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This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie is inspired by the original cottage pie. It’s made with a lentil, mushroom and vegetable filling and topped with buttery vegan mashed potatoes. Gluten-free option, oil-free option, make-ahead option.
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If you like hearty, warm comfort food, this Vegan Shepherd’s Pie is for you. It’s got a protein-rich, “meaty” filling under a thick, creamy layer of dairy free mashed potatoes. Add this savory casserole to this week’s menu for an affordable, satisfying meal that’s guaranteed to please the whole family!
The Humble Beginnings of Shepherd’s Pie (Cottage Pie)
Shepherd’s Pie was originally created as a hearty way to use up leftover roasted meat. It dates back to the UK where the dish was actually first known as cottage pie (back in 1791!). The term Shepherd’s Pie didn’t come around until 1854, but strongly resembles the original cottage pie, only replacing the minced beef with minced lamb.
This version is of course 100% vegetarian and vegan, swapping the meat for high-protein lentils and cremini mushrooms, among a few other small tweaks.
What You Need for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie is one of my favorite clean-out-the-fridge dinners because it’s chalked full of many of my budget-friendly pantry and fridge staples. Here are a few ingredients notes and recommendations to help you make the best vegan cottage pie:
- French Lentils: Note that French lentils are not the same as the standard brown lentils. French lentils are smaller and have a firmer texture than brown lentils that often get soft and mushy (Save those for recipes like Coconut Curry Lentil Soup!). Find French lentils online or at some health foods stores, or if necessary, use brown lentils or black lentils as the next best option.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: Be careful to use an anchovy-free Worcestershire sauce. Brands such as Annie’s, Whole Foods 365, and Edward & Sons carry them in large-chain grocery stores. You’ll want to hunt this ingredient down if you can – it has a powerful umami flavor plus a lovely tang from tamarind and vinegar that helps round out the flavors in this shepherd’s pie. Plus, it goes well in recipes like Vegan Meatballs and Portobello Mushroom Steaks.
- Imitation “beef” broth: You are more than welcome to use vegetable broth or mushroom broth to make the filling, but I find that using an imitation “beef” broth really amps up the hearty flavors here. I typically use Better than Bouillon’s No Beef Base, but any plant-based friendly brand will do!
- Fresh herbs: The flavor of fresh herbs is so much more complex than dried! You won’t be sorry you splurged for fresh.
How to Make Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
- Prep the recipe ingredients. If you haven’t already, cook the lentils, then get started on peeling and chopping your potatoes and other vegetables.
- Cook the potatoes in a large pot filled with water until fork-tender. Drain, then return to the pot to cool.
- In a separate sauté pan, prepare the filling. Sauté the onions, then stir in the tomato paste. Add the mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, parsley, black pepper, and salt and cook until the mushrooms are reduced in size.
- Add the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and flour and stir to combine. Pour in the vegetable broth, cooked lentils, and frozen vegetable blend. Bring to a low simmer, then remove from the heat and set the filling aside.
- Mash the potatoes with vegan butter, milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt and pepper until creamy.
- Transfer the lentil mixture to a casserole dish, then spread the mashed potatoes mixture overtop. Cut a cross hatched or wavy texture into the top of the potatoes, then brush with melted butter.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, then broil for 5 to 10 minutes or until crispy.
- Serve warm as is or with desired sides.
Caitlin’s Cooking Tips
- Cook and cool the lentils a day in advance. This not only cuts down on prep time, but prevents the lentils from overcooking and becoming mushy when simmered in the filling. Cooked lentils will last in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Don’t over mash the potatoes. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is possible to over mash potatoes. Mash just enough until smooth and creamy – any more and your potatoes will become gluey and unpleasant!
This veg cottage pie is absolutely hearty enough to serve on its own, but if you’d like to offer a few sides, you can’t go wrong with light side dishes such as Easy Garlic Green Beans, Sweets & Beets, Roasted Red Cabbage or Balsamic Marinated Mushrooms.If you’re looking for more easy vegan casseroles, you’ll also love this Vegan Tamale Pie, Butternut Squash & Brown Rice Casserole, Creamy Green Enchilada Casserole and this Sweet Potato Rosemary Casserole.
How to Store Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
Vegan shepherd’s pie will store well in an airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer (unbaked) for up to 3 months. To defrost, place the frozen casserole in the fridge to defrost for 24-48 hours before baking as normal.
Reheat any leftovers in the oven, toaster oven, or microwave until warmed through. If the potatoes seem dry, reheat with a splash of unsweetened plant milk and a small pat of vegan butter on top of the potatoes.
Substitutions and Variations
- Gluten-free option: Substitute the all-purpose flour with brown rice flour. This is used to thicken the filling’s gravy/sauce.
- Lower fat/Oil-free option: This recipe tastes best with the amounts of butter/oil as stated in the recipe. However, you can cut the oil in half and sauté the filling in vegetable broth or water. Replace the butter in the potatoes with 1/4 cup of coconut cream or Rosemary Garlic Cashew Cream, then skip brushing the potatoes with butter, or lightly spray them with nonstick cooking spray before baking.
- Vegetable blend options: 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! Use up what you have.
- Mushroom substitute: If you’re out of mushrooms or simply don’t care for them, replace them with an extra ½ cup of cooked lentils.
- Milk options: Full-fat coconut milk, cashew milk or oat milk work best for this recipe. Avoid store-bought almond milk as it’s rather thin and not creamy. If interested, learn how to make your own creamy nut milks at home with minimal ingredients.
- Potato options: Swap the potatoes for sweet potatoes and make a mashed sweet potatoes shepherd’s pie variation!
- Dried herbs option: Fresh herbs give this dish its best flavor, but you can substitute 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1 tablespoon dried parsley instead.
The only notable difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie is the meat used. Shepherd’s pie is prepared with lamb whereas cottage pie is often beef or another cheaper meat.
Allow the filling to cool slightly before topping with the mashed potatoes. Further, gently dollop the mashed potatoes over the filling and gently spread smooth using a spatula or the back of a spoon. This will help keep even layers and prevent sinking.
f your cottage pie is runny, you likely did not simmer the filling enough to thicken. Once ready, the consistency should be similar to thick gravy.
The filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. For best results, prepare the mashed potatoes day-of.
Enjoy! If you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I would also love it if you could leave a comment below with a recipe rating! Thank you for the support 😊
The ULTIMATE Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
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 creamy non-dairy milk see notes
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)
For the Filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 6 ounces cremini mushrooms finely chopped
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley finely chopped*
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary minced*
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves*
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Vegan Worcestershire sauce Optional, but recommended
- 3-5 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons flour all-purpose, or brown rice for gluten-free
- 4 cups cooked French or brown lentils see note
- 2 cups frozen vegetable blend* peas, carrot, and corn
- 1 ½ cups imitation beef broth or sub vegetable broth
- 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