Cruisin’ along the Shepherd’s Pieway

Shepherd’s pie made with ground beef.

Recently I was presented with a dilemma I hear quite often. My cousin’s wife, Regan, is a vegetarian and her husband, my cousin DJ, is a meat-loving carnivore. Growing up, Shepherd’s Pie – a hearty casserole usually made with ground beef – was a staple in our family and something he would love for her to make. As new cook, making a dish you’ve never eaten and can’t really taste can be a daunting task.

Baby let’s cruise
Away from here
Don’t be confused
The way is clear

A few days later at the grocery store I had Cruisin’, by Smokey Robinson stuck in my head. I wandered the aisles as if coasting along the open road in an old, classic convertible – top rolled down and hair flowing in the wind. My drive brought me to the rendition by Huey Lewis & Gwyneth Paltrow. An unlikely pair, they still managed to do the song justice and make it sound great.

So let the music take your mind
Just release and you will find

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
made with red kidney beans

Suddenly, my imaginary car came to a screeching halt. What if we cooked the veggies and gravy together, then split it between two dishes using ground beef and red kidney beans? This not only satisfies both passengers, but also allows the cook to taste the sauce and adjust the flavor if needed. Even better, it can be quickly transformed into an all beef or all vegetarian dish with simple adjustments. At that moment, the convertible Shepherd’s Pie was born!

You’re gonna fly away
Glad you’re going my way
I love it when we’re cruisin’ together

I took my idea for a test drive and was pleased with the results. The beans brought a surprisingly bright touch and the sturdy beef flavor wasn’t compromised by the vegetable base. What seemed at first like a seemingly strange combination gave this dish a brand-new set of wheels, letting the whole family cruise together in harmony. Now it’s time to hand the keys over to Regan and let her take this baby out for a spin!

Until we beat again… Kasey

Cruisin’ Together!

Convertible Shepherd’s Pie
Makes about 8 servings – 4 meat & 4 vegetarian


2 lbs. baby red potatoes, scrubbed clean and quartered
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs. 93-percent lean ground beef
2 medium onions, diced
1 lb. carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, grated, pressed or finely chopped
4 tbsp butter, divided
4 tbsp flour
1/2 cup stout beer, such as Guinness
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp horseradish
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sour cream
2 – 3 tbsp chives, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Scrub and quarter the potatoes. Place in medium pot and add enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 12-15 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes cook, chop onions, carrots, and garlic (if chopping).
  3. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add veggies and cook until tender crisp, about 6-8 minutes, adding garlic about 1/2 way through.
  4. While the veggies cook, in an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, cook beef until no longer pink, breaking up with back of a spoon.
  5. Sprinkle veggies with flour and cook for about a minute. Gradually whisk in beer and cook for another minute, then add broth, worcestershire sauce, and horseradish. Bring mixture to just under a boil, add peas, then simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add pepper to taste.
  6. Preheat broiler.
  7. Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Pour into 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.
  8. Divide veggie mixture between beef and kidney beans.
  9. Drain potatoes, then smash in remaining butter and sour cream. Add chives, then salt and pepper to taste. Divide and spread potatoes evenly over both dishes.
  10. Broil until golden, about 5 minutes.


  • Roll the top down! Easily make it all bean or beef by doubling up on one and skipping the other.
  • If making an all beef pie, use beef broth instead of vegetable.
  • Make it a coupe – This recipe can easily be cut in half, especially if making all bean or beef (cooking times may vary).
  • If you can’t find baby potatoes, use regular red bliss cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • Shepherd’s Pie is typically starch/protein heavy and this is no exception. Balance it out with a side of mixed greens or simple salad.

Cruise with me baby! Huey & Gwyneth singing Cruisin’ in the movie Duets: