This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie or cottage pie is a hearty casserole filled with a savory lentil and vegetable filling, plus a buttery mashed potato top!
Looking for a cozy, hearty, but also budget-friendly plant-based main? Look no further! This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie, or cottage pie, is a hearty casserole filled with a savory lentil and vegetable filling. The buttery and crispy mashed potatoes on top take it to the next level!
INGREDIENTS FOR PLANT-BASED SHEPHERD’S PIE
Shepherd’s Pie has humble beginnings, and was originally created as a way to use up leftover roasted meat. It was actually first known as cottage pie (back in 1791!) The term Shepherd’s Pie didn’t come around until 1854. It has it’s origins in the UK, where the minced meat is usually lamb, but ground beef is much more common in the US. Obviously we will be using neither of those today since this is a vegan recipe 😉
This recipe uses all of the essential Shepherd’s Pie ingredients, plus a few plant-based swaps and add-ins to make this dish truly shine:
Since we are skipping the animal protein in this recipe, I use 5 simple and effective ingredients to up the hearty, umami flavor of this dish:
- French Lentils: lentils are a great source of fiber and plant-based protein! I much prefer French Lentils to the standard brown grocery store lentils. They’re smaller and have firmer texture, while brown lentils can get soft and mushy. You can find French lentils online or at some health foods stores – but you can also use brown lentils in a pinch.
- Tomato paste: tomatoes are a great source of umami flavor, and are a common ingredient in Shepherd’s Pie – but I like to add my tomato paste early and sauté it with the onions! This infuses it in the cooking oil, and adds even more depth of flavor.
- Mushrooms: Cremini mushrooms enhance the meaty flavor of this dish with a hearty bite, and chewy texture
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: has a powerful umami flavor (notice a theme here?), plus a lovely tang from tamarind and vinegar that helps round out the flavors of this recipe. Some Worcestershire sauce isn’t vegan and contains anchovy paste, so just make sure you get a plant-based one.
- Imitation “beef” broth: you are more than free to use vegetable broth to make the gravy/sauce for our filling, but I find that using an imitation “beef” broth really amps up the hearty flavors here.
I also prefer to use fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, and thyme) instead – their flavor is so much more complex! I do have substitutions listed for dried herbs in the recipe notes, though.
HOW TO MAKE THIS VEGAN SHEPHERD’S PIE RECIPE
This recipe is divided into two main parts: the base lentil and vegetable layer, and the potato layer on top. Thanks to some multitasking, though, you can whip up this recipe in just over an hour!
- Boil your potatoes until tender, then set aside
- In the meantime, sauté aromatics and spices for the filling. Add your lentils, veggies, flour, and broth to the pan and simmer briefly to thicken.
- Mash your potatoes with butter and plant-based milk for a deliciously creamy topping
- Layer the filling and potatoes in the casserole dish, then rough up the top of the casserole with a fork and brush with butter for a crispy top (this is key!)
- Bake until bubbly, then serve warm.
This recipe is already very wholesome, hearty, and filling, so honestly, you don’t really need to serve it with anything! I do like to sprinkle the top of my crispy mashed potatoes with some parsley for a nice pop of color.
This hearty recipe is not only the perfect cozy winter weeknight dinner, but also festive enough to serve for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Both vegans and non-vegans alike will love this dish, making it great for gatherings.
COOKING TIPS + FAQ:
- Can I make this Shepherd’s Pie ahead of time? The lentil filling can be made up to 3 days before baking the shepherd’s pie and stored in the fridge until ready to use. I would recommend making the potatoes day-of baking.
- Is there a substitute for potatoes? Any vegetable mash will work, really. Mashed Sweet Potatoes would add a sweet and savory flair, and you could even use a blend of cauliflower or parsnips if you were looking for a lower-carb topping. I would recommend using the same amount of produce and butter for the mash, but adjusting the milk as necessary to get the right thickness.
- How can I make this lower in fat / oil-free? This recipe tastes best with the amounts of butter/oil as stated in the recipe. However, you can cut the oil in half, or reduce it in and sauté the filling in vegetable broth. Use 1/4 cup of coconut cream or cashew cream (or vegan sour cream!) with the potatoes if you do not wish to use butter. You can skip brushing the potatoes with butter, or spray them with nonstick cooking spray before baking.
