Best Recipe: Sweet Potato-Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Time: About 45 minutes. Makes 8 generous servings. Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with beef and mashed white potatoes. I designed this alternative version with ground turkey and sweet potato to incorporate some of my favorite flavors. Extra vegetables in the filling round out the dish.
Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
1.6 lbs sweet potatoes (1 large)
1/4 c milk or half-and-half
4 oz garden veggie (or plain) cream cheese, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp paprika for finishing

1 pkg (16 oz) frozen mixed vegetables, such as mix of corn, green beans, and carrots
1 c frozen peas
1 T olive oil
1 tsp Penzeys chicken soup base
1 lb ground turkey or ground turkey breast
1.5 c chopped onions
1 T minced garlic
1.5 tsp Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle (a salt-free blend of basil, Turkish oregano, minced garlic and thyme)
1 T all-purpose flour

Coat a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish with cooking spray.

Scrub potatoes and cut into chunks. Place the potatoes in a small, deep pot and cover with water. Boil potatoes until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the frozen vegetables and peas in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on High for 4 to 5 minutes.

Heat the olive oil and soup base in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Break up the ground turkey and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring to keep it crumbled. Push turkey to the side and add the onions and garlic to the center of the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, then mix everything together.

Drain potatoes well in a colander. Mash the potatoes with milk (or half-and-half). Add in the cream cheese and smash until the cheese melts into the potatoes. (Note: I use an electric stand mixer, but you have to be careful not to overbeat the potatoes, or they’ll be gluey.) Potatoes should be almost smooth but still a little lumpy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir the Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle and flour into the turkey mixture. Add the vegetables, and stir gently to combine.

Transfer the turkey mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Top with the potatoes. Smooth the top. Sprinkle with the 1/2 tsp paprika.

This is a great, make-ahead dish. You have several options at this point:

  • Broil until the top is golden brown.
  • Let cool for 30 minutes after topping with mashed potatoes; refrigerate until cold. Cover and refrigerate. Then bake, covered, in 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly.
  • You can also skip the baking and just microwave individual cold pieces (about 2 minutes on High).
  • Make your own frozen lunches: Individual pieces freeze well and reheat in the microwave.

Cook’s Notes: Really fast comfort food. I’ve made this several times since first testing it. This version is about as streamlined as you can get. I once made it with pre-made mashed potatoes in a plastic tub from my grocery store deli — yes, it was faster than making the mashed potatoes from scratch. But no, the flavor was not improved. If you want the more traditional topping, use Yukon Gold potatoes for better flavor than plain white potatoes.

Sources: Modified from multiple sources, including (Angela Creighton),, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, November 2006. Make-ahead tip from

Variation: Make It Vegetarian
I found two excellent suggestions to make this a vegetarian dish:

  • Readers’ Digest: One Dish Meals The Easy Way suggests making a filling with 3 kinds of cooked, drained beans (1-1/3 c, about 11 oz, each pinto beans, black beans, and chickpeas). That would be 32 oz of beans. You could just use 2 (15 oz) cans of beans, any kind you like. The full recipe, which serves 4, is posted to
  • Portabella mushrooms are often used in vegetarian cooking as a meat substitute. Fabulous Foods has a version made with peas, portabellas, and red wine. The full recipe is posted on the Fabulous Foods site.