Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie

Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie is a deeply flavourful homely recipe with a rich gravy, plenty of vegetables and a crisp buttery potato topping.

A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie with a portion removed. A bowl of Shepherd's Pie and a bowl of mint sauce to the side

Welcome to the first in a new series featuring classic dinner recipes which have been de-glutened. A lot of traditional British recipes, especially the ones we grew up eating as a family rely at least somewhat on the presence of flour. Whether it’s the gravy on your Sunday roast, the béchamel sauce of your lasagne or even my Auntie Lil’s chicken curry, regular plain flour is always present in some way. Since becoming gluten-free many years ago I have learnt through trial and error the best way to continue making these recipes so there is no difference between the gluten-free versions and the ones from my childhood. First up on the agenda is one of our all-time classic family faves. Shepherd’s Pie.

A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie

What’s the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie?

Both dishes refer to a red meat dish, often minced meat, cooked in a gravy with onions and often carrots and celery, topped with a mashed potato layer and baked in the oven. The term Cottage Pie was first mentioned in 1791 but Shepherd’s Pie did not really appear until 1854. Initially the two terms were interchangeable for the same dish but in the 20th century the two recipes were separated into their own identities. Cottage Pie became synonymous with versions made with minced beef whereas Shepherd’s Pie would more commonly be made with minced lamb.

Our family adores Shepherd’s Pie, it meets approval from all members including the baby and guarantees a clean plate from our picky pre-schooler. Luke and I love it too, especially served with hot buttered cabbage.

The Vegetables

Shepherd’s Pie is a simple and satisfying meal with lots of veggies in the main base of the pie along with the lamb mince. I love the taste and texture that the extra vegetables give to the base of the dish. The usual onions are present, along with carrots and celery. However, here we also include diced courgette as it goes so beautifully with the lamb.

A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie with a portion removed. A bowl of Shepherd's Pie and a bowl of mint sauce to the side

How do you make Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie?

Sweet Rice Flour

The traditional version of Shepherd’s Pie is made using plain wheat flour to thicken the rich gravy which encases the meat and vegetables at the base of the pie. Here we are switching it out for sweet rice flour. The sticky properties of this starchy flour absorb the cooking oil and the added stock for a beautifully smooth and silky sauce which is indistinguishable from wheat flour gravy. The only difference is the colour. The sweet rice flour gravy is much lighter than its wheat counterpart. To this end we add coconut aminos which deepens the colour of the gravy naturally whilst also providing the perfect amount of seasoning.

Fresh Stock

One of the other key ingredients in this Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie is the use of fresh stock to make the most umami empowered gravy. It makes all the difference, providing tremendous depth of flavour and I would seriously advise against the stock cube if possible. I make homemade chicken stock every other Sunday with the bones of our Roast Chicken so I always have it to hand for my everyday cooking. It is possibly the most invaluable ingredient in my kitchen. If you don’t have any homemade stock then check to see if your butcher supplies it, otherwise do use the best store bought fresh stock you can find.

A bowl of Gluten-Free Shepherds Pie

Secret Ingredient

Finally do you want to know my secret ingredient for Shepherd’s Pie? It’s definitely not something I would add to Cottage Pie, but it lifts the whole meal up a notch, giving it such a special flavour. Would you like to know?

It’s mint sauce! Once you try it you will never make your Shepherd’s Pie without it.

Mint sauce is traditionally served as part of the Great British roast dinner alongside spring lamb. It’s an essential condiment of our larder and is an absolutely perfect addition to our Shepherd’s Pie. The three main ingredients of mint sauce are mint, white wine vinegar and sugar so it’s pretty easy to make your own. However, I usually use shop bought. It’s worth checking the label of your mint sauce though as many contain xanthan gum which is something I try to steer clear of in my kitchen. There are brands without though, so just double check.

The Mashed Potato

A Shepherd’s Pie wouldn’t be the same without delicious buttery mash blanketing the whole affair. I am quite particular about my mashed potato and although I don’t go the whole Joel Robuchon route which is half potato/half butter, this recipe certainly does not skimp on the butter or the seasoning. A good amount of butter is necessary for the perfectly crisp golden top on your Shepherd’s Pie. I also add a splash of stock in the mash to make the potatoes smooth, creamy and rich. You could also use milk.

Pro Tips To Avoid Gluey Mash

  • When adding your butter and liquid to the cooked potatoes it’s imperative to warm them up first and tip your potatoes into the add-ins, not the other way around. We want to avoid gluey or lumpy mash at all costs and this way makes sure we achieve neither.
  • To mash the potatoes you can use a hand masher or a potato ricer, but never use the food processor or the blender as you’ll run the risk again of gluey mash. Potatoes can be decidedly tricky when they want to be.

