How to Make the Best Paleo-friendly, Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie

Like every week, last Sunday was family movie night at our house. All of us were huddled on the couch, with fuzzy socks on our feet, a cozy blanket up till our noses, and the third Lord of the Rings movie playing on TV.

Yet, that wasn’t the best part of the night. What beat the action-packed film was the delicious Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie baked fresh out of the oven. And man, was it good! You can imagine exactly how much when I tell you that the dish was licked clean that day – zero leftovers! 

If you were scouring through the internet trying to find the perfect recipe, trust me, this is it *(kisses hand Italian chef style) *.

My paleo-friendly Shepherd’s pie is a casserole with a layer of minced meat cooked with spices and vegetables, topped with a layer of seasoned mashed potatoes, and baked in the oven to golden brown perfection.

Why does it have to be Whole30?

The Whole30 diet enhances one’s metabolism and curbs unhealthy food cravings. If you follow the Whole30 diet, it is advised to refrain mainly from processed foods, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, dairy products, and grains.

That’s why I have listed dairy-free and gluten-free alternatives to make a Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie. It’s just as tasty and creamy as the original recipe!

The moment you dig into this plate of Shepherd’s pie, you get a spoonful of creamy mashed potatoes, some crispy bits from the topping, rich meat filling, and vegetables, all in ONE bite.

If this is not pure comfort food, I don’t know what is.

This recipe works great for everyone – whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned expert.

Let’s dig in!

My (Surefire) Tips for the Creamiest, Most Savory Shepherd’s Pie

Plan Ahead

As a working mom, I am constantly running around, doing this thing or that.

That’s why, for me, the best way to make Shepherd’s pie is to work ahead and prepare everything beforehand. This not only saves time but also makes the process less chaotic.

You could make the beef or lamb gravy or the cheesy mashed potatoes ahead of time, or both. In this way, you will simply have to assemble the meat mixture and the mashed potatoes in a casserole, bake it, and serve while hot!

Refrigerate Now, Enjoy Later!

The best part about Shepherd’s Pie? The ingredients are super easy to work with.

The prepared mashed potatoes and the meat filling can also be frozen individually or together and refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. This way, when you are ready to bake it, simply take it out of the refrigerator and let it cool to room temperature before assembling it and sticking it in the oven.

I personally find it easier to assemble both the mashed potatoes and meat filling into a casserole, cover it with aluminum, and then putting it into the refrigerator. That way, when you come back home after an exhausting day at work, all you have to do then is uncover the dish, warm it to room temperature, and bake it.

Ingredient Switch-Ups 

Unfortunately, this classic dish is not something you can whip up in 15 to 20 minutes as it requires effort and time.

However, if you are short on time and craving a comforting plate of Shepherd’s pie, you can substitute minced chicken for beef or lamb.

In addition, if you find it time-consuming to boil the potatoes on a stove, you can microwave them for around 5 minutes or until they seem soft and perfectly boiled. The quality might differ from stove-boiled potatoes, but it is the best alternative you can make use of on days when you are not in the mood to spend hours in the kitchen.

Moreover, if your local mart has run out of frozen mixed peas and carrots, you could use 1/2 cup frozen peas and 1/2 cup frozen sliced carrots.

Recipe for Shepherd’s Pie

Serving: 7-8 people

Preparation time: 45 min

Cooking time: 45 min

Ingredients for Cheesy Mashed Potatoes:

  1. 1 ½ pound (3-4 medium-sized) sweet potatoes*
  2. 1/4 cup coconut milk*
  3. 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or as per taste)
  5. ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 7-8 garlic cloves – peeled

Ingredients for Rich Meat Filling:

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 cup chopped onion
  3. 2 carrots, peeled and diced small
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb***
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  8. 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  9. 1 cup chicken broth****
  10. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  11. 2 teaspoons freshly chopped or dried rosemary leaves
  12. 1 teaspoon freshly chopped or dried thyme leaves
  13. 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

* You can switch white potatoes if sweet potatoes are not available.

** You can use either canned or fresh coconut milk.

***If you don’t like lamb, or it is unavailable, you can use beef or mutton as well.

****If you find it difficult and time-consuming to prepare the chicken broth from scratch, you can add one chicken cube of any brand of your preference into 1 cup of warm water. Mix them until combined into a smooth texture.

For the Creamy Mashed Potatoes:

Step 1: Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Put them in a medium saucepan and add cold water, a pinch of salt, and the garlic cloves. Set over high heat, cover, and put them to boil.

Step 2: Once the potatoes are boiling, uncover them, decreasing the heat to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Cook until they are tender and easily crushed with tongs.

Step 3: Drain the potatoes in a colander and put them in the same hot pot again. Let them rest for 3 to 4 minutes to evaporate any remaining liquid.

Step 4: While the potatoes are cooling down, place the coconut milk and olive oil into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through.

Step 5: Mash the cooled down potatoes and add the warm mixture of coconut milk and olive oil, salt, and pepper to them. Continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the egg yolk until well combined.

Step 6: Set the mixture aside.

For the Rich Meat Filling:

Step 1: Before starting the meat filling, preheat your oven to 400 F (205 C).

Step 2: Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a 12-inch non-stick sauté pan and set it over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the chopped onion and carrots. Sauté them just until they begin to turn golden brown or until they are soft, for approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 3: Add the chopped garlic to the pan and stir to combine. Add the lamb (or any meat of your preference) and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until browned and cooked through, for approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Step 4: Add tomato paste, chicken broth (refer above to find a quicker method to prepare it), Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme. Stir all of the ingredients until combined.

Step 5: Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover it with a lid and simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the sauce turns thick and creamy.

Step 6: Set the pan aside with the lid covered to prevent the filling from losing its moisture.

For Assembling the Layers:

Step 1: Spread the meat mixture evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. You can also use another tray of your preference, but make sure that it’s wide enough for the layers to be incorporated properly.

Step 2: Top the meat with the prepared mashed potatoes, starting around the edges such that it creates a seal preventing the mixture from bubbling up and creating a mess. Use a rubber or silicone spatula to smooth the mashed potatoes.

Step 3: Place on a parchment-lined, half sheet pan in the center of the oven to capture heat evenly, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 400 F, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown.

Step 4: Once done, transfer the dish to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!