This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie or cottage pie is a hearty casserole filled with a savory lentil and vegetable filling. The buttery and crispy mashed potatoes on top take it to the next level! A comforting and cozy plant-based dinner
For the Potato Topping:
- 3 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 3–4 large)
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter, divided (½ stick)
- 2/3 cup (158 mL) creamy non-dairy milk (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon pink or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
For the Filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 6 ounces (170 g) cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup (67 g) tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons (8 g) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped*
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced*
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves*
- 1/2 teaspoon pink or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Vegan Worcestershire sauce (Optional, but recommended)
- 3–5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, or brown rice for gluten-free)
- 4 cups (680 g) cooked French or brown lentils (see note)
- 2 cups (280 g) frozen vegetable blend* (peas, carrot, and corn)
- 1 ½ cups (355 mL) imitation beef broth (or sub vegetable)
- Prep: Cook the lentils, if you haven’t already. Peel and chop your potatoes first, then prepare the rest of the ingredients. Set a 9×13” casserole dish aside. Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Cook the Potatoes: Add the potatoes to a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-high heat and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove the pot from the heat, drain the potatoes well, and return to the pot to cool.
- Prep the Filling: In the meantime, warm the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté onion 3 minutes, until translucent. Then, add in the tomato paste and stir it into the onion. Fry for an additional 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, parsley, black pepper, and salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have reduced in size. Add the garlic, vegan Worcestershire (optional), and flour, then sauté for an additional minute. Finally, add in the lentils, vegetables, and broth. Mix well and bring to a low simmer, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Mash the Potatoes: Add 3 tablespoons of the vegan butter, milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper (to taste) to the potatoes in the large pot. Mash well with a potato masher, then use a spoon or spatula to mix well, until you get a creamy uniform texture.
- Assemble: Transfer the lentil mixture to the base of the casserole dish, then dollop spoonfuls of mashed potatoes evenly over the mixture. Use a spatula to spread the potatoes evenly. Then, use a fork to create a wavy or crosshatched textured pattern over the top of the potatoes – this helps then brown more. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, then brush it over the top of the potatoes.
- Bake: If the casserole dish is full, place it on top of a baking dish when putting it in the oven, so it does not spill onto the oven base. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 27 to 30 minutes, until bubbly. Transfer the casserole to the top rack of the oven and Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, with the door slightly ajar, for a crispier finish. Let the shepherd’s pie cool (and set) for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm; leftovers can be store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and reheated in the oven, toaster oven, or microwave.
- Lentils: I prefer to use French lentils because they are smaller and firmer, but brown lentils will work in a pinch. To cook your lentils, add 1 1/2 cups dried lentils to a pot with at least 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat until fork tender, 25-40 minutes.
- Herbs: FFresh herbs help to give this dish its best flavor, but you can also used dried. If you choose to do so, use 1 tsp fresh rosemary, 1 tsp dried thyme, and 1 tbsp dried parsley instead of the fresh measurements, as dried herbs are more potent.
- Milk: full-fat coconut or oat milk will work best for this recipe, but cashew milk will work well, too. I would advise against store-bought almond milk, as it’s rather thin and not creamy.
- Other Substitutions: Cremini mushrooms can be substituted with another variety, or replaced with an extra 1/2 cup of lentils if you don’t like them. If you aren’t using Worcestershire Sauce, add 1 extra tablespoon of tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari along with the spices for a more balanced flavor.
- Frozen Vegetables: if you can’t find a frozen vegetable blend, use 2/3 cup each of corn, carrots, and peas. You could also add in some green beans, if you’d like!
- Make-Ahead: The lentil filling can be made up to 3 days before baking the shepherd’s pie and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. I would recommend making the potatoes day-of baking.
- Low Fat / Oil Free: This recipe tastes best with the amounts of butter/oil as stated in the recipe. However, you can cut the oil in half, or reduce it in and sauté the filling in vegetable broth. Use 1/4 cup of coconut cream or cashew cream with the potatoes if you do not wish to use butter. You can skip brushing the potatoes with butter, or spray them with nonstick cooking spray before baking.
- This recipe is inspired by The Wholesome Dish