An empty bowl of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie

If you make this Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

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A baking dish of Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie with a portion removed. A bowl of Shepherd's Pie and a bowl of mint sauce to the side

Gluten-Free Shepherd's Pie

Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie is a deeply flavourful homely recipe with a rich gravy, plenty of vegetables and a crisp buttery potato topping.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Dish, pie
Cuisine: British
Keyword: how to make gluten-free shepherd's pie
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 567kcal
Author: Georgina Hartley

Ingredients

  • 800 g red potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 100 ml fresh stock I use chicken
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion peeled and finely diced
  • 2 carrots peeled and finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks finely diced
  • 1 courgette finely diced
  • 600 g lamb mince
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
  • 200 ml fresh stock I use chicken
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon mint sauce
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions

  • Boil a large saucepan of water and add the potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes break apart when you touch them with the tip of a knife. Drain the potatoes from the water.
  • Add the butter, stock, salt and pepper to the now empty saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.
  • Tip the cooked potatoes back into the saucepan and mash well until the potatoes are creamy. Set aside whilst you prepare the lamb mince.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C/180°C fan assisted/gas mark 5.
  • Heat the olive oil in a wide bottomed saucepan then add the onion, carrots, celery and courgette. Cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
  • Add the lamb mince, bay and thyme leaves, stirring occasionally until the lamb has browned.
  • Add the sweet rice flour to the pan, mixing in well to absorb the fat. If there is any excess oil then remove it with a spoon.
  • Pour in the stock and stir until a thick gravy has formed.
  • Add the coconut aminos and mint sauce, stirring through. Cook for 5-10 minutes so all the flavours are well combined.
  • Remove the lamb mince from the heat then spoon into an ovenproof baking dish into an even layer.
  • Spoon the mashed potato over the top until it completely covers the lamb mince, then create light furrows in the potato by using the back of a fork.
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the potato is golden.

Nutrition

Calories: 567kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 555mg | Potassium: 1005mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 80.5% | Vitamin C: 25.4% | Calcium: 5.2% | Iron: 15.9%

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Gluten-Free Gravy

This Gluten-Free Gravy is deliciously smooth, rich and full of flavour. Here are all the tips and tricks to get it just right.

Gluten-Free Gravy

My mother and father both made good gravy. It was an absolutely essential recipe in our household growing up because of the importance of our Sunday Lunch. Thick juicy rich brown gravy flavoured with fresh garden herbs would cook for hours on the hob over the course of the day. It was always the last element to be placed steaming hot onto the dinner table. Two magnificent gravy boats stood proudly at either end to be poured liberally over our roast beef and Yorkshire puddings.

Ours was not a household for thin wispy gravy made delicately from drizzled juices. Our gravy was the crowning glory of the meal and did double duty as it provided the ultimate treat when our meat and veggies were done. My father would return to the kitchen to grab a loaf of thick farmhouse bread and cut huge slices for each of us to place on our dinner plates. We would then soak the bread in any leftover gravy, with perhaps an extra slug of mint sauce, wait until the bread was deliciously soppy before devouring greedily. It was a ritual and it didn’t matter how stuffed you were after lunch, the bread and gravy was a must and the bit we most looked forward to and tried to save room for.

The importance of our Sunday lunch has not wavered into my adulthood and since I became gluten-free it has been of utmost importance to me to achieve a triumphant gravy that would pacify the whole family. I don’t do the bread and gravy thing with my family, which is a huge loss really. However, I can’t help but sneak back into the kitchen on the odd occasion, when all the plates have been cleared, and help myself to just one more Yorkshire pudding dragged through the gravy pan for that last little treat when no one else is watching.

Gluten-Free Gravy

How to make gravy with drippings

If you want to make proper actual traditional gravy then your only choice is to use the pan drippings from your roasted meat. There are two ways of doing this. You can either make a quick gravy at the end of your meal whilst your meat is resting or if you don’t want your gravy to be a last minute rush and you want to get really good flavour then you could plan ahead. We make a Sunday Lunch every week and on the odd occasion that I don’t make a traditional gravy I will save my drippings and keep them in little pots in the freezer, alongside my homemade stock. I have a whole compartment dedicated to fat and stock. So when I need to make a gravy I always have drippings to hand, plus it means I can make my gravy ahead. This is especially useful at Christmas as I can make my gravy a couple of days before. Also making gravy ahead of time really allows the flavours to develop and gives a better sauce.

TIP: To make sure you achieve a good quantity of drippings (enough to help you out with your Yorkshire puddings and gravy) I pour a generous amount of olive oil over my joint or bird before roasting. The more olive oil means the more meat flavoured fat at the end of the roast.

How do I make gravy without meat drippings?

