Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie

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Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie is an Irish comfort food featuring ground lamb that's cooked with vegetables in a savory broth. It's topped with a mashed potato crust and enjoyed traditionally on St. Patrick's Day, or any day you're craving Irish food that sticks to your ribs!

Shepherd's Pie being served from a dutch oven.
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Why You'll Love It

  • hearty and delicious Irish dish
  • great homestyle recipe for cold winter weather
  • easy cooking process in one dutch oven
  • can substitute ground beef for lamb (Cottage Pie)
  • simple to make ahead and bake later!

What is Shepherd's Pie?

Traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie is made with ground lamb and vegetables such as peas, onions and carrots. After the filling cooks down, it's smothered with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until golden brown in a dutch oven or baking dish.

How Did Shepherd's Pie Get Its Name?

Irish folk use lamb to make this savory pie, so they named it after the shepherds who tend their sheep. Unlike corned beef, this delicious casserole dish is actually served for Ireland family dinners.

Did you know that Shepherd's pie is not just an Irish dish? It's extremely popular throughout the United Kingdom, and widely enjoyed as British, Scottish and Irish cuisine. You can find it on most pub menus throughout the UK.

slice of shepherd's pie on a green plate.

Why do Americans call Cottage Pie a Shepherd's Pie?

Cottage Pie is the name of the dish that uses beef instead of lamb, which is the way the majority of folks in the United States make this recipe.

However, many folks in the U.S. are not aware that the name should be changed to Cottage Pie when beef is used, so that's probably why you hear it called the incorrect term.

Lamb is not readily available in the states, and it's not as popular, which is why many Americans choose ground beef instead.

Why Cook in a Dutch Oven?

A dutch oven is a heavy-duty pot that is insulated with cast iron so it holds in the heat. Consistent heat helps cook food evenly and faster than other cooking methods.

Ingredient Notes

Several types of vegetables can be mixed with ground lamb in this recipe, but the most common are peas, carrots and onions.

This version of Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie includes a lamb mixture which is simmered with beef broth and thyme. The vegetables are added to the lamb as it cooks, which creates a thick gravy and flavorful filling.

Everything except the russet potatoes is prepped and baked in the same pot, so clean up is a breeze. When ground lamb isn't available at our local stores, we substitute ground beef and make Cottage Pie instead. It's one of our family's favorite meals!

filling after peas and carrots have been added.

Equipment Needed

  • potato masher or hand mixer
  • large bowl
  • dutch oven or large baking dish
  • stock pot
  • wooden spoons

How to Make Shepherd's Pie in a Dutch Oven

Make the Filling

Sauté onion with a little bit of olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven. Add ground lamb and cook over medium heat until no pink is remaining. Break up pieces of meat with a fork until crumbled.

ground lamb being browned in a dutch oven.

Drain excess fat. Add black pepper, salt, steak seasoning, fresh thyme and garlic powder to the pot. Stir in frozen peas, diced carrots and corn kernels (optional).

Pour beef broth into pot and lower heat. Add a slurry of cornstarch and water to the mixture and stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.

adding cornstarch and water to the meat mixture.

Make the Mashed Potatoes

While meat mixture is simmering, start peeling potatoes. Place peeled potatoes in a bowl of ice cold water after cutting them into chunks to prevent discoloration.

potato chunks in ice water.

Add the potato chunks to a stock pot filled with cold water. Bring the potatoes to a boil for 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and add to a mixing bowl. Stir in butter, sour cream, garlic salt, and dried parsley. Mix until spreadable.

spreading the mashed potatoes over the filling with a spoon.

Assemble the Dish

Spoon the mashed potatoes onto the top of the meat mixture. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread a layer over the entire dish. If desired, use a knife or fork to make designs in the top of the potato layer.

designs carved into the mashed potato crust with a knife.

Drizzle mashed potatoes with butter and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown. Cool pie for 10 minutes before it's time to serve.

shepard's pie after being baked.

What's the Best Dutch Oven to Buy?

I am very fond of enameled Lodge Dutch Ovens. (ad) They come in several sizes, but the ones I use frequently hold 6 quarts. Anything from 5 to 7 quarts will work for this dish, or you can buy the shallow Casserole Style which is what I used to make this recipe.

Variations

  • substitute ground beef, turkey or chicken and make it a Cottage Pie
  • add other vegetables like mushrooms, celery and corn
  • make it vegetarian using all veggies and no meat
  • take shortcuts and use frozen veggies or instant potatoes

We love how savory this dish tastes with the addition of fresh thyme, sweet corn, garlic and other seasonings. Feel free to add your favorites and create your special version of this dish!

