Shepherd’s pie is a classic comfort food dish that is popular in many countries. It typically consists of a layer of minced meat, such as lamb or beef, topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven until golden brown. With its hearty mix of protein, carbs, and fat, shepherd’s pie can be a calorie-dense meal. So just how many calories are in a serving of shepherd’s pie?
Calories in shepherd’s pie
The number of calories in shepherd’s pie can vary greatly depending on the specific recipe and ingredient amounts. In general, a one-cup serving of shepherd’s pie contains between 300-500 calories.
Here are some estimates for calories per serving in different types of shepherd’s pie recipes:
- Basic shepherd’s pie with ground beef: Around 300-350 calories
- Shepherd’s pie with lamb: 350-400 calories
- Vegan shepherd’s pie: 300-450 calories
- Cottage pie (with ground beef): 350-450 calories
- Loaded shepherd’s pie with veggies: 400-500 calories
As you can see, ingredients, portion size, and prep methods cause the calorie counts to vary. Beef or lamb shepherd’s pies clock in at the higher end, while veggie-packed and veggie-only versions are generally lower in calories.
Calories in shepherd’s pie ingredients
To understand where the calories in shepherd’s pie come from, let’s look at the common ingredients and their nutrition profiles.
Mashed potatoes make up the topping of shepherd’s pie. One cup of mashed potatoes contains:
- Calories: 220
- Carbs: 36 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
Potatoes are a high-carb food and account for a large portion of calories in shepherd’s pie.
The meat layer of shepherd’s pie is usually made from ground beef or lamb. Here’s what 3.5 ounces (100 grams) contains:
- Ground beef: 287 calories, 25 grams fat, 0 carbs, 19 grams protein
- Ground lamb: 282 calories, 23 grams fat, 0 carbs, 18 grams protein
The high fat and protein content of the meat adds significant calories to this dish. Leaner meats like 90/10 ground beef will be lower in calories than fattier 80/20 beef.
Onion and carrot
Onions and carrots are commonly cooked with the ground meat. A quarter cup each of diced onion and sliced carrots has approximately:
- Onions: 32 calories, 0 fat, 8 grams carbs, 0 protein
- Carrots: 30 calories, 0 fat, 7 grams carbs, 1 gram protein
These veggies add flavor, texture, and bulk without too many additional calories.
Gravy or sauce
Some shepherd’s pie recipes call for gravy or sauce in the meat layer. A quarter cup of gravy or sauce can provide an extra:
- 50-100 calories
- 2-5 grams fat
- 5-10 grams carbs
Thick, flour-based gravies and cream-based white sauces will be higher in calories than broth-based juices.
Ways to reduce calories in shepherd’s pie
If you’re looking to lighten up this hearty dish, there are several ways to cut back on calories:
- Use leaner ground beef or lamb.
- Load up on low-cal veggies like mushrooms, celery, spinach.
- Opt for mashed cauliflower “potatoes” instead of starchy potatoes.
- Use reduced-fat cheese in the mashed potato topping.
- Go easy on any high-fat gravy or sauce.
- Enjoy sensible portion sizes, about 1 cup per serving.
Nutrition facts for a 1-cup serving
Here is the nutrition information for a typical 1-cup serving of shepherd’s pie made with 90/10 ground beef and regular mashed potatoes:
As you can see, even a modest serving provides over 400 calories, plus a good amount of fat and sodium. Be mindful of portion sizes if watching your calorie intake.
High-calorie shepherd’s pie toppings
While the basic components of shepherd’s pie tend to be reasonably calorie-dense, loading up on high-fat, high-cheese toppings can drive up the total calorie count even more. Here are some common pie toppings to enjoy in moderation:
- Cheese: Cheddar, blue cheese, Parmesan. 1 ounce provides about 115 calories.
- Sour cream: 2 tablespoons = 60 calories.
- Bacon: 2 slices of cooked bacon = 80 calories.
- Fried onion strings: 1⁄4 cup has 140 calories.
Sprinkling a tablespoon or two of cheese or other toppings provides plenty of flavor without going overboard on calories.
Tips for lighter shepherd’s pie
Here are some easy tips for lightening up this comforting casserole:
Choose lean ground meat
Go for 90-95% lean ground beef or a lean ground turkey or chicken. This cuts back on saturated fat and calories compared to 80% fat ground beef.
Load up on veggies
Add lots of low-calorie, high-volume vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, peas, spinach or green beans. They add nutrients and satisfaction with minimal calories.
Use mashed cauliflower
For a lower-carb, lower-calorie topping, try using cauliflower rice or mashed cauliflower in place of heavy mashed potatoes.
Easy on the cheese
A little grated Parmesan or cheddar goes a long way. Too much cheese piles on saturated fat and calories.
Make individual portions
For portion control, divide shepherd’s pie into single-servings in ramekins rather than a large casserole dish.
