This healthy shepherd’s pie is a hearty, comfort food dinner perfect for fall. It’s got a thick, creamy layer of sweet potato mash and a layer of ground turkey studded with veggies. Tips for vegan/vegetarian swaps included!
I love to cook more than most but some weeks I’m just not feeling it.
It helps to have some meals in your back pocket that can make multiple lunches and dinners.
When the cold air starts to roll in (literally wrapped in a blanket as I write this), Tim and I eat a ton of warm, hearty foods like this sweet potato shepherd’s pie or crispy baked chicken with brown rice pasta and homemade tomato sauce.
We probably have sweet potato shepherd’s pie every other week this time of year.
And by week 3, Tim says “Shepherd’s pie again?”
And then I say “you like shepherd’s pie”.
Then he eats it and polishes off the plate and says “that was GOOD!”
Basically my point is, don’t worry about getting tired of this one. It’s one of those meals that actually tastes better the longer it sits because the meat flavors seep deeper into the mashed potatoes.
How to make shepherd’s pie
Shepherd’s pie or cottage pie is a classic baked meat and potatoes dish from the UK. It’s traditionally made with lamb or beef and mashed potatoes.
For this sweet potato shepherd’s pie recipe, I make a some swaps to make it a little lighter. Also frankly, the sweetness of the sweet potato is a nice compliment to the slightly spicy meat.
Here’s what’s in this sweet potato shepherd’s pie:
- Sweet potatoes
- Yukon gold potatoes
- Olive oil (instead of butter and cream in the mashed potatoes; I promise the potatoes are still creamy, luscious and finger lickin’ good)
- Ground turkey
- LOTS of thyme!
- A little cayenne pepper
How to store shepherd’s pie
As I mentioned earlier, shepherd’s pie tastes best on day 2 or 3 because the flavors get more time to soak in.
- Fridge: It’ll keep in the fridge for 3-5 days
- Freezer: Once baked and cooled, you can freeze this for about 2-3 months. Pop it in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes when you’re ready to eat it.
Sweet potato shepherd’s pie variations
Honestly any meal with ground meat is a great opportunity to make use of excess veggies in your fridge.
This sweet potato version has mushrooms and carrots, but you can swap those veggies for:
- corn (frozen kernels)
- green peas
- butternut or delicatta squash
- yellow squash
- chopped spinach or kale
Vegan or Vegetarian? Ditch the ground turkey and triple up on the mushrooms (try a variety of mushrooms like shiitake, oyster, portobellos). I ‘d also recommend adding a vegetable thickener, for texture, like finely chopped chickpeas or finely chopped mushrooms (1/3 of all mushrooms).
Mashed Sweet Potato Layer
- 6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into even sized cubes
- 4 golden potatoes, peeled and cut into even sized cubes Be sure to use golden or yukon gold potatoes, idaho or red potatoes will create a different texture
- 1 tbs salt For the potato boiling water
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt To season the cooked potatoes
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
Ground Turkey and Veggie Layer
- 1 large sweet onion
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut in even-sized cubes
- 8 oz baby bella or button mushrooms, cut in even-sized cubes
- 4 tsp fresh thyme, leaves only (stems removed)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 pack ground turkey (20.8 oz) Make sure that you get ground turkey and NOT ground turkey breast
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper This has a little kick, feel free to skip if you don't like spicy food
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Fill a pot 3/4 of the way with cold water. Add 1 tbs of salt to the pot along with the peeled and chopped sweet potatoes and golden potatoes. Place the pot on high heat and boil for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender (a knife or fork should go clean through a potato piece if you poke one, if there's still resistance, it's not cooked all the way. P.S. It's really important to put the potatoes in cold water because it keeps them from getting sticky and gummy.
- When the potatoes are done, reserve 1 cup of the boiling water and strain off the rest of the water. Mash the potatoes with a masher or large fork. Add 2 tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and gradually add the reserved boiling water 1/4 cup at a time. How much water you use depends on how thick you like your mashed potatoes; I like mine thick and use about 1/2 cup. Set the potatoes aside.
- Heat a deep skillet to medium high heat. Add 1 tbs of olive oil to the warm skillet. Add onions to the pan and let them cook for about 2 minutes (occasionally stirring) until lightly golden brown. Add the chopped carrots to the onions, stir and let them cook for 3 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan, stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. Add 2 tsp of thyme to the veggies, along with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Pour the cooked veggies into your baking dish (I use a 3 cup glass Pyrex dish).
- Place the skillet back on the burner and turn the heat up to high. Add 1 tbs of olive oil to the pan. Add the ground turkey, smoked paprika, cayenne, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper to the skillet. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to break the meat into smaller bits as it cooks, about 3-4 minutes. You'll know it's cooked when you don't see any more bright pink meat. Add the thyme to the cooked meat and stir until evenly combined. Turn off the heat and pour the cooked meat into the cooked veggies.
- Stir the meat and veggies together in the baking dish until everything is evenly combined. Top the meat with the sweet potato mash and use a spoon or rubber spatula to spread the potatoes into an even layer.
- Set the oven to your high broil setting. Broil the shepherd's pie for 5-10 minutes (depends on how hot your oven is) until the top of the potatoes are golden brown with some small charred spots. Enjoy!
- Be sure to use golden or yukon gold potatoes; Idaho (drier) or red potatoes (stickier) will create a different texture
- Make sure that you get ground turkey and NOT ground turkey breast; ground turkey breast will be too dry
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to see how it turned out! Snap a picture and tag @brightrootskitchen or use #brightrootskitchen on Insta.