Somewhat Healthy Mexican Inspired Shepherd’s Pie

What is more comforting than shepherd’s pie? In my opinion, not a whole lot, but it is a heavy dish that has a tendency to leave you a bit lethargic. At least a couple times a month I like to convince myself that I AM HEALTHY. On a weekend not so long ago, I was planning on having friends over for dinner. I was psyched to have an audience to prove my healthy ways too, but immediately following this night I planned to go back to baking with stick after stick of butter.

So how do I make shepherd’s pie remotely good for you? OK, sweet potatoes, yes. Meat layer… ground turkey seems logical? Those lean, mean birds can take on a lot of flavor. Let’s do this! It already sounds like a lighter version of the classic. 

I’m not sure what went on in my head next, perhaps I heard a Taco Bell commercial in the background, but I knew I wanted to bring some Mexican influence to this creation. Corn mixed with the meat is fairly traditional in shepherd’s pie, so I figured we can keep that going. Toast it, roast it and toss it in. Black beans? Giddy up. Peppers: mild, sweet and spicy? Game on. Maybe a little citrus element like lime juice and cilantro? Done deal.

shep 1

Here’s what you need: (This fills a 9″ x 12″ baking dish & will feed a little league team.)

Sweet Potato Layer

– (6) Large Sweet Potatoes

– (3) Limes (Juice)

– (3) Tbsps. Cajun Seasoning (Maybe a little more, go with your gut.)

– (1) Tbsps. Brown Sugar

– (2) oz Goat Cheese (Little goes a long way.)

– Dash of Course Sea Salt & Black Pepper

– Freshly Grated Cheese to Garnish (Like queso fresco or queso blanco)

Meat Layer

– (2-2 .5) Lbs. Ground Turkey


   – (1) tsps. Cayenne Pepper

   – (1 .5)  tsps. Cumin

   – (1 .5) tsps. Chili Powder

   – (1) Tbsps. Poultry Seasoning

   – Some Salt & Pepper

BACK TO EVERYTHING ELSE (There are a lot of steps coming in the directions, hope you’re feeling ambitious.)

– Splash of Olive Oil

– (1) Carrot (Peeled & Chopped)

– (1) Sweet Onion (Chopped)

– (2) Tbsps. Minced Garlic

– (1) Tbsps. Crushed Red Pepper

– ( 1 .5) Cups Chicken Stock

– (4) Jalapenos (Diced)

– (1) Red Bell Pepper (Diced)

– Chopped Cilantro ( A lot of people despise this ingredient, I’ll address you weirdos later, but I say use a decent amount. I’ll leave this up to your discretion.)

– Healthy Splash of Wine (I prefer red, but white could suffice.)

– Several Splashes of Worcestershire Sauce

– (2-3) Limes (Juice)

– (1) Tbsp. Flour

– (1) Can of Low Sodium Black Beans

OK, here we go!!

I make the sweet potatoes first. I like to roast them in foil until they’re soft. I SWEAR you can taste the difference, it’s probably in my head. You can get them to this point however you want: roasted, boiled, zapped in the microwave, basically whatever you have time for. Now, get the skin off and mash them in a large bowl. Toss in the cajun seasoning, brown sugar, salt & lime juice and continue to mash. Now I like to fold in the goat cheese. This I originally added because there was some in my fridge and I figured why not. It adds an interesting tang and sense of balance to all the other flavors. If you like rustic potatoes, you can stop mashing at this point. Personally, I enjoy when the top half of shepherd’s pie is somewhat light, so I whip the potatoes in my Kitchen Aid for a few minutes.

sweet pots

Next, mix the cayenne, cumin, chili powder, poultry seasoning and s & p. Then douse the turkey in this rub and set aside.

Now, chop the carrots and onions. Get a small sauce pan and coat it with olive oil. Toss in the veggies, garlic and crushed red pepper. Allow to simmer until everything is soft. Add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock to this mixture. Take out an immersion blender and break it down a bit. It doesn’t need to become completely smooth, rustic chunky vegetables are delicious. Set this aside, you’ll use it in a minute.

carrots onions

OK, there’s a little more prepping before the meat layer all starts coming together. Stay with me people! Chop up your jalapenos, red bell pepper & cilantro. You can use any color bell pepper, but the red is pretty, and it’s allll about the presentation. Open the can of corn and drain. If you have fresh corn hanging around, by all means, go for it. Frozen is cool too (pun intended). Roast all that corn in a saute pan until it has a golden glow. Now, you guessed it, set it aside!


If you haven’t gotten sick of all these steps yet, congratulations, payoff is near. Things are going to start piecing together really quickly now.

Grab another large saute pan, splash some olive oil and start browning the turkey. Once it’s fairly browned and broken up, start adding the chicken stock, wine, worcestershire sauce & lime juice. At this point, I add a little flower to thicken up the sauce to a more gravy like consistency. If gluten is your arch nemesis, feel free to use corn starch or something of the like. Next, fold in the carrot/onion mixture. Following this, toss in the chopped jalapenos and bell pepper. I  add these closer to the end so they keep a little bit of crunch.

Now crack open those low sodium black beans. I specified low sodium because in this case, you want to use all the juices in the can. I would usually rinse canned black beans, but the sauce they live in is oh so tastey in this dish. If you aren’t afraid of high blood pressure, then by all means, don’t concern yourself with sodium intake. Anyway, pour the entire can into the turkey. By now you should also be folding in your toasted corn.

Finally, it’s time to add your chopped cilantro. If you’re making a face right now, stop it. Yes, cilantro is an acquired taste, but you acquire a taste for something by slowly implementing it into your diet. Give it a try in this meal. It adds a subtle citrus element that is uniquely different from only using lime juice.

OK, get your baking dish and grease it slightly. Pour the turkey layer on the bottom. Now spread the sweet potatoes on top. Topping with cheese is optional, but really, why wouldn’t you? Queso fresco or queso blanco would keep the Mexican theme going, but if you have something like pecorino or parmesan, you will still be happy. Bake this monster in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, just so it’s warmed through and the flavors have set. Garnish with sliced jalapenos and lime wedges. Delightful additions could be a little sour cream and/or guacamole on the side.

shep 2

Nailed it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s