A spicy, curried twist on the classic Shepherd’s Pie with delicious spices and an incredibly flavorful potato masala (or aloo masala) topping! A fantastic way to spice up (literally, in fact) your favorite comfort food for your whole family!
You’ll never want to go back to regular shepherd’s pie after trying this curried version with delightful Indian and Sri Lankan flavors!
Meaty, savory, satisfying comfort food doesn’t come any better than a good ol’ shepherd’s pie. I too love a good shepherd’s pie, but this Curried Shepherd’s Pie…. is just unfair! It ratchets up the flavor, and it’s my absolute favorite way to make (and eat) shepherd’s pie. Growing up in New Zealand, lamb was pretty common, so we loved finding new ways to cook lamb. A classic shepherd’s pie was always a favorite. But also being South Asian, I of course had to put my own spin on this classic.
Why I love this recipe
- Bored of the classic version? Try this shepherd’s pie recipe, and you’ll never go back!
- There’s SO MUCH flavor with all the spices in the lamb filling.
- Instead of a regular cheesy potato topping, this shepherd’s pie is topped with a super delicious mashed potato masala topping.
- It’s the perfect comfort food for anyone who loves spices and South Asian food.
- Easy to make, with results that will please and impress everyone.
- Great to make for a crowd!
If you love lamb curry, and aloo masala, then you have no option but to try this recipe! 🙂 It takes the same amount of time to make this curried shepherd’s pie as it does the classic version, and tastes so much better (in my opinion of course, but I’m pretty sure you will feel the same!).
Ingredients for Curried Shepherd’s Pie
For the lamb filling
- Onion – finely chopped. Red or yellow onions.
- Carrots – finely chopped. Adds some earthy sweetness.
- Garlic and ginger – for flavor.
- Curry leaves – fresh or dried. Optional, but this will certainly make the pie taste heaps better.
- Spices – A mix of chili powder, turmeric, and garam masala.
- A good curry powder (such as my Sri Lankan curry powder or madras curry powder). This is a crucial ingredient, so make sure to get a good curry powder that yields robust flavors.
- Tomato paste – for a little acidity and also for flavor (tomato has natural MSG!).
- Salt and sugar – the dish will taste bland without salt of course, and the sugar also helps to round out the flavors.
For the potato masala topping (aloo masala)
- Potato – I use yukon gold potatoes, but you can also use russet potatoes. Do not use waxy potatoes.
- Onions – finely chopped.
- Mustard seeds
- Green chili – I use long green chilis, but you can use jalapenos or serrano as well. Thai green chili (bird’s eye) might be a little too spicy for some.
- Curry leaves – optional, but a great addition.
- Garlic and ginger
- Lime juice
- Cheese – a nod to the classic version, a little cheese will bring a lot of cheesy flavor to the potato topping.
- Cream or coconut milk (or just plant-based milk is OK too).
- Cilantro (optional)
How to make curried shepherd’s pie
The curried lamb filling
The first step is to make the lamb filling. For the very best results, the lamb needs to simmer for about 1 hour to become tender, so definitely plan ahead for that.
In a large skillet or non-stick skillet, heat 1 – 2 tsp oil. Heat over medium-high heat.
When the skillet is hot, add the lamb, along with a very generous pinch of salt. Once you place the lamb on the skillet, break it apart a little and then let it be for a few minutes, until it starts to caramelize underneath. When the lamb browns at the bottom, you can start moving the ground lamb around again in the pan to cook the meat through and caramelize it a little more.
When the lamb has fully browned, remove the meat from the pan and transfer to a plate. Set aside until needed.
Now there will be some oil left in the pan. For the rest of the dish, you will only need about 2 tsp of the leftover oil, so you can discard the rest.
In a large pot, heat the 2 tsp of leftover fat. Once heated, add onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until the onions have softened and are translucent.
Add the spices, curry powder, curry leaves, and tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste for a few minutes.
Add the carrots and cook until they soften. Then add the lamb mince and mix it through.
Add 1.5 – 2 cups of chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and let the curried lamb filling simmer for about 45 – 60 minutes, uncovered. Stir regularly to make sure the lamb is not catching at the bottom of the pan. If the liquid is evaporating, you can add a little more.
