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Cheddar Topped Shepherd’s Pie has a hearty, meat and vegetable filling with a cheddar mashed potato topping. Your family will love this dinner!
Ultimate Comfort Food
Cheddar Topped Shepherd’s Pie is a perfect recipe to make anytime you are looking for some hearty and delicious comfort food! This cheddar topped shepherd’s pie is very filling, and this recipe makes a generous amount so it’s great for feeding a small crowd – or (better yet) to have for leftovers the day after!
This recipe uses carrots rather than the version of Shepherd’s Pie that I grew up with – that included corn in the filling. I personally think the earthiness of the carrots makes this taste so much better, and it’s the perfect complement to the savory beef and the rich, cheddar-potato topping!
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
Dating back to the 1700’s, the original dish prepared like this was called a cottage pie which consisted of leftover minced meat and vegetables in a gravy, topped with mashed potatoes, then baked.
About a hundred years later, the term ‘shepherd’s pie’ appeared in an English cookbook, specifically referencing a version of this dish made with lamb while ‘cottage pie’ was still made with other types of meats including ground beef.
Right or wrong, most people today still refer to this sort of dish – regardless of the meat used – as a Shepherd’s Pie, as did the recipe we adapted.
Why You’ll Love Cheddar Topped Shepherd’s Pie
- It’s a satisfyingly delicious meal-in-one. This is pure, hearty, comfort food with deep rich flavors!
- This recipe makes enough to feed a hungry crowd – or enjoy leftovers the next day.
- You can make it ahead of time, then serve a piping hot meal that your entire family will love!
“I grew up eating my mum’s shepherd’s pie – ground beef, a layer of kernel corn and a potato topping. Although I enjoyed her version very much, I must say that I absolutely love this recipe and it is my go-to now, having made it at least a half dozen times (delicious perfection on each occasion). Thank you for sharing!” – Lorie
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Yellow Potatoes – Choose a waxy yellow potato for the topping such as Yukon gold.
- Ground Beef – Go with a lean ground beef mix – such as 85/15 or 90/10 – so you don’t have to drain much excess fat. If you use a 80/20 mix of beef, you will want to drain the excess fat after it cooks.
- Oil – Vegetable or canola oil is used to saute the vegetables.
- Vegetables – You’ll include a mix of diced carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.
- Seasonings – Dried thyme and oregano, plus Worcestershire sauce, a browning & seasoning sauce such as Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master, a dash of hot sauce, as well as salt and pepper.
- Tomato Paste – Used in the gravy.
- All-Purpose Flour – Used to thicken the gravy.
- Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese – Some of this will be melted into the mashed potatoes and the rest will be sprinkled over the top.
Tips & Tricks
We strongly recommend that you use block white cheddar and not the pre-shredded cheddar which seemed to make this recipe a little greasy when we made it for the first time.
Can I include corn in my Shepherd’s Pie?
You can if you’d like, but we think this recipe is best prepared as written. Corn adds a sweet and somewhat watery flavor, while the carrots lend a deep earthy flavor that is really wonderful with the ground beef and cheesy potatoes.
Special Tools You’ll Need
- Sharp Knife & Cutting Board – This recipe requires lots of chopping (but it’s worth it!)
- Potato Peeler
- Large Pot – To cook the potatoes.
- Large Skillet – To cook the meat and vegetables.
- Potato Masher
- Box Grater/Shredder – To shred the cheese.
- 9×13-inch Casserole Dish – This recipe will fill the standard Pyrex dish right up to the top. (Place foil under the dish while baking to avoid drips in your oven.) Use a deeper 9×13-inch baking dish is you have one.
How do I make Cheddar Topped Shepherd’s Pie?
- Peel and cook the potatoes until tender.
- Saute the vegetables in a large skillet until tender.
- Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
- Add tomato paste, water, hot sauce, and browning/seasoning sauce.
- Drain the potatoes and mash. Add milk, some of the cheese, and seasonings.
- Pour beef and vegetable mixture into the casserole dish.
- Dollop the potatoes over the beef mixture.
- Use a fork to swirl the potatoes into decorative peaks.
- Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese on top.
- Bake until topping is browned and filling is hot and bubbly.
- Allow the Shepherd’s Pie to set up for about five minutes before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make this Shepherd’s Pie ahead of time? Yes – it’s fine to assemble ahead of time and bake just before serving. Just note that the baking time will be significantly longer if it’s baked from a chilled and refrigerated temperature, rather than when assembled hot. Plan accordingly.
- How do I store the leftovers? Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- How do I reheat the leftovers? We find it easiest to reheat individual servings in the microwave.
- Can I freeze this dish? Yes – we suggest transferring portions to a freezer-safe container before freezing.
This recipe was originally published on A Family Feast in October 2012. The post has been updated but the delicious recipe remains the same.
The recipe was adapted from one that originally appeared in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food (original recipe here) – we tweaked the proportions of vegetables and cheese a bit and also added in more seasonings to really enhance the flavor of the meat and vegetable mixture to our liking.
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- 2 pounds yellow potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into even-sized chunks
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 cups peeled and thinly sliced carrots, (about 6 medium carrots)
- 2 cups thinly sliced celery, (about 4 stalks)
- 2 cups onion, chopped into 1/2 inch dice (about 1 large onion)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (85/15 mix)
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 six–ounce can tomato paste
- Dash of hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon browning & seasoning sauce such as Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- 2/3 cup milk (plus more as needed)
- 8 ounce block extra sharp white cheddar, shredded (reserve 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese to use as a topping)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Place peeled potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are soft enough to mash – easily pierced with a knife or fork (15 to 20 minutes).
- While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a heavy bottomed 6 quart pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, thyme and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender (approximately 10 minutes). Add ground beef and stir into vegetables. Cook mixture until beef is no longer pink. NOTE: If you used an 80/20 beef, this would be the point where you remove some of the liquid fat from the pan by either skimming or pouring into a strainer and skimming off the fat. Make sure you add the liquid back in after skimming fat.
- Add 1 cup water to the beef and vegetable mixture and bring to a boil, simmering for 1 minute. Add flour, tomato paste, hot sauce, browning and seasoning sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper (adjusting to your taste) and cook, blending well for about a 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- Drain potatoes well and return to the pot. Mash the potatoes and then add milk and all but ½ cup of cheddar cheese, stirring to mix well so the cheddar begins to melt. Stir until smooth, adding additional milk if necessary. Season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch ungreased baking dish. Drop dollops of the potato mixture over the beef filling and spread the potatoes to the edges of the dish with a spatula.
- Using a fork, make decorative peaks in the mashed potatoes, and then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese.
- Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the center rack of your oven to prevent any oven spills, and then place the baking dish on the foil in the oven. Bake at 450 degrees until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes or longer to set up before serving.
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