Eating Well Made Easy: Parsnip Pie

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie vs. Parsnip Pie

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is a creamy, potato lover’s dream. I find that white potatoes, though, often leave me feeling over-stuffed and uncomfortably full. That’s why I set out to create a flavorful, satisfying Shepherd’s Pie that would play to my desire for comfort food, but also sit easy in my stomach. Parsnips are the answer.

Parsnips look like a white carrot and are generally available in the store year round.

Considering the Options

While searching for the perfect alternative for potatoes, I tried cauliflower, parsnips, and celery root, each in succession. Cauliflower was my least favorite, both in texture and in flavor. Most everyone reading this likely just sighed in relief, thinking, “Great! Let’s move on!” Cauliflower might be a satisfying replacement for rice. Amazingly, it can even be turned into pizza crust. But when it comes to creamy comfort food, there are better options.

Celery Root (Celeriac)

Celery root was actually my favorite potato replacement, but I have a sourcing issue where I live now. Celery root, also known as celeriac, is seasonally available in the fall. However, even in the fall, I find that they are not widely accessible in my community. I feel as though I’ve run across a prize when I do find one. Celery root is an ugly, knobby looking vegetable, but when the ugly outside is cut away, the inside is white and crisp. When pureed, it has a nice creamy texture with just a hint of celery flavor. If you run across a celery root, you can use it in this recipe to replace the parsnips. Buy about three pounds, because you’ll need to account for the ugly outside that gets cut away.

The celery root, or celeriac, is an ugly root vegetable, but when you slice off the ugly exterior, you will find a bright, crisp, subtly flavorful interior.

Parsnips, It Is!

In talking up celery root, I don’t mean to diminish the parsnip option. I really enjoy parsnips as a potato alternative. They are creamy and have a more interesting, distinct flavor than a potato. In this recipe, I also play up that flavor by adding a small onion and one celery rib to the mash, along with salt and white pepper. Fresh parsnips are generally available in the store year round. They look like a white carrot, but are a bit more bitter than sweet. You peel them just like you would a carrot.

I add onion, garlic, and a bit of celery to the parsnips before cooking and pureeing. The additions enhance the flavor of the creamy topping.

A Quick and (Almost) One Pan Meal

Ground beef generally makes for a quick meal, and this is no exception. The all in one pan option makes it appealing for a weeknight dinner as well. If you cook in cast iron or enameled cast iron, you can do what you need on the stove top and then toss it in the oven for finishing. Only the parsnips will need a separate cooking device.

Cook the meat and veggies in an oven safe pan, and you’ll avoid an unnecessary mess.

Endless Veggie Options

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is generally ground beef with a mixture of carrots, peas, corn, and green beans. I like the recipes like this because you can change the vegetables to your liking, or even add extras to increase nutrient density. The recipe below includes onions, garlic, carrots, celery, sweet peppers, snap peas, tomatoes, and parsnips. Mushrooms would make a nice addition. I’ve also seen a version made with Brussels sprouts. What else might you be able to sneak in there?

How many veggies can you pack into a Shepherd’s or Parsnip Pie?

Enjoy the recipe. Adapt and make it your own!

Parsnip Pie

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


– oven safe pan
– 1 lb. ground beef
– 1 1/2 c. beef stock, divided
– 3 ribs celery, divided
– 2 onions, divided
– 6 cloves of garlic, divided
– 2 lbs. parsnips
– 3 carrots
– 4 mini sweet peppers
– 2-3 oz. tomato paste
– 1/2 c. sugar snap peas
– 1/2 tsp ground thyme
– 1/2 tsp rosemary
– 1/2 tsp garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp onion powder
– Celtic sea salt to taste
– white pepper to taste
– optional cooking fat of choice (I recommend ghee or lard)


1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Peel and rough chop the parsnips.
3. Rough chop an onion, two garlic cloves, and one celery rib.
4. Place all of the above in a pot (or Instant Pot) with 1 c. beef stock. Salt and pepper to taste. (I like to be liberal with both.)
5. Cook until everything in the pot is mushy. (I used the “Soup” function on the Instant Pot for 10 minutes.)
6. Dice the other onion and chop the remaining garlic.
7. Add the onion and garlic to a large pan with the ground beef. Cook until brown, adding salt and pepper to taste. (Use an oven-safe pan to save on washing.)
8. While that is cooking, dice the remaining celery, carrots, mini sweet peppers, and sweet peas into small pieces.
9. Once the beef is browned, add in all the vegetables, the remaining 1/2 c. beef stock, and the list of spices.
10. Simmer for about five minutes. The vegetables will just begin to soften.
11. While the meat/veggie mixture is simmering, use an immersion blender to blend the parsnip mixture until smooth. If you have a cooking fat of choice, add about 2 tbsp. This optional fat adds flavor and helps to firm up the parsnips. (Without an immersion blender, transfer the parsnip mixture to a blender or food processor and puree.)
12. Add 2-3 oz. of tomato paste to the meat mixture. Stir until well combined. Remove from heat. Smooth the mixture flat.
13. Spoon the parsnip mixture atop the meat mixture. Spread it evenly, covering the entire surface.
14. Bake the Parsnip Pie at 400 for 30 minutes. It should be bubbling around the edges when done. Enjoy!

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Here on, Jennifer Taylor Schmidt writes beef recipes for the busy, natural homemaker. It is possible to seek optimal health with limited time and money. Join Jennifer in future posts as she explores the possibilities found in a 1/4 and a 1/2 beeve. You can also find her thoughts and personal health journey on

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