Beyond Shepherd’s Pie ( meat)

I strived for a little lighter shepherd’s pie with less fat and carbs. This was still quite hearty, and Saturday night satisfying even for the meat eaters in the family!

When I was a kid, if we were having shepherd’s pie for dinner, it was a good night indeed! It was one of my favorites, and we had it often. Technically, it wasn’t really shepherd’s pie since my mother used ground beef and not ground lamb. But the layers of beef and onions, whole kernel corn, and a topping of mashed potatoes were just about perfect to me. She often served it with green beans in her attempts to balance a green and yellow vegetables and that’s the way I still serve it, only my pie is a little different!

A family favorite casserole

Shepherd’s pie isn’t really a pie with a pastry topping, more a casserole. It is very hearty, filling, inexpensive to make, and serves a lot. Leftovers are also delicious.

But the downside as with many old comfort food classics is a lot of carbs and a lot of saturated fat. I needed to lighten this one up, but I wanted to keep the original flavor, mostly. 

An experiment

When I make a vegetarian shepherd’s pie, I usually just substitute a lot of mushrooms and onions for the meat, and it’s really delicious that way. However, I wanted to try the Beyond Beef ground meat substitute that was recommended to me. It is non-GMO, soy and gluten free, has 20 grams of protein per serving, more iron than ground meat, and is a source of dietary fiber, potassium, and calcium. It is also far lower in saturated fat than a meat product, but has a look, flavor, and texture of ground beef to keep the meat eaters happy. I’m not usually crazy about fake meat products, but they do have a lighter environmental footprint, and if you are cooking for a meat eater, letting a few of these imposters in keeps everyone happy.

To reduce the carbs somewhat, I substituted mashed cauliflower for half the potatoes. Actually, I put the cauliflower through a food processor with a bit of milk, and then added this to the mashed potatoes. It had a slight taste of cauliflower, but was still primarily potato in flavor. You can also use all cauliflower mash if you want to reduce the carbs even more.

Let’s keep the corn!

I couldn’t do away with the corn, so that remained the unaltered layer! I simply thawed frozen corn. If you have a favorite vegetable for a shepherd’s pie, then use that instead. This time around, I used both vegan butter and vegan Parmesan to top, so it was completely dairy free.

The result was a delicious shepherd’s pie that pretty much tasted like one made with meat and all potatoes. Assuming eight servings, a portion is around 350 calories, 35 carbs, 5 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of saturated fat. It also has 475 grams of potassium!

The verdict

The casserole was just as satisfying and delightfully creamy as the original, and it got the thumbs up by all even the second day reheated in the microwave! My husband was raised on a sheep farm and shepherd’s pie mean ground lamb. He loved this version as well, and didn’t miss the meat at all. The teenage grandson visited, socially distanced on the porch of course, and he absolutely loved it! He raved about it, but knowing me and my little tricks, halfway through asked me what the meat was! In fact, if you don’t tell someone it was a plant-based product, I doubt they would even ask.

Beyond Shepherd’s Pie

  • 2 cups mashed potatoes (2 lbs. potatoes)
  • 2 cups mashed cauliflower (I medium head)
  • Little milk or soy milk for the mash
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. Beyond Beef or other ground meat substitute
  • 1 large onion
  • Equal amount of slice mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp. ground fennel seeds
  • 16 oz. whole kernel corn
  • 2 tbsp. vegan butter
  • 1 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese or vegan substitute
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your mashed potatoes. Cook the potatoes starting in cold salted water and cook until very tender. Mash or put through a food mill and add milk and butter to thin, and season with salt and pepper. 

Prepare your cauliflower. Steam or boil the cauliflower until very tender. Place in a food processor with just a bit of milk and process until smooth.

Combine the potato and cauliflower, cover, and set aside. The exact proportions are up to you.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil and crumble in the meat substitute. Cook according package directions. In this case, about seven minutes got it cooked through with crispy bits, or cook until there is some nice browning on the crumbles. Remove from pan and set aside.

Put the last tbsp. of olive oil to the skillet and add the onions and mushrooms. Let sauté until soft, then add the garlic, thyme, and fennel seeds. Continue cooking for another couple of minutes, you are looking for a little bit of browning, then remove from the heat.

Butter a casserole dish and add the onion/mushroom mixture over the bottom. Sprinkle the meat mixture evenly over the top, then layer the corn.

Ready for the oven

Top with the mashed potatoes, leaving some dips and peaks to brown and look nice. Drizzle the melted butter, and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Cover.

