Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Before I had a kid, I kept ice and a bottle of vodka in my refrigerator. That’s it. Then, when I had a baby, my freezer was filled with dozens of bags of breast milk, ice and vodka. Eventually, we added plastic storage containers of pureed food into the mix. Today, my freezer looks like my mother’s; crammed to high heaven with meals neatly dated (the only neat thing about the spot), meat, half-used bags of frozen kale and other vegetables, loose freezer pops, spilled blueberries, freezer packs, a container that makes slushies, leftover chocolate eyeballs from Halloween, a well-used boo boo buddy, and, of course, ice and vodka. I used to love grinding my mother’s gears about how you’d brace yourself before opening the door to her overstocked freezer since food would launch like a grenade towards your feet. She’d take all my disapproving complaints in stride and just politely remind me of how her friend once opened her freezer to only have a whole frozen chicken fall on the head of her six-month-old who was at her feet. “At least you’ve never been hammered in the head by a frozen chicken,” she’d say with a well-placed eye roll. In my house, I don’t worry about poultry shrapnel since I have drawers but I do have concerns about being able to pry open the crammed compartments.

In so many ways, I have turned into my mother and my freezer is just another indication I have grown into a seasoned mommy.  And I wear it like a badge of honour. A full freezer means I’m doing my job. At a moments notice, it has dinner staples at the ready and make ahead meals just waiting to fill our tummies. I don’t see its disorganization and the fact it’s jammed to the gills as a fail. It’s a win, and it’s probably why my mother rolled her eyes– understanding I’d one day realize her freezer’s worth.

During most months, you can find this Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie laying in wait in my freezer. For a year now, it’s a recipe I’ve been slowly testing, adjusting, perfecting and enjoying. If you ask Dan and Scarlett, they’ll tell you it is their favourite comfort dish I make and our babysitter even as for it when she’s coming over. It’s not your traditional Shepard’s Pie since it omits things like tomato pastes or ketchup to thicken the beef mix and doesn’t use spices like bay leaves or thyme. Instead, it pairs a cumin and chili powder spiced beef mix (don’t worry it’s still kid friendly) with buttery sweet potatoes, but it will definitely win you over. This recipe yields enough for two casserole dishes, one for tonights dinner, another for your freezer. Of course, that’s if you can fit it.  (You can easily cut this down by 1/2 and make one. I’ve done that too.)

Shepperds Pie
Photo By Maya Visnyei

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Yield: 2 Pies

Each serves 4 to 6


  • Makes 1 casseroles, 4 to 6 serving
  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • 2 lbs. organic lean ground beef
  • 2 large cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) pepper
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) chili powder
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) beef broth
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • six drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into even-sized wedges
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter


Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large Dutch oven, cook beef over medium heat, breaking up with spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in garlic, celery, onions, carrots, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and oregano.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in flour; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Stir in broth, water and Worcestershire sauce; simmer for 3 minutes.

Divide mixture mixture between two 8' square or round baking dishes.

Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling salted water, cook sweet potato until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and return pot to burner over low heat; cook, stirring, until dry, about 1 minute.

Stir in milk, butter and remaining salt; mash until smooth.

Spread evenly over beef mixtures. 

Bake 1 pie in the oven at 350 until bubbly at the edges, about 35 minutes.

Cover the extra pie with plastic wrap and then foil and freeze for up to 1 month.

Bake, uncovered and frozen, in 350 oven for 50 to 60 minutes.


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