Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

This Tukey Shepherd’s Pie recipe is the definition of comfort food and so easy thanks to leftover turkey or rotisserie chicken – the dish practically makes itself!

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie is the ideal cozy recipe for using up those holiday leftovers, or swap in ground turkey or rotisserie chicken! It’s loaded with juicy turkey, carrots, bell peppers and peas swaddled in a creamy, herb-infused sauce all topped with creamy mashed potatoes and melty Gruyere cheese. This shepherd’s pie recipe is super easy to prep with leftovers, make ahead friendly (just pop it in the oven) and freezes well too.  Serve it up with some bacon broccoli salad and dinner rolls to complete the feast!

If you’re looking for more ways to reimagine turkey leftovers, try: Turkey Tetrazzini, Monte Cristo Sandwiches, Turkey Rice Soup, Turkey Sliders, All of my turkey recipes! 

How to Make Turkey Shepherd’s Pie Video

top view of turkey shepherd's pie showing the creamy filling with chicken, carrots, bell peppers
a bowl serving turkey shepherds pie garnished by parsley

Ingredients in Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, herbs and aromatics come together to create this rich, savory, satisfying Turkey Shepherds Pie. You can also make everything from scratch for this recipe, of course! Let’s review the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe (measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Turkey: You’ll need cooked turkey meat for this recipe. It can be light or dark, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s shredded or chopped.  For Thanksgiving, a whole roast turkey is tasty, or I’ll even roast turkey breast just for this recipe!
  • Mashed potatoes: Use leftover mashed potatoes, or make a fresh batch of company mashed potatoes to use in this recipe.  Alternatively, you can go as simple as whipping together cooked potatoes with milk, and salt!
  • Butter + olive oil:  The combination of butter and olive oil give us flavor but with less fat.  Use unsalted butter so we can control the salt.
  • Chicken broth: Use low sodium chicken broth so we can control the salt. Low sodium broth also allows us to use chicken bouillon which amps up the flavor.
  • Chicken bouillon: This imparts a complex, savory, goodness to the sauce (it’s like salt with FLAVOR). You may use bouillon powder, bouillon cubes or bouillon base (like Better Than Bouillon or Zoup!).  Add it to the filling without dissolving in liquid first. 
  • Aromatics: One yellow onion and 4 garlic cloves are the building blocks of the sauce. 
  • Veggies: Bell pepper, carrots, celery, and peas create the classic filling but you may substitute with equal amounts of your favorite sautéed vegetables.
  • Flour: Use all-purpose flour or gluten-free 1 to 1 baking flour. 
  • Milk: Any kind of milk can be used. Less fat milk will require longer simmering time.
  • Herbs: Dried parsley, dried oregano, dried thyme, and dried sage lace the sauce with nostalgic Thanksgiving goodness.
  • Shredded Gruyere: It’s sweet, slightly salty, creamy, nutty and boasts enough flavor to cut through the richness of the potatoes and sauce. Gruyere is a Swiss cheese and can be found with the specialty cheese (usually by the deli) at your grocery store. 

ingredient substitutions

  • Turkey: Use ground turkey, chopped cooked chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken. 
  • Mashed potatoes: Use leftover, freshly made, or store-bought mashed potatoes. Or, use cauliflower mashed “potatoes.”
  • Aromatics: You may substitute with 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 teaspoon garlic powder if you’re out, but fresh is so much better!
  • Flour: Regular or gluten-free baking flour both work. 
  • Chicken broth: Vegetable broth can also be used, but it’s not as flavorful. 
  • Fresh herbs: You may use 3X the amount of fresh herbs.  Add them to the sauce with the turkey.
  • Gruyere: Freshly shredded mozzarella or cheddar may also be used. 
up close of turkey shepherd's pie showing the creamy filling

How to Make Turkey Shepherd’s Pie 

This recipe uses leftover turkey and potatoes, so much of the prep work is already taken care of!  Here’s a look at how make this shepherd’s pie recipe (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):  