During the last minutes of cooking, dissolve the cornstarch with a little water and add it to the filling. This will help thicken the curried lamb filling. Cook until you get the desired consistency – a curried lamb sauce that is thick and super flavorful!
To make the curried shepherd’s pie, transfer the curried lamb filling into the baking dish and top it with the mashed potato masala.
Making the mashed potato masala topping
Aloo masala is one of my absolute favorite ways to eat potatoes! The traditional method also involves slightly mashing the potatoes. So for this shepherd’s pie, we’ll be mashing the potatoes even more to make a smoother, spiced mashed potato.
While the lamb is simmering, start making the potato masala topping.
Wash and peel the potatoes, and cut them into fairly equal sized pieces. They don’t have to be very small though. I prefer cutting them into 2 inch pieces.
Fill a large pot with water and add some salt to make salty water. Add the potatoes to the water and heat over medium heat. Bring the water to a boil, and then let it simmer with the lid half closed until the potatoes are fork tender.
Drain the potatoes and place them in a colander and set aside. Return the empty pot back to the stove, and heat 1 tbsp of oil. Add the mustard seeds, and heat until they start popping.
Add the onion, and cook it down until the onion is translucent and starts to caramelize. Next, add the jalapeno, turmeric, cumin, and the cooked potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and mix it in with the spices. Unlike regular shepherds pie, this curried version doesn’t require completely smooth potato topping. Some lumps are A-OK.
Add the cheese, butter, and about 1/4 cup of cream or milk. Also add salt to season. Mix the cheese and milk until the cheese has melted into the potatoes. The potato masala should be thick, but spreadable. If it’s too thick, you can add a little extra milk.
Squeeze a little lime juice and chopped cilantro (if using), and mix it in. The potato topping is now ready!
The curried shepherds pie is ready to bake after assembly. Once the filling is made, transfer the filling into a baking dish that is about 9 x 13 inches in size. Make sure it is oven-safe as well.
Then top it with the masala mashed potato and spread it carefully over the surface of the filling. I like to place dollops all over the surface and then spread it out with a spatula or spoon. With a fork, create a rough pattern on the surface. More grooves will create a nice crusty potato surface, and I LOVE that for this curried shepherd’s pie.
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and bake the curried shepherd’s pie for about 30 – 40 minutes until the top starts to brown. Once baked, remove the pie from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it.
Slice and serve, as you like.
Tips for making curried shepherd’s pie
Make sure to cook the lamb first to get some color on the meat. This caramelization will add more flavor to the pie filling.
Remove the excess fat so that the final curried shepherd’s pie isn’t as oily.
Cooking the filling for an hour is recommended for best results. This develops fantastic flavor and makes the meat tender too. But if you choose to cook it faster, make sure to reduce the liquid that you add.
Use a good curry powder! This is essential. Look at the ingredients in the curry powder and if it doesn’t include appropriate spices (such as coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon etc.), then don’t use it.
How to choose a good curry powder
If you’re able to, consider making your own. This recipe for Sri Lankan curry powder is super easy and SO good! And you can make a hearty batch and use it for a long time!
There’s good store-bought curry powder too and that’s obviously more convenient. Try a South Asian grocery store, and look for madras curry powder or any Sri Lankan curry powder.
Do not use curry powder that is Wal-Mart brand for this shepherd’s pie. This usually includes only turmeric, garlic and onion powder. This is not even remotely curry powder.
Use either yukon gold or russet potatoes. These are starchy potatoes that make for very fluffy mashed potatoes. Do not use waxy potatoes.
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Curried Shepherd’s Pie
For the meat layer
- 1.5 lbs ground lamb or beef
- 1.5 medium onions finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic sliced
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tsp good curry powder either Sri Lankan curry powder or madras curry powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1.5 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp white sugar
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper up to 2 tsp if you like it spicy
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 10 curry leaves
- 200 g finely diced carrots about 1.5 cups
- Salt to taste
- 2 cups chicken stock or water
- 2 tbsp water
- 1.5 tsp cornstarch
Mashed masala potato
- 1.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes OR russet potatoes
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
- ½ medium onion finely chopped
- 2 long green chili finely chopped
- 10 curry leaves finely chopped
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- Salt to taste
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- ¼ cup cream or milk
- 1.5 tbsp lime juice
For the meat layer
- In a large pot, heat 1 – 2 tsp of oil at medium high heat.
