cheesey shepherd’s pie

$8.46 recipe / $1.06 serving

A while back my roommate made a Shepherd’s Pie and I knew that I would have to make one for the blog due to it’s hearty, satisfying simplicity. I had all but forgotten about the Shepherd’s Pie until I saw an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown made Shepherd’s Pie while acting out scenes from Sweeney Todd (he’s so funny!). I love how Alton Brown so meticulously pays attention to every ingredient and preparation method to get every aspect of a recipe right. It was for that reason that I decided to adapt his Shepherd’s Pie recipe for Budget Bytes. He uses lamb but I switched it for beef. Although I LOVE lamb, it just didn’t fit my budget today (maybe on a special occasion!). I didn’t have fresh rosemary or thyme so I had to make do with dried and because I was in a rush, I bought frozen peas and carrots rather than fresh. Oh yeah, I also used cheddar cheese as a binder in the mashed potatoes rather than an egg yolk (because I love cheese!). It turned out pretty tasty and I know it will keep me satisfied for the rest of the week!

Shepherd's Pie

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Total Recipe cost: $8.46
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Cost per serving: $1.06
Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 45 min. Total: 1 hr.

2.5 lbs russet potatoes $1.64
1/4 cup half and half $0.25
2 Tbsp butter $0.26
1 cup sharp cheddar $0.949
1 lb. extra lean ground beef $3.48
1 cup frozen peas and carrots $0.29
1/2 cup frozen corn $0.14
1 small onion, diced fine $0.33
2 cloves garlic, minced $0.04
1 cup beef or chicken broth $0.77
2 tsp tomato paste $0.09
1 Tbsp olive oil $0.10
1 tsp worchestershire sauce $0.05
1 tsp dried rosemary $0.05
1/2 tsp dried thyme $0.03
TOTAL $8.46

STEP 1: Because this recipe has a lot of “little” ingredients, I first gathered and measured most of what I needed. That way, when it came time to mix it all together I wouldn’t be running around the kitchen measuring this and that. I have the frozen veggies, flour, diced onion and minced garlic, rosemary and thyme, tomato paste and worchestershire, and the broth all pre-measured.

shepherd's pie ingredients

STEP 2: Wash, peel and dice the potatoes to 1/2 inch cubes. Place them in a large pot and cover with cold water. Turn the burner on to high and boil the water with a lid on. Once it begins to boil, remove the lid and simmer on medium until the potatoes are very soft.

STEP 3: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until they are soft and transparent.

STEP 4: Add the beef to the skillet and cook until it is thoroughly brown. If you are not using extra lean beef, drain the fat off at this point. Add the 2 Tbsp of flour and continue to stir and cook for 2 more minutes. The flour is going to thicken the gravy. It is important to cook the flour slightly so that the finished gravy does not have a pasty/floury flavor.

STEP 5: After the floury beef has had a chance to cook slightly, add the broth, tomato paste, worchester sauce, rosemary, thyme and frozen vegetables. I also added about a 1/2 tsp of salt and 10 cranks of fresh ground black pepper. Stir and simmer until the sauce thickens (this should only take a few minutes). Keep the mixture in the skillet on low heat until you are ready to assemble the casserole.

STEP 6: When the potatoes have boiled to the point where they are very soft (check with a fork), drain them in a colander then return them to the pot (turn the burner off). If they are finished boiling while you are still working on the beef mixture (as mine were), simply put a lid on the pot and they will stay warm until you are ready to mash them (do not keep the burner on). Add the half and half, butter and salt and pepper to taste to the potatoes. Mash until your little arms are too tired to mash any more! When they are smooth and fluffy, stir in a 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese.

STEP 7: Now it is time to assemble! First, spread all of the beef mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish (it doesn’t matter what size as long as it will hold everything. A larger dish will make a shallow casserole, a small dish will make a tall/thick casserole). Next, spread the potatoes over the top of the meat mixture. Alton Brown suggests starting at the edges and moving toward the center. I found this to be the easiest method also.

shepherd's pie meat mixtureuncooked shepherd's pie

STEP 8: Top the casserole with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and put it in the oven to bake. Bake at 350 until the top is crispy and slightly brown. This took me about 30 minutes.

shepherd's pie cooked

Cheesey! And it smelled as good as it looks!

