If you follow a keto diet and are a lover of shepherd’s pie, you’re probably wondering if this comfort food classic is permitted on your diet. You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll be discussing the nutritional basics of shepherd’s pie and whether or not this delicious dish can play nicely with your keto macros.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Shepherd’s Pie?
Shepherd’s pie is a savoury pie that traditionally includes minced lamb in a vegetable gravy, topped with a layer of mashed potatoes. The potatoes seal in the sauce and develop a golden crust as the pie bakes in the oven.
What Are the Origins of Shepherd’s Pie?
The exact origins of shepherd’s pie are a little tricky to nail down. In the late 1700s, a dish called “cottage pie” materialised somewhere in the United Kingdom or Ireland (both countries claim its origins).[*]
There doesn’t seem to be a singular individual that introduced the world to shepherd’s pie. Rather, this humble dish was invented by peasant housewives living in cottages (hence the name “cottage pie”) as a way to make use of leftovers. Since many families couldn’t afford to waste food, unused meat and vegetables were repurposed into this warm, filling casserole-like pie.[*]
At the time, most people couldn’t afford beef, so it’s suspected that the earliest forms of cottage pie used mutton—meat from a sheep that’s around three years old—as it was cheaper than lamb.
Cottage pie was the precursor to shepherd’s pie, whose name was coined in the middle of the 18th century.[*] For a while, the two dish names were used interchangeably, but over time, a distinction was made: shepherd’s pie uses lamb (because shepherds tend to sheep) and cottage pie uses beef.
Today, shepherd’s pie is an icon of British and Irish cuisine that people enjoy across the globe.
What Is the Keto Diet?
Before we discuss whether or not shepherd’s pie is keto-friendly, let’s cover some basics for those who aren’t familiar with the keto diet. The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb eating plan in which you consume about 60 percent of your daily calories from fat, 30 percent from fat, and 10 percent from carbohydrates (carbs).
By consuming the recommended 50 grams or less of carbs a day, the body shifts from burning carbs (its typical fuel source) to burning fat. When the body enters this fat-burning state (called ketosis), it produces ketones, an alternative fuel made by the liver when there isn’t enough sugar (glucose) to be used for energy.
Achieving a state of ketosis is the goal of the keto diet, and the way to enter that state is to ruthlessly cut carbs, including grains, anything with added refined sugar, most fruit, and even starchy vegetables. That’s because limiting carbs keeps blood sugar and insulin levels low which, in turn, causes the liver to start burning fat and producing ketones.
What Are the Benefits of the Keto Diet?
While limiting carbs might sound a bit daunting to some, this way of eating is popular for a reason—actually many reasons! Following a keto diet has been shown to lead to weight loss, more stable energy, reduced need for insulin in those with diabetes, improved brain health, and reduced cravings and hunger.[*][*][*][*]
Nutritional Basics of Shepherd’s Pie
A shepherd’s pie has two main components: minced meat in vegetable gravy and mashed potatoes. Traditional shepherd’s pie is high in all of the macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbs. Meat supplies protein and fat, butter and heavy cream supply more fat, and potatoes, flour (used in the gravy), and vegetables (typically peas and carrots) supply carbs.
While it differs based on the recipe, one-sixth of a traditional shepherd’s pie has about 50 grams of carbs, 40 grams of fat, and 35 grams of protein.[*]
Is Shepherd’s Pie Keto?
As you might have guessed by now, traditional shepherd’s pie is not keto-friendly. There are a couple of ingredients used in a traditional shepherd’s pie recipe that aren’t permitted on a keto diet, including potatoes and wheat flour. Even if these ingredients were keto-friendly, the mashed potatoes, starchy gravy, and higher-carb vegetables would provide too many carbohydrates. In fact, a single serving of traditional shepherd’s pie could very well use up your entire day’s allotment of carbohydrates.
How to Make Keto Shepherd’s Pie
Fortunately, making keto shepherd’s pie is easier (and tastier!) than you may think. With a few simple swaps, you can make a shepherd’s pie that’s high in fat, moderate in protein, low in carbs, and full of flavour:
- Swap mashed potatoes for cauliflower
- Swap peas and carrots for kale
- Swap wheat flour for konjac root (or simply use without flour)
- If you’re dairy-free or Paleo, swap butter for Hunter and Gatherer Avocado Oil and heavy cream for Hunter and Gather Garlic Avocado Oil Mayonnaise
Click here for our recipe for Grass-Fed Shepherd’s Pie with Avocado Oil & Avocado Mayo. In addition to the swaps mentioned above, this recipe includes bone broth, a rich source of collagen and other health-optimising nutrients.
Lose the Carbs but Keep the Flavour
When following the keto diet, it can be easy to fall into a humdrum pattern of eating the same dishes over and over, which can lead to boredom, frustration, and ultimately the temptation to resume poor eating habits. Thankfully, it isn’t difficult to recreate some of your favourite meals in healthier ways.
While traditional shepherd’s pie isn’t keto-friendly, you can whip up a keto version of this comfort food classic with a few simple swaps. Our keto shepherd’s pie recipe features flavourful meat, veggies, and creamy cauliflower mash topping. It’s healthy, easy to make, and is sure to satisfy your belly and soul.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.