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Healthy Shepherd's Pie

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  1 hr 10 min
  • Calories: 358
Paleo Shepherds Pie, whole 30 parsnip pie with a scoop taken out on a table

While it’s true that this Whole30 shepherd’s pie is dairy-free, gluten-free, legume-less, and sugar free, much more importantly it just might be the tastiest thing you’ve ever made for dinner.

An Easy-Peasy Shepherd's Pie Recipe!

As much as we’d like to live on cheese and Christmas cookies and prime rib for the rest of our lives, we’re only human. Even us food bloggers eventually have to hit the reset button. One of our favorite ways to do that is by doing the Whole30. This beef-laden homemade shepherd’s pie recipe came into being during a recent experience with Whole30. We wanted something really comforting and hearty, but of course didn’t want to mess up all our hard work. Lots of meat and veggies make for a rib-sticking filling, while parsnips give the topping that classic whipped starchiness that is an absolute must when it comes to shepherd’s pie. Dinner doesn’t have to taste like deprivation, even when you’re working hard to eat healthily, and this super satisfying recipe is the tasty, tasty proof.

3 parsnips on the table
homemade healthy shepherds pie filling with ground beef and vegetables cooked in a braising pan.

What is Traditional Shepherd's Pie?

Pure wintery comfort food, shepherd’s pie is a British staple that’s traditionally made with a lamb-based filling and topped with buttery mashed potatoes. In fact, if we were being real sticklers about it, a shepherd’s pie made with beef is usually called “cottage pie”. But we grew up calling it shepherd’s pie and so we’re sticking with that. In our healthier version of the recipe, a lightened up parsnip purée stands in for the classic, cream-laced mashed potatoes and is a perfect accompaniment to the rich, tomato saucy beef and veggies below it, making this shepherd’s pie the ultimate bowl of comfort.

ground beef, vegetables and tomatoes cooked down in a pan for shepherd's pie

What's in Shepherd's Pie?

Shepherd’s pie ingredients vary a bit recipe to recipe, as is true of so many humble and traditional recipes like this. People often made it with what they had—shepherd’s pie was traditionally a peasant food, nothing fancy here. Even today, a lot of people see shepherd’s pie as a way to use up what you’ve got—leftover mashed potatoes, or sautée veggies. Even though our Whole30 shepherd’s pie recipe is a bit modern in intention, the ingredients are humble and simple. You’ll need:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Ground beef
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Chicken stock
  • Cabbage
  • Parsnips
hand spreading parsnip puree on the top of a shepherd's pie

How Do You Make Shepherd’s Pie From Scratch?

Like all of the world’s best casseroles, shepherd’s pie is all about the ease of a single-pan meal. In other words, you can totally make a shepherd’s pie from scratch, easily, even if you’ve never made one before. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Brown the beef along with the onions, garlic, carrots, celery.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken stock, then add the cabbage.
  3. Simmer the shepherd's pie filling for a few minutes to meld the flavors.
  4. Spoon it into a baking dish.
  5. Now make the parsnip purée by boiling the parsnips, then puréeing them with a bit of stock, salt and pepper until they've got the texture of mashed potatoes.
  6. Spread the purée over the beef filling and bake!
Paleo and Whole Shepherds Pie on a table with parsley
Paleo Shepherds Pie, whole 30 parsnip pie with a scoop taken out on a table

Tools You’ll Need:

More Easy, Beefy Whole30 Recipes To Try

Paleo Shepherds Pie with a parsnip puree and ground beef and vegetables

Feel-Good Food To Feel Good About

Don’t you just love the idea that you can indulge in your favorite comfort foods while knowing that you’re also feeding your body with the nutrients it needs? It’s a great feeling, and we hope this healthy shepherd’s pie recipe makes you feel good inside and out! If you try it, we’d love to know. Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Healthy Shepherd's Pie

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  1 hr 10 min
  • Calories: 358


  • 2 1/4 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds 90/10 ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large or 4 small carrots, finely diced
  • 3 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, optional
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving (optional)
  • Minced fresh chives, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the parsnips and cook until very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly.

  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the beef, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the beef is browned and the vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the chicken stock and the cornstarch. Pour the cornstarch slurry into the beef mixture, along with the tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Stir to combine well, then add the cabbage. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the sauce thickens and the cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish or Dutch oven.

  5. Place the parsnips in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock and blend until the mixture is completely smooth. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon garlic powder and blend again to combine. Spread the puréed parsnips over the meat mixture creating small swoops with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

  6. Bake the shepherd’s pie until the top is beginning to brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and chives, if desired. Spoon onto plates and serve.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories358
  • Protein28 g
  • Carbohydrates26 g
  • Total Fat15 g
  • Dietary Fiber9 g
  • Cholesterol70 mg
  • sodium605 mg
  • Total Sugars13 g

Healthy Shepherd's Pie

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Chris

    Not a huge fan of parsnips, would replacing parsnips with potato still work?


  • Kassandra

    Can I substitute red cabbage for green?


  • Justin Ben-Ari

    Can you replace the beef with ground turkey?

    Sure can!

  • Scotty

    Are you supposed to drain the the meat before adding the tomatoes and paste?

    Nope! We call for a rather lean 90/10 ground beef, so there shouldn't be too much to drain.

  • Ashley B

    This is such a delicious recipe! I’ve made it several times for guests and everyone loves it. You don’t miss the potatoes at all. I love being able to make it ahead of time and just plan to take it out of the oven when dinner is ready. Highly recommend this recipe and I will be making it many more times!

    Thank you Ashley, we are so happy you and your guests always love it! Thanks so much for coming back to it time and time again!

  • Tia

    This turned out delicious. I loved the addition of cabbage which I would not have thought to put in Shepherd's Pie. I used ground turkey in place of ground beef and the flavor combo turned out perfect with the veggies and roots. Thanks for something different!

    Great! So glad you liked it!

  • Jenny Jordan

    Pleasantly surprised - this was definitely a hit! We've made it twice now, and have adapted it to our own with the addition of worchestershire sauce, herbs and salt/pepper - it definitely needs seasoning.

    I had never had parsnips before, and had reservations but was really surprised - They worked just as well as potatoes for the top and had we not told our guests, I'm not sure if anyone would have noticed.

    There's plenty left over for lunch the following day and although somewhat labor intensive on the prep part, it will definitely be kept in rotation. Also a plus for something delicious and relatively easy to make for guests with gluten restrictions!

    Wonderful news! I like to add a little garlic and onion powder to the parsnips to get some flavor in them!

  • Ally

    Made this recipe for dinner & love how many veggies are in it! Vet nutrient dense and filling. Plus made a ton of leftovers that are great for work lunches! Only suggestion is the addition of spices. We added some herbs, hot sauce and salt for flavor

    Glad you enjoyed it Ally!

  • Stephanie Allen

    I honestly wasn’t sure about this recipe but holy crap it was so good! Cooked almost exactly as recipe but added worstechire (sp?) and some more herbs. It was BOMB! I never had parsnips before but they are a bit more flavorful than potato’s with a kind of minty type taste. Boiled them til I could mash them which worked well bc I don’t have a blender. This was absolutely delicious and perfect for meal prep thank you!!!

    We are so happy you gave it a try Stephanie! Glad you liked it!