NOTE: I’ve had a few readers ask about the fact that I list only the cost of the portion of an ingredient used in a recipe but not the full price of purchasing a container of said ingredient. I try (as hard as I can) to use up the “unused” portions of ingredients from recipes so that none will go to waste. When I can save and use the rest of something, I will list only the cost of the amount used in the recipe because I will most likely use the rest in another recipe and account for the remaining cost there. If the rest can not be saved, I will just list the price of the entire container. This recipe was a good example of that. I bought a can of tomato paste (of which I only used 2 tsp of) and a can of chicken broth (which I only used 1 cup of). Because I barely used any of the tomato paste in the can at all, I decided to freeze the rest. Tomato paste will freeze great so long as it is wrapped tightly. When I freeze something, I make sure to label and date it. I regularly peruse my refrigerator and freezer looking for items that need to be used up before they go to waste.

tomato paste

The chicken stock could either be used to help mash the potatoes or frozen in ice cube trays to use later (once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag). Unfortunately, I didn’t think about the mashed potato idea until it was too late and I didn’t want to freeze just one cup of stock so I let the rest of the can go to wast :( Therefor, I just listed the price of the entire can in the cost breakdown.

There are a million and two variations on Shepherd’s Pie. What is your favorite? I’m interested in trying more!


  1. Danie says:

    I’m planning on making this tomorrow night, but with cauliflower mash in place of the potatoes to cut down on the carbs. I already had everything but the cauliflower at home…gotta love that!

  2. Linda says:

    Love the blog, love the cookbook. My husband and I were just running through a list of several of our favorites and may have hit upon a challenge: Could this recipe be altered to include lentils? You did it so beautifully in the sloppy joes plus.

    • I’m sure you could just mix the cooked lentils into the bottom layer and it would be awesome! :)

      • Linda says:

        Yep! worked like a dream. I increased the broth to 2.5c. and the paste to one can, to make the ‘gravy’ cover the extra bulk. I particularly like your choice of spices here. We’ve made shepherd’s pie before- but this is a welcome change to an old favorite.

  3. Parks says:

    The 2 Tbsp of flour isn’t in the ingredients list anywhere and there is no print button like most of the other recipes. This looks awesome.

  4. Riley says:

    I just made this and it was absolutely delicious! I left the skins on my potatoes because I love that when I make them mashed. I didn’t have tomato paste, so I just used some prego I had in the fridge. It worked out great! This wasn’t dry at all, and the thyme and rosemary were soooo good. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. I can’t eat gluten, so I’m wondering what could be substituted for the flour in the meat mixture. Perhaps corn starch? I live in Africa and don’t have a lot of options for substituting. Do you think that would work? Thanks! :)

  6. Bernadette says:

    I just wanted to say I love your blog so much that it has become my go to site when I am looking for a recipe. Which is why I am looking at this one for tonights dinner. I love the layout of your recipes and the step by step photos. My teenager daughter and I made your easy sesame chicken the other night and it was great. Thanks for the bonding moment, keep up the good work!

  7. I’m making this for my books booze and bitchin’ book club meeting tonight! (We read “Prince of Thieves” by Chuck Hogan. It’s the book that the movie “The Town” was based on). Since the theme is Irish (or Boston Irish) I thought this would be a nice themed addition. I know the girls will love it!

  8. Mamie says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite recipes both from your site and EVER! I never commented though, so here I am now. Made mashed potatoes with dinner tonight specifically so that there would be some leftover to make Shepherd’s Pie tomorrow… can’t wait! I agree with the above comment about the delicious richness of the gravy and the rosemary flavor – so good! Thanks for another great recipe.

  9. I made this last night for dinner. Very good! Finally a Shepherds Pie recipe without jarred beef gravy!

  10. Just made this tonight and it was yummy! Hubby and I have been married 10 years and made shepherd’s pie years ago and did not like it all. This recipe was delicious and really great for the leftovers we had from christmas dinner.

  11. We have made this several times in the last couple of years, and LOVE IT! It’s not “traditional” summer food, but we had some left-over mashed potatoes the other night, and my niece requested that they get re-purposed into Shepherd’s Pie. I LOVE the richness of the gravy in this, and the taste of rosemary – SO DELISH! We like many of your recipes, Beth – thank you!

  12. Thank you for inspiring tonight’s dinner! Knew I’d find something on here that I already have ingredients for. Plus it’s taking care of my tater craving!

  13. Made this tonight and it was a hit! My husband was VERY impressed, as he looks at any “casserole” type of dish with great distrust. :). Thanks for all the super yummy recipes!

