Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie

Family-FriendlyFreezer-friendlyMake-aheadTexMex

Get your forks ready and dig into this Tex Mex take on the comfort food classic Shepherd’s Pie. It’s spicy, cheesy and loaded with chicken, beans, and corn, then topped with creamy mashed potatoes. You’re looking at pure weeknight dinner deliciousness.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

When it comes to this mashed potato-topped casserole, here in the United States we turn convention on its head—or maybe sideways—and break more than a few rules.

Geographically speaking, this slightly spicy, very cheesy, chicken, bean, corn, and mashed potato pie takes a drastic turn southwest from its origins. But hold the eye roll if you’re comparing it to the traditional version made with lamb and potatoes from the British Isles.

Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie is a stellar comfort dish, worthy as an addition to your weeknight rotation. It’s filling, satisfying, and family-friendly. It’s so good. Let’s not quibble with the name.

Horizontal view of easy shepherd's pie with a striped dish towel underneath white casserole dish. Serving spoon insdie with a scoop missing.

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TIME-SAVING TIPS

The whole dish doesn’t take much prep time if you:

  • Don’t peel the potatoes: This is a rustic dish, and it’s covered with a blanket of cheese, so shazam! Into the pan they go with the skins.
  • Make the filling while you boil the potatoes. Cooking the vegetables in this dish takes under 15 minutes, about the same time as the potatoes.
  • Use leftover chicken or about half a rotisserie chicken.
  • Buy grated cheese.

TIPS TO MAKE AHEAD AND FREEZE SHEPHERD’S PIE

First, assemble the casserole (through step 5).

  • Refrigerate the pie covered with plastic wrap for up to three days before baking. Allow it to come to room temperature and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. You may need an extra 10 minutes if the pie is not hot enough in the center. If it browns before the center is hot, cover loosely with foil.
  • Or freeze, covered with a double layer of plastic wrap, for up to two months. Remove from the freezer and defrost in the fridge overnight. Bake as above.

Shepherd's pie with corn, beans and potatoes on a blue plate with chopped cilantro. Blue striped napkin folded with fork on the right side. Partial view of casserole dish above plate.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH TEX MEX SHEPHERD’S PIE?

Shepherd’s pie is an all-in-one dish, but if you’re feeding a crowd or just like a little more with dinner, add any number of vegetable side dishes.

Steamed broccoli, green beans, or a plain green salad all work well alongside this main dish.

MORE SHEPHERD’S PIE RECIPES TO ENJOY

Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds (5 to 6 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup milk, or more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
  • 2 cups of your favorite salsa

Method

1 Preheat the oven: to 425ºF. Have on hand a 9- x 13-inch or 2-quart, shallow baking dish.

2 Cook the potatoes: Wash and cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks (peeling optional). Place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with cold water until there is about an inch of water above the potatoes.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and taste; the water should taste as briny as the sea. If it doesn’t, add a few more pinches of salt.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

Drain in a colander and return to the potatoes to the pot. Set the pot over low heat and stir the potato chunks for 1 to 2 minutes to dry them.

Stock pot on a marble background filled with chopped potatoes and water.

3 Mash and season the potatoes: Add the butter to the pot of hot, drained potatoes (still over low heat) and mash well with a potato masher until the butter melts. There may be a few ‘rustic’ lumps. Push the potatoes to one side of the pot to make a space for the milk. Add the milk and heat it until hot (this only takes a few seconds.)

Use a sturdy whisk to stir in the milk, whisking until the potatoes are fluffy and adding more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the potatoes seem dry. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Taste, and add more salt, if you like.

Stock pot on a marble background filled with mashed potatoes. A whisk with a red handle is inside the pot. Stock pot on a marble background filled with mashed potatoes and shredded cheese. Whisk with red handle in the pot.

4 Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. If the onions are cooking to fast reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add the oregano and cumin, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the beans, corn, chicken, and salsa to the skillet. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Taste and add more salt, if you like.

Non-stick skillet with corn and black beans for easy shepherd's pie. Set on a marble background. Non stick skillet with Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie filling inside. Skillet is set on a marble background.

5 Assemble the casserole: Transfer the filling to the baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese.

Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie filling in a white casserole dish on a marble background. White casserole dish filled with Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie that is unbaked and topped with shredded cheese. The dish is set on a marble countertop.

6 Bake the casserole: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling bubbles and the cheese is golden. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Horizontal view of easy shepherd's pie with a striped dish towel underneath white casserole dish. Serving spoon insdie with a scoop missing.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

More from Sally

5 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Tanya

    I loved it as this is my third time making it. A note to anyone who may read this I would hold off putting the cheese on top the last 5-10 mins of the baking time. I forgot to do it this go around but made a mental note next time I fix it.

  2. Stephanie

    I made this yesterday, using leftover homemade BBQ chicken legs. I didn’t have quite the recommended amount of chicken but who cares? I also used homemade salsa, so did NOT add any salt. Since we’ve been having a lot of potatoes, I topped it instead with cornbread, adding some cheddar cheese in the cornbread mixture. A tasty, easy, relatively economical dish.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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  3. Ian

    Way too salty and not especially good

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
Horizontal view of easy shepherd's pie with a striped dish towel underneath white casserole dish. Serving spoon insdie with a scoop missing.Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie