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Ground Beef Shepherd’s Pie

More vegetables, more flavor.

You’ll love this easy ground beef shepherd’s pie recipe, guaranteed to be a major success. With beefy, rich texture layered with mushrooms and a creamy mashed potato topping. Get this recipe, and get cooking!

baked shepherd's pie with ground beef recipe
Broil the shepherd’s pie until the mashed potato topping develops a golden-brown crust.

Meet This Ground Beef Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

In the rankings of delicious comfort food, this hearty mushroom-filled shepherd’s pie with ground beef recipe is at the top of the list. First, there’s the generous mashed potato topping, made crusty brown on top in the broiler for maximum flavor and appeal. Then, there is the interior: a warm, stew-like filling of ground beef, onion, and vegetables.

Most shepherd’s pies are very beef heavy, with vegetables a secondary component. But this recipe keeps every bit of the hearty, satisfying charm while upping the vegetables, with the help of earthy, meaty mushrooms and carrots. Ground beef adds simplicity, so you don’t have to chop your own meat.

shepherd's pie ingredients

Can You Make Shepherd’s Pie With Ground Beef?

Technically, shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, and is Scottish Irish in origin. A beef-based pie is called a cottage pie, with British origin; the Irish ate more lamb than the beef-loving Brits.

Strictly speaking, this is more accurately called a mushroom and beef cottage pie. But the distinctions have blurred over time, with shepherd’s pie being the most common name for both, especially in the States, so I call this beefy casserole shepherd’s pie — albeit incorrectly.

Adapting This Recipe

This ground beef shepherd’s pie recipe uses a very well-known Cook’s Illustrated recipe as its starting point. I love how they rake the mashed potatoes with a fork and throw the entire skillet under a broiler to give the potatoes a fabulous brown crust.

That said, Cook’s Illustrated recipes — while doubtless technically close to perfect — can have a way of being a little fussy. I wondered if I could test my way to a better version for me, one that was streamlined, with simplified ingredients. And I did.

By subbing a glug of red wine for Madeira (granted, the 19th century Irish peasants who developed this recipe used neither), adjusting some flavors, and simplifying the ingredients, I came up with a recipe that everyone raves about.

mashed potato topping

Ground beef shepherd’s pie recipe steps

This recipe is easy, and can be summarized mainly as combination of mashed potatoes and ground beef, assembled and baked in a baking dish or ovenproof skillet.

  1. First, get the potatoes boiling then make the mashed potatoes.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, cook the vegetables and herbs in a large, ovenproof skillet.
  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce, red wine, chicken or beef broth, and ground beef. Stir, and cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the cornstarch to thicken the liquid into a stewy gravy and taste for seasoning. Remove from heat.
  5. Top with mashed potatoes. Rake with a fork, and broil until golden brown on top.

shepherd's pie served on pate

Recipe Tips, Substitutions, and Notes

  • Keep a close eye when you broil the pie to finish. The mashed potatoes will brown fairly quickly, probably in about 10 minutes, tops. This does not need to bake beyond the final broil because the mashed potatoes and veggies and meat mixture are already cooked and hot.
  • If you really want to simplify, use gold potatoes instead of russets. Gold potatoes have a thin, delicious skin that can be eaten. Russet potatoes have to be peeled for mashed potatoes.
  • If you want to beef up your pie (literally), use 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, and only four ounces of mushrooms
  • Make sure your ground beef is very lean. I use 93% lean. Otherwise, the shepherd’s pie will be greasy.
  • If you do not want to use ground beef, you can substitute ground bison, venison, or ground lamb.
  • I put the skillet directly in the oven, but you can also transfer the veggie and meat mixture to a casserole dish or baking dish before broiling.

ground beef shepherd's pie recipe baked in skillet

Did you make this shepherd’s pie recipe with beef and mushrooms? You’ll also like:

baked shepherd's pie with ground beef recipe

Ground Beef Shepherd's Pie

Hearty, cozy, and meaty, this recipe for shepherd's pie made with ground beef and mushrooms is also full of vegetables for an all-around perfect dinner. Plus: Learn the secret for a perfect potato crust.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Course: dinner
Cuisine: American, Irish
Keywords:: beef, cook's illustrated, cottage pie, dinner, ground beef shepherd's pie, mashed potatoes, mushrooms, shepherd's pie
Servings: 4 to 6 people
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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 bunch scallions, green and light green parts only, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 Yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 Carrots, peeled and large diced
  • 4 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups unsalted chicken broth or beef stock
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground pepper