However, some Irish folk will tell you that when making an authentic Shepherd's pie, the vegetables are never mixed with the meat. Instead, leftover lamb or mutton is minced, then mixed with tomato paste and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

It's up to you how you make this savory dish, but no matter how you make it, it's definitely worth every bite!

Recipe FAQs

What does ground lamb taste like?

Lamb has a more earthy taste than beef, and is sometimes described as grassy or gamey. It cooks very similar to ground beef, but the flavor of beef is milder. Adding fresh herbs (like thyme) balances out the gamey flavor. It is definitely an acquired taste, which is why most Americans use ground beef as a substitute in this dish.

Why is my Shepherd's Pie soupy?

You must thicken the meat mixture with a slurry of cornstarch and water to prevent it from being soupy. Use 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons of water to make a slurry in a small dish, then add it to the pot and stir until thickened.

Can I put mashed potatoes on the bottom?

Absolutely. Many recipes do call for putting mashed potatoes on the bottom AND the top which is similar to making a Chicken Pot Pie. It's really up to you...but make sure you peel twice as many potatoes if you're going to go this route.

What can I use instead of a dutch oven?

This recipe can be made in a cast iron skillet, a baking dish or any type of casserole dish if you don't have a dutch oven handy.

Storage and Freezing

It's easy to make this dish ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before baking. However, make sure you store it in a casserole dish and not in your dutch oven which doesn't like the cold!

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. After that, they can be frozen for up to 3 months.

When ready to serve, thaw leftovers in the refrigerator overnight. Then, place in a casserole dish and bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes, or until pie reaches 160ºF in the middle with a meat thermometer.

pie after baking with a spoon on top.

What to Serve with Shepherd's Pie?

The best part about making Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie is that everything you need is in one pot! All of your vegetables including mashed potatoes and a savory pie are included in the mix. However, if you'd like to make more sides, here are some good options...

If you're planning a big Irish feast, you can make these additional recipes and host a St. Patrick's Day party like never before!

Recipe Card

Shepherd's Pie being served from a dutch oven with a colorful spoon.

Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie

Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie is an Irish comfort food featuring ground lamb cooked with vegetables in a savory broth.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American, Irish
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8
Calories: 460kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

FILLING

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb (or beef for a cottage pie)
  • 1 large sweet onion (diced)
  • 4 small fresh carrots (diced)
  • 1 cup green peas (frozen)
  • 1 cup sweet corn (canned and drained)
  • 1 cup beef broth (add more if needed)
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch (mixed with 2 Tablespoons of water)

SEASONING

  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (diced)

MASHED POTATO TOPPING

  • 6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (medium)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter (drizzle over top)

Instructions

Filling

  • Sauté onion with a little bit of olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven.
  • Add ground lamb (or beef) and cook over medium heat until no pink is remaining. Break up pieces of meat with a fork until crumbled.
  • Drain excess fat. Add black pepper, salt, steak seasoning, fresh thyme and garlic powder to the pot.
  • Stir in frozen peas, diced carrots and corn kernels (optional).
  • Pour beef broth into dutch oven and lower heat. Add a slurry of cornstarch and water to the mixture and stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.

Mashed Potato Crust

  • Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Place in a bowl of ice cold water to prevent discoloration.
  • Drain potatoes and add to a stock pot fill with cold water. Bring the potatoes to a boil for 15 minutes.
  • Drain potatoes and add to a mixing bowl. Stir in butter, sour cream, garlic salt, and dried parsley. Beat with a hand mixer (or use a potato masher) until spreadable.

Assembling the Pie

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Spoon the mashed potatoes onto the top of the meat mixture in the dutch oven. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread a layer over the entire dish.
  • If desired, use a knife or fork to make designs in the top of the potato layer. (optional)
  • Drizzle mashed potatoes with a little butter and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown. Cool pie for 10 minutes before it's time to serve.

Notes

  • Make this dish ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before baking. Make sure you store it in a casserole dish and not in a dutch oven which doesn't like the cold.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to serve, thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator overnight. Then, place in a casserole dish and bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes, or until pie reaches 160ºF in the middle with a meat thermometer.

Nutrition

Calories: 460kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Sodium: 527mg | Potassium: 1049mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I've always wanted to know how to make Shepherd's Pie! Can't wait to try your version.

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