Kid-friendly Shepherd’s Pie Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie

Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

by Erin Fletter
Photo by nelea33/
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
30 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Shepherd’s Pie

Corned beef and cabbage is the typical St Patty's Day meal. Still, the dish was actually created and made popular in America, not Ireland, by Irish-Americans. An Irish dish, Shepherd's Pie has also become well-known and widespread. It's delicious comfort food that makes the most of any leftovers you've got. Our SFC kid-friendly version is incredibly easy to make, right down to the topping of cheesy mashed potatoes, and it's a great way to get in a healthy dose of spinach and other veggies. We've snuck in some mushrooms for meatiness, too. What's not to love?! An Irish toast for you: "May your pockets be heavy, your heart be light, and may good luck pursue you each morning and night!"

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • mash :

    to reduce food, like potatoes or bananas, to a soft, pulpy state by beating or pressure.

  • mince :

    to chop into teeny tiny pieces.

  • sauté :

    to cook or brown food in a pan containing a small quantity of butter, oil, or other fat.

  • thicken :

    to make a liquid mixture thicker by adding a thickening agent, like flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder, or by reducing the amount of liquid through boiling.

Equipment Checklist

  • Medium steamer or pot
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Skillet
  • Potato masher
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Grater


Shepherd’s Pie

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 C spinach leaves
  • 1/2 C mushrooms
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tsp thyme, dried or fresh
  • 1/2 C frozen green peas
  • 1/2 C frozen corn
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 T olive oil
  • 3 T whole milk **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free milk)**
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 T cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
  • 1/4 C grated cheddar, Monterey jack, or Parmesan cheese **(Omit for DAIRY ALLERGY or sub dairy-free/nut-free cheese)**

Food Allergen Substitutions

Shepherd’s Pie

  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free milk. Omit cheese or substitute dairy-free/nut-free cheese.


Shepherd’s Pie

cut + cook + mince + grate

Cut 2 medium russet potatoes into quarters or 1-inch chunks and cook until tender, either by steaming or boiling. Mince 2 green onions, 1 garlic clove, 2 cups spinach, 1/2 cup mushrooms, 1 carrot, and 1 teaspoon thyme (if using fresh) into tiny pieces.

sauté + soften + season

Add a little oil to a skillet on your stovetop and heat over medium heat. Sauté the minced green onions, garlic, and thyme together for 3 to 5 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup green peas and 1/2 cup corn, along with your minced spinach, mushrooms, and carrot. Finally, add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and 1 bouillon cube, and cook everything for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Taste and season with salt, black pepper, or more thyme, if needed.

mash + mix

Mash your cooked potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add in 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 pinch of salt, and keep mixing and mashing until the potatoes are creamy. Some lumps are okay!

combine + stir + thicken

Combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and then stir into the vegetable mixture in your skillet. Turn the heat off and then, if needed, add a little water, just enough to get everything nice and thick. Stir to combine.

spread + smooth

Spread the vegetable mixture nice and evenly out in your skillet, and then top with the mashed potato mixture. Spread the potatoes out evenly and then smooth them with the back of a spoon so that the top is somewhat level.

sprinkle + heat

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese over the top of the potatoes. Cover, turn the heat back on to medium, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until everything is warmed through and the cheese is melted!

Surprise Ingredient: Spinach!

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Photo by BearFotos/

Hi! I’m Spinach!

"I'm Popeye the sailor man … Oh, excuse me. I like to sing that song because Popeye loved me! Yep! I'm Spinach! I'm a dark green, leafy vegetable, the kind that's so good for you! I may not make you as strong as Popeye, but I'll definitely make your body healthier and stronger. Plus, I'm delicious in so many dishes, including salads, sandwiches, soups, spanakopita, and even lasagna! Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I even get sneaked into muffins and cakes." 

