A healthy shepherd’s pie recipe, packed full of vegetables, earthy green lentils and a well seasoned, herby lamb mince, that will happily feed a crowd. This easy shepherd’s pie also freezes well, so why not make two and stash one in the freezer for another easy meal.
TOTAL TIME INVESTMENT: 1 HOUR 50 MINUTES
I am not a fan of roast lamb. Never have been. A lamb roast has to be well marinated, then so slowly cooked that the meat is falling off the bone for me to even consider eating it.
As a child I would stare resolutely at the slabs of lamb congealing on my plate, wishing they would miraculously disappear. But I was never happier at dinnertime than when mum had enough cold leftover lamb to make shepherd’s pie
I have tried over the years to recreate the shepherd’s pie of my childhood with limited success and despite asking mum for instructions more than once. Any shepherd’s pie I make is never as good as the one in my memory, so I took a different route and created my own healthy version.
Table of contents
My healthy shepherd’s pie recipe makes ether one huge pie or two smaller pies. As shepherd’s pie freezes extremely well, I usually make two smaller pies and freeze one for another meal – the cook 2, freeze 1 method for freezer meals.
And if you are looking to stock the freezer with a few extra meals, make sure you grab my easy freezer meals guide. Simply click the link below or request the password for my Resource Library at the end of this post.
Shepherd’s Pie with Leftover Lamb
Traditionally, shepherd’s pie was made using leftovers from the Sunday lamb roast. The cold leftover lamb would be finely chopped or minced, mixed with the leftover drippings and gravy, and topped with mashed potato to extend the leftovers and create a whole new meal.
As a child, I was never more excited about dinner than when mum would drag out her old, hand cranked mincer and screw it to the bench the day after roast lamb appeared at the table.
I loved feeding the cold lamb chunks through the small opening. The curly tendrils of leftover lamb that fell from the mincer signaled good things to be had for dinner. And whilst I would never finish the original lamb roast, I could be guaranteed to clean my plate any time shepherd’s pie was on the menu.
Roast lamb is a rare occurrence in our house, so lamb mince replaces the traditional leftover lamb in my healthy shepherd’s pie recipe. Bulked out with vegetables, earthy green lentils and a lot of seasoning, this easy shepherd’s pie recipe is very different from, but every bit as good as, the pie from my childhood.
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Ingredient Substitutions for My Healthy Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
My easy shepherd’s pie recipe is ripe for substitutions. Play with the ingredients depending on your family preferences and the ingredients you have available in the store cupboard.
- Replace the lamb mince with leftover cold roast lamb. I have used the leftovers from my slow cooked roast lamb with great success. Simply finely chop the leftover lamb and use it in place of the lamb mince. To chop the leftover lamb, I usually pulse it in the Thermomix or food processor until it resembles mince.
- Beef mince can be substituted for the lamb mince or leftover lamb, although then you are actually making a cottage pie instead.
- Any lentils can be used in place of the green Puy lentils. Try whole red or black (Beluga) lentils, or the larger flat, green-brown lentils. Do not use canned lentils in this recipe if you can avoid it though; the canning process makes them too soft and the lentils do not hold up as well in the longer cooking process.
- Lamb and lentils are a great combination; the astringency of the lentils balances out the sweetness of the lamb and adds additional nutrients to the dish. If lentils really are a bridge too far for your family though, replace the lentils with additional lamb mince. Use 1kg (2 lb) of lamb mince instead of both the lamb and lentils.
- Any stock can be used in this easy shepherd’s pie recipe. A light chicken stock or beef stock can be used in place of the vegetable or lamb stock.
- Use 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme in place of the thyme sprigs.
- Replace the plain flour with a gluten free flour to make the dish. Also check that the Worcestershire sauce you select is gluten free if you need the dish to be gluten free.
- Any vegetable mash can be used in place of the potato to top this healthy shepherd’s pie recipe. Sweet potato mash would be a good alternative, as would this cauliflower and leek mash (I make this one regularly – it is delicious!)
Easy Shepherd’s Pie Recipe: Frequently Asked Questions
Cottage pie is made with beef mince and shepherd’s pie is made with lamb mince or leftover lamb.
I have made a few tweaks to the original shepherd’s pie recipe to make this healthier version. Replacing half of the meat with the lentils and increasing the vegetable content helps boosts the nutrient content of the dish.
A simple side dish is the perfect accompaniment for an easy shepherd’s pie. A green salad or some steamed greens will pair perfectly with the rich meat sauce.
Leftover shepherd’s pie will last for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Shepherd’s pie reheats very well. A large portion can be reheated in the oven, whilst smaller portions can be easily reheated in the microwave.
Yes, shepherd’s pie can be prepared up to two days in advance. Keep the assembled pie covered in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.
Shepherd’s pie freezes extremely well. I always split this recipe in two, and freeze one dish for later. See below for my freezing instructions.
How To Freeze Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie freezes so well that I always make two pies: one for dinner and one for the freezer.
The easiest way to freeze shepherd’s pie is to assemble the pie as detailed in the recipe below in a freezer-safe dish, wrap or cover it well, and freeze the whole pie.
I prefer to use a glass baking tray with a lid, as I can slide the baking tray straight into the oven if I have neglected to defrost the pie first. I have also used foil trays with lids to freeze shepherd’s pie if my glass trays are in use.
Defrost the frozen shepherd’s pie in the fridge overnight and then cook as detailed in the recipe.
Shepherd’s pie can also be baked from frozen if required (or if like me you forget to defrost it). Just add an extra 30 – 40 minutes to the cooking time and cover the pie with foil for the first 30 minutes to prevent the topping from burning before the centre is defrosted.