- Once heated, add the ground lamb and break it up a little. Allow the meat to caramelize without moving it in the pan for a few minutes. Then break up the meat again, and let it sit in the pan to caramelize on the other side. If the pan isn't too crowded. this shouldn’t take too long on medium high heat.1.5 lbs ground lamb or beef
- Remove the meat on to a plate, and set aside until needed.
- Leave just 2 tsp of oil in the pot, and remove the rest of the oil.
- Reduce the heat to medium heat, and add the onions, ginger, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, until the onions soften and are translucent.1.5 medium onions, 5 cloves garlic, 2 tsp grated ginger
- Add the curry powder, garam masala, tomato paste, sugar, chili powder, turmeric, and curry leaves. Cook for a few minutes until the tomato paste cooks out.2 tsp good curry powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1.5 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp white sugar, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp ground turmeric, 10 curry leaves
- Add the carrots, and cook until the carrots start to soften.200 g finely diced carrots
- Now add the ground lamb back into the pot, and stir to combine.
- Pour in 1.5 cups of chicken stock or broth or water into the pot and stir to combine. If the stock was not seasoned, add a scant tsp of salt. Bring it to a boil, uncovered.2 cups chicken stock or water, Salt to taste
- Lower the heat, and let the lamb simmer, uncovered, for about 45 – 60 minutes. Make sure to stir it regularly and add more stock as needed if the mixture is getting too thick.
- Taste and season with salt.Salt to taste
- During the last 5 – 10 minutes of cooking, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and add it to the lamb. Stir it through immediately and allow it to thicken the lamb mixture. Cook until the lamb is a thick, saucy mixture.2 tbsp water, 1.5 tsp cornstarch
- Transfer the lamb mixture into a 9 x 13 inch size (or similar-sized) baking dish.
For the potato layer
- While the lamb is cooking, prepare the potatoes.
- Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into similar-sized pieces so that they cook more evenly (I cut them into 2 inch sized pieces).1.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes OR russet potatoes
- Fill a large pot with water and add salt to create a salty solution. Add the potatoes to the water and heat the pot over medium high heat. Cover the pot with a lid.
- Bring the water to a boil, and then let it simmer with the lid half closed, until the potatoes are fork tender.
- Drain the water and place the potatoes in a colander. Set aside.
- Rinse the pot and place it back on the stove over medium heat.
- Add the oil, and when the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the finely chopped onion and cook until the onion softens and caramelizes a little.2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp black mustard seeds, ½ medium onion
- Add the turmeric, cumin, curry leaves, and green chili and saute for about 30 seconds.2 long green chili, 10 curry leaves, ½ tsp ground turmeric, ½ tsp ground cumin
- Add the cooked potatoes and mash it with a potato masher or a fork. A few lumps are OK.
- Mix the mashed potatoes with the spices, and add salt to taste.Salt to taste
- Add the butter, cheese, and milk. Mix until the cheese and butter melt and mix into the potatoes. Add a squeeze of lime juice and mix it in.4 tbsp butter, 1 cup shredded cheese, ¼ cup cream or milk, 1.5 tbsp lime juice
- Add more milk IF you want a softer mashed potatoes. Taste and season with more salt.
Assembly and baking
- Preheat the oven to 400°F / 205°C.
- Dollop the mashed potato over the surface of the lamb filling in the baking dish.
- Use a spoon or knife to spread the mashed potatoes over the lamb to completely cover the lamb layer. Make sure to reach all the edges, so that the filling at the bottom is well sealed.
- Use a fork to create grooves on the surface of the mashed potato layer (these grooves create a lovely crusty surface and add texture).
- Place the baking dish on a baking tray, and bake it in the preheated oven for about 30 – 40 minutes. The shepherd's pie is done when the potato layer is browning on top.
- Remove the dish from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before cutting into it.
- Serve with a side salad or just as is.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”
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