Sub Greek yogurt for sour cream
Using Greek yogurt is an easy way to trim calories and fat compared to sour cream.
Healthy shepherd’s pie recipe
Here is a recipe for a healthier, lighter version of classic shepherd’s pie featuring lean meat, lots of vegetables, and lower-calorie mashed cauliflower topping.
- 1 lb 90% lean ground turkey
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 head cauliflower, steamed and mashed
- 1⁄4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add onion, carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Cook 5 minutes until softened.
- Add ground turkey. Cook through, about 6-8 minutes.
- Sprinkle flour over mixture. Stir to coat.
- Slowly stir in broth. Simmer 2-3 minutes until thickened.
- Transfer meat mixture to a casserole dish. Top with mashed cauliflower, then Parmesan.
- Bake 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.
- Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.
This lighter take shaves calories by using lean turkey instead of beef, skipping high-fat sour cream, and enjoying flavorful mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes. Each serving comes out to around 320 calories.
Here’s how this healthier shepherd’s pie recipe compares nutritionally to a typical beef shepherd’s pie:
Healthier turkey and cauliflower pie
- Calories: 320
- Carbs: 17g
- Fat: 16g
- Protein: 29g
Classic beef shepherd’s pie
- Calories: 412
- Carbs: 36g
- Fat: 18g
- Protein: 26g
As you can see, simple tweaks like using turkey instead of beef and cauliflower instead of potatoes can add up to big calorie and nutrition improvements!
Should you have shepherd’s pie while dieting?
Shepherd’s pie can certainly be part of an overall healthy, balanced diet. However, it may not be the best option for every diet plan.
On low-carb diets like keto or Atkins, shepherd’s pie made with a mashed potato topping would be too high carb. Opting for low-carb swapped like mashed cauliflower or rutabaga would be better options.
If strictly monitoring calorie intake, shepherd’s pie can be high in calories, especially with high-fat meat and cheesy toppings. Pay attention to portions or lighten it up.
With its ground beef/lamb and full-fat dairy ingredients, shepherd’s pie can be high in saturated fat. Use lean meat and reduced-fat dairy to cut back.
Shepherd’s pie isn’t the best source of fiber, unless you load up on vegetables or use whole grains like brown rice in the topping. Add high-fiber side dishes.
Traditional shepherd’s pie isn’t vegetarian due to the ground lamb/beef. But it’s easy to make vegetarian versions with soy, lentils, mushrooms, etc.
Should you eat shepherd’s pie after working out?
Shepherd’s pie can be a nutrient-dense meal option after exercise due to its mix of carbs, protein, and nutrients. Refueling with carbohydrates helps restore glycogen (muscle energy stores), while protein supports muscle repair and recovery.
However, the high fat content may slow down digestion. Choose a leaner version or side dishes that offer fast-digesting carbs like fruit, starchy vegetables, or whole grain bread.
Meal prep shepherd’s pie
Hearty, baked dishes like shepherd’s pie are great for meal prepping. Here are some tips:
- Assemble in individual ramekins or casserole dishes for grab-and-go portions.
- Let cool completely before covering and storing in fridge up to 4-5 days.
- Freeze up to 3 months – thaw overnight and reheat gently.
- Cook from frozen by baking 45-60 minutes at 375°F.
- Reheating in the microwave can make potatoes mushy – use oven or stovetop instead.
Prepping shepherd’s pie ahead of time saves you from cooking mid-week while still enjoying a home-cooked, filling meal.
Is shepherd’s pie healthy?
Shepherd’s pie can be a healthy meal when made with lean protein, lots of vegetables, and moderate portions. But high-fat meat, cheese heavy toppings, and large serving sizes can pile on saturated fat and calories. Choose homemade over frozen versions to control nutrition.
Is shepherd’s pie good for weight loss?
Shepherd’s pie can be incorporated into a weight loss diet if consumed in reasonable portions and balanced with other nutrient-dense, lighter meals. Opt for healthier preparations with lean meat, low-fat dairy, and lots of veggies.
Is shepherd’s pie high in carbs?
Traditional shepherd’s pie made with a mashed potato topping is high in carbohydrates – around 36g per serving. Using low-carb alternatives like cauliflower would reduce the carb count.
Is shepherd’s pie Keto-friendly?
Most traditional shepherd’s pie recipes are too high in carbs to fit a keto diet due to the mashed potato topping and onions/carrots. Replacing potatoes with low-carb veggies would lower carbs to make it keto-friendly.
The bottom line
Shepherd’s pie is a humble dish that can vary widely in its nutrition profile. Traditional beef or lamb recipes with cheesy mashed potato toppings will sit on the higher end of the calorie and fat range. But there are many ways to tweak ingredients and cooking methods to lighten it up.
Choosing lean meats, going easy on high-fat and high-calorie toppings, bulking it up with vegetables, and using portion control are all ways to enjoy shepherd’s pie as part of a healthy diet.