Turkmen Shepherd's Pie (Ishleki)

Serves 4-6

| Prep Time: 20 mins

| Cook Time: 40 mins

| Total Time: 60 mins

You may need: Dried Garlic Powder

Discover The Recipe

This month, we send our subscribers to far corners of the original 'Silk Road', an ancient trading route spanning East Asia to Europe. While South Asian cuisine is better known throughout the world, Central Asian food is worth trying. This Turkmen Shepherd's Pie (Ishleki) recipe is known as the national dish of Turkmenistan, a desert country bordering Iran, Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea. With a flatbread type crust that envelops the spiced filling, it's more like a calzone than an Irish shepherd's pie.

We give you a recipe to make the dough from scratch, which is a nice skill to learn and sounds harder than it is. But it does require counter space and a rolling pin. Save time or effort by buying pizza dough at the store for a similar effect. Our recipe mirrors tradition by using ground lamb but you can substitute ground beef, ground turkey, or make it vegan by filling with spiced lentils or your favorite mix of diced and lightly sautéed veggies like mushrooms, butternut squash, and/or zucchini. Serve with fresh sliced melon wedges for an authentic Turkmen meal.


  • 1 lb ground lamb (or ground beef or turkey)

  • 1 sweet onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 large tomato (or 2 Roma tomatoes), chopped

  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced

  • 2 Tbsp Piquant Post Turkmen Sultan spice blend

  • 1 tsp salt (optional)

  • 1/2 cup water

  • ~1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)

  • 3.5 Tbsp butter, melted

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour + extra for rolling

  • 1 tsp salt (optional; some salt is recommended)

  • 1.25 cups lukewarm water

  • Rolling pin to roll dough


Rolling dough from scratch can seem overwhelming if you've never done it before. But don't worry, it's actually quite easy. You'll need a rolling pin and a little extra flour to sprinkle on the work surface and rolling pin to keep it from sticking.

Work the dough with your hands as specified in the recipe. Split the dough into 2 equal dough balls (for the top and bottom of the pie, respectively). On a clean and flat work surface (counter or a large cutting board), dust it with flour and then place the dough ball down. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough. Next, using your hands, gently flatten the dough into a circle. Then, roll out the dough from the center in different directions until it's the desired thickness and diameter.

You can watch the first couple minutes of the this video on how to roll out dough.

For easier clean up or if your counter is uneven (tile, etc), you can first lay down plastic wrap to cover the surface. you might need cut 2 or 3 strips and overlap them to cover the counter. Then dust with flour and proceed as above.

Optional ingredients add a little character and flavor but don’t sweat it if you don’t have them.


First, start by making the dough. In a large mixing bowl, add flour then the other ingredients over top. Begin kneading dough with your hands until completely combined and soft (if you need more water, add 1-2 Tbsp). This should take about 3-4 mins. Divide the dough in half into equal sized dough balls. Set aside while you begin to cook filling.

Heat a large skillet or heavy-bottom pan on Med-High. Add the ground meat and break up with a spatula. Cook ~5 mins. Prep all other fresh ingredients then add the onion to the meat. Stir to mix and cook ~5 mins. Add the garlic, tomato, red bell pepper, Turkmen spice, salt, and water. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to Low and simmer while rolling dough.

Preheat oven to 450 deg. Next, roll the dough into a crust. On a large cutting board or flat countertop, dust the surface with flour (you can place plastic wrap down first for easy cleanup). Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the dough to roughly 20-24" diameter and 1/4" thick, dusting more flour as you roll to prevent sticking. Place crust on a flat baking sheet and repeat to roll the other dough ball. 

Spread the filling out from the center of bottom crust, leaving ~2" space at the edges to crimp crusts. Lay top crust over top & fold bottom crust edge over top. Use a fork to gently press down and seal the entire pie, then prick small holes throughout top crust. Cut a small hole in center to release steam. Place in oven and cook for ~20 mins until golden. Do not burn. Remove, cool, slice, and sprinkle with mint.

Alternatives & Substitutions

  • Don't feel like making your own dough for our Turkmen Shepherd's Pie (Ishleki) recipe? You can buy store-bought refrigerated pie crusts (try Pillsbury brand) or you can use refrigerated pizza dough. Check the diameter of the crust on the box directions and adjust the amount of meat filling accordingly so you don't overstuff the pie.

  • This dish is very easy to make into a vegetarian version. Select from your favorite veggies to make a filling: chopped mushrooms, broccoli, kale, spinach, zucchini, squash, and/or eggplant.

  • Calzones are a smaller Italian version of an enclosed savory pie. Central Asian dishes typically don't use cheese like a pizza or calzone, but you can certainly adapt a calzone recipe and spice the filling using the Turkmen Sultan spice. Crumbled feta would be a nice addition to a lamb filling.

  • Check out this list of 15 Calzone Recipes for inspiration. Use the Turkmen Sultan spice blend in place of any spices in their recipe.

  • Make these vegetarian calzones instead or select your favorite veggies for the filling.

  • You can use the Turkmen Spice on a ground meat or sautéed veggie fillings to make a buddha bowl. Try this lamb buddha bowl with rice recipe or make it you own with you favorite fillings spiced with Turkmen Sultan.

  • Be sure to leave comments and feedback on your meals and experiments in the comments for others to read.

  • Post pictures of your masterpiece meal on social media and tag us. We repost!

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