Healthy shepherd's pie with cauliflower is gluten free, paleo and has only 10 ingredients. Protein & veggie packed comfort food at its finest!
Did you grow up eating shepherd's pie? To me, it's such a classic comfort food. Sometimes we crave those foods of childhood, not just for the flavor, but for all of the fond memories they bring back. Sometimes we need a little bit of nostalgia.
Fortunately, shepherd's pie is one of those recipes that you can easily alter to be a bit healthier.
The main difference between my healthy shepherd's pie and the classic is the potato / cauliflower topping. Classic shepherd's pie recipes use all potato and it's generally mashed with butter and sometimes heavy cream. Some recipes also call for topping the shepherd's pie with grated cheese.
I know from my many dairy free recipe experiments that great mashed potatoes do not have to have any dairy! In this instance, mashing them with the cauliflower lends a delicious creamy consistency, while also upping the nutrition.
With these simple tweaks, you have a healthy Shepherd's Pie that tastes great and leaves you feeling good.
Whether you're looking for a festive Saint Patrick's Day recipe or simply some healthier comfort food, I hope you give this one a try!
Healthy Shepherd's Pie
- 2 large russet potatoes
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 yellow onion
- 2-3 carrots
- 1 # ground lamb (or sub with ground beef)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 T tomato paste*
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Peel 2 russet potatoes & roughly chop into 2” pieces.
- Roughly chop 1 head cauliflower and 1 yellow onion. Finely chop 2-3 carrots.
- Steam or boil chopped russet potatoes & chopped cauliflower for ~30 minutes or until cooked through/a knife inserts easily. Allow to cool.
- Add 1# ground lamb, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp dried basil and salt and pepper to a large sauté pan over med-high heat, and cook, breaking apart the meat.
- Add chopped yellow onion and chopped carrots and cook for 10 minutes or until onions are translucent.
- Add ½ cup water, 1 cup frozen peas and 2 T tomato paste and cook 5 more minutes. Season to taste w/ S&P.
- Place steamed cut russet potatoes & cauliflower head in food processor (or blender), puree until just smooth, add water as needed for smooth consistency. Season w/ S&P.
- In a small 8x8” pan, layer the cooked meat followed by the mashed cauliflower & potatoes. Cover.
- . Bake, covered, 40-50 minutes or until heated through. Option: uncover during final 5-10 minutes of baking to brown topping.
What is the nutrition like in this healthy Shepherd's Pie?
This healthy shepherd's pie is full of nutritious ingredients! Here are some of the highlights:
- Potatoes: They get a bad rap sometimes, but the reason potatoes are considered unhealthy by some has much more to do with preparation than nutritional content. Sure french fries won't make the cut for superfoods, but neither would deep fried Brussels sprouts…. Cooked in a healthy way, potatoes can be quite nutritious. They offer vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese and antioxidants.
- Cauliflower: Containing tons of vitamins and nutrients, cauliflower is a great choice to regularly include in your diet. It's particularly high in vitamin C, fiber and certain antioxidants that may slow the growth of cancer. Cauliflower is also high in choline, which is important for brain health.
- Onion: Did you know that the humble onion is actually packed with antioxidants? Onions also have vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate and potassium.
- Carrots: Both budget and kid-friendly, carrots are full of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium and vitamin B6. As a result, they’re great for eye health, lowering cholesterol, and reducing cancer risk.
- Lamb: Like other forms of meat, lamb is high in protein and iron as well as vitamin B12, selenium and zinc. Lamb is also particularly high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may help with weight loss and help reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer. CLA is also found in grass fed beef.
- Peas: Technically a legume, green peas are particularly high in vitamin A and vitamin K. They're also quite high in protein and fiber.
- Tomato Paste: As with any canned food, you should check the ingredients, but tomato paste generally contains only tomatoes and the preservative citric acid. Tomatoes are Packed with antioxidants and may help reduce the risk of several kinds of cancer. Furthermore, they contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and potassium.
Why make shepherd's pie with cauliflower?
Making shepherd's pie with cauliflower may sound strange if you haven't tried it before, but it really is delicious.
The cauliflower serves two purposes here. First, it acts as a replacement for the dairy. Surprisingly, cauliflower can be quite creamy when blended. When you mash the potatoes and cauliflower together you really won't miss the butter.
Secondly, cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse. It's super high in vitamin C and also a good source of vitamin K, folate and vitamin B6.
I do like to include potatoes along with the cauliflower though, rather than simply using mashed cauliflower. I find this achieves the best texture and flavor. You could certainly try all cauliflower though if you want a low carb shepherd's pie.
Of course if you don't want to make shepherd's pie with cauliflower, you can sub your own mashed potato recipe. Or, give my dairy free mashed potatoes a try here!
How can I meal prep this Paleo Shepherd's Pie?
Shepherd's Pie is definitely one of those recipes you can completely prep on the weekend and serve later in the week. It's delicious leftover.
My favorite way to meal prep this recipe though is to follow the recipe until step 9 (layering the cooked ingredients in your pan) and then cover and store in the fridge. On the day you'd like to serve, simply bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes.
If you don't have time to meal prep the whole recipe, even chopping the onion, carrots and cauliflower ahead can save you a lot of time later in the week. If you take this approach, make sure to wait to chop the potatoes until you're ready to cook, as they don't keep as well once chopped.
Wait, are peas Paleo?
Technically speaking, green peas are legumes and therefore not strictly Paleo. However, many people following a Paleo diet choose to include peas in their meals as they contain fewer antinutrients than other legumes.
Antinutrients are compounds that make it harder for you to absorb certain nutrients. Green peas contain two types of anti nutrients, phytic acid and lectins, but not in huge amounts.
Many people can eat green peas without any problem but if you find they bother you, you can easily omit them from the recipe.
Is this a Whole30 Shepherd's Pie?
Yes indeed! My healthy shepherd's pie recipe is fully Whole30 compliant as written.
What are some other healthy comfort food recipes?
If you're looking for healthy comfort food, you've come to the right place! I love cooking for friends and family, as well as creating recipes for our Prep Dish subscribers, and I never want anyone to feel like they have to choose between delicious food and nutrition.
Here are a few of my favorite healthy comfort food recipes:
- Healthy Sloppy Joes
- Classic Chicken Vegetable Soup
- Dairy Free Chicken & Cauliflower Chowder
- Black Bean Chili Mac
- Paleo Chocolate Pecan Bars