Craving comfort food? Then you're going to LOVE this Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie recipe ... it's full of veggies, has tons of flavor, and is the perfect cold weather meal!
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Now that cooler weather is here to stay for a few months—yes, even in Texas!—I've been enjoying all my favorite comfort foods.
Shepherd's Pie is a comfort food classic that I've always loved the idea of, but I quite never found the perfect vegetarian version. Which is why I decided to create my own recipe to satisfy all my cravings ... and I couldn't be happier with the result!
This Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie is what cozy winter dreams are made of: savory veggies and lentils in a scrumptious sauce, topped with a generous helping of mashed potatoes. If you're searching for that perfect pie too, then trust me, you are going to want to make this recipe ASAP!
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Are you familiar with Shepherd's Pie? This humble dish originated in England and Ireland around the time that the potato was introduced as a diet staple.
It's essentially a layer of meat, and sometimes veggies, topped with a mashed potato crust. The terms Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie are often used interchangeably. If you want to get technical though, know that Cottage Pie is made with beef, while Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb.
Of course, I'm talking about Meatless Shepherd's Pie here. So you can go ahead and call this delicious pie whatever you wish ... I've even heard more creative names, like Shepherdless Pie or Shepherdess Pie, used on occasion!
There are many recipes for this classic-with-a-twist dish out there, so what makes this the BEST Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie? Let me tell you:
- Tons of veggies. We are skipping the meat here, so that means lots of yummy vegetables.
- Delicious sauce. An amazing gravy / sauce is essential for this dish, and this one delivers on crave-worthy umami-based flavors.
- Lots of mashed potatoes. I can't get behind any Cottage Pie recipe that doesn't have a high potato to filling ratio ... and this one is perfect!
- Sticks to the Ribs. My version of this classic dish is made with mostly healthy ingredients. Even so, between the mashed potatoes, soul-satisfying sauce, and hearty lentil-veggie mix, this pie will keep you full and comforted on the coldest of winter days.
Have I convinced you that you need to make this recipe yet? Then, keep reading for all the delicious details!
Veggie Shepherd's Pie Ingredients
So what goes in a Shepherd's Pie? As you might expect for such a humble dish, the ingredients are pretty basic.
Here's what you'll need:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Green Lentils
- Veggies: Onions, Carrots, Celery, Mushrooms, and Peas
- Seasoning / Spices: Garlic, Dried Thyme, and Dried Rosemary
- Sauce: Tomato Paste, Flour, Broth, and Soy Sauce
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Unsalted Butter
- Salt (I prefer Kosher salt.)
- Pepper (Make sure to use fresh-cracked pepper.)
As far as mashed potatoes go, you can use any recipe you wish, or even leftover mashed potatoes. I've made this recipe with both my Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes (which you'll find in the recipe card below), as well as my Garlic Mashed Potatoes (cutting both recipes in half). Both are delish.
I love the combination of veggies used here. The onions, carrots, and celery create a great base, mushrooms add an excellent taste and texture, and peas are a staple in this classic recipe. In addition, the garlic and herbs (dried work best here) add even more flavor.
This recipe calls for green lentils, which are your standard, everyday lentil. Feel free to substitute black or le puy lentils, if that's what you have on hand. I wouldn't use red or yellow lentils for this particular recipe though, because they don't hold their shape well.
The easy sauce is my favorite part about this recipe. It has such a delectable flavor ... I was scraping out every last bite as I ate this pie! What makes it so delicious is the combination of broth, tomato paste, and soy sauce. Those ingredients, along with the mushrooms in the filling, contribute the umami taste that really makes this recipe pop!
A couple tips about that amazing sauce! Store bought vegetable broth can be really hit or miss in my opinion. I use (and love) Knorr Vegetable Bouillon to make my own. As far as soy sauce goes, I highly recommend Kikkoman ... it's the best easy-to-find soy sauce, and I rarely use anything else! Also, because broth and soy sauce can be salty, use a light hand with salt until you add those ingredients to the dish.
Make this Recipe Vegan or Gluten-Free
Vegan: It's super simple to turn this into a Vegan Shepherd's Pie. The vegetables and sauce are already vegan, you just need to use dairy free substitutes for the cream cheese, milk, and butter used in the mashed potatoes. You could also substitute your fave vegan mashed potatoes recipe.
Gluten-Free: To make this recipe Gluten-free, start by substituting the soy sauce with tamari. You will also need to thicken the sauce with something besides flour. I'd recommend whisking 1 ½ tablespoons of cornstarch into the tamari (to create a slurry), then whisking that into the broth before adding it to the veggies.
