Shepherd’s Pie vs. Pot Pie: What’s the Difference?

Keywords: shepherd’s pie, pot pie, savory pies, meat pies, chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, crust, stew, gravy, vegetables, leftovers

Savory pies are a comforting and satisfying meal option, often featuring a flaky crust filled with a hearty stew of meat and vegetables. Among the most popular savory pies are shepherd’s pie and pot pie, both offering delicious and distinct culinary experiences. While they share some similarities, several key differences set them apart.

What is a Pot Pie?

Pot pies have a rich history, tracing back to ancient Roman times and evolving through European culinary traditions. These pies typically feature a flaky pie crust filled with a stew of chicken, vegetables, and a creamy white sauce. The origins of the modern American chicken pot pie can be traced to the 1950s, popularized by Betty Groff in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Pot pies have become a staple in many households, offering a convenient and flavorful meal option.

What is Shepherd’s Pie?

Shepherd’s pie is a traditional dish originating in Ireland and England. It consists of a hearty stew of ground beef or lamb, mixed with vegetables and gravy, topped with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes. The origins of shepherd’s pie are less clear, with some sources suggesting it originated in Ireland, while others point to Scotland. Regardless of its exact origin, shepherd’s pie has become a beloved comfort food in many cultures.

Key Differences:

1. Crust:

  • Shepherd’s Pie: No pastry crust is used. Instead, a layer of mashed potatoes forms the “crust” on top.
  • Pot Pie: A traditional pie crust made from flour, butter, and water encases the filling.

2. Protein:

  • Shepherd’s Pie: Traditionally made with ground beef, lamb, or pork.
  • Pot Pie: Typically made with chicken, although variations with other proteins like turkey or vegetables exist.

3. Sauce:

  • Shepherd’s Pie: Features a rich, brown gravy or stew-like sauce.
  • Pot Pie: Contains a creamy white sauce that complements the chicken and vegetables.

4. Origin:

  • Shepherd’s Pie: Irish or English origin.
  • Pot Pie: European origins, with the modern American version popularized in the 1950s.

Both shepherd’s pie and pot pie offer unique and delicious culinary experiences. While they share some similarities in their savory fillings, the differences in crust, protein, sauce, and origin make them distinct dishes. Whether you prefer the hearty comfort of shepherd’s pie or the classic flavors of pot pie, these savory pies are sure to satisfy your taste buds and warm your soul.

Homemade Shepherd’s Pie (or Cottage Pie)

what is the difference between a pot pie and a shepherds pie

Shepherds pie with meat, vegetables, and fluffy potatoes.

