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Shepherd’s pie, sometimes referred to as “cottage pie” when made with ground beef instead of lamb, is one of my favourite comfort food dishes. It really hits the spot when I’m in the middle of a Whole30. In fact, over the course of two Whole30 rounds, I have developed three different Instant Pot shepherd’s pie recipes! All three recipes will eventually be featured on the blog, but I am sharing this one first as it is my favourite as well as Paleo, Whole30 and low FODMAP.
I last served this version of shepherd’s pie when relatives were visiting a few weeks ago. The entire thing was gone in what I consider a record – perhaps even a world record – amount of time. Whether you’re having guests or simply need a comfort food fix, this Instant Pot shepherd’s pie is sure to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.
“Instant Pot” Shepherd’s Pie
Full disclosure: calling this an Instant Pot recipe isn’t entirely accurate. The potatoes are the only part of it that is actually pressure cooked; the pie in its entirety is not pressure cooked. There are many recipes out there that do pressure cook the entire dish, but my experience with this has resulted in unwanted moisture ending up in places where it shouldn’t be within the dish. Getting another pan in and out of the Instant Pot can also be a bit of a pain. So, the potatoes are pressure-cooked; the filling is sautéed using the Instant Pot’s Sauté function, and then both layers are added to a casserole dish, which goes under your oven’s broiler for five minutes, creating a yummy, crispy crust on the potatoes.
Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients
Potatoes: When developing this shepherd’s pie recipe, I incorporated ideas from my Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes recipe to make a flavourful, mashed potato topping. The recipe calls for garlic-infused olive oil in the potato topping as well as the filling to create cohesion between the two layers, making an extremely tasty – but not greasy – dish.
I prefer to use red potatoes for this dish but any white potatoes could be used. Feel free to peel the potatoes, but I like to leave the skin on the potatoes due to the nutrients and flavour they offer. Also, it’s just easier to leave the peels on, and I’m all about making things easier.
Meat: Traditional shepherd’s pie recipes use ground lamb, but I always make mine with lean ground beef as that’s what I typically have on hand. While I have not tested it myself, substituting ground lamb for beef should be okay if you prefer a more traditional approach.
Veggies: As for the veggies, carrots are part of traditional recipes. Green beans are not traditional, but I love the way they taste in shepherd’s pie. I use frozen green beans as I always have them in my freezer, and I chop them into little, 1/4 inch-long pieces. You could use pre-cut green beans, but I find them too clunky to eat when they’re that big.
Instead of regular white or sweet onion, I use the green tops of scallions (also known as green onions) to keep this recipe low FODMAP. I feel they provide another great textural element to the dish. I do not sauté them with the rest of the filling, so they are still a bit crunchy in addition to being more flavourful in their mostly-raw form. You can sauté them if you think you won’t like this crunchy texture. If you do so, I suggest adding them with the tomato paste during the last two minutes of the sauté so they don’t get too overdone.
Seasonings: Adding tomato paste to the filling brings out some great umami flavour in the dish, and seasoning with salt, pepper, oregano and thyme ties everything together nicely. You can use fresh herbs in this recipe, but I typically just use dried.
The equipment you will need to make Instant Pot shepherd’s pie includes:
8″ x 11″ 2-quart (or around that size) glass baking dish (I use this one)
Plastic spatula or spoon for sautéing
2 large spoons for scooping
Spatula for spreading the potatoes
Spatula (preferably with a square edge) for serving
Hot pads / pot holders
Mashed Potatoes: To start, wash and chop the potatoes. Pour 1 cup of cold water into the Instant Pot and set the trivet inside. Place the chopped potatoes on top of the trivet, close the lid and set valve to “Sealing.” Press the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button, and set the timer for 10 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, chop the carrots, green beans and scallions and ready the tomato paste and seasonings. Once the potatoes have finished cooking, quick release the pressure and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Do this by scooping them out with a large spoon or by using the trivet with hot pads, being careful of falling, hot potatoes. Cover the potatoes with a plate to keep them warm and set aside while you prepare the filling.
