Shepherd's pie, or cottage pie (when made with beef) is classic comfort food made with meat and vegetables under a blanket of creamy mashed potatoes. It's ideal for cool-weather camping and if you make your potato topping before heading out on your trip then this hearty meal is ready in just over an hour.
Although traditional shepherd's pie is made with lamb, I've given you the choice to use lamb or beef, depending on your preference and what you have available to you. The recipe is designed with camping in mind, to minimize dishes and use ingredients that can be stored in your cooler, so it has some departures from the traditional version of the dish. I hope that you enjoy it as much as we do!
Why This Recipe is Great for Camping
- You can prepare the mashed potatoes ahead of time so that you've got less to do at camp.
- It can be cooked over the fire or on your grill.
- It's made entirely in your cast-iron Dutch oven, so there is minimal clean up.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Ground beef--When made with ground beef, this dish is technically called cottage pie, but you can use ground beef or ground lamb. If using beef, I recommend lean ground beef. If you use extra-lean, add an extra splash of oil when browning it.
- Vegetables--I use a mix of onion, carrot, and celery, since they aren't frozen and can be stored in your cooler. If you're at home, or have access to a freezer, feel free to swap in frozen peas or corn or a mixture.
- Tomato paste--I highly recommend using concentrated tomato paste that comes in a tube when camping. Then there's no need for a can opener or to figure out where to store the extra paste. Just pop the lid back on and toss it in your cooler.
- Flour--This is used to thicken the meat layer. To make the recipe gluten-free, substitute cornstarch.
- Mashed potatoes--I recommend topping the dish with cheesy garlic mashed potatoes for best flavor, but you can absolutely use your favorite mashed potato recipe.
How to Make Campfire Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie
- Set a large Dutch oven over a campfire and add the oil. Stir in the beef and cook until browned.
- Add the vegetables and sauté until softened.
- Stir in the tomato paste and let it cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture.
- Pour in the broth and cook until the mixture is thickened.
- Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat layer.
- Cover the Dutch oven and place hot coals on the lid. Cook over the fire until the potatoes are heated through and the mixture is bubbling.
Shepherd's Pie Potato Topping
You've got a few options when it comes to the potato topping for this Dutch oven shepherd's pie recipe. I recommend using cheesy garlic mashed potatoes, since they can be made in advance before you head out on your trip. They're the perfect consistency for topping and hold together well for serving. You can definitely substitute your own favorite mashed potato recipe, if you prefer.
Alternatively, if you don't want to prep your potatoes in advance, bring a few large Russet potatoes along with you. Wrap them in foil and toss them in the fire for an hour or so before you begin making your shepherd's pie. When they're soft, let them cool until you can handle them, scoop out the flesh, and mash it with some salt and butter.
The shepherd's pie is done when the potatoes are hot and the filling is starting to bubble up around the edges of the potatoes. The potatoes will begin to pull away from the edge of the pot.
Your mixture will be a little soupy after adding the broth. The flour will help to thicken it, and you do want to have a little bit of liquid in the meat mixture when you top it with potatoes so that the bottom doesn't burn during the last part of cooking.
If your mixture is very liquidy, cook the mixture until some of the liquid evaporates and you can see a thin layer of broth on the bottom of the Dutch oven. If your mixture is dry, add extra broth or water to ensure that there is a thin layer of liquid in the pot before topping with the mashed potatoes.
Yes. I highly recommend making your mashed potatoes in advance, but if you want to make the entire dish in advance, you can.
Cook the meat mixture and place it in a foil container. Once it's cool, top it with the mashed potatoes and cover with foil or a lid. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat it directly in the foil container over hot coals or on your grill.
Definitely. Cook your meat and vegetables as directed in your Dutch oven. After topping with the mashed potatoes, slide the Dutch oven into a 350°F oven, uncovered, and cook until golden and bubbling around the edges. For extra browning on top, you can turn your oven to broil for a couple of minutes at the end of cooking.
What to Serve with this Recipe
This is a hearty one-pot meal that will fill you up, so it's not necessary to serve anything with it. A green salad and some cornbread muffins would make great additions to the meal, if you'd like.
Tips and Troubleshooting
- To get ahead, prepare your mashed potatoes in advance and dice up your vegetables before heading out on your camping trip.
- Chop your carrots finely so that they cook in the same time as the onion and celery.
- Let the shepherd's pie rest for 10 minutes before serving. This will let everything firm up a bit so that it doesn't fall apart when served.
Storage & Reheating
Store leftovers in a sealed container in your fridge or cooler for up to 3 days. If you're camping, I recommend using disposable foil containers so that you can reheat it directly in the container. Reheat over medium-low heat until warmed through.
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Dutch Oven Shepherd's Pie Recipe
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds ground beef or lamb
- Salt and pepper
- 1 medium onion (6 oz) chopped
- 1 large carrot (4 oz) finely chopped
- 2 medium celery stalks (3 oz) chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beef broth
- 4 cups cheesy garlic mashed potatoes or your favorite mashed potato recipe
- Prepare campfire and let the coals get hot before beginning to cook. Set the Dutch oven over the hot coals.
- Add the oil and let it heat for 1 minute. Stir in the beef or lamb and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until browned, 7 to 8 minutes.
- Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until softened, stirring frequently, 9 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the surface of the meat and mix to combine. Pour in the broth.
- Bring the meat mixture to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and carefully spread the potatoes over the meat mixture, covering the entire surface.
- Place the lid on the Dutch oven and set it over the hot coals. Place 12 hot coals or embers on the lid of the Dutch oven. Cook until the potatoes are heated through and the meat mixture is bubbling up around the edges of the potatoes, about 30 minutes.
- Let the shepherd's pie stand for 10 minutes before serving.
- Get ahead--Prepare your mashed potatoes in advance and dice up your vegetables before heading out on your camping trip.
- Dice the carrots finely--Chop your carrots finely so that they cook in the same time as the onion and celery.
- Storage and reheating--Store leftovers in a sealed container in your fridge or cooler for up to 3 days. Reheat over medium low heat.
- Dietary--To make this gluten-free, use cornstarch instead of flour.