Leftover Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie

November  9, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

Every year, Thanksgiving’s “main event” (i.e. the bird) is, objectively, the least exciting part of the meal. In my family, people show up for the side dishes and the desserts only. And when the sides get boring on their own, we turn them into something completely new—like Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie topped with sweet potatoes. That’s half the fun of this holiday anyway, right? And what better way to show how thankful you are to your friends and family than by feeding them…again.

Shepherd’s pie is a comforting cold-weather dish made by cooking down ground lamb (or sometimes beef) with vegetables to make a meaty braised stew mixture. It is then topped off with a mound of creamy and buttery mashed potatoes and baked until bubbly. This feast-inspired recipe puts any and all of your holiday leftovers to good work. Start by sautéing a simple base of onions, carrots, and celery. Add some savory flavor with tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and poultry seasoning. These all add deep umami flavor, and poultry seasoning adds an extra hit of fall herbage that we always look for in holiday meals. Add some chicken broth and thicken everything up with a spoonful of flour. Shred some leftover turkey and chop up any cooked vegetables you have left on hand—this could be green beans, peas and carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, you name it!

This recipe swaps the more traditional mashed potato topping with mashed sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have a higher moisture content than white potatoes, so they retain their silky texture in the oven without drying out too much. This recipe calls for between 3 and 4 cups of mashed potatoes, but use whatever you have leftover—no need to make more (unless, of course, you don’t have any leftover)! You can opt for the traditional version or take it even one step further by dropping spoonfuls of leftover stuffing on top. Better yet, cubes of cornbread. I grew up in Texas, where cornbread was a perennial stable on our dinner table. Cornbread batter spooned over the top of the turkey mixture would create an irresistible crumbly topping. Whatever leftover you decide to use as your topping, warm it up first. For mashed potatoes (white or sweet), you can either microwave them in 1 minute increments or warm them up slowly in a bowl resting over a pot of simmering water, adding more liquid as needed to loosen. Stir them a few times and you’re golden.

This shepherd’s pie is packed with loads of leftover vegetables, which is exactly what we all need after a big holiday meal. For a vegetarian-friendly version, swap in vegetable broth and bulk up the existing veggies with cooked lentils or sautéed mushrooms. The ultra-savoriness of this dish benefits from something slightly sweet and tart on the side. This is where your leftover cranberry sauce comes into play. The hit of bright fruitiness really pulls the dish together. —Riley Wofford

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups roughly chopped leftover vegetables, such as green beans, peas, and/or Brussels sprouts
  • 2 cups shredded leftover turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 3-4 cups leftover mashed sweet potatoes, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Leftover cranberry sauce, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Heat oil in a large (12-inch) oven-proof skillet over medium-high. Add onion, carrots, and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned in places, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste and poultry seasoning; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in flour; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in leftover vegetables and turkey. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.
  3. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over top of turkey mixture, then drizzle with melted butter. Place skillet on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until mixture is bubbling around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand at least 20 minutes before serving with cranberry sauce on the side.

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