This delicious Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie is a lightened up version of classic shepherd's pie. The savory filling is made with lean ground beef and plenty of veggies. It's all topped off with a pillowy cloud of mashed sweet potatoes. This easy skillet shepherd's pie is healthy, hearty comfort food at its best. Your family will love it!
Chef Gordon Ramsey has said that shepherd’s pie is his ultimate comfort food. I have to say that he has pretty good taste! Savory ground meat and veggies topped with a fluffy layer of potatoes... how can you beat that?
Well, I've taken this classic dish and kicked it up a notch! My Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie is not only delicious, it's healthy too.
Made with wholesome ingredients, this easy shepherd's pie with sweet potatoes is a hearty and balanced meal that the whole family will love. It may just become a regular in your dinner rotation!
Why You'll Love This Dish
- Delicious- packed with flavor!
- Comfort food- a hearty and comforting dish that will satisfy you
- Nutritious- made with nutrient-dense, whole foods
- Easy- made in a cast iron skillet on the stove; easy enough for busy weeknights
- Family-friendly- both kids and adults will love this tasty dish
- Freezes well- can be made in advance and stored in the freezer
Cottage Pie vs. Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd’s pie and cottage pie, are centuries-old dishes that originated in the United Kingdom and Ireland but are now popular worldwide. They are both savory baked casseroles that consist of ground meat topped with a layer of potatoes. They are traditionally baked in the oven until golden brown.
In classic "shepherd's pie," the filling is made with ground lamb and vegetables. The filling is then topped with a pillowy layer of creamy mashed potatoes.
Shepherd's pie is a St. Patrick's Day staple. This dish is also a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving!
In "cottage pie," ground beef is used in the filling instead of lamb. Traditionally, the topping on cottage pie is made with a layer of sliced potatoes rather than mashed potatoes. However, a lot of modern day cottage pie recipes do use mashed potatoes.
So technically my sweet potato shepherd's pie recipe should be called sweet potato "cottage" pie since it uses ground beef. However, in the States, we generally refer to the dish as shepherd's pie.
Ground beef is more easily accessible than lamb in grocery stores. It's also more budget-friendly.
How Did Shepherd's Pie Get Its Name?
Shepherd's pie is a dish with humble origins. It likely originated in the North of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep.
Since the dish is made with mutton or lamb, the dish was called "shepherd's" pie because a shepherd looks after sheep (sheep-herder = shepherd). The topping, which is made with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes, represents the sheep's fleece.
Shepherd's pie was likely created as an inexpensive way to use up leftover meat. It's the ultimate, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. It's the kind of dish you want to tuck into after a long, hard day.
No-Bake Shepherd's Pie
I make this stovetop sweet potato shepherd's pie in a cast iron skillet on the stove. Then at the end, I put it in the oven to brown the top a little.
However, this last step is not necessary since all of the ingredients are already cooked. So, you can actually skip the oven altogether and make this a no-bake shepherd's pie.
Once you gather all your ingredients, this easy skillet shepherd's pie comes together pretty quickly. It's even faster if you cook your sweet potatoes in the microwave or air fryer while you're making the filling.
Although traditional shepherd's pie can be a bit labor intensive, this no-bake shepherd's pie is easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner.
Like many traditional comfort foods, shepherd's pie can be pretty rich and decadent. So I set out to make a lighter version that would be more nutritious without sacrificing flavor.
Here's how I make this healthy sweet potato shepherd's pie:
- Lean ground beef or turkey instead of lamb
- I use 93% lean ground beef. You can also use ground turkey. It's more easily accessible than lamb and you can choose a leaner blend.
- Sneak in lots of vegetables
- Traditional shepherd's pie has a lot of meat mixed with a few vegetables. My version uses lots of veggies including mushrooms, onions, carrots, and peas. This allows me to cut back on the amount of meat in the dish. To save time, I use a combination of fresh and frozen vegetables.
- Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes
- Traditional shepherd's pie uses Idaho/Russet potatoes but I use sweet potatoes instead. They have the same amount of carbohydrates as white potatoes but are full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. And they’re low in calories, low in sodium and virtually fat and cholesterol-free.
- Lightened up potato topping
- The mashed potato topping is usually made with lots of cream, butter, and sometimes cheese. However, sweet potatoes are naturally creamy, so you don’t need to do too much to them. I just add one tablespoon of butter and a little milk to make the topping nice and fluffy.
Sweet potatoes are superfoods! Their rich orange color means they’re high in beta-carotene, which gets converted to Vitamin A in the body. One medium sweet potato provides more than 400% of the recommended daily intake for Vitamin A! Vitamin A is important for vision, immune health, growth and reproduction. Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants!