It’s easy. Maybe your meat didn’t produce very much or maybe you are making a veggie gravy. If you don’t have drippings or not enough then sub in some unsalted butter or ghee instead. For vegans, use vegan butter.

What can I use to thicken gluten-free gravy?

When I first became gluten-free and tried making gravy using a generic gluten-free flour I was disappointed, thinking that I would never again be able to enjoy gravy the same way. This gravy was thin and granular and lacked lustre. After a lot of experimentation I found the best flour to use is sweet rice flour. Sweet rice flour is absolutely essential to make a beautifully smooth velvety gluten-free roux and produce a sauce with a silky mouthfeel. It absorbs moisture very well so doesn’t clump and so is even easier to use than wheat flour. The flavour is pretty neutral with an ever so slightly sweet vibe which lends itself to the gravy perfectly.

Gluten-Free Gravy

How do you make gravy browner and richer?

In order to achieve a lustrous rich dark brown colour to gravy traditionally you would cook your flour and butter low and slow before adding the liquid so that the roux darkens to give flavour and colour to your gravy. However, sweet rice flour needs handling a little differently and I wouldn’t recommend this direction. Instead you can either use coconut aminos to lend its colour to the proceedings which works excellently, but you need a fair bit so you might need to check your seasonings. Or you can use the onion method as below.

Cook the onion in the drippings or butter for about 20 minutes until they are just starting to brown, but not at all burnt. Then when you add your sweet rice flour followed by the stock they take on this rich brown colour from the onions. It also gives your gravy further depth of flavour. You strain off your gravy at the end so you won’t get bits of onion in your gravy.

How do you make gravy without homemade stock?

So there are occasions when you just don’t have homemade chicken or vegetable stock to hand. At this point you have two options, you can either use fresh stock from the butcher or the supermarket but I find these tend to be a little bland or oversalted so go carefully with them. The other direction is to use whole milk. Yes, this does create a completely different beast but one that is worth experimenting with if you are caught out at short notice. This gravy is obviously creamier and richer but absolutely delicious. If I’m going down this latter route then I might also add a few garlic granules to help with the flavour. If you are dairy-free or vegan then you can also substitute with almond milk which I have done on many an occasion and it works just as well.

Gluten-Free Gravy

How do you add flavour to gravy?

If you are using the drippings from the meat and homemade stock then most of your gravy flavour begins right there. However, to help it along, or if you are subbing ingredients, do add a couple of bay leaves, some fresh thyme or even some rosemary to liven up the flavours. The gravy will also need a little sweetness to balance things out. You could use a glug of white wine or masala which makes for a very sophisticated gravy. However I like to use a bit of fruit jelly. Any good jelly works well here. Redcurrant jelly is easy to find at the supermarket and can usually be found with the condiments (not with the jams and preserves) or cranberry jelly which is lovely at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

How do you re-heat gravy?

Gravy thickens the longer it stands so if you are re-heating then it’s best to do on the hob in a saucepan and whisk in a little extra liquid (stock or just water would be fine).

It turns out that making good gluten-free gravy is easy peasy, especially if you have sweet rice flour in your arsenal. Many of the other ingredients can be subbed or played with depending on what you have to hand or the different dietary needs of your guests. The lovely thing about gravy is that it always tastes slightly different every time but always delicious. Go on, sneak back into the kitchen for that extra Yorkshire pud and gravy treat.

Gluten-Free Gravy

Print Recipe
Gluten-Free Gravy
This Gluten-Free Gravy is deliciously smooth, rich and full of flavour. Here are all the tips and tricks to get it just right.
Gluten-Free Gravy
Course sauce
Cuisine British
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
  • 50 g unsalted butter or drippings from roasted meat
  • 1 onion chopped very finely
  • 40 g sweet rice flour
  • 800 ml chicken stock preferably homemade
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly* or apple jelly or cranberry jelly
Course sauce
Cuisine British
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
  • 50 g unsalted butter or drippings from roasted meat
  • 1 onion chopped very finely
  • 40 g sweet rice flour
  • 800 ml chicken stock preferably homemade
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly* or apple jelly or cranberry jelly
Gluten-Free Gravy
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter or dripping, then add the diced onion and heat on medium for about 20 minutes until they are starting to turn brown (but definitely not burnt).
  2. Add all the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the fat has absorbed all the flour.
  3. Pour in about a quarter of the stock, then switch to using a whisk, stirring all the time to smooth out the lumps. Once the gravy is beginning to thicken then pour the rest of the stock in slowly, whisking all the while.
  4. Add the bay leaf, thyme and stir in the redcurrant jelly, bringing the gravy up to a gentle boil. If the gravy is too thick for you, add some more stock or just water to get to your desired consistency.
  5. Simmer for 15 minutes then remove from the heat and strain. Keep warm until ready to serve.

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