Seasonal Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

The word ‘shepherd‘ is one that’s followed me all of my life. You see, I grew up on a sheep farm that my father affectionately calls the ‘Shepherd Shack’. And although I live on the opposite side of the country from where I was raised … I currently live on Shepherd Avenue.

Ironically, my mother rarely (if ever) made Shepherd’s Pie.


If I take shepherding at face value, I guess I could consider myself a modern day shepherd of sorts. While I no longer tend to animals, I have always been the diplomatic person within my group of friends who everyone turns to for guidance and advice. Mind you, I’m not saying they should but they do.

The exact recipe for what constitutes a true shepherd’s pie (versus a cottage pie) can be debated but I think it’s a silly waste of time. I’ve seen blog posts written with one opinion or another … and some people take this pie way too seriously. No matter how you make it, it just tastes good and that’s what matters most to me.

The version I made tonight uses the seasonal produce I have on hand which will likely add more controversy for those who have strong feelings on the subject. Since I’m cutting back on red meat, I’ve substituted ground turkey in place of beef or lamb. I’ve used a mix of onions, carrots, peas, and fennel for the filling. And, I’ve topped with a creamy blend of sweet potatoes and butter.

Seasonal Shepherd’s Pie
1 lb sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lb ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup frozen peas (not necessary to thaw)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup water (or beef stock)
salt/pepper to taste

Begin by preparing the sweet potatoes, peel and sliced into 1″ thick slices. Place into a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until a fork can easily slide into the slices (i.e. fork tender). Remove from burner and drain. Add 1 tablespoon butter and mash until smooth. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. When pan begins to smoke, add ground turkey. Cook the turkey until fully browned and no pink is visible. Add onion, carrot, and fennel; stir to combine. Add 1 cup beef stock and cover the pan. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until all of the vegetables are fork tender. Stir in peas.

In a small bowl, mix together the 1/4 water, Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons flour until a smooth paste is formed. Slowly stir this paste into the ground turkey mixture to thicken the juices into a light gravy. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and stir to combine. Cook for an additional minute. Adjust seasonings and remove from heat.

I decided to make individual portions using small stoneware pots but you can also bake in a rectangle pan. Pour the meat mixture into the pan then spread the mashed sweet potato mixture over the top making sure to push it to the very edge of the pan.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. When baking is finished, turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes to lightly brown the top. I remembered at the last minute that the stoneware pots I am using are not supposed to be used under the broiler (@#$@%#@). So, I didn’t get nicely browned tops as I had hoped.

I love how quick these are to make and how filling they are, especially on a cold night. The sweet potatoes also help to fulfill my love of sweet-savory combination’s. The contrast in sweet and savory is wonderfully good and it makes me wonder why people still use white potatoes to make shepherd’s pie.

Fortunately, I made these in individual portions or else I’d keep on eating the whole pan until it was gone!



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20 comments

  1. I make something almost exactly like this at least once a month except I found my recipe in (don’t laugh) The Rachael Ray magazine. She calls for turkey too but I like to mix it up, substituting lean ground beef sometimes. She also uses hot sauce in the sweet potatoes which I find very tasty. Then of course it’s topped in a heap of cheddar cheese.

    Your version, of course, is much more sophisticated in nature :)

  2. We love a good shepherd’s pie here in the middle of cold winter, I’ve never topped one with sweet potatoes, what a great idea. We used fennel in our last one as well which I really liked

  3. Erin: Haha! That darn Rachael Ray is always one step ahead of me :-)

    Kat: Give the sweet potatoes a try, I think you’ll enjoy the flavor it adds. I hadn’t used fennel before in a shepherd’s pie but really liked it too!

    Bellini Valli: It certainly does!

  4. Mmmmmm…bring on the pies Allen! I love the addition of the fennel in the filling and that sweet potato mixture is the icing on the cake (so to speak).

  5. Hah! At least the stoneware is safe. I’m a little skeptical about the sweet potatoes, but you Americans have been bombarding me with so many tasty pics of them that I think I’ll give them another shot ;) Of course, how can you go wrong with buttah…

  6. Allen! This recipe has totally knocked my socks off. Seriously. They’re over there—->
    What an incredible idea for Shepherd’s pie. I am going to try this one soon. Thanks for posting! :D

  7. I agree with you about not debating this pie, just enjoy it. I haven’t tried it with fennel, but I’m definately going to have a go with the sweet potatoes.
    Thanks, lovely blog.

  8. I often order a shepherd’s pie in restaurants, but have never made it myself. You make is sound quite approachable. Looks delicious! I must give it a try one day.

  9. Allen, your shepherd’s pie sounds heavenly! I love love love your use of sweet potatoes – such a brilliant idea, and so healthful! I can’t wait to try your recipe!

    Hooray for our sheep farm childhoods, too – high five from one sheep kid (or should I say lamb? ;-) to another! :-)

    How beautiful that you’ve become a shepherd among your friends as well… Your friends are blessed…

  10. I have no issue with people taking recipes and giving them their own twist. I love the seasonal touch and I think the flavors can work well together. Good JOb!!

  11. My mom always made Shepherd’s Pie–it’s total comfort food. I love the way you’ve changed it up! Shepherd Shack cracked me up…lol.

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