  • Meat Mixture: 1/2 a large chopped sweet onion, 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas, 1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels, 1/2 cup sliced carrots, 1/2 cup frozen or fresh, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon loosely packed diced fresh parsley, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • Potatoes: 1. Five pounds of russet potatoes, or about three large potatoes, along with half a cup of milk, half a cup of heavy cream, half a stick of butter (4 tablespoons), half a teaspoon and half a tablespoon of kosher salt
  • Large pan
  • Cutting board
  • Large pot
  • Potato peeler
  • Potato ricer or masher
  • Rubber spatula / wooden spoon spatula
  • Colander
  • 2.5 Quart baking dish
  • Cup and teaspoon measurements
  • Chop and prep all of the vegetables. Chop the onion in half into thin pieces and prepare the 1/2 cup of carrots, peas, and corn each. Frozen peas and corn are perfectly acceptable and perform admirably. Personally, I think fresh carrots taste better and look prettier, but frozen carrots will also work if you don’t feel like peeling and chopping them. Although finely chopped garlic works just as well, I prefer to crush the garlic using a garlic press.
  • Place a large pot on the stove and fill it with water.
  • Three medium-sized russet potatoes should be peeled, cut into quarters or sixths, and then submerged in water. It’s crucial that the potatoes are submerged in the water before it becomes too hot or boiling!
  • After bringing the pot containing the potatoes to a medium boil, add the 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Let them boil for roughly 20 minutes until they’re fork-tender.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, place a large pan over medium heat and drizzle with a tablespoon of oil. When the pan is hot, add the ground meat and cook it until most of the moisture has been removed. Note: Your pan might not have been hot enough at first if your ground meat has browned (or turned grayish) and is still swimming in liquid. In this case, simply drain off some of the liquid to keep the meat from steaming.
  • After that, add the onions and cook them with the meat until they begin to soften slightly. Then, add the remaining vegetables. Mix and incorporate the ingredients together. Note: At this point, you can change things up a bit by adding more spices to the meat, such as herbs or curry powder, to breathe new life into the entire dish!
  • Once every vegetable has become slightly tender but not mushy, add a tablespoon of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper to the mixture. Mix everything very well. The flour will aid in the mixture’s thickening for the following stage.
  • To deglaze the pan and add a little moisture and gravy to the dish, add 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
  • Once the broth is hot and the meat and broth have combined thoroughly, transfer the meat mixture to a 2 5 quart baking dish and let it cool a bit.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and work on the potatoes while the meat cools. After the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and put them back in the pot.
  • Press or mash the potatoes with a potato ricer (ideal for fluffy potatoes) or a potato masher (ideal for thicker potatoes) until they are just broken down. Avoid mashing them too much as this will cause them to become pasty.
  • Cut 4 tablespoons of butter, or half a stick, into small cubes and mix them with the potatoes. Fold the potatoes (don’t mash them!) so that the heat from the potatoes causes the butter to melt. A rubber spatula works very well for folding potatoes. Note: Adding some new flavors to the potatoes, such as cheese, chopped scallions or chives, or curry powder, is another way to liven up the traditional Shepherd’s Pie. Experimentation can keep this often overlooked dish, fun and creative!.
  • Add a half cup of heavy cream, a half cup of whole milk, and a half teaspoon of salt after that. Fold the potatoes until everything is well incorporated. Aim to avoid mashing or over-stirring the potatoes. They should end up fluffy and soft. At first, they may appear overly soft, but after baking, they will become slightly more rigid.
  • Remove enough potato skins to cover the meat mixture in an even layer. Because you want two layers instead of a single, large mixture, take care not to combine them with the meat.
  • Put the baking dish on the middle rack and bake it for 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The baking dish should then be placed under the broiler for about three minutes on high. Be careful not to burn the top. To simply obtain some lovely golden brown notes is the aim.
  • Before serving, let the Shepherd’s Pie sit for ten to fifteen minutes, and then dig in!

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Chicken Pot Pie vs. Shepherd’s Pie: What’s The Difference? (Recipes and More!)


What is the difference between a pie and a pot pie?

Crust: The crust is one of the key differences between a pot pie and a pie. In a traditional pie, both sweet and savory varieties, the crust is usually made of pastry dough that covers the entire pie, including the bottom and the top.

What makes a pot pie a pot pie?

Today’s Classics. Today’s classic pot pies have a pie crust bottom and a flaky pastry top. They can be filled with just about anything, but classic fillings are made from things like chicken and beef, though some may also be made from seafood and poultry.

What’s the difference between shepherd’s pie and meat pie?

A meat pie has a pastry case and can contain any meat including, beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and game. A shepherd’s pie contains minced (ground) lamb. A cottage pie has beef. Both of these are topped with mashed potatoes.

What is a shepherds pie called when it is made from beef?

The two English terms have been used interchangeably since they came into use in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, although some writers insist that a shepherd’s pie should contain lamb or mutton, and a cottage pie, beef.

Are mashed potatoes on a shepherd’s pie the same as a pot pie?

The mashed potatoes on a shepherd’s pie form a “topping” or “crust,” but there is traditionally no actual pastry, which is a clear distinction between the shepherd’s pie and the pot pie. Furthermore, most shepherd’s pies are made with beef, pork, or lamb, while the majority of pot pies are made with chicken.

What is the difference between a shepherd’s pie and a chicken pot pie?

Another distinction is the gravy or sauce. While a shepherd’s pie is often teeming with a brown, beef stew-like concoction under its mashed potato hat, a chicken pot pie is usually marked by a white, rich sauce that ensconces the chicken, peas, carrots, and other vegetables.

What is the difference between Shepherd’s pie & cottage pie?

It just comes down to what kind of ground meat you use. Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with ground lamb while it’s more well-known and oft-mistaken cousin, Cottage Pie, is made with ground beef. That’s it. Some people are sticklers for the difference, but most people just call either version Shepherd’s Pie.

Are there vegetarian versions of Shepherd’s pie?

Nowadays, there are even vegetarian or vegan versions, variations with cheese, and some with pie crust. What are the differences? The mashed potatoes on a shepherd’s pie form a “topping” or “crust,” but there is traditionally no actual pastry, which is a clear distinction between the shepherd’s pie and the pot pie.

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