  14. Loved this but this was definitely a labor of love for me. It was all worth it though :)

  15. Anonymous says:

    I made this tonight at it was fabulous! Thanks for sharing this recipe. Perfect for a grad student on a budget who needs to stretch meals and dollars!

  16. NICE

  17. oh my god, that sounds fantastic! i love sweet potatoes so i’m definitely going to have to try that one.

  18. Cheese in cottage pie! It’s sinful! I must try it!

    My mother used to make traditional cottage pie all the time when I was growing up. Now that I’ve moved away and spent half a decade in Northern California, I rebel with my scandalously unorthodox variation: sweet potatoes on top (mashed with fat-free plain yogurt and a little cinnamon), and ground turkey, onions and black beans below. It bears only the faintest resemblance to true shepherd’s pie, but it’s delicious!

  19. Connie says:

    In Argentina we call this “pastel de papas”, it´s more like a potatoes and ground beef pie. You put some mashed potatoes on the bottom, then the meat, and then you cover it all with more mashed potatoes. I spread some cheese on top and let it melt in the oven. Oh, and we mix some minced olives in the meat. Some people also add raisins and cover it all up with sugar! (yuk!)

  20. This cottage pie (b/c it’s made with beef) looks fabulous!! I love the addition of cheese. I’ve got to bookmark this one.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Pretty nifty: One point, though, the ingredients list doesn’t include the flour.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The four of us just made the cottage pie!… Perfect dish for an evening. Its baking in the oven right now and we’re totally stoked! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  23. Cottage pies have been a lifesaver for when the kid were young, they loved it! I use to make a huge batch of single portions on “cooking day” and freeze them. My youngest is still at university and whenever I go and visit, we get some ready for her freezer.
    I also do a fish version : white fish cooked in water used to cook the frozen mixed veg/a bit a wine, flaked and mixed with plenty of mixed vegetables, top wish mashed potatoes (I cook my potatoes in milk)

  24. I made this tonight and my son just loved it. I used egg instead of cheese because of the calories, but it was still delicious. Thank you so much for sharing!

  25. You can use chicken bouillon to make chicken broth so that you only make as much broth as you need. Bouillon can be stored for a long time.

  26. hahahha, only 4 Tbsp per 1/4 cup! thanks for the coversion link!!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, maybe I can just steal little one-tablespoon things of half and half from restaurants for the recipe.

  28. Anonymous says:

    also, you could probably link to this conversion chart (and I’m sure there are many similar ones out there) for non-US cooks:

  29. luckily, i use half and half in my coffee so i had some on hand… you could easily make the recipe w/o the half and half if you’d like. it makes the mashed potatoes a little creamier but it would still be tasty without. if you have sour cream on hand, i use those in mashed potatoes a lot too. i know you can freeze milk so i would assume the same for half and half but because it is not a pivotal ingredient, leave it out if it’s easier.

  30. Anonymous says:

    About freezing the leftover ingredients… does half-and-half freeze well? Otherwise, for me at least, 7/8 of a pint of half-and-half would probably go to waste for me.

  31. george- wow! sweet potatoes sound WONDERFUL with this!

    mark- thanks for the info! i should probably change the title :P

    cj- i may start including weight measurements in the future to accommodate all of my non-united states readers but for the time being i’ve got to cater to the majority. don’t worry about your measurements not being extremely precise- your recipes will still taste great! if it weren’t for posting the recipes and calculating estimated costs, i probably wouldn’t measure most of what i cook. food is flexible and forgiving :)

  32. George says:

    Just made this – thanks and yum!

    Some substitutions:
    – Cut up a pumpkin and used about 50-50 potatoes and pumpkin all mashed together with sour cream instead of cream, and used smoked Gouda instead of cheddar
    – Seasoned the meat a bit with some hot peppers
    – I missed the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and used a whole can so I used mozzarella instead of cheddar on top (plus was in the freezer)
    – Sprinkled chives on top.

  33. Gonna give this one a try tonight! Thanks Beth!!!

  34. Shepherd’s pie with beef is a Cottage pie, or at least it is here in England.

    Love the blog by the way.


  35. excited to try your version of shepherd’s pie…the cheese seems like a good idea. I’m always looking for a good gluten-free recipe.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Dear Beth,

    First of all, congratulations for this wonderful work.

    Regarding the recipes, would it be possible for you to work with standard units of weight like grams, instead of subjective volumetric ones like cups?

    Thank you in advance.

    Best Regards,

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