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Ground beef- I use 93% lean ground beef; you can also use 93% lean ground turkey or ground lamb
- Olive oil- I use heart-healthy olive oil instead of butter
- Vegetables- I use onions and mushrooms along with frozen peas and carrots; however you can use other veggies instead
- Herbs- I use a combination of parsley, thyme, and rosemary; you can use fresh or dried herbs
- Tomato paste- for depth of flavor
- Worcestershire sauce- adds rich, savory flavor, i.e. umami
- Beef stock or broth- I like to use unsalted stock to control the amount of sodium
- Flour- thickens the sauce; can use gluten-free flour to keep this recipe gluten free
- Sweet potatoes- can use white Russet potatoes for a more traditional recipe; can use mashed cauliflower for a low-carb topping
- Milk- I use a little 2% milk to make the sweet potato topping creamy
- Butter- a little butter adds richness to the topping
Step-By-Step Instructions for Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
1. Make the Filling
- Step 1- Heat oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until slightly softened 5-6 minutes.
- Step 2- Add the ground meat and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is browned.
- Step 3- Add the salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Step 4- Stir to combine all ingredients well.
- Step 5- Stir the flour and beef stock together in a bowl. Pour the mixture into the skillet. Cook a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Step 6- Stir in the peas and carrots and cook another few minutes.
2. Make the Sweet Potato Topping
- Step 7- Cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave, oven or air fryer (see recipe card for details). Scoop out the sweet potato flesh and place it in a food processor with the butter, milk, and salt.
- Step 8- Purée the sweet potatoes in a food processor until smooth. Alternatively, you can mash it all together in a bowl with a potato masher or fork.
- Step 9- Spread the mashed sweet potato topping in an even layer over the beef mixture, covering the entire surface all the way to the edges.
- Step 10- Bake in the oven at 375°F for 20-25 minutes until filling is warm and topping is lightly browned. This step is optional and can be skipped if you want to make this a no-bake shepherd's pie. After removing the shepherd's pie from the oven, let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- You can cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave or bake them in the oven or air fryer. The microwave is the fastest method.
- You can use ground turkey or lamb instead of beef. You can even use veggie crumbles or lentils if you want to make this shepherd's pie vegetarian or vegan (you can substitute vegan butter and nondairy milk too).
- Mix up the seasonings to your liking. I make a TexMex version of this dish with chili powder and cumin in the filling- the smoky flavors complement the sweet potatoes perfectly.
- If you don't have a cast iron skillet or oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the filling to a casserole dish before adding the sweet potato topping and baking it.
- I like to bake this shepherd's pie in the oven at the end to get a little color on the top but if you're in a rush, you can skip this step.
What To Serve With Shepherd's Pie
This skillet sweet potato shepherd's pie is pretty much a complete meal on its own. It has a filling mixture of protein, fiber, and complex carbs. It also has lots of veggies so you don't need to serve much with it on the side.
This healthy sweet potato shepherd's pie can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. See "Recipe FAQs" section below for freezing and reheating instructions.
Shepherd’s pie and cottage pie are both savory baked casseroles that consist of ground meat meat topped with a layer of potatoes. In shepherd's pie, the filling is made with ground lamb, and it's topped with a pillowy layer of creamy mashed potatoes. In cottage pie, ground beef is used in the filling instead of lamb, and the topping is made with sliced potatoes rather than mashed potatoes.
Yes, this sweet potato shepherd's pie is a healthier version of classic shepherd's pie. It's made with wholesome, nutrient-rich ingredients and lots of vegetables. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants!
Yes, this sweet potato shepherd's pie freezes great! It's the perfect meal prep dish. Instead of assembling it in a skillet, assemble it in a 9x9-inch square casserole dish. Let it cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil and place in the freezer. It can be frozen up to 3 months.
You can reheat shepherd's pie in the oven. The best way is to let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Then bake it in the oven at 375F for 25-30 minutes until the filling is hot. You can bake it directly from frozen but it will take longer, about an hour. If heating a frozen shepherd's pie, cover it with foil for the first 30-40 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to cook another 20-30 minutes until the filling is hot.
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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1.25 pounds 93% lean ground beef (can use ground lamb or turkey)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (substitute gluten-free flour to keep this recipe gluten free)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup unsalted beef stock or broth
- 2 cups frozen peas and carrots
Sweet Potato Topping:
- 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean (about 4 large potatoes)
- 4 tablespoons 2% milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Optional garnishes: flaky sea salt, fresh herbs
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- To make the filling, heat the oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until slightly softened 5-6 minutes.
- Add the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is browned. Add the salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine well.
- Stir the flour and beef stock together in a small bowl. Pour the mixture into the skillet. Cook a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir in the frozen peas and carrots and cook another few minutes. Taste the filling and adjust seasoning as needed.
- To make the sweet potato topping, pierce the sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place them on a plate and microwave 8-10 minutes until soft, turning them over halfway through. Let the potatoes cool slightly.
- Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. Place the flesh in a food processor with the butter, milk, and salt. Purée until smooth. Alternatively, you can mash it all together in a bowl with a potato masher or fork.
- Bake the shepherd's pie in the oven 20-25 minutes until filling is warm and topping is lightly browned. Remove from oven and garnish with herbs and sea salt, if desired. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving.