This shepherd's pie stew is everything you love about shepherd's pie in an easy-to-make and uber comforting stew form.
If you love shepherd's pie you're going to love this shepherd's pie stew.
Since moving to the Netherlands I've learned from man well-intentioned British friends that what we call shepherd's pie in Canada and the US is actually cottage pie since it's made with beef. True shepherd's pie is made with lamb (which actually makes more sense when you think about what shepherd actually means).
In any case, this recipe is made with beef like a North American style shepherd's pie but you can easily swap in lamb instead to make a classic shepherd's pie stew.
Semantics aside, this stew is all the flavor of shepherd's pie without all of the steps - no need to make mashed potatoes and assemble a whole casserole - just brown the beef and then throw everything else in and cook! So easy.
An Instant Pot makes this stew faster but is by no means necessary. Read on to see.
- Boneless beef chuck roast: Boneless beef cut into cubes is ideal. I wasn't too fussy about trimming fat but you can do so if you like. The most important thing is that you just make sure to brown the beef well. Likewise, feel free to swap in an equivalent amount of lamb cut into cubes.
- Shepherd's pie vegetables (potatoes, carrots, peas and corn): The classic shepherd's pie vegetables are in this stew. I left my potatoes unpeeled for extra fiber, cut the carrots into medallions for a bit of textural nuance, and used canned corn and frozen peas which made it all super easy.
- Aromatics (shallot and garlic): Shallots and garlic add a lot of flavor and complexity.
- Tomato paste: Tomato paste brings a lot of umami and complexity into the stew. If you don't have tomato paste you can substitute two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar which will bring in those umami notes and a tiny bit of acid to enhance the depth of the other ingredients.
- Vegetable oil: The vegetable oil is to brown the beef and bring in more complex flavor notes.
- No sodium bouillon cube or beef stock: I don't often have stock in the house but very frequently rely on bouillon cubes to bring in extra flavor. I prefer no sodium since it makes it easier to calibrate the salt content. If you use a bouillon or stock that contains salt then be sure to adjust the salt content accordingly (i.e. to your taste). You can also do this after cooking: better to under salt and adjust then over salt.
- Seasoning (salt, black pepper and fresh thyme): It doesn't take a lot to season this stew since it has so much flavor from other ingredients. Salt, black pepper and fresh thyme complete the shepherd's pie flavor profile.
- Water: A bit of water is needed to give the ingredients a stew-like consistency. You will need to add more water if you roast in the oven instead of an Instant Pot. You can also replace the water and bouillon cube with stock.
- Flour: This is optional but if you want the stew to be extra rich and creamy then make a slurry with 2 teaspoons of flour and a tablespoon of water, and add it to the stew along with the rest of the water.
I made this soup in my Instant Pot (the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 6-quart version).
If you have an Instant Pot or other electric or stove-top pressure cooker, then that's perfect and saves a lot of time in this recipe.
If you don't then no worries it's easily adaptable.
If no pressure cooker, then use a soup pot or Dutch oven that's at least 5.7 liters / 6 quarts.
You'll need to cook it in the oven for about 2 to 2.5 hours or until the collagen connective tissue in the beef has has a chance to soften and start breaking down into gelatin - that's when the beef get's that amazing fork-tender quality.
It's really so easy to make this shepherd's pie stew even if you don't use the Instant Pot.
After prepping all the veggies and cubing the beef, the only crucial step is that you should brown the beef well.
The browning is caramelization, which means development of new and more complex flavor compounds.
This step really helps develop a lot of flavor and it's the only truly hands-on part of this recipe besides cutting and prepping the vegetables.
When I lived in the US I used to be able to brown meat using the sauté function on my Instant Pot but since moving to the Netherlands and purchasing another Instant Pot here, I notice the sauté function isn't strong enough to actually brown (at least not in a reasonable amount of time).
So for that reason I prefer to brown the beef in a non-stick skillet and then add it to the Instant Pot along with the rest of the ingredients.
You can use your Instant Pot sauté function if you find it works well or otherwise use a non-stick skillet like I do or just a Dutch oven if that's what you're roasting in (you may want to do it in batches to increase surface area).
To make the process even faster, once the beef releases it's water, drain that water off into the Instant Pot (or just into a bowl until you're ready to use it).
The cooking liquid that comes out of the beef slows down browning but has a ton of flavor so no sense in wasting it.
Once the beef is browned it's as simple as adding all the ingredients to the pot.
The seasonings, bouillon and tomato paste can be dissolved in the water in order to more evenly distribute the ingredients in the stew.
Pour in the water and give it all a stir. You'll need to add slightly more water if you're cooking in the oven rather than the Instant Pot (see recipe card for details).
After adding the water, it's ready to cover and roast.
This is a super comforting and hearty one pot meal on it's own so it doesn't really need any additions.
It's really nice served with some pickles or cornichons and if you're really hungry you could also serve with some nice crusty bread or make your own like this Easy Braided Whole Wheat Bread.
Looking for more mealtime inspiration? Maybe you'll like one of these:
Sheppard's Pie Beef Stew (Instant Pot friendly)
- 900 grams boneless beef chuck roast about 2 lbs, cubed
- 2 cups potatoes cubed
- 3 carrots cut into medallions
- 1 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 0.5 cups shallot finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon no sodium buillon cube
- 3.5 teaspoons salt
- 1.5 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 cups water 500 ml, or more if not using Instant Pot - see recipe post.
- 2 teaspoons flour optional, to make a thicker sauce
- Heat the vegetable oil in your Instant Pot on the sauté function or in a pot over medium-high heat.
- Sprinkle one teaspoon of the salt evenly all over the cubed beef.
- Add the beef to the pot and sear, stirring often until lightly browned on all sides.
- If you want a thicker sauce, then make a slurry with 2 teaspoons of flour and 1 tablespoon of the water. Mix the slurry back into the rest of the water then continue the recipe as usual.
- Dissolve the bouillon cube in 2 cups of water then mix in the rest of the salt and the black pepper, thyme, and tomato paste.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, peas and corn to the pot along with the water.
- Cover and cook under pressure in the Instant Pot for 1 hour or in the oven at 175 C / 350 F for 2 to 2.5 hours or until the beef is fork tender.