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5 Ways To Thicken Shepherd’s Pie

by Gina Elizabeth
How to thicken shepherd's pie

If your shepherd’s pie looks too watery, you’ve come to the right place.

You can thicken shepherd’s pie quickly with cornstarch and these other easy hacks.


How to Thicken Shepherd’s Pie

1. How to Thicken Shepherd’s Pie with Flour

Easy as pie!

Mix 1 teaspoon of flour with 1 teaspoon of water and stir until smooth. Add this flour slurry, a little at a time, to your runny Shepherd’s Pie filling while it is still baking. Once thickened, remove from the oven. Cover your pie shell with foil to avoid over-browning.

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2. How To Thicken Shepherd’s Pie with Cornstarch

Use cornstarch or corn flour. Mix a tablespoon (5 grams) of cornstarch or flour into 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of water. Stir them together to make a paste, then add the paste to the meat filling. Stir the filling until the paste is fully mixed. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat to allow the cornstarch to mix into the filling.

Tip #1: Use lean meat, fattier ground lamb is cheaper than lean, but the extra fat content can cause moisture.

Tip #2: Simmer the meat filling longer (to reduce liquids) or drain excess liquids before transferring the meat filling to the baking dish.

You can also substitute these thickeners for cornstarch:

  • Arrowroot 
  • Rice starch
  • Potato starch

3. How to Thicken Shepherd’s Pie on the Stove

Here’s how to fix watery shepherd’s pie filling with reduction on the stove:

  1. Remove the top potato crust and scoop out the meat filling.
  2. Strain the excess liquid.
  3. Heat the filling on the stove (over a low simmer) until the juice reduces. Let cool.
  4. Replace the crust with a new potato mash and parmesan topping.
  5. Wait until it cools/sets before slice into it.

If you baked your shepherd’s pie in a large baking pan, removing the top crust could get messy. Consider making a new batch of the potato topping.

Can you blame your oven for runny shepherd’s pie? Some ovens don’t heat evenly and/or display the wrong temperature. Bad oven, bad! 

Hot Tip: Try a toaster oven if your gas oven has hot spots, fluctuating temperatures, or the dial isn’t accurate. Gas ovens also release moisture which can cause baking issues. Toaster ovens use less electricity than electric ovens and don’t heat up your kitchen as much.

Important! Do Not Over-Layer Your Potato Topping 

To prevent watery shepherd’s pie, the ratio of meat to potato should be 1:1. Too much potato topping can prevent evaporation causing excess moisture.

  • The potatoes ought to be mashed to creamy richness and spread over the meat in an even layer.
  • The key is to have both layers be about the same size so that each mouthful contains just the right amount of each.

Tip: Drain your potatoes properly before mashing. And don’t place a runny-looking shepherd’s pie in the oven.  

4. How to Thicken Shepherd’s Pie with a Good Recipe

Measure your ingredients accurately and don’t skip any steps in your recipe.

Baking is more science than art. Eyeballing ingredients isn’t good practice for baking! Also, don’t make changes or substitutions to the recipe that may add moisture and cause runny shepherd’s pie.

For example:

  • Chopping ingredients instead of grating them if the recipe calls for grated
  • Skipping steps like not draining excess liquid
  • Using the wrong baking dish

Thaw Frozen Vegetables

Thawing frozen veggies is crucial to ensure your shepherd’s pie filling turns out thick.

Thawing and draining it to get rid of excess water means you won’t end up with a watery shepherd’s pie.

Grate Your Carrots and Onions

Use grated fresh carrots and onions to reduce moisture. Fresh carrots have less moisture than frozen carrots. And grated vegetables also produce less moisture when they are pre-cooked with the meat filling.

Here are some more cooking tips for perfect shepherd’s pie every time!

Do Not Overfill Your Baking Dish

Extra filling can cause runny shepherd’s pie due to the extra juice. Stick with the amount of filling that your recipe calls.

Use An Oven Thermometer

Pre-heat your oven and verify the baking temperature with an oven thermometer (don’t trust your dial). If your oven bakes unevenly you may want to rotate your shepherd’s pie half-way through baking.

Adjust Recipe In High Altitude

If you live in a high altitude, adjust the recipe (ingredients and oven temperature) to ensure your shepherd’s pie filling cooks properly and comes out thick.

5. How To Thicken Shepherd’s Pie by Cooling it

Whenever you bake shepherd’s pie you need to give it at least 20 minutes before cutting it. If you don’t allow shepherd’s pie to cool, it’s almost certain that you’ll end up with a juicy, wet mess when you cut into it.

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