Alton Brown shepherd’s pie is an incredible comfort food. Delicious, super flavorful meaty filling topped with a mound of rich, buttery mashed potatoes!
Alton Brown’s recipe is a true Shepherd’s Pie, with ground lamb as the expected focal point of a simple but flavorful dish. He uses chicken broth rather than a heavier beef stock to allow the flavor of the lamb to come through.
A touch of acidity from the tomato paste balances the underlying sweetness of the carrots, corn, and peas, and the filling is seasoned with fresh rosemary, thyme, and traditional herbs that enhance the earthiness of this dish.
He tops it all off with a dense mountain of mashed potatoes, incorporating an egg yolk with the butter and half-and-half for an extra creamy topping. (By the way, egg yolks are a great addition any time you make mashed potatoes – trust me. Try it.) All these textures and flavors with a touch of history to combine for recipe perfection.
What Is Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie are often used interchangeably to describe the same dish, but there is a difference, and it’s a meaty matter. Recipes for Cottage Pie appear in Scotland during the 1700s as a peasant dish made with beef. These farmers, who often lived in modest “cottages,” used their leftovers du jour to create this inexpensive, simple dish.
Shepherd’s Pie, which didn’t appear in Scottish/English cookbooks until the late 1800s, specifically refers to a dish made with lamb. Whether you are in the beef or the mutton camp, a traditional Shepherd’s pie would include little more than meaty leftovers in a rich homemade bone broth, with a blanket of fluffy potatoes tucking in the hearty filling before crisping in the oven.
Shepherd’s Pie began to appear in cookbooks on the U.S. side of the pond in the early 1900s. American cooks put their own creative spins on the dish, using less traditional (sometimes controversial) vegetables like corn, as well as different herbs and wine to intensify the flavors of the filling, sometimes adding cheese or other ingredients to the potato layer.
The results gave us a new Americanized classic Shepherd’s Pie recipe like Mr. Brown’s. Cottage Pie recipes have also undergone this same tasty evolution.
What Kind of Meat Is In Shepherd’s Pie?
As I mentioned above, Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb. That said, if you and your family prefer beef, this recipe is absolutely delicious and made with beef!
How To Make Alton Brown Shepherd’s Pie
- Make the potatoes: Boil the potatoes
- Mash the potatoes until there are no lumps and stir in the half-and-half mixture.
- Add the egg yolk.
- Make the filling: Saute the onions and carrots in a skillet.
- Stir in the lamb or beef, salt, and pepper, and saute until the meat is cooked through. Drain excess fat and sprinkle flour.
- Stir in the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, and thyme. Boil. Stir in the thawed and well-drained corn and peas.
- Pour the filling mixture into the baking dish. Spread the top evenly with the mashed potatoes. Bake
*See the full instructions below.
Alton Brown Shepherd’s Pie Recipe Notes
- Draining the Meat- you want there to be some fat in the finished meat and veggie mixture but not an excessive amount. The exact amount you have will depend on the amount of ground meat you use. I do not drain the meat on paper towels but rather, move the meat to one side of the pan and carefully, with the heat OFF, tip the skillet so that the fat rolls to the edge of the skillet. I then sop up the excess fat with paper towels, leaving a few teaspoons of the fat. This way some of the fat remains in the meat and will mix with the flour to thicken the filling.
- Mashed Potatoes – Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe calls for Russet potatoes, and as I’ve mentioned in other recipes, I’m partial to using those in any dish that calls for a starchy tuber. Yukon gold would substitute well here, though, if you just happen to have those on hand.
- While some recipes smooth out the potatoes on top, I suggest roughing up the surface a bit or using a piping bag with a fluted tip, since those thinner sections of potatoes will dry out and crisp a little faster for extra crunchy goodness.
Storing + Freezing + Make-Ahead
- How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge? This can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Can You Freeze This? Yes, this recipe can be frozen. There will be some texture changes when you freeze potatoes, so it’s best not to bake the dish before freezing. Simply prepare the filling, top it with potatoes, and cool it completely before wrapping it carefully and placing it in your freezer.
- You should thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before baking as directed in the original recipe, approximately 30 minutes, noting that you may need a few additional minutes of cooking time to make sure the filling is heated all the way through. If you don’t have time for overnight thawing, place the dish, covered in foil, in a 350-degree oven for about an hour, to achieve similar results. (Make sure the baking dish you’re using can go from freezer to oven. Aluminum foil pans are great for this purpose.)
- Make-Ahead: You can prepare the entire dish 2 days ahead, cover and refrigerate, then proceed with baking. Never put a cold baking dish into a preheated oven. Leave the dish out and let it come to room temperature before placing it in the oven. You may need to bake it for an additional 10-20 minutes.