  • Step 1: Cook the vegetables. Sauté the onions, bell peppers, carrots, and celery in a large oven safe pan. Add the garlic and sauté 30 more seconds.
a collage showing how to make turkey shepherd's pie by sautéing onions, garlic, carrots, and bell peppers
  • Step 2: Make the sauce. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook while stirring for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the chicken broth, milk and herbs.
a collage showing how to make turkey shepherd's pie by adding flour, chicken broth, milk and seasonings
  • Step 3: Simmer. Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to simmer until thickened. 
showing how to make turkey shepherd's pie recipe simmering the filling until thickened
  • Step 4: Add the turkey and peas: Stir in the turkey and peas and heat through for about 1 minute over medium heat.   
a collage showing how to make turkey shepherd's pie recipe by stirring in leftover turkey and frozen peas
  • Step 5: Top with mashed potatoes. Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling, then top with shredded cheese.
a collage showing how to make turkey shepherd's pie recipe by adding mashed potatoes, then topping with cheese
  • Step 6: Bake. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and cheese is completely melted. Finally, turn to broil to crisp up those potato peaks!
showing how to make turkey shepherd's pie recipe by baking until golden
  • If you don’t have an oven proof skillet:  Use whatever skillet you have and transfer the filling to a baking dish before topping with mashed potatoes. 
  • Cook the flour long enough. It is important to cook the flour for a full 2 minutes to eliminate the raw flour taste; set a timer and don’t shortcut it! This also helps prevent lumps from forming when the roux is combined with milk and broth to create a smooth, uniform sauce.
  • Thicken filling to desired consistency. Whatever consistency your filling is before you pop it into the oven, will be the consistency it is once it’s out of the oven. For a thicker filling, simmer longer; for a thinner sauce, simply add additional chicken broth. 
  • Season to taste. The filling will taste the same once it’s out of the oven, so taste before topping with mashed potatoes season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I like both!).
  • Create soft peaks with the mashed potatoes. I like to spread the mashed potatoes over the filling with a rubber spatula or similar, then I’ll take the back of a spoon and swirl it over top.  You can also use a fork and run it over the surface of the potatoes. All those little crevices crisp up beautifully in the oven for delightful texture.
  • Customize as needed. Feel free to mix and match the veggies and herbs as needed based on what you have. If you’re making this Turkey Shepherd’s Pie with holiday leftovers, you might have lots of one ingredient and not enough of another. Make do with what you have, knowing that the flavor will differ slightly. 
top view of serving turkey shepherd's pie garnished with parsley
  • Meat: Any meat will do! Go back to your English roots and try lamb or you can also use rotisserie chicken, lean ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, Italian Sausage, etc.
  • Vegetables:  Swap the vegetables for any of your favorites such as corn, green beans, mushrooms, butternut squash, zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower.  The vegetables need to be sautéed before popping in the oven.
  • Frozen veggies: Save time chopping by using a bag of mixed frozen vegetables instead.  No need to thaw first.
  • Add other Thanksgiving leftovers:  Add stuffing, green beans, creamed corn, cranberry sauce, etc., whatever you think your family would enjoy.
  • Make mini shepherds pies:  Divide the filling among ramekins, then top with the mashed potatoes and cheese.  Bake on a baking sheet until the filling is bubbly around the edges and the cheese is melted,  about 15 minutes, then broil to crisp up those mashed potato peaks.
  • Meatless: Add in more veggies and cut the meat all together.  Use mushrooms, squash, eggplant, etc. in place of the meat.
  • Potatoes: Try mashed sweet potatoes for a sweet and savory treat. Or try a combination of Russet and sweet potatoes.
  • Cheese: Replace the Gruyere with mozzarella or cheddar for a different flavor profile. 
  • Vegetarian/Vegan: Use vegetable stock, vegan-milk alternative, and skip the bouillon and cheese. Also use vegan mashed potatoes.
  • Topping: Try adding herbs or panko breadcrumbs atop the mashed potatoes.
  • Glutenfree: Omit the flour and use a gluten-free 1:1 baking flour. 
  • Healthier option: Replace the mashed potatoes with cauliflower mash instead.  

Shepherd’s Pie FAQS

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHEPHERDS PIE AND COTTAGE PIE?

Shepherd’s pie (or more accurately termed “Cottage pie,” when made with beef, “shepherd’s pie when made with lamb), had been around for centuries.
The name “cottage pie” predates “shepherd’s” by nearly a hundred years but each name has come to be used synonymously with the other.

In addition, another variation is called Cumberland Pie in which the mashed potatoes are coated with breadcrumbs.  On your next trip to The UK you will know exactly what is on the menu!

WHERE DOES SHEPHERD’S PIE COME FROM?

Shepherd’s pie comes to us from England when the humble cottagers used potatoes in almost every meal. It is now popular worldwide as a layered casserole of meat and vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes and baked until the potatoes reach golden perfection.

Sometime in England between 1861 and 1907, humble working class women found a way to make leftover roasted meat go farther by combining it with the humble potato in shepherd’s pie.

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton, recipe 1427 is an early version of shepherd’s pie.  In the recipe, a pie dish is is lined with mashed potatoes first, followed by the meat.  In Scotland, it became popular to cook shepherd’s pie in a piecrust.  This yummy combination of meat, potatoes and veggies began with many variations and that trend continues with this Turkey Shepherd’s Pie!

What are other variations of shepherd’s pie?

Many cultures seem to have a version of shepherd’s pie and they all think theirs is the best!  That means you could have a lot of fun experimenting to find your FAVORITE version! Here are just a few:

Chilean Shepherd’s Pie: The Chilean dish of “pastel de papa,” is similar to shepherd’s pie and eaten in many parts of the world.  It also contains hard-boiled eggs, raisins and black olives.

