Shepherd’s Pie {in a Jar!}

There are some foods that just aren’t meant to be messed with. Updated? Tweaked? Seasoned a little more liberally than how Grandma made them? Absolutely. But the integrity of those things should never be fundamentally changed–things like Sloppy Joes or Chicken Pot Pie or Beef Stroganoff. Or Shepherd’s Pie. The kinds of things you grew up eating as a kid and you want to remember them exactly the way they were, only they never taste exactly like they did, so you have to adjust things, just a little, to account for being a grown-up.

We get lots and lots of requests for Shepherd’s Pie, but we’ve always been a little hesitant to post it because it’s a) not super pretty, so it can be hard to photograph and b) it’s so down home that it’s a little different from what we normally post here. But first of all, it’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow and this is a great Irish-ish meal to serve. Also, my husband asks for it on, like, a weekly basis, and since he gracefully and un-complaining-ly has been working crazy hours at work, coaching a team of wild and crazy 7-year-olds in soccer, remodeling our bathroom, putting up with my crazy, and taking care of the kids by himself when Sara and I have been traveling lately, I figured I owed it to him to come up with an awesome Shepherd’s Pie.

One of my biggest gripes about Shepherd’s Pie is that it’s messy. Also, the real and proverbial icing on the cake is the mashed potatoes, which everyone except for my ridiculously picky 7-year-old is magnetically and subconsciously attracted to, so somehow the potatoes go missing long before everything else. My solution? Shepherd’s Pie in a Jar.ย  The jar keeps the mess contained and it also lets you portion out the mashed potatoes so everyone gets their fair share. Except for (again), my son, who can knock them off onto his plate and skip them like a weirdo.

I’m not even going to post a picture of the ingredients because I forgot, like, half of the most important ingredients. Immediately before I took said picture, I walked into my daughter’s preschool classroom to pick her up, looked around at all the kids, and said, “Hey, is Meredith in here?” Yeah, she was standing right in front of me. I’m losing my freaking mind. But you’ll need ground beef (or lamb, if you’re wanting to be super authentic), onion, garlic, mixed veggies (I like peas and carrots…long story, but I’m not a fan of green beans in with my mixed veggies even though I love green beans), flour, beef broth, V8, red wine vinegar, parsley, thyme, seasoned salt, mashed potatoes, Parmesan cheese, and cheddar cheese. Yes, it’s a lot of ingredients. No, they’re not weird. Make extras and freeze ’em.

In a large saucepan of skillet, brown ground beef with onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned and the onions and garlic are tender and fragrant.

Add the frozen veggies and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the moisture has evaporated.

Add seasoned salt, parsley, thyme, and Tabasco and stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until completely coated.

Add the vinegar, V8 juice, and beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thickened (about 15 minutes).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the beef mixture is simmering, prepare the potatoes according to your preference. Add the Parmesan and sharp cheddar cheeses. Spoon into a gallon-sized heavy-duty Ziploc bag and set aside.

Place 6 8-ounce canning jars on a baking sheet.

When the beef mixture is done simmering, season to taste and then ladle the beef mixture into the canning jars.

Cut the corner off the Ziploc bag and pipe onto the beef mixture. Place in oven for 15 minutes and bake until lightly browned on top. Serves 6.

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  1. This is absolutely brilliant! Perfect for little ones…and portion control, although I could see myself eating two or three of these in a sitting.

  2. This is brilliant! I’m definitely making this on the weekend!

    Do you think these little jars could be frozen and reheated later?

  3. You are ever so clever! I love the idea of putting them in a jar. This is so much fun and I think it photographed nicely. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. So, if I didn’t do the little jars what size dish should I use and what other changes would you suggest (oven temo, time, etc???). Thanks so much, Jenny C.

    1. Just pop it in a regular pie plate or a casserole dish, spoon the mashed potatoes on top, and bake it for 15-20 minutes. You’re not really cooking anything, just browning the potatoes a little and getting the cheese in the potatoes all melty.

  5. Everything is cuter in a jar, right? Did you freeze yours with the potatoes piling up over the top like that or did you just freeze the meat part and will add the potatoes later? Inquiring minds want to know!

  6. Those are so cute! I’m thinking a trip to the store is in order to find little canning jars and to get the ingredients I don’t have. I have a picky 3 year old here who hates mashed potatoes, strangest thing ever! Although, she may be tempted into trying them because they kind of look like whip cream,and she DOES love that, lol!!

  7. Wow, leave it to you to make Shephard’s pie look cute! My husband’s been wanting me to make this and now that I have this fun recipe I have no excuses.

  8. Darn it! I already bought some corned beef for Sunday dinner or else I would have been serving this to the fam. SOO cute!! And everything is always cuter in a mason jar. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

  9. My crazy 7-year-old won’t eat mashed potatoes either! I think she’s CRAZY! The rest of us make up for it and usually fight over hers. The recipe is WAY cute in jars. Good thing there are people around like you to make me look like I have a good idea once in a while (i.e. the licorice rainbow treat)!

  10. Cheese in potatoes. This is what my shepherd’s pie has been missing. Also a recipe. In my mind, shepherd’s pie has always been “some kind of hamburger-based leftovers with potatoes or buscuit dough on top.” I also love the jars. Individual portions make everything more special.

  11. I bought V8 for a soup recipe and really can’t stand to drink it but having been wondering what I should make with the rest of it! Now I know what to do with it! Thanks!

  12. Just a quick FYI from an American living in the UK (before any Brits show up to complain). If you make this with beef it is called Cottage Pie, it’s only called Shepherds Pie when you use lamb. Also, add a bit of Worcestershire sauce, you won’t be sorry. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. My two year old won’t touch anything with potatoes in it. The other day I tried to trick her by telling her it was cookie dough. She still wouldn’t eat it. So weird. Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes?

  14. I ( heart ) mashed potatoes! and I would eat them every day..if I could! =) I have already printed this recipe and tweeted it! =)

  15. I’m breaking out the picnic basket and the big zip lock bag I feel a picnic by the ocean coming, hey is southern California and its spring time.

  16. I love that you posted “regular” food in a cute way. I think it would be great if you did that more often, it doesn’t even have to look cute. This looks delicious and sounds even better. I’m sure my kids will love it!

    1. BTW – not that it doesn’t look good! I’m prego and the thought of beef anything makes my stomach churn, so it’s not you, it’s me (just wanted to clear that up before I get hate mail LOL)..I will stick to your carb loaded and sweet recipes for the 1st tri!

  17. Made this for dinner tonight! It was delish and the perfect recipe for our St. Patty’s Day celebration! We had it with Irish Soda Bread and Honey Butter!! My family loved it! Thank you for your creativity and always amazing recipes!!!

  18. Instead of ground beef, my mother (a lovely little English lady) freezes the leftover beef from pot roasts etc (you know, when you don’t have enough for lunch but you don’t want to waste it??) and then uses that when she makes a Shephard’s Pie. SOOO much better than just browning ground beef (not that I’m knocking that).

  19. I like this recipe idea. You did very well indicate if one wants to be AUTHENTIC to use lamb, as the beef option is actually called COTTAGE PIE; I didn’t know if you knew this tidbit and I love the fact that we are given the opportunity to learn something almost daily….thanks for your recipes, have a great day.

  20. I think this absolutely the best..My Dad is caring for my step Mom whom has alzheimers and this would help a great deal in making meals for him freeze them and he just would have to make the mash potatoes.. thank you.

  21. You can pipe the mashed potatoes on a cookie sheet and freeze those also. They thaw pretty fast on the counter or a few seconds in the microwave.

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