Filling: Dry the inner pot with paper towels and place it back into the Instant Pot. Hit the “Sauté” button and pour in the garlic-infused olive oil. Once the display reads “Hot,” add the ground beef, carrots and green beans, breaking the ground beef up with a plastic spoon or spatula. Many Instant Pot recipes tell you to use a wooden spoon, but I always use plastic when cooking meat to prevent bacteria from being soaked up by the wooden spoon.
Sauté the meat and vegetables for eight minutes, stirring frequently. While the filling mixture is cooking (but remembering to stir it every few minutes), you can prepare the potatoes. Remove the plate from the bowl and add garlic-infused olive oil, ghee, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender. Once the potatoes are mashed or blended, cover with a plate again to keep warm and set aside.
Once the filling has cooked for eight minutes, add the tomato paste and sauté the mixture for another two minutes or until the carrots are fork-tender and the meat is fully-cooked. Hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot, and using hotpads, remove the inner pot and set on a pot holder so the filling does not overcook. Stir in the chopped scallions and then the salt, pepper, oregano and thyme.
Broil: Set your oven to broil and place a rack on the top level (or a level at which there is sufficient space for you to safely place the baking dish). While the oven is heating up, scoop the filling into a glass baking or casserole dish. I typically use an 8″ x 11″ 2-quart glass baking dish, but other dishes around that size could also work. Spread the filling evenly throughout the dish and then scoop the potatoes onto the filling using a different spoon. Spread the potatoes evenly with a spatula, and if you’re feeling creative and ambitious, use a fork to create a “fancy” design on the potato topping. For the shepherd’s pie in the photos, I just took a fork and drew simple waves on the topping until it looked kind of cool. This is obviously not necessary and completely optional.
Carefully place the baking dish under the broiler and broil for up to 5 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning. The pie is done once the potatoes have crispy, brown edges and the juices within the filling are bubbling.
Serve: Remove the baking dish from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Cut into eight square pieces and serve with a spatula – a spatula with a square edge works best to get everything on the plate. Enjoy!
1 cup frozen fine green beans, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup scallions, green parts only, chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried thyme
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
Pour 1 cup of cold water into the Instant Pot and place the trivet inside. Put potato pieces on the trivet. Close lid, set the valve to “Sealing.” Press the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button and set the timer for 10 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, chop the carrots, green beans and scallions and ready the tomato paste and seasonings.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, hit the “Cancel” button, quick release the pressure and remove lid. Either using a large spoon or hot pads and the trivet (using great care to avoid hot, falling potatoes), transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, cover with a plate to keep warm, and set aside.
Pour the water out of the inner pot and wipe dry with a paper towel.* Put the inner pot back into the Instant Pot. Hit the “Sauté” button and add 1 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil. When the display reads “Hot,” add the ground beef, carrots, and green beans, breaking up the ground beef with a plastic spoon. Sauté for 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
While the filling is cooking (but remembering to stir it every few minutes), return to your bowl of potatoes and add the mashed potato topping ingredients almond milk through pepper and mash or blend the potatoes to your desired consistency. Taste the potatoes and adjust the almond milk, salt and pepper to your liking. Cover the potatoes again with a plate to keep warm.
After the filling has cooked for 8 minutes, add 2 tbsp tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes or until carrots are fork tender and meat is browned. Hit the “Cancel,” button and using hot pads, remove the inner pot to a hot pad. Stir in scallions and then the salt, pepper, oregano and thyme. Set your oven to broil and place rack in the top position.
Spoon the filling from the inner pot to a glass baking dish (I use an 8”x 11,” 2-quart baking dish) and spread evenly throughout the dish. Spoon the potatoes on top of the filling and spread evenly with a spatula. Optionally, use a fork to create a fancy, textural design on top of the potatoes to impress your friends.** Place the baking dish on the top rack of the oven and broil until the potatoes have crispy brown edges and the juices in the filling are bubbling, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully throughout the broiling process to prevent burning.
Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to cool. Cut into 8 square pieces and serve to plates with a spatula – a spatula with a square-edge works best.
* This is an important safety step – if there is still water in the Instant Pot when you heat up cooking fat, it may cause the fat to violently splatter, leading to burns and a big mess.
** Totally optional. I just took a fork and drew a wave over and over on the topping until it looked presentable.