Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower is a lightened up version of the classic comfort food favorite! It has ground meat, sauce, veggies and delicious low carb, cheesy cauliflower mash on top.
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September is like a clock. Weather cools off and we all start craving comfort.
You know what’s great about this Shepherd’s Pie with cauliflower? It tastes good! Not all low carb food taste delicious, especially when it comes to classics makeovers.
While there is a time and place for traditional Shepherd’s pie, this lighter version is delicious layered with veggies, ground meat, and cauliflower mash. A sprinkle of cheese seals the deal on the top, then it’s broiled until golden.
You have to try!
Ingredients and Notes
Cauliflower shepherd’s pie is made with simple ingredients that fit into a healthy lifestyle.
- Cauliflower: I used a whole head of cauliflower, it makes low carb faux potato crust. Easy peasy.
- Ground meat: Lean ground turkey or ground chicken keeps this cottage pie lighter.
- Chickpeas: Use canned low sodium. I use Instant Pot chickpeas. The philosophy behind this step is to eat less meat. You can sub extra ground meat for the beans though.
- Frozen vegetables: Frozen peas and corn, although you could use mixed frozen vegetables with added carrots.
- Liquids: Low sodium chicken or vegetable stock plus any milk. I used unsweetened almond milk.
- Cheese: Grated mozzarella or cheddar go on top of cauliflower mash to make golden irresistible crust.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Mash
I used wide and deep cast iron Dutch oven but any ovenproof skillet works. You can also cook meat sauce in regular skillet and then assemble pie in a baking dish for broiling.
Prep cauliflower by separating it into florets then cutting it into smaller pieces. Follow my how to cut cauliflower step by step method for best results.
Cook chopped cauliflower and whole clove of garlic in a pot with water for 10 minutes or until fork tender.
Cook ground meat in skillet over medium heat while cauliflower is cooking by sauteing garlic first and then meat, stirring often and breaking into pieces.
Make the sauce by whisking cold stock and milk, cornstarch, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a medium bowl. Then pour over ground meat and let it simmer until thickened, for 5 minutes.
Make cauliflower mash while meat is simmering away in yummy sauce. Drain cooked cauliflower and do not discard garlic.
Add butter, salt and pepper and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Leftovers of slow cooker cauliflower mashed potatoes could work here, too!
Now add frozen veggies and chickpeas to the skillet with meat sauce. Garbanzo beans are a perfect candidate to innocently blend in with delicious sauce, corn, peas and meat.
Dollop cauliflower topping on top of filling, spread with spatula and it’s OK if it doesn’t cover entire skillet.
Sprinkle with cheese and broil for 5 minutes. Rotate if necessary to ensure even broiling. Serve hot!
This really is a one pot meal but here are some other healthy recipes that we love to serve with this dish.
Storage and Freezer Instructions
Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
To reheat: Simply transfer casserole to a small baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F until warmed through, about 10-15 minutes.
Freeze in portions. Simply cook, cool, divide between containers and freeze for up to 3 months. This healthy Shepherd’s pie is perfect for Sunday meal prep. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Can I Make This Ahead of Time?
To make ahead, cook cauliflower mash and filling. Refrigerate separately for up to 2 days. When ready to enjoy, you will have to bake the casserole because ingredients will be cold straight from the fridge.
Assemble in a casserole dish or cast iron skillet and bake at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Then sprinkle with cheese and broil until golden brown.
For a dairy free diet, substitute vegan butter and omit the cheese.
If paleo is part of your healthy eating goals, you will need to substitute butter for ghee, use all ground meat instead of chickpeas, use dairy free milk and omit the cheese.
Yes, use ground lamb for a more traditional shepherd’s pie or lean ground beef for a traditional cottage pie. You could also use a turkey beef mixture to add some variety.
More Healthy Comfort Food Recipes
- Santa fe chicken and lentil casserole
- Chicken zucchini casserole
- Black bean quinoa casserole
- Spaghetti squash casserole
- Healthy sweet potato casserole
Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Topping
Mashed Cauliflower Crust:
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 lb ground meat I used turkey (beef or lamb is OK too)
- 1 tbsp oil for frying
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock low sodium
- 1 1/2 cups any milk I used almond milk
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 14 oz can chickpeas low sodium, drained & rinsed
- 2 cups corn frozen or fresh
- 2 cups peas frozen or fresh
- Separate cauliflower into florets and cut in smaller chunks.
- In a medium pot, combine cauliflower, garlic and enough cold water to cover. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. Drain.
- While cauliflower is cooking, preheat large deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat and swirl 1 tbsp of oil to coat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add ground meat and cook for 8-10 minutes or until brown, breaking into small pieces with spatula.
- In a small bowl, whisk together stock and cold milk, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Pour over meat, stir, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until thickened.
- While meat sauce is cooking, to a pot with cauliflower add butter or olive oil, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Using an immersion blender, process until very smooth consistency. Set aside.
- To the meat sauce, add chickpeas, corn and peas and stir well.
- Place dollops of mashed cauliflower on top and level with spatula. It might not cover entire skillet. Sprinkle with cheese and place under broiler for 5 minutes (rotating if necessary) or until cheese has melted. Serve hot.
- Store: Refrigerate for up to 3-5 days. Reheat in small baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F until warmed through, about 10 minutes.
- Freeze: Cook, cool, divide between containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
- To make ahead: Cook cauliflower mash and filling. Refrigerate separately for up to 2 days. When ready, you will have to bake the casserole because ingredients will be cold straight from the fridge. Assemble in a casserole dish or cast iron skillet and bake at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Then sprinkle with cheese and broil until golden brown.
- If you don’t own any cast iron skillet, make meat sauce in a skillet with a lid and then transfer to a baking dish before broiling.
- Frozen mixed veggies: Can be used instead of frozen corn and peas.