More Beefy Casseroles You’ll LOVE:
- Impossible Cheeseburger Pie
- Hamburger Casserole
- Johnny Marzetti Casserole
- Sloppy Joe Casserole
- Cowboy Casserole
- John Wayne Casserole
- Hamburger Potato Casserole
Alton Brown Shepherd's Pie
- 1 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and diced fairly small
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1/2 cup frozen petite peas
Make The Potatoes:
- Peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/2 inch chunks. Add them to a medium saucepan filled with cold water. Cook on high, covered, and bring to a boil. When they boil, remove the lid, and lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender about 10-15 minutes.
- Add half-and-half and butter to a small microwave-safe dish and heat the mixture up in the microwave until warmed, approximately 40 seconds.
- Drain the potatoes well then place them back in the saucepan. Mash the potatoes until there are no lumps, then stir in the heated half-and-half mixture, salt, and pepper. Add the egg yolk and stir until it's completely absorbed.
Make The Filling:
- Meanwhile, as the potatoes cook, begin the filling. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a 12-inch skillet, heat the vegetable oil until it begins to simmer over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and carrots and cook until they just begin to brown a bit, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic.
- Stir in the lamb or beef, salt, and pepper and saute until the meat is cooked through and no longer has any pink. Drain excess fat (**See Recipe Notes ). Sprinkle the meat mixture with the flour and stir to evenly coat. Cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover, and gently simmer, until the mixture thickens a bit, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in the thawed and well-drained corn and peas.
- Pour the filling mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish. Spread the top evenly with the mashed potatoes, taking care to create a "seal" to the edges of the baking dish.
- Place the baking dish on an aluminum foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the preheated oven until the potatoes begin to brown, and the filling is heated through in the center, about 25-30 minutes. Allow the casserole to cool on a baking rack for 15 minutes before serving.
Fans Also Made:
- Draining the meat: Move the meat to one side of the pan and carefully, with the heat OFF, tip the skillet so the fat rolls to the edge of the skillet, then sop up the excess fat with a paper towel and leaving a few teaspoons of the fat. You can also scoop the fat with a spoon.
On your phone? Check the web story here.
Source: Alton Brown
I made it today, it was easy to prepare, time consuming as far as preparation and baking is concerned but worth the effort. It came out very good and my husband loved it. I’ll be making it again for sure!
Thanks, Mary! I’m glad you liked this 🙂
Kathy Morelock says
ThIs a great recipe. Also, adding sauted mushrooms is a grest addition. You could for variety’s sake use Irish Colcannon. Which is potatoes, cabbage, and bacon, it is delishous
Mary Gereis says
I made it and it came out delicious. I had no frozen corn so I substituted it with butter pumpkin chopped very small. My family just loved it! I’ll bet doing it again!
Hi, Mary! Wow, that sounds so good! Thank you for sharing your version 🙂
Vickie Childers says
Love love love this recipe! I have made it several times. Ill be making this for my adult nephews who are coming to dinner in a few weeks. They will love it as I do. It is easier to make if everything is prepped before starting to make.
So glad it’s a hit for you, Vickie!!
Happy you enjoyed, Jan!
This was delicious. 2nd time making it and I made some tweaks. Great way of using up some leftovers I had on hand. I had leftover mashed potatoes that already had some Boursin Shallots and Chives flavored cheese mixed in. And I added a little shredded cheese on top the last 5 minutes. I also ran out of Rosemary so I used Italian seasoning instead.
Jess, your tweaks sound delish!
Kathy Ventura says
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this I grew up eating it. I made it as written but I did add more veggies to it. I was in love with the first bite. It is so savory and delicious I definitely will be making it again.
Hi Kathy! ? SO glad to hear you liked it!
Christina Purvis says
Also instead of using flour to thicken the mixture I use potato flakes.
Christina Purvis says
I added chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and beans to make this more filling with a little more nutrition.
I made a large batch to be able to freeze several pie tin size portions to give as gifts for an occasion or potluck parties. This recipe is the best I have ever tried and everyone asks for more overtime I serve or gift this.
Christina that is so wonderful to hear. I love that it’s such a hit for you! Great tweaks, btw.
Vegan cook says
To make this humane (vegan/plant based), one doesn’t have to substitute “weird” vegan food, like chick peas, or make the dish with completely different ingredients, such as sweet potatoes. To make it vegan….
Use a plant based ground, like Light Life Smart Ground
Use a vegetable broth, which you can thicken into a gravy by adding non GMO corn starch dissolved in water. Orr it comes out fine without it, with just the tomato paste and water.
Don’t use egg or dairy, including butter, and almost anyone (except celiacs/gluten free or soy allergy people) can eat it, including vegans, vegetarians, those with egg or dairy allergies and those that are lactose intolerant.
Use vegan butter and plant based “milk”, or no “milk” at all, to make the potatoes.
It very tasty vegan, with Smart Ground, plant based sauce, non GMO corn or vegetables, and animal derivative free potatoes.