This recipe can be customized to a calorie range between 430 and 860 (see chart), mostly depending on the amount of crust you use.
It also comes together fast. The store-bought crust is baked separately while you cook the vegetables & sauce on the stovetop. Frozen vegetables can be used to reduce prep time to a minimum, getting this on the table in 30 minutes or less.
POT PIE SAUCE
- 3 Tbsp butter
- ½ yellow onion
- ⅓ cup flour
- ½ tsp celery salt (optional see note)
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup milk
- 1 ½ cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
VEGETABLES (7 cups of your favorite)
- 3 stalks celery, diced optional (see note)
- 3 cups diced carrots
- 2 cup peas
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup diced potatoes
- ½ cup water
- ½ tsp salt (or more to taste)
- ½ tsp pepper (or more to taste)
- 1 Tbsp fresh herbs optional (see note)
- 1 9" pie crust
COOK THE CRUST
- Preheat the oven to 450°. While it preheats, dice the vegetables and prep everything. (Once things start cooking, they come together fast.)
- Cook the crust according to manufacturer's instructions. (Look for 'baked shell' instructions on the box). When in doubt, cook in a 450°F oven for 10-12 minutes, checking on the color. When it is golden brown, it is done. Set aside.
STEAM THE VEGETABLES (15 min)
- Put the celery, carrots, and potatoes in a wide pan with water. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp of the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let steam for 5 minutes. (While they steam, start the sauce).
- Add corn and peas to the pan (adding them frozen is ok). Sprinkle with remaining ¼ tsp salt. Continue to steam, covered, until all vegetables are tender (another 5-10 minutes). Taste and add salt if needed.
MAKE THE SAUCE (15 min)
- Melt 3 tbsp butter in another skillet over medium heat.
- Add diced onion and cook until soft and translucent (5-10 minutes)
- Add ⅓ cup flour and ½ tsp each of celery salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir continuously until the flour smells toasty and turns golden.
- Slowly add the 1 cup milk, ¼ cup at a time. As you add it, stir into the flour-onion mixture until the consistency is even. This keeps clumps from forming. The consistency will be doughy at first and get thinner as you add more milk.
- Slowly add the 1½ broth, ¼ cup at a time. Stirring each time you add it until it's even distributed like the previous step. Continue to add the broth until your sauce reaches the desired consistency. It will not thicken up after this point, as you will not be baking it.
- Taste and add salt as needed.
- Pour the sauce into the vegetable pan, checking to make sure the veggies don't have too much water in the pan (a little is ok, like ¼ cup, otherwise, drain it off). Stir until evenly coated.
- Scoop filling into ramekins or onto plates. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top. Top each plate with ¼ of the crust.
- Celery / celery salt: you can use both of these, or just one. There's no need to buy a bunch of celery if you won't use it up (use celery salt instead). On the flip side, there's no need to buy a jar of celery salt if you have some celery to use up. If you don't use the celery salt, add ½ tsp of table salt to the sauce.
- Celery salt / celery seed: you can use either of these.
- Fresh herbs: Rosemary, parsley, thyme, and chives are all great additions to pot pie. If using rosemary, chop very very fine (or add to the vegetables to steam). More delicate herbs are best added at the very end to garnish the dish.
How healthy is this, really?
Pie crust and bechamel sauce don't exactly fall into the healthy category. But loads of vegetables do. With some adjustments, pot pie really can be healthy. It comes down to 3 simple things:
- Use less crust. It's impossible to make a healthy crust, so just use less.
- Make a healthier sauce. Sauces usually have loads of butter and fat and they are delicious. But in this case, the sauce can be made much healthier with minimal flavor impact to the final dish.
- Use more vegetables. They are healthy and filling up on a large portion of vegetables is smart. Since the sauce has fat, no need to saute the vegetables in olive oil. Steam them instead.