French Shepherd’s Pie:  Also “hachis Parmentier” is the French version, named after the Frenchman who convinced his country to eat potatoes.  “Hachis,” which takes its root from the English word “hatchet,” means a dish containing chopped or minced ingredients.

Californian Shepherd’s Pie:  This version includes chopped tomatoes, parsnips, rosemary and olives.

What Can I Add To My Shepherd’s Pie?

This shepherd’s pie recipe is extremely flexible – you can really add whatever you like!  You an use different types of vegetables such as green beans, mushrooms and corn, leftover stuffing,  and even spinach!

Can I Make Homemade Mashed Potatoes for This Recipe? 

Absolutely! If you don’t have leftover mashed potatoes on hand, simply make your own from scratch. These Garlic Mashed Potatoes are my favorite.

How Can I Thicken the Filling? 

Simply cook the filling for longer if it’s too runny. Make sure you’re cooking the filling uncovered so that the moisture can escape from the pan.

How Can I Thin the Filling? 

If you’ve accidentally cooked the filling for too long and it’s too thick for your liking, simply add chicken broth a little at a time to thin it out. 

up close of serving turkey shepherds pie showing the creamy filling with leftover turkey with mashed potatoes

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up close of turkey shepherd's pie showing the creamy filling

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie is the ideal cozy recipe for using up those holiday leftovers, or swap in ground turkey or rotisserie chicken! It’s loaded with juicy turkey, carrots, bell peppers and peas swaddled in a creamy, herb-infused sauce all topped with creamy mashed potatoes and melty Gruyere cheese. This shepherd's pie recipe is super easy to prep with leftovers, make ahead friendly (just pop it in the oven) and freezes well too.  Serve it up with some bacon broccoli salad and dinner rolls to complete the feast!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Total Time: 55 mins
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins

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Ingredients

FILLING

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp EACH chicken bouillon, dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried thyme, dried sage

ADD LAST

  • 2 cups chopped turkey meat
  • 1 cup petite frozen peas (don't thaw)
  • 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes (see notes for scratch)
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese (may sub mozzarella or cheddar)

Garnish

  • fresh parsley for serving (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Cook veggies: Melt butter with olive oil in a 12” cast iron skillet or a 3.5 qt braiser (pictured) over medium-high heat. (May use a different skillet and transfer to a baking dish to bake). Add the onions, bell peppers and carrots; sauté until the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Add broth: Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook while stirring for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in the chicken broth, followed by the milk. Add the chicken bouillon and all seasonings.
  • Thicken sauce: Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, and continue to simmer until thickened to desired consistency. The consistency now will be the same as when it comes out of the oven. For a thinner consistency, stir in additional chicken broth or milk; for a thicker consistency, simmer longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper).
  • Add turkey, peas: Stir in the turkey and peas and heat through for about 1 minute over medium heat.
  • Top with mashed potatoes: Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the filling, then create soft peaks with the back of a spoon. Evenly top with shredded cheese.
  • Bake: Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the cheese is completely melted. Broil for 1-2 minutes, or until the potato peaks are golden (watch closely so it doesn't burn!). Garnish with fresh parsley if desired before serving.

Video

Notes

  • Variations:  See post for all sorts of variations, tips and tricks. 
  • Meal Prep:  Prepare the recipe as written through assembling the shepherd’s pie but do not bake. Let the skillet cool completely, cover tightly with foil, and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.  You may need to add an additional 5 minutes or so to the baking time. 
  • Storage:  Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Keep in mind, the storing time starts with the initial cook date of the turkey, NOT from when the pie was assembled and baked.
  • To freeze:  Freeze for 4 to 6 months in an airtight container. Bake from frozen at 425ºF for 1 hour, or until hot and bubbly around the edges. Alternatively, thaw the pie in the fridge overnight, then bake for 25-30 minutes.

Easy Mashed Potatoes

  • 3 lbs. Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • ½ teaspoon salt for water
  • 4-8 TBS butter, melted (pick how indulgent you want to be)
  • ¾ cup whole milk, warmed 
  • ½ cup sour cream (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper 
  • Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with water.  Season with ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until very tender when pierced with a fork, but not falling apart.  Drain VERY WELL. Add potatoes to bowl of an electric or hand held mixer.
  • Slowly stream the heated milk into the potatoes while beating on LOW until combined, followed by the butter.  Add the sour cream, if using, and the salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Beat on MEDIUM until combined and fluffy.  Add additional milk for thinner potatoes if desired. Season to taste.
 

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2 Comments

  1. Gordie Gasch says

    I’ve made this for several years. But to add more flavor, put a layer of dressing on the bottom of the pan. Thanksgiving dinner all over again!

    • Jen says

      Love that idea, thank you!

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