is tight, reducing the ground beef to 1 pound and cutting the cheese to 4 ounces reduces the overall cost of the recipe to $10.35, or just $1.73 per serving!

Classic shepherd’s pie is hearty enough to serve alone or with just a simple and inexpensive green vegetable. There’s no need to add bread, salad, or other additional side items to make sure everyone has enough to eat.

How about you? How are you spending this final week of the year? What’s your favorite comfort food recipe?

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Reader Interactions


  1. Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (11)Julie

    Hello from England!
    If it’s beef it’s Cottage pie. Shepherd’s pie is made with minced lamb. Never had cheese added to either, I think that’s an American thing.

    Reply to this comment

    • Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (12)Dena @ Back To The Book Nutrition

      Thanks for the expertise, Julie! 🙂 We spent some time in the English countryside a couple years ago and got to have traditional versions of both Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie, along with Cornish Pasties. All were delicious and we loved taking in the scenery in your lovely country!

      Reply to this comment

      • Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (13)Lexi

        Does this dish freeze well? I’d love to make several of these at a time to freeze. If so, how would you reheat it?
        I plan on halving the beef & adding mushrooms & lentils to bulk it up.

      • Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (14)Karen @ Team Crumbs

        Hi Lexi!
        Yes, this recipe freezes well. Be sure it cools completely before freezing. You can cover it with foil and reheat it in the oven for around 1 hour at 350 degrees. Let us know how your recipe comes out! 🙂

  2. Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (15)Melissa

    I want to be sure I understand. Do you cook the beef prior to adding it in the stage of the other ingredients so that it can be drained? Or is the ground beef grease just left in the pie?

    Reply to this comment

    • Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (16)Dena Norton

      Good question, Melissa. I leave the grease in the mixture and love the rich flavor it adds to the dish. I buy pastured beef, so there’s really not all that much grease, and I feel good about the nutritional quality of it. If you like drier pie, or are using beef from feedlot cows, you could certainly drain the beef before adding the broth and flour to the pan.

      Reply to this comment

  3. Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (17)Jean

    I come from an Irish family and both in Ireland and here in the States, we forgo the cheese and often either have parsnips or turnips in our pie.

    Reply to this comment

    • Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (18)Dena Norton

      That’s so interesting, Jean! Do you still add carrots and/or peas, or just the parsnips or turnips?

      I’m not sure I could give up adding the cheese at this point, though – when it melts, it adds such a rich and creamy flavor without seeming “cheesy”. 🙂

      Reply to this comment

  4. Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (19)Tarynkay

    I like to further up the vegetable count by adding pureed cauliflower to the mashed potatoes

    Reply to this comment

    • Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (20)Dena Norton

      That’s a fantastic idea, Tarynkay – thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Reply to this comment

      • Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie (a comfort food recipe) (21)Tiffany

        I second the fantastic idea note. Perfect for when you have just a little bit leftover from another meal!

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