History & Etymology

  • Spinach is a native plant of Persia (modern-day Iran). China produces the most spinach anywhere in the world, and in China, spinach is still known as The Persian Green. 
  • Spinach was grown in Spain during the 8th century, and Spaniards eventually brought it to the United States. 
  • Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as ink or paint.
  • China is the world's largest spinach producer, with 85 percent of global production, and California produces 74 percent of the fresh spinach grown in the United States.
  • In the mid-1900s, a cartoon character named Popeye the Sailor Man caused the popularity of spinach to explode! This is because he would turn strong and powerful immediately after eating a can of spinach. 
  • The English word "spinach" came from the 14th century French "espinache," through Latin and Arabic, originally from the Persian "aspanak."


  • Spinach is a member of the amaranth family, making it a close relation to beets and chard. 
  • Spinach plants are hardy and annual (meaning they need to be replanted each year). They can grow up to one foot tall. 
  • Larger leaves grow at the base of the plant, while smaller leaves are at the top (like basil). Spinach has dark green leaves that, depending on the variety, can be either curled or smooth. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • When buying fresh spinach, choose leaves that are crisp and dark green with a nice fresh fragrance. Avoid those that are limp, damaged, or have yellow spots. 
  • Refrigerate spinach in a plastic bag for up to three days. 
  • Spinach, which is usually very gritty because it is grown in sand, must be thoroughly rinsed.
  • Spinach can be eaten raw in salads and added raw to smoothies. Spinach doesn't have a strong taste, so it's a wonderful fuss-free addition when you want to pack in more nutrition to whatever you're cooking. It can be chopped and added to soups and stir-fries, baked into gratins, quiches, and pies, or pureed and added to dips. Spinach is super versatile. Frozen spinach is an easy substitute and works brilliantly in many recipes that call for fresh spinach.


  • Dark leafy green vegetables are some of the best foods to feed our bodies. Specifically, dark greens like spinach keep our hearts, blood, and brains healthy. 
  • Just half a cup of raw spinach counts as one of the five servings of fruits and vegetables you should eat daily.
  • Spinach is another source of vitamin K1. Do you remember that K1 helps with blood clotting? How's this for interesting: French soldiers consumed wine mixed with spinach juice during the First World War to recuperate from excessive bleeding! 
  • Spinach is high in chlorophyll! In fact, all green vegetables (and plants) contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll's job is to absorb sunlight and use it for energy—a process called photosynthesis. In addition, chlorophyll helps the body make red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen through the blood to our organs. 


History of Shepherd’s Pie!

Photo by Kiian Oksana for Shutterstock
  • Shepherd's pie is a meat pie topped with a crust of mashed potatoes and is the ultimate comfort food during cold winter months! The recipe can vary widely, but the defining ingredients are minced lamb or beef, gravy, onions, and mashed potatoes. Variations include adding other vegetables to the filling, such as peas, celery, or carrots, and sprinkling grated cheese on the mashed potato topping. 
  • The dish, first called "cottage pie," was created to use leftovers since meat was expensive and not an everyday ingredient. Early versions had the mashed potatoes lining the bottoms and sides of the pie dish and on top. The name "shepherd's pie" was not seen until 1854. 
  • Traditionally, cottage pie uses beef, while shepherd's pie uses lamb. There is some debate over whether shepherd's pie came from England or Ireland. Shepherd's pie with lamb (mutton) is thought to be Irish because mutton was cheaper than beef, which the poorer Irish typically could not afford. Cottage pie with beef was said to be a wealthier man's dish. The name shepherd's pie also could refer to the shepherds who looked after sheep, not cows.

Let's Learn About Ireland!