How to Make Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Let's get started on this delicious veggie Cottage Pie. There are a few steps, but it's not hard to make.
In order to keep things moving along, you'll work on the different components (the mashed potatoes, lentils, and filling) at the same time. That way, everything is ready to assemble about the same time.
Start by cooking the lentils. If you'd like to save a little time, you can use pre-cooked lentils (you will need 1 ½ cups cooked lentils). My usual grocery store doesn't carry them, but I know that Trader Joe's does.
Once you get the lentil going, begin making the mashed potatoes. Like I mentioned above, I used the recipe for my fave Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes, and simply cut it in half. You can use leftover mashed potatoes or another variety of potatoes, like my Garlic Mashed Potatoes (again, you only need to make half the recipe), if you prefer.
Okay, you've got the mashed potatoes and lentils cooking. Now, you'll want to start the filling.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Season the veggies lightly with salt and pepper, then cook them just until the onions are starting to get translucent around the edges (about five minutes).
Next, you'll add the mushrooms. As they start cooking, the mushrooms will release liquid. Cook them until this liquid has evaporated.
Tip: if you use a dutch oven (or very large, oven-safe skillet) to prepare the filling, you can bake the Shepherd's Pie right in it.
Add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary next, then cook just until the garlic is fragrant. It should only take about 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomato paste, frozen peas, and the lentils, being careful not to mash the lentils. Cook this mixture for a couple minutes or until everything is well combined and hot.
Sprinkle the veggies with the flour, then stir well. Add the vegetable broth and soy sauce, and simmer this mixture until the sauce thickens, about five minutes or so.
Give the veggies a taste. Add extra salt and pepper, if necessary.
Transfer the vegetable-lentil filling to a large baking dish, then top it with the mashed potatoes. If you're using leftover mashed potatoes, warm them up first, otherwise they won't spread.
Brush the potatoes with butter, then bake the Shepherd's Pie until it's hot and bubbly. The mashed potato topping should also be starting to brown in spots.
And then it's time to eat ... doesn't that pie look amazing?
The flavors in this dish are so deep and rich. And with the delicious, savory sauce and yummy mashed potato topping, it's total comfort food. This really is the BEST Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie!
What to Serve with Shepherd's Pie
This Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie is made with mostly healthy ingredients, but with its saucy vegetable-lentil filling and creamy mashed potato topping, it's pretty filling.
Looking for similar recipes?
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
- ½ cup green lentils
For Mashed Potatoes:
- 1 ½ pounds red potatoes, chopped
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
- ¼ to ½ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onions, chopped
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 2 large celery stalks, diced
- 1 pound mushrooms, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- ¾ cup frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a large baking dish.
- Place lentils in a medium sauce pan and cover with well-salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cook lentils until they're tender, but firm (about 15 to 20 minutes). Drain well, then set aside.
Prepare Mashed Potatoes:
- Place potatoes in a large pot of cold, well-salted water. Bring to a boil, then cook until tender. Drain.
- Add cream cheese and butter to potatoes, then mash, adding just enough milk to reach desired consistency.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.
- While lentils and potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add onion, carrots, and celery to skillet; season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until onion starts to turn translucent around the edges (about 5 to 7 minutes).
- Stir mushrooms into pan. Saute until mushrooms are tender and any liquid they release has evaporated.
- Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary to veggies. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly (about 30 seconds).
- Gently mix tomato paste, peas, and lentil into skillet. Cook for a minute or two, or until hot.
- Sprinkle veggies with flour, then mix in thoroughly.
- Add broth and soy sauce, then simmer mixture until sauce has thickened (about 3 to 5 minutes).
- Remove vegetables from heat, then season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
- Transfer veggies to baking dish, then top with mashed potatoes. Brush potatoes with butter.
- Bake pie until hot and potatoes are starting to turn golden, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Serve Shepherd's Pie hot. Enjoy!
- This recipe is a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes. Make sure to warm the potatoes up (adding extra butter or milk if they're dry) to make them easier spread before topping the filling.
- You can save time by substituting 1 ½ cups pre-cooked lentils for the dried lentils.
- If you cook the filling in a large oven-safe pan (such as a dutch oven), you can bake the recipe right in that dish.
- To make this recipe vegan, use dairy free substitutes for the cream cheese, milk, and butter used in the mashed potatoes.
- To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute tamari for the soy sauce. Use cornstarch to thicken the sauce instead of flour.