Traditional shepherd’s pie is one of the recipes I learned to cook at the start of my culinary journey. I always enjoyed eating it because the lamb filling was so intensely flavored and every bite was so satisfying.
Unlike most pies, this dish doesn’t call for a crust and that was a big thing for a beginner home cook like me. I also tried my hand at cottage pie – which is the same, except it uses ground beef. With more tinkering, I finally arrived at this recipe: turkey shepherd’s pie.
Beneath a dense and creamy sweet potato mash is a generous helping of ground turkey seasoned with paprika and oregano. Alongside some vegetables, the meat is buried in rich, savory juices made of chicken broth and tomato paste.
This easy sweet potato shepherd’s pie is the ultimate Thanksgiving dish with a healthy twist.
Is This Recipe Really Healthy?
Comfort food often brings with it images of overly-rich, high-calorie foods that encourage gluttony. However, this shepherd’s pie recipe will surprise you. It uses lean ground meat (in this case, turkey) and doesn’t contain any refined carbs. Instead, sweet potatoes which are rich in fiber and minerals make up the main carb in this recipe.
One way to make this recipe even healthier is by doubling down on the vegetables and cutting back on the meat. In addition to frozen peas and corn, throw in diced carrots, parsnips, celery, and even mushrooms.
This recipe makes 6 servings of shepherd’s pie. Gather these ingredients to make the best mashed sweet potatoes:
- Sweet potatoes – Peel and chop 4 large sweet potatoes into small chunks, small enough to be mashed easily. I like these as they have a silkier texture than regular white potatoes.
- Sour cream – Sour cream makes the mash extra creamy. Measure 1/3 cup of sour cream, heavy cream, or milk.
- Unsalted butter – We will need to melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter to make the mash smoother and richer too.
- Italian seasoning, sea salt, and pepper – Season to taste.
The shepherd’s pie filling is loaded and is sure to satisfy hungry bellies:
- Lean ground turkey – Instead of traditional shepherd’s pie that uses ground lamb, we are using lean ground turkey which is lower in calories and higher in protein than red meat.
- Chicken broth – In order to add flavor and depth to the filling, we are also using chicken broth.
- Tomato paste – Prepare 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. It has all the concentrated flavor of tomato which instantly adds umami to our filling. Worcestershire sauce is a great alternative.
- Olive oil – 1 tablespoon of olive oil for cooking the ground turkey. If your meat is very lean, you may need more olive oil.
- Sweet onion and garlic – Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Guaranteed satisfaction to complete the shepherd’s pie filling.
- Oregano and smoked paprika – For seasoning, we will use 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika for a slightly smoky and spicy kick, as well as 1 teaspoon of dried oregano to introduce fragrance and aroma.
- Frozen peas and frozen corn – Defrost 2 cups each of frozen peas and frozen corn.
Set aside a prep time of 25 minutes and a cooking time of 45 minutes.
Step One: Make the mashed potatoes.
Peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Place them in a large saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Then, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender. This should take about 12 minutes.
Drain the water and mash the potatoes using a masher. (You can go as smooth or lumpy as you’d like – I prefer them completely smooth.) Then, season with salt, pepper, sour cream, butter, and Italian seasoning blend.
Step Two: Cook the turkey.
While the sweet potatoes are boiling, heat olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the chopped onions for 3 to 4 minutes until the onions turn translucent. Then, stir in the minced garlic and cook for a minute or so until fragrant.
Add the ground turkey to the pan and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon until the meat is cooked through. You can tell when all the meat has turned brown and there are no pink pieces.
Step Three: Make the shepherd’s pie filling.
Stir in the tomato paste, oregano, paprika, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Simmer the mixture for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced. Then, stir in the peas and corn.
Step Four: Assemble the shepherd’s pie.
Spread the meat mixture into a 3-quart casserole dish or a rectangular baking dish. Spoon the mashed sweet potatoes on top of the meat and spread it evenly all the way to the sides.
Step Five: Bake the pie.
In an oven preheated at 375°F, bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the mashed potatoes are just starting to brown. Let it cool, then slice into squares to serve.
Expert Tips & Tricks
To thicken the shepherd’s pie filling – Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour (or corn flour for gluten-free) into the shepherd’s pie once the peas and corn have been mixed in. This isn’t necessary, but it will result in a thicker, molten filling that somehow feels so homely and comforting.
Create two clean layers of mash and filling – Let the meat cool for a short period of time before spreading the mashed sweet potato on top. That way, the potato will not melt through into the filling causing a mushy mess.
Crispin the mashed potato topping – If the surface of your pie doesn’t seem to brown, broil it for two to three minutes at the end of the baking time to make it brown and crispy. You can also add a crusty texture by sprinkling bread crumbs on the mash before baking. Jazz it up even more by making criss-cross lines on the top with a fork. Again, not a deal-breaker but nice to have.
Turkey shepherd’s pie can be kept and enjoyed over a few days, so you can rest knowing that you have comfort food within reach. Whether you are making this dish in advance as meal prep or storing leftovers, follow these storage instructions to keep your shepherd’s pie fresh.
To chill leftovers: Ensure the leftovers have completely cooled to room temperature before keeping them in airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, microwave it in 5-minute increments until the filling has warmed up.
To freeze/make ahead: Assemble the pie either in a large baking dish or smaller individual dishes. Do not bake. Ensure the pie filling and mashed potato have completely cooled to prevent them from spoiling. Freeze for up to 2 months and thaw overnight before serving. Bake for 30 minutes at 375°F.
Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- 4 large sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sea salt & pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion finely diced
- 2 pounds lean ground turkey
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 10 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups frozen peas thawed
- 2 cups frozen corn thawed
- Place the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. About 12 minutes.
- Drain and mash, then season with salt, pepper, sour cream, butter and Italian seasoning blend.
- While sweet potatoes are boiling, heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions for 3-4 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or so.
- Add the ground turkey and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until the meat is cooked through and liquid is absorbed. About 20 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced, then stir in the peas and corn.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Spread the turkey mixture into a 3-quart casserole dish or rectangle baking dish. Add mashed sweet potatoes on top and spread it evenly all the way to the sides.
- Bake until the potatoes are just starting to brown, about 30 minutes. Rest, then serve.