A delicious twist on a family classic, this Curried Shepherd’s Pie is healthy but tastes indulgent all the same. Lightly spiced with a few Indian spices takes shepherd’s pie to a whole new level!
To Turkey or Not?
Comfort food for many, shepherd's pie is one of those dishes that you can make with what you love and have at hand. Based on an English classic, it is traditionally made with ground lamb, thus "shepherd's" pie, but you can use any protein you like. Besides ground beef or lamb, ground turkey, chicken, or even firm tofu crumbles all work.
The traditional formula of shepherd's pie is a mildly spiced protein foundation with a comforting cover of mashed potatoes. The pie can be left austere with a bit of butter, milk, or yogurt, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Or enriched with cream, sour cream, cheese, and lots of butter.
Ground turkey and potatoes are a marriage made in heaven. You choose whether this will be a healthy weeknight dinner or a weekend indulgence.
Curried shepherd's pie is the addition of a few warming spices for a savory meat layer to freshen up your dinner routine.
What's to Love
- A healthy dish that that tastes indulgent
- Perfect make-it-your-own dish with lots of delicious variations
- Comfort food classic warming spices
- A great vegetable vehicle
- Even better made ahead
- Makes a very good potluck or new baby delivery option
Ingredients & Subsitutions
Moistening the mashed potatoes with some healthy yogurt adds a bit of acid and depth of flavor. Or go a lower glycemic route and use mashed cauliflower, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash in place of the potatoes.
Feel free to add more vegetables but make sure the vegetables are cooked through before adding them to the meat mixture. You will bake the final assembly, but that will only heat it through, rather than cook the ingredients.
To use tofu in this recipe see helpful hints from Lavender & Macaron's Easy Vegan Shepherd's Pie. And see the "Tips" section for ideas about choosing the best potatoes to use.
Mashed Potato Topping
Feel free to make this layer rich or not:
- Two pounds of potatoes; see Tips for Making Mashed Potatoes below.
- Milk or half and half
- Yogurt or cream
- Salt and pepper
- Optional: Cheese, melted butter, and grated parmesan
- 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey. I use 93% ground turkey. I have found that ground turkey breast meat is too dry, but you do you.
- Oil of your choice
- Aromatics: Onion, garlic and ginger
- Spices: Cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and Kashmiri chili (or sub)
- Tomato purée
- Vegetables if using: One cup peas and carrots or your choice
How to Make
You can cook curried shepherd's pie in separate stages, then when ready, assemble and bake until all hot and bubbly.
Begin by making the mashed potato layer. Peel and cut the potatoes, cover with water and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Stir in the yogurt, milk, salt, pepper, and cheese if using.
Adding the dairy to the potatoes
The mashed potato layer is ready
While the potatoes are cooking, start the ground turkey layer.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the onions are golden, about 8 minutes.
- Add the ginger garlic paste to the onions, stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stir in the spices and cook for a minute.
Onions cooked until the edges brown
Add in the spices
- Add the ground turkey. Mash the meat into crumbles and stir occasionally for about 7 to 9 minutes until it is completely cooked.
- Taste for salt, pepper, or chili pepper to your taste. Stir in any vegetables you are using.
Ground turkey cooked through
The filling finished cooking
- Layer the meat and tomato mixture into the baking pan.
- Decorate the smoothed top as the spirit moves you, using a fork or make some fun swirls. If using, brush the top with melted butter and grated parmesan.
Top the filling with the potato layer
Ready for the oven
Bake for 25 minutes or until hot, bubbly, and the potatoes are golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.
Questions and Answers
Generally, this English dish is called shepherd's pie when made with lamb and cottage pie when made with ground beef.
No, you don't need cheese to make this dish delicious. And yes, certainly use your favorite cheese.
Mushrooms, sweet potato cubes, bell peppers, celeriac, fennel, turnips, parsnips, or small pieces of cauliflower, instead of, or in addition to the typical peas and carrots. Experiment with your favorite veggies, but be sure to pre-cook them so that they don't release lots of liquid to the mix and they get cooked through properly.
Yes, chop the turkey into 1/2-inch pieces and add it to the onion and spice mixture. Cook it for just a few minutes to flavor the cooked turkey. Then add the tomato purée.
Tips for the Best Mashed Potatoes
Honestly, since I am often in a rush, I most often just take a fork to the potatoes to give them a good, quick mash. However, if you want to give your potato layer extra love, here are some things to think about:
- Choose the best potato for mashing. I prefer Yukon Golds for their wonderful buttery flavors. Or Idaho potatoes, both of which are considered starchy potatoes. Waxy potatoes like red or white potatoes also work but if mashed too much they tend to be gummy. A mix of these two work beautifully however.
- The best way to mash potatoes: While mashing with a fork certainly works, the best tool for the job is a potato masher or a hand mixer. If you want a perfectly smooth texture, use a food mill or a sieve (tamis).
Serving: One of the beauties of shepherd's pie is that it is a complete one-dish meal. Though adding a good salad or any other fresh or cooked green to the table would not be a bad thing. You can also assemble your shepherd's pie, chill it for up to 24 hours, and bake just before serving.
Storing and Freezing Shepherd's Pie
Can you freeze shepherd's pie? Yes, this dish freezes beautifully. Here is the how-to:
- Cool the pan to room temperature. This will help prevent freezer burn.
- Cover the shepherd's pie tightly with aluminum foil
- Freeze for up to 2 months
Defrosting & Reheating Shepherd's Pie
The best way to defrost shepherd's pie:
- Ideally, allow it to at least partially defrost shepherd's pie in the refridgerator overnight. It will reheat more evenly.