A serving a vegetables
One serving of vegetables is ½ a cup and the daily recommendation is to eat 5-9 servings a day. That means you should be eating 2.5 to 4.5 cups of vegetables per day.
This recipe has almost 2 cups of vegetables per serving. This amount of vegetables fills you up, accounts for almost 50% of your daily fiber, and almost 4 daily recommended servings.
Traditional pot pie recipes use 2 cups of vegetables in the entire recipe. On average, each serving has only ⅓ of a cup of vegetables, which isn't even considered a daily serving.
The difference becomes clear when comparing this healthier recipe to traditional ones. Pillsbury, Taste of Home, and All Recipes all show up at the top of search results for "pot pie." Let's compare...
|My recipe||¼||2 cups||532|
|Pillsbury||⅛th of pie||¼||0.33 cup||560|
|Taste of Home||⅙th of pie||⅓||0.37 cup||475|
|All Recipes||⅛th of pie||¼||0.31 cup||412|
Those recipes all list the serving size as 1 slice, which is ⅛th of a pie (except for Pillsbury, which is ⅙th). That wouldn't be very filling and I suspect most people would want 2 slices. Once you double the calories to get two slices, this becomes a pretty high calorie dinner ranging from 824 to 1,120 calories. And you still only get about ⅔ of a cup of vegetables.
Since my healthy version has so many vegetables, it's worth using your favorites. If you don't like something, substitute it. You can also follow the seasons, for example, use asparagus to replace the peas in spring, butternut squash to replace carrots in fall, or celery root to replace potatoes in winter. As long as you use 7-8 cups of chopped vegetables, the sauce-to-veg ratio will still work.
Customize your calories
Calories are an imperfect measure. However, I still find them useful for relative comparisons. A pot pie with 530 calories is going to be better for you than the same portion stuffed with 900 calories.
Calories by ingredient
The first step to making a recipe fit your health goals is it know the breakdown for each ingredient. The chart below shows calories per serving, for each ingredient.
|Ingredient||Calories per serving |
(¼ of recipe)
|Crust (¼th of crust)||200|
Next, let's look at how changing the amount of the vegetable filling and crust affects calories.
|2 cups of veggie filling + ⅛th crust||430|
|2 cups veggie filling + ¼ crust (recipe as written)||530|
|4 cups veggie filling + ¼ crust||860|
|each cup of filling||165|
|⅛th of crust||100|
How to make it faster
A traditional pot pie with a top and bottom crust requires cooking the vegetables and sauce on the stove, then baking in the oven with the crusts. This takes a long time - too long for most weeknight dinners.
However, if you deconstruct the pot pie, like this recipe does, you don't need to bake the filling and crust together. When cooked separately, each part takes about 15 minutes: the vegetables, the sauce, and the crust. If you prep the vegetables while the oven preheats, the entire dinner really does come together all at the same time.
Even less time in the kitchen
You can also cut down on prep time if you want a really fast dinner. It won't cook faster (and the oven won't preheat faster), but you'll have less hands-on prep time by doing one of the following:
- Meal prep: chop the vegetables earlier in the week. Most chopped vegetables store well in sealed containers for several days.
- Frozen vegetables: frozen vegetables work great in pot pies. Just open the bag(s) and pour them in. You'll likely still need to cut some onions.
Unconventional opinion: why pot pies are better without chicken
I know, chicken and pot pie go hand in hand. But hear me out. When's the last time you had a chicken pot pie, got a bite of chicken, and savored how delicious it was? Maybe in some hipster brewpub where they slow roasted the chicken wrapped in slabs of bacon before adding it to the pot pie.
Outside of that, I find chicken ends up bland (or worse, rubbery) in pot pies. Omitting it saves time and money. Although, adding rotisserie chicken at the end can be tasty, if you have some leftover that needs to be used up.
Chicken isn't required for protein either. Vegetables (especially peas) can provide a lot of protein. In fact, this vegetarian version has 14g of protein (about 30% of the daily recommended value).
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