Photo by Thomas Bresenhuber/ (Rock of Cashel)
  • Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland, is on the island of Ireland, called Éire in the Irish language. Its nickname is the Emerald Isle because it is very green and lush! 
  • Ireland is a country in northwestern Europe, west of Great Britain, another island.
  • The Republic of Ireland shares a border with Northern Ireland, which belongs to the United Kingdom. England, Scotland, Wales, which make up Great Britain, and Northern Ireland are all part of the UK.
  • Irish is one of two official languages, with English being the second; however, English is more commonly spoken.
  • Over 5 million people live in Ireland, and its total area is 32,595 square miles. Their currency is the euro. 
  • The capital city, Dublin, and its environs are home to about 40 percent of the population of Ireland.
  • Ireland has a long, complicated history, but people called the Celts made their home in the region about 700 years BCE and thrived for almost 2,000 years. Then, in the Middle Ages, Vikings arrived on ships and started settling the area, which led to conflict.
  • The Rock of Cashel is one of several popular tourist sites in Ireland. It is a rocky, limestone outcropping. At the top, you will find medieval buildings, including a Gothic cathedral; a Romanesque chapel called Cormac's Chapel, named for a King of Munster; the Hall of the Vicars Choral; a 15th-century Tower House; an abbey; a round tower; and a high cross. Saint Patrick, of St. Patrick's Day fame, is associated with the Rock of Cashel.
  • Ireland was part of the United Kingdom from 1801 until December 6, 1922, when it became a self-governing nation but still part of the British Empire, known as the Irish Free State. In 1937 it became a republic, which was made official in 1949. The British had been involved in Ireland since 1169, when the Anglo-Normans invaded, and English kings claimed sovereignty there.
  • The Great Famine (or Irish Potato Famine) affected Ireland from 1845 to 1849. Potatoes were a staple food, and when the potato blight decimated the potato crop. As a result, many people got sick, died, or fled the country, and the population decreased by 30 percent.
  • The green on the Irish flag represents Ireland's nationalists, orange represents the Protestant followers of William of Orange in Ireland, and white represents peace between the two groups.
  • Some of the well-known symbols of Ireland include the shamrock, Celtic knot, Celtic cross, and the Celtic harp.
  • Famous Irish authors and poets include Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, and George Bernard Shaw.
  • Ireland is also famous for its Irish Celtic music and Irish dancing.
  • Green is associated with St. Patrick's Day because it is the color of spring, Ireland, and the shamrock. Saint Patrick's Day on March 17 is a public religious and cultural holiday in Ireland. Many other countries around the world also celebrate it.
  • St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in the United States for the first time in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. However, the city to hold the first official St. Patrick's Day parade was New York City, starting in 1766. Over 100 US cities now have Saint Patrick's Day parades. After all, on St. Patrick's day, "everybody is Irish!"
  • Traditional Irish sports are Gaelic football and hurling, and they are also the most popular sports in the country. Association football (soccer) is third in popularity. Additional sports include rugby, cricket, and horseracing. At the Olympics, boxing is Ireland's most successful sport.
  • Irish cuisine includes "boxty" (potato pancake), "colcannon" (mashed potatoes with cabbage), "coddle" (a dish of potatoes, sausage, thin bacon or "rashers," and onion), and Irish soda bread.  
  • A "full Irish breakfast" consists of bacon, pork sausage, fried eggs, black pudding (blood sausage), baked beans, sliced tomato, sautéed mushrooms, soda bread or toast, and tea or coffee.

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Ireland?

  • If kids in Ireland live in Irish-speaking communities, their schools teach classes in the Irish language. If they live in English-speaking areas, instruction is in the English language, unless kids attend an Irish-language school called a "gaelscoil," where classes are in Irish.
  • Most Irish schools require students to wear uniforms.
  • Irish children may play "rounders," a bat and ball game, "skipping" or jumping rope, marbles, and Irish "skittles," a bowling-like game where kids try to hit pins that are set up on the ground with pieces of wood called skittles.
  • Kids may participate in some of the following sports: Gaelic football, handball, hurling or camogie, association football (soccer), rugby, boxing, and swimming.
  • For breakfast, kids may eat the full, traditional Irish breakfast or have pancakes or scones. For a snack, they may eat potato chips or Irish flapjacks, which are granola bars made with oats. A favorite sweet treat is a fairy cake, a small cupcake with icing drizzled on top

Lettuce Joke Around

Why are spinach leaves never lonely? 

Because they come in bunches!

That's Berry Funny

What’s a dancer’s favorite kind of vegetable?


Lettuce Joke Around

What is a math tutor’s favorite dinner? 

Shepherd’s Pi.

THYME for a Laugh

What's the best thing to put into a shepherd pie? 

Your teeth!

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