Irish Shepherd’s Pie

What's better than Shepherd's Pie? Shepherd's Pie with a Colcannon top, of course! The mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage and leek turns it into an Irish Shepherd's pie (of sorts) and one that you'll want to come back to again and again.

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A cooked shepherd's pie in a skillet with an orange towel wrapped around the handle.

What is Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is a comfort food meal made by topping a rich ground beef mixture with creamy mashed potatoes and baking it in the oven. It’s one of the heartiest dishes there is and is a great meal to serve a crowd. This recipe for Irish Shepherd’s Pie distinguishes itself from the traditional by using colcannon on top instead of plain mashed potatoes. Colcannon is an Irish dish of mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage (and in my recipe case leeks as well), and it’s absolutely delicious. The sweet cabbage in the creamy mashed potatoes takes this shepherd’s pie up a notch in my books. 

Ingredients on a cutting board - carrots, celery, onion, tomato paste, herbs, peas, ground beef.

Meat to Use for Shepherd’s Pie

There are no mystical ingredients in this Shepherd’s Pie. You’ll find everything readily available at the grocery store. The recipe calls for lean or extra lean beef, but you could use a medium ground beef if that’s what you have. You’ll drain away any excess fat before adding the remaining ingredients. I use a little sherry in the beef mixture for added depth and I think it does make a difference. If you don’t have dry sherry on hand, you could use red wine. If you don’t want to add any alcohol, go ahead and substitute the same quantity in beef stock.

Shepherd's pie filling in a skillet with a wooden spoon and a towel wrapped around the handle.

Shepherd’s Pie vs. Cottage Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is sometimes also called Cottage Pie. Both are meat pies with a mashed potato topping. The difference between the two is not universally agreed upon, but some say that a true shepherd’s pie uses ground lamb, while a cottage pie uses beef. In the United States, however, it has become common to use beef in a Shepherd’s Pie. You could use beef, lamb or a combination of both if that’s what you like. I won’t take you to task for how you name it!

Colcannon in a brown ceramic bowl with a pad of butter melting on top and a green napkin on the side.

Potato Topping for Shepherd’s Pie

As I mentioned above, what makes this Shepherd’s Pie an Irish Shepherd’s Pie is the colcannon topping. Honestly, once you taste colcannon, you might never make plain mashed potatoes again. The cabbage mixed into the mashed potatoes adds such a nice flavor to what can otherwise be a very singularly flavored side dish. Sure, it creates another step in making this dish, but I think it is so worth it. It tastes fantastic and looks pretty too.

Scooping mashed potatoes on top of shepherd's pie filling in a stainless steel skillet with a stainless steel stockpot in the background.

Vessels for Shepherd’s Pie

If you want to take the Shepherd’s Pie to the table, you might want to transfer the mixture to a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish and top it with the colcannon before baking it to perfection. Then, you can just take the pie to the table and serve it. You could also minimize your dishes and make the entire Shepherd’s Pie in a large skillet. I use the same pan that I use to make the filling and then just top it with the mashed potatoes. That way, no beef filling gets left behind and I have one less dish to wash. I also think that if your skillet is pretty enough, you can absolutely take it right to the table too.

Spreading mashed potatoes on top of shepherd's pie in a skillet with a stockpot in the background.

What to serve with Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is hearty and doesn’t need much next to it to finish off the plate. Whatever you decide to serve, it should be a light vegetable. I like a green salad – the cool crunch of the lettuce is a nice compliment to the hearty, rich, soft Shepherd’s Pie. You could also blanch some green beans or broccoli, or stick with the cabbage family and serve some Brussels sprouts. You could dress those vegetables up, or leave them plain. Either way, the Shepherd’s Pie is going to be the star of the show.

Shepherd's pie on a black plate with salad and a fork and a skillet of more shepherd's pie in the background.

Featured Recipe Techniques

More about the skills used in this recipe.

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Irish Shepherd’s Pie

  • Prep Time: 30 m
  • Cook Time: 45 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 15 m
  • Servings:
    6
    people

Ingredients

  • Colcannon
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 6 ounces Irish butter
  • ¾ cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • 2 leeks sliced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ½ head Savoy cabbage shredded about 3 cups
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
Filling:
  • 2 pounds 90 to 95% lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ onion diced
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup dry sherry or red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen peas
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Instructions

  1. Make the Colcannon potatoes according to the recipe, by clicking the link in the ingredient list above.

  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Remove browned beef and drain the grease.
  4. Add the butter and onions to the pan and cook until they start to brown. Add the celery and carrots. Season with the salt, dried thyme and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté for a few minutes until the vegetable start to soften. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook for a couple minutes to toast the paste. Stir in the flour until it coats the vegetables, stirring and cooking for another 2 minutes.
  5. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the sherry, bringing to a simmer and scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce and return the browned beef to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir in the fresh or frozen peas. Transfer the beef to 2-quart casserole dish.
  6. Top the beef mixture with spoonfuls of the colcannon mashed potatoes. Spread out the potatoes to evenly cover the beef, making sure the potatoes touch the edges of the dish. Make swirls in the mashed potatoes with a spoon or spatula or score the top in a diagonal pattern with a knife. Lightly sprinkle some paprika over the potatoes.
  7. Bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes until potatoes are lightly browned on top and sauce is bubbling. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving.
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Comments (7)Post a Reply

  1. the recipe sounds good but what i would like to know is i’am now alone can i make this and portion it out and freeze it? also before or after
    thank you
    jay

    1. You can portion out the ingredients and freeze it before or after baking the shepherd’s pie. It is best to freeze it before baking so the potatoes do not get dried out when reheating. The amounts of the ingredients are also adjustable so you can use less and make a smaller amount if you like.

  2. So good! I halve the ingredients, use ground turkey, and it’s delish! Thank you Meredeth! Great to see you back on QVC with your own stuff!

  3. 3 stars
    I made this almost verbatim but made mashed potatoes and added corn and garlic (for 30 seconds at end of cooking veggies). When I added the tomato paste to veggies the pan got so dry..then the flour and again super dry. The pan was turning brown (heat on medium) so added the sherry before pan burned. Scraped up the pan. Then the broth for 5 minutes. The taste of sauce wasn’t very good as very pungent. Added some marinara and milk to cut it. Still not great. It’s in oven now but I don’t have high hopes. 😭😭😭😭. When I make this again and I will I won’t use tomato paste but some premium jar marinara.

    1. The tomato paste will be dry when added to the pan. The goal is to toast the tomato paste to caramelize the sugar and intensify the flavor. When you add the flour to the mixture at this point and it will still be dry until you add the liquid and deglaze the pan. This is done to thicken the sauce which will coat the meat and vegetables. If you don’t toast the tomato paste long enough it could seem pungent to your taste. You can always add a little sugar at this point if you like.

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