Cook for about 25 minutes, you want all the layers to get to know each other, then turn on the broiler and remove the cover. Once the top is browned, remove from the oven and let rest for ten minutes.

Don’t forget the green beans!

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38 Comments Add yours

  1. cmartzloff says:

    This sounds so good! I’ve not seen or heard of Beyond Beef but will have to look for it.

    1. Thank you! I had seen the pre-formed burgers, but I had to go searching for the ground meat version. I found it in a freezer section of my market.

  2. Glad to know this meat substitute worked well. Great idea, to mix potatoes and cauliflower! 🙂

    1. Thank you Ronit! I was actually amazed at the outcome. I hadn’t used any ground meat substitute for a long time, and this one is a vast improvement.

      1. Will keep it in mind! 🙂

  3. This is perfect for my family right now. We don’t normally eat a lot of meat and sometimes it is hard to come up new recipes. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome! The whole family loved it as much as we did the original when we were kids.

  4. It sounds delicious! I have discovered Shepherd’s pie only when I came to Singapore and I love it even if I eat it at 30 degrees C ☺️ The part that I love most is that topping of mashed potatoes 🥔 being a potato lover! But I love cauliflower too so I think the combination is wonderful and no meat even better ☺️😁

    1. To me, this is a perfect comfort food, potatoes, cauliflower, beautiful corn, and no meat!

      1. Perfect comfort food indeed ☺️😋

  5. Very impressive! Using mashed cauliflower is so brilliant! I want to try your version with mushrooms and onions and no meat, that sounds really good to me…Interesting about the faux meat…

    1. Thank you! For years, I’ve made my shepherd’s pie with the mushrooms and onions, and everyone loves it! It didn’t taste exactly like my childhood memories of course, but it was delicious in its own right!

  6. Love this! I have to try this recipe! I love shepard’s pie and haven’t had it in ages!

    1. Thank you. It’s one of those dishes we forget about but when we make it we wonder why!

  7. Averyl says:

    I love Shepherd’s pie and usually make it with ground turkey or just vegetarian without a meat sub. When I do the latter I add extra butter. : )

    1. A little extra butter never hurts!

  8. I love the idea of mixing together cauliflower and potatoes! so clever!

    1. Thank you! The potato flavor dominates, so this was a pretty good swap!

  9. I’m glad that this meat-free Shepherd’s Pie worked well!! Everything is beyond-meat nowadays, haha

    1. You are right! Now I’m seeing it everywhere!

  10. chef mimi says:

    Wait. You really have an inn? How come I didn’t know that! You need an “about” page. Great recipe.

    1. Thank you Mimi! I book only limited guests now (none during Covid) just the occasional musician who is performing in town. I helped produce an annual music festival and other concerts for many years until its close, and still help out where I can. I do have an about page, but I guess it is hard to find! Just click on my profile picture!

      1. chef mimi says:


  11. Beautiful and gorgeous Pie!

    1. Thank you! I’ll certainly be making this one again!

  12. Forestwood says:

    I am impressed with your adaptations of an old favourite, Dorothy. I like the idea of substituting some cauliflower for potato. Great idea. The corn is something I have not seen before. We layer sliced tomato between potato and the meat. You have now inspired me to experiment with this dish to make it lower in calories and a little more contemporary.

    1. Thank you! I think every family has their favorite shepherd’s pie vegetables. I know a friend’s mother always used carrots and peas! My mom made it with just corn, so that is the flavor I crave when I make my versions of this. Comfort food can be just as satisfying lightened up, as you know, and I get no complaints!

      1. Forestwood says:

        Thanks for making me rethink the shepherds pie tradition. I will spread my cooking wings a little wider now!

      2. Enjoy the beautiful flight!

      3. Forestwood says:

        I did!!

  13. Carolyn Page says:

    Oh yum, Dorothy!
    So I’ve googled this plant based meat substitute, and yes, I can get it here in Oz. I’ll get some and give it a go.
    I luv, luv, luv shepherds pie.

    1. It’s my husband’s new favorite! I was surprised how much I liked it!

      1. Carolyn Page says:

        I’ll let you know how it goes! 😀

  14. madeline2020 says:

    Looks delish. Wondering if i can play with meat free options for my pastitsio recipe.

    1. Oh, I’m sure that is exactly the kind of recipe that would lend itself to this product! i’ve used it in chili, pasta sauce, and stuffed peppers with a tomato sauce, and it pretty much acts and tastes like meat.

  15. LaDonna Remy says:

    You have some wonderful recipes ♥️

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoy the site!

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