Instructions

  • For the Mashed Potato Topping
  • Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Cook the potatoes at a nice simmer until fork tender. Drain. Return to the pot and allow any excess water to evaporate. Add the butter, milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and a few turns of black pepper. Mash the potatoes until soft. Stir in the sliced scallions. Taste for seasoning; you may want a little more salt. Set aside.
  • For the Ground Beef Filling and to Finish
  • While the potatoes are boiling, heat a large, oven-proof skillet with the oil over medium- to medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the carrots, onion, thyme, bay leaves, mushrooms, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly brown. Add the tomato paste and stir until coated.
  • Deglaze the skillet with the Worcestershire and red wine, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to the skillet. Add the stock. Bring to a simmer and add the ground beef in tablespoon-sized chunks. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir a couple times as the meat cooks to turn the meat and break the beef chunks up a bit.
    TIP: This may be a good time to see if the potatoes are done.
  • Use a fork and a small bowl to whisk the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water to make a slurry. Make a well in the beef and vegetable mix. Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to simmer for another minute or two, stirring. The mixture should become thick and stewy, more gravy than soup. If it seems liquid-y, continue to cook for another minute or two.
  • Turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems.
  • Preheat the broiler and set the rack to the upper third. Spoon the mashed potatoes into a gallon bag. Snip one corner and twist the top opening shut. This is your piping bag. Pipe the potatoes evenly over the potatoes. Smooth with a spatula, then use a fork to rake the top of the mashed potatoes.
  • Broil for around 5 minutes (check often), until the top is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
  • Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

If you want to beef up your pie (literally), use 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef. You may need a little more stock.
Make sure your ground beef is very lean. I use 93% lean. Otherwise, the shepherd's pie will be greasy.
If you do not want to use ground beef, you can substitute ground bison, venison, or lamb. 
I put the skillet directly in the oven, but you can also transfer the veggie and meat mixture to a casserole or baking dish, then top with the mashed potatoes before broiling.
This shepherd's pie freezes well. Cool fully in the refrigerator, covered, and transfer to the freezer. Reheat at 400 degrees F, covered with foil, until bubbling.

21 comments

  • 5 stars
    This was so good! Made a red cabbage slaw to go alongside it for a cozy winter dinner. Will definitely make it again, thank you!

    • Unpeeled

      Yum! That sounds wonderful to pair the pie and the slaw together. Great idea, and thanks for the nice note. So glad you enjoyed.

  • 5 stars
    Very good, very flavorful.

  • 5 stars
    Wonderful. This was a big hit and my family has already asked that I make it again.

  • BlarneyTalker

    I just want to make a simple comment. Shepards sheparded sheep, thus Shepards Pie is made with lamb or mutton. A pie like this is usually called a cottage pie.

  • Audrey Loera

    Unfortunately, this was an epic fail
    I have used this web site’s recipes before, to great results but not this time. This was thin and soupy, way too much stock! I even used 3 tumes the slurry but it didnt help. Mashed potatoes were not enough to cover the top. No stars at all.

    • Unpeeled

      Oh dear! I am so, so sorry to hear this, Audrey! I am so curious as to why this did not work out, but more than anything disappointed about this–to go through all the trouble of cooking a recipe and have it fail is my nightmare. I will make this again soon as a double-check and see if I can offer more clarity or direction.

      • Dana Ward

        The filling does not change in the oven so must be the right thickness on the stovetop. I let it sit, off heat, for 5-10 minutes after cooking and then cook down more if needed.
        For the potatoes on top, skillet size is important. If too wide, potato coverage is an issue. Can you share the width of yours? And finally start with a small snip on the zip bag corner. You can always add another layer if needed. If it’s going on too thick,,you may run out.

  • This looks delicious. I plan to make it later this week for some friends and would like to know if it’s necessary to cook the beef in 2T chunks as opposed to simply breaking it up? Is it for more texture? Thank you.

    • Unpeeled

      The reason I like to keep the beef in somewhat bigger pieces is primarily for texture. The beef will further break down as it cooks, but if you break it up too much right up front, the filling will seem a little one-note, texturally. I think the occasional bigger chunk of beef bite makes a more interesting mouthful. But you can of course adapt it to your taste!

      • Thank you. I want to commend you for your willingness to always reply to the many questions you receive (I have submitted several) about your great recipes….and doing so in such a prompt time frame! I found you from another blog I equally love (once upon a chef) and both of you excel when it comes to responding to your numerous inquiries. I just want to express how much I appreciate it.

        • Unpeeled

          That is so kind, Andi. Thanks for saying so. And I am a big Once Upon a Chef fan myself! I hope you continue to enjoy Unpeeled Journal. Write any time!

  • 5 stars
    Fantastic. Made this and added red pepper as well. Used 2 tbsps tomato paste instead of 1, and Marsala in place of red wine. Beautiful texture and flavour.

    • Unpeeled

      So glad you enjoyed it. Mmmm…marsala! What a great addition.

  • Jennifer

    This was a phenomenal dish. One of my favorite new dinner recipes. I do not like ground beef but new my husband would love this dish. Our whole family loved it including me. The flavors in the sauce elevate the meat to taste like you are eating a filet of beef. Truly incredible flavor profile in this dish, we were wowed. Would serve this at a dinner party.

    • Unpeeled

      Thank you so much for the feedback and I am so glad you loved it.

  • I made this last Sunday night but didn’t cook it until Monday night. It was delicious! Thank you for all your yummy recipes. I’ll be making this again and again~

    • Unpeeled

      I’m so glad you liked it and thanks for writing! One of my favorites 🙂

  • 5 stars
    Made this for the fam this weekend and everyone raved, raved, raved. The top looked so good with the browned potatoes. The top looked just like your photos and I was so happy!

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