If you don’t have room to freeze an assembled shepherd’s pie, you can make the pie filling in advance and freeze it. Defrost the filling completely, make the mashed potato, then assemble and bake the pie as detailed in the recipe.
Shepherd’s pie and/or the meat filling can be frozen for up to four months if well wrapped or covered.
Healthy Shepherd’s Pie: A Few Final Tips
I love that shepherd’s pie is easy to make, freezes brilliantly and requires little more than a side salad to turn it into a whole meal. I leave you with a few final tips to make sure your own version of my healthy shepherd’s pie recipe is a huge success.
- I soak my lentils overnight in a large bowl of water. This is not an essential step, but the lentils will cook much faster if you do soak them.
- You will need one large (up to 4L/4 quarts) or two medium sized baking dishes to assemble my healthy shepherd’s pie recipe. I usually divide the meat mixture between two 2L (2 quart) baking dishes, then cook one for dinner and freeze the other pie. A 2L container is slightly larger than you will need, but it stops the pie filling overflowing onto the oven floor.
- You can assemble the shepherd’s pie in advance if you prefer and keep it in the fridge until required. The pie can be assembled up to two days in advance.
- Leftover shepherds pie will last in the fridge for up to three days. Simply reheat before serving. Or eat it cold if you prefer.
Other Easy Freezer Meals You May Like
There are two approaches to freezer meals. Some people like to cook all day to fill the freezer. Others like to simply double a recipe they are cooking and put the leftovers or extra meal in the freezer.
The latter is the method I use to put meals aside for a rainy day, and the following recipes are all suitable for doubling to make an additional freezer meal.
- Slow Cooker Mild Chicken Curry
- Crustless Zucchini Quiche
- Homemade Baked Beans with Smoked Ham Hock
- Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce
- Oven Roasted Chili with Hidden Vegetables
- Slow Cooker Beef & Mushroom Stew
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Lamb & Lentil Healthy Shepherd’s Pie
To cook the lentils
- 230 g (1 1/4 cups) small green French (Puy) lentils
- 1 bay leaf
For the filling
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or ghee
- 2 large onions diced
- 3 large carrots (approx 2 1/2 cups) diced
- 400 g (5 cups) mushrooms diced
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
- 500 g (1 lb) minced lamb
- 2 Tablespoons plain flour
- 400 ml (1 3/4 cups) vegetable or lamb stock
- 400 g (14oz) canned crushed tomatoes
- 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
- Salt & Pepper
For the topping
- 1 kg (2 lb) potatoes peeled and roughly chopped.
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 60 ml (1/3 cup) milk plus extra if required
- Salt & Pepper
To cook the lentils
- If the lentils have been soaked overnight (see Note 1), rinse and drain them.
- Place the lentils in a medium saucepan, add the bay leaf, and cover the lentils with cold water.
- Bring the lentils to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes (soaked) to 20 minutes (unsoaked), or until the lentils are just soft enough to be crushed between your fingers.
- Drain the lentils, retain the bay leaf, and set aside.
To make the filling
- Add the oil and onions to a large fry pan with a lid (or a large dutch oven) over a medium heat.
- Saute the onions for 10 minutes, or until softened and browned.
- Add the carrots and saute for a further 3 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms, and saute for a further 3 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened.
- Stir in the garlic and the chopped rosemary, and saute for a further minute.
- Stir the lamb mince into the vegetables, and cooking for a further 3 minutes, or until the meat is lightly browned.
- Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetable mixture, stir through, and cook for a further minute. It may be necessary to scrape the bottom of the pan if the meat starts to stick.
- Gently pour in the stock, stirring it through the meat and vegetables, and simmer gently until the mixture slightly thickens.
- Add the remainder of the ingredients, including the drained lentils and the reserved bay leaf.
- Season with salt & pepper, and bring the mixture to the boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture thickens too much, stir in a little water.
To make the topping
- Whilst the filling is cooking, boil or steam the potatoes until quite soft. I prefer to steam my potatoes using a steaming basket in a large saucepan.
- Drain the potatoes, and allow them to sit without a lid for two minutes to allow them to dry slightly.
- Add the butter and milk to the saucepan, and season with salt and pepper.
- Mash the potatoes together with the butter and milk. If the mixture seems too stiff, add a little more milk. You are aiming for a smooth mash that can be spread across the top of the pie.
To assemble the pie
- Remove the thyme sprigs from the meat mixture. Discard.
- Spoon the filling into the bottom of the casseroles dish(es).
- Top the filling with the mashed potato. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon. At this point I like to rough up the top of the mash with a fork, which will brown in the heat of the oven.
- The pies can be frozen at this point. *
- If serving immediately, cook the pie at 200C (180C fan forced) for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top has browned and the filling is bubbling up the side.
- Serve with a simple salad or steamed vegetables.
- It is not essential to soak the lentils, but doing so will decrease the cooking time.
- ^ The pie will be gluten free if you use a gluten free plain flour.
- Shepherd’s pie can be cooked from frozen, however I find it cooks more evenly if you defrost it first. If cooking from frozen, add an extra 30- 40 minutes to the cooking time and cover the baking dish with foil for the first 30 minutes.
- Assemble the shepherd’s pie in one large (up to 4L/4 quarts) or two medium sized (2L/2 quarts) baking dishes.
- The shepherd’s pie can be assembled up to two days in advance and kept in the fridge until required.
- Freeze uncooked shepherd’s pie for up to four months if well wrapped.
Update Notes: This post was originally published on 14th September 2015. It was substantially updated on 10th June 2019 to include ingredient substitutions, FAQ’s, Table of Contents, nutritional information and to improve the readability of the text.