- If short on time, you can microwave to defrost, then bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) for 30 minutes. If your dish is defrosted, reheating will take about 30 minutes. Test by using a table knife inserted in the center of the pie. It should be hot to the touch. If not, heat for another 10 to 20 minutes as needed.
- It is possible to bake from frozen? Yes. Keeping the foil on, place the pan in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven and bake for 1 hour. Test for doneness as above.
- Do not thaw your shepherd’s pie in cold water.
Can I reheat shepherd's pie in the microwave? Yes, but I don't recommend it. A microwave heats food unevenly. If you do use the microwave, to properly reheat, you will need to stir the pie frequently. There will no longer be any layers.
Short on Freezer Space?
If you are short on freezer space, make the filling and freeze. The potato layer can be made the day you want to serve.
- To freeze: Cook the filling as directed in recipe, but do not add the vegetables. Freeze in zippered bag or air-tight container.
- To bake: Defrost in the fridge or microwave on High, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes until the filling is defrosted. Proceed with the recipe.
Do you have any leftovers? Curried shepherd's pie will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Freezing leftover shepherd's pie is the same as freezing a whole baked pie. See above.
Other Indian Spiced Ground Meat Dishes
Recipe Card 📖
Comforting Curried Shepherd’s Pie
Mashed Potatoes Layer
- 2 pounds peeled potatoes ~ Cut in 1-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup half and half ~ Or milk
- 1/3 cup yogurt ~ Or cream, half and half, or more milk
- 1 teaspoon salt ~ Sea or table salt; see Substitutions if using Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper ~ To taste
- 1 cup shredded mozzerella ~ Optional, see Notes
- 1 tablespoon melted butter ~ Optional topping
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan ~ Optional topping
Ground Meat or Tofu Layer
- 1 1/2 pounds 93 % ground turkey ~ Or other ground meat or firm tofu. See Notes below
- 1 tablespoon olive oil ~ Divided, or oil of your choice
- 1/2 cup onion ~ Finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt ~ Divided. Sea or table salt; see Substitutions. To taste
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste ~ Or 1 1/2 teaspoon each garlic and ginger grated or finely minced; buy or make
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 /4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ To taste; See Notes below. Substitution.
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups tomato puree ~ 15-ounce can
- 1 cup peas and carrots ~ Optional, I use frozen. See Notes
- Gather your mashed potato layer ingredients.
- Peel and cut the potatoes. Cover them with water in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling on high heat. Turn down the heat to medium and cook until they are soft but not soggy. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, gather the ingredients for your meat layer.
- Heat the 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the onions are golden, about 8 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium after 4 minutes. If the onions are sticking, stir in a tablespoon of water.
- Add the ginger garlic paste to the onions, stir for 1 to 2 minutes until it no longer smells raw. Stir in the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, chili powder, pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir, cooking the spices for a minute.
- Add the ground turkey. Mash it into crumbles roughly 1/2-inch in size. Stirring occasionally for about 7 to 9 minutes or until the ground turkey is completely cooked. If you mash the ground turkey into tiny crumbles your filling will be too mushy. You want some texture.
- Cook the mixture for 3 minutes, then add the tomato sauce. When the mixture is bubbling, turn the heat to medium-low and allow the spices to flavor the meat and the tomato to lose their rawness. Cook for 10 more minutes, stirring several times.
- If you haven't already, check on the potatoes for doneness, drain and set aside.
- The final sauce should be moist and saucy but not soupy. If you need more liquid, add some stock or water. I often need to add another 2 to 3 tablespoons. Taste for salt, pepper, or chili pepper to your taste. Stir in any vegetables you are using.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Finish the potatoes: While they are still warm, mash the potatoes using a fork, potato masher, or hand mixer. Add the butter, dairy, salt, pepper, and cheese (if using).
- Stir in a bit more liquid into the mashed potatoes if the mixture is too stiff. But keep it on the thick side so that any patterns you make on the top keep their shape while baking.
- Layer the meat and tomato mixture into the baking pan.
- Dollop big spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes onto the top of the meat and spread out evenly beginning with the edges. This helps seal the juices from bubbling up over the potatoes.
- Decorate the smoothed top as the spirit moves you, using a fork or make some fun swirls. If using, brush the top with melted butter and grated parmesan. This helps with browning and gives a nice crisper topping.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until hot, bubbly, and the potatoes are golden brown. Test by using a metal utensil—a knife or fork handle—inserting it into the center of the pie. The shepherd's pie is ready when the knife is hot to the touch.
- If you want a browner top, increase the oven temperature to broil for the last 5 minutes or so of the heating.
- Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.
- Ground turkey: I use 93% ground turkey. I have found that ground turkey breast meat is too dry, but you do you.
- Heat and chilis: This recipe give you a mildly spiced shepherd's pie. Kashmiri chili has little heat. If you want more heat, add a minced green chili with the ginger and garlic. And use a hotter ground chili or more Kashmiri chili. If you want a mild dish and don't have Kashmiri chili, substitute 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne. You can always add more at the end.
- If you are looking for lower glycemic vegetables to swap for the mashed potato layer, consider mashed butternut squash or cauliflower.
- Other vegetable ideas: Add mushrooms, sweet potato cubes, celeriac, fennel, turnips, bell peppers, or small pieces of cauliflower to the meat mixture to up the vegetable quotient. Make sure the vegetables are cooked through since the baking step only reheats the dish.
- Instead of mozzarella cheese for the mashed potatoes, you might use goat cheese, feta, gruyere, or cheddar cheese. Since all of these cheese are more flavorful, you might start with 1/2 a cup, taste, then add more if needed.