Good ‘n healthy Shepherd’s Pie

shepherd's pie

This recipe was created by Dr. Joseph McPhee, a bariatric surgeon at the Healthy Weight Management Center at Lancaster General Health.

Meat and vegetable filled pies, such as Shepherd’s Pie, date back several hundred years and are believed to have originated in Scotland and the North of England. Since I am of Scotch-Irish descent my goal was to learn how to make my own hearty and tasty Shepherd’s Pie -- a pure comfort food for my family.

While traditional Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb, I used ground beef. Not only has it become more traditional in modern day recipes, the gamier flavor of lamb is not a favorite among my younger children.

In choosing vegetables, I added mushrooms to intensify the flavor in addition to the onions, carrots and peas found in most recipes. While some recipes use thyme, I think the combination of rosemary, basil and parsley make an especially flavorful dish.

While Shepherd’s Pie can also be topped with a pastry crust, spreading a layer of mashed potatoes over the meat and vegetables seems to be more traditional of the recipes I’ve studied. And while mashing your own potatoes takes some extra steps, making your own is the way to go.

If eating healthy carbohydrates, the simple potato is a good choice. It’s a rich source of starch, fiber, minerals and has high levels of B-complex vitamins. If you love the skin like I do, you also get the added benefit of vitamin C. Of course, the method in which the potato is prepared can make it healthy or unhealthy. Stay away from French fries and potato chips! Baked or boiled, the simple tuber works nicely as a basic side dish to your protein source.

The final decision was finding the best ratio of potato to meat. When I placed the entire mixture in one large baking dish, the mashed potatoes tended to become soupy from the juices of the meat and vegetables. When I increased the amount of potatoes it seemed to overwhelm the other flavors. My solution was to serve individual portions in small baking dishes (ramekins). That kept the proportions consistent and quite attractive when served.

This recipe may take longer than some of my others, so plan on extra time to dice and mince the vegetables and herbs.


  • 2 baking potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes
  • ¾ cup skim milk, warmed
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon basil, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon salt, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Boil the potatoes in enough water to cover until soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Use a ricer or potato masher and whip cooked potatoes in a bowl with the warm milk and melted butter. Set aside.
  4. Heat large skillet to medium high and add the olive oil, carrots, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the peas, rosemary, basil, and parsley. Sauté another 5 minutes and set aside.
  6. In a separate skillet, sauté ground beef for about 5 minutes until no longer pink. Drain off fat then add to the vegetable mixture.
  7. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste to the ground beef and vegetables and sauté another 2 minutes.
  8. Stir together cornstarch and chicken broth until blended. Add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  9. Spoon beef and vegetables into ramekins.
  10. Spread thin layer of mashed potatoes over the meat and vegetables.
  11. Bake for about 10 minutes until a slight crisp is seen on the potatoes.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information
Per one cup serving: 356 calories; 16.2g total fat (5.6g saturated; 0.6g polyunsaturated, 3.7g monounsaturated); 320mg sodium; 74.3mg cholesterol; 23.7g carbohydrate; 4.3g fiber; 6.3g sugars; 28g protein; 626mg potassium.

author name

Joseph R. McPhee, MD

Joseph R. McPhee, MD, is a physician specializing in bariatric surgery with Healthy Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery.

Education: A graduate of New York University and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. McPhee completed a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School and his residency at North Shore University Hospital.

Call: 717-544-2935

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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