Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

A shallow Le Creuset pan filled with lentils and vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes seen with a wood serving spoon and plates.

This scrumptious vegetarian shepherd’s pie is a fantastic way to utilize leftover lentils or mashed potatoes, and features a number of vegetables and staple foods that are easy to find at most groceries and markets.

This Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie recipe can be prepped ahead of time, hearty enough for your meat eaters, and appreciated by the vegetarians in your life, making it a great meal for entertaining.  Your guests don’t need to know the lentils came from last night’s dinner.  

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

A hearty vegetarian Irish dish filled with lentils, mushrooms, carrots, and peas topped with mashed potatoes and baked.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine Irish
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

Lentils

  • 1 cup lentils rinsed and picked over for stones
  • 1 handful sundried tomatoes coarsely chopped
  • 2 whole bay leafs
  • ½ tbsp thyme
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • 3 cups vegetable stock

Mashed Potatoes

  • 8 large starchy potatoes Russet or Yukon
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • tbsp chives finely chopped

Shepherd's Pie Filling

  • 1 yellow onion peeled and chopped
  • 3 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • ½ bulb garlic smashed and minced
  • 1 birds eye chili minced
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms quartered
  • 1 cup frozen green peas thawed
  • tsp thyme
  • tsp rosemary
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp soy sauce
  • cups prepared lentils and stock

Instructions
 

Prepare Lentils

  • Rinse lentils and pick over for any pebbles.
    Add lentils, coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and vegetable stock to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
    Reduce heat to a simmer over medium heat and allow lentils to cook until tender (not mushy).  Depending on the type of lentils it can take 25 minutes – 1 hour.
    Pick out the bay leaf and set the lentils aside. 

Prepare Mashed Potatoes

  • Scrub potatoes clean, potato eyes cut out, and cube into 1” chunks (I’m a peel-on sort of girl).
    Add cubed potatoes into a large pot and cover with cold water and a generous pinch of salt.
    Bring potatoes and water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. 
    Cook for 15-20 minutes. When you can stick a fork in them and they slide off, they are ready.
    Drain potatoes in a colander.
    Heat milk and butter in a small pot over medium-low heat until butter is melted. 
    Add the drained potatoes back to the potato pot and mash with a potato masher or handheld mixture.  Add the milk/ butter liquid in and continue to mash.  You want them fluffy not runny. 
    Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
    Fold in chopped chives.
    Set aside.

Prepare Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie Filling

  • Prep mirepoix:  Peel and chop onion, carrot, and celery.
    Mince garlic and chili (fresh chili is a preference because we like heat).
    Quarter Mushrooms.
    Thaw peas at room temperature.
  • Once lentils are nearly cooked, heat olive oil in a large oven-proof pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop.
  • Add mirepoix and sauté for several minutes.
  • Stir in garlic, chili, thyme, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add mushrooms, red wine, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of salt, cover, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180?/375?.
  • Add the cooked lentils with their liquid and peas into the pan and mix thoroughly.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble and Bake

  • Remove the lentil-filled pan from heat and spoon mashed potatoes on top.**
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the potato peaks turn golden brown and the juices are bubbling on the outside of the pan.
  • Serve and enjoy with a fresh green salad.
  • **If you are preparing this to be frozen and cooking later – stop here. Allow to cool, then cover and freeze.
Keyword casserole, lentils, vegetarian

Substitution Options

The lentil filling as it is being prepared on the stove.  Bright green peas, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, and lentils are all seen here.

The blend of lentils and mushrooms is a great substitute for mince.  This combination provides a rich and savory umami flavor to closely resemble the traditional lamb or mince filling found in Shepherd’s Pie.  The Mushroom Council offers wonderful information and flavor profiles of mushroom varietals that are excellent substitutes for meat.

I love the spicy elevation a chili can have. Feel free to leave this out.

Not big on wine, leave it out. Add a little extra veg stock.

Horseradish pairs well with this dish, throw some fresh horseradish into your mash before topping.

Have sweet potatoes on hand- great use those instead.

I cook the sundried tomatoes with the lentils to give the lentils to break them down. If you have fresh or canned tomatoes, chop them fine, and add them into the filling after the seasoning and before the mushrooms and allow them to cook down.

Side Dish options

I like to accompany Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with a nice lightly dressed green salad, steamed vegetables like green beans or broccoli or roasted brussel sprouts to add a fresh bite and a little extra fiber.

Origins of Shepherd’s Pie

The green pastural Irish countryside in southern Ireland along the coast with a long-haired sheep.

Shepherd’s Pie originated from the British Isles in the 1700s and is commonly found in restaurants throughout Ireland and England. While traditional British pies are made with a shortcrust pastry, Shepherd’s Pie ditches the crust and is topped with comforting mashed potatoes.

The concept behind Shepherd’s Pie was to repurpose and utilize leftover meat, potatoes, and vegetables.  This dish provides ample opportunities to get creative with what’s in your fridge.

A variation of Shepherd's Pie served in a pub in London.  This one is individually portioned and topped with cheese and tomatoes.

The Inspiration

Whether cooking at home or traveling abroad, I enjoy using whatever I have on hand. Lentils, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, chilis, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, and wine are cornerstones in my kitchen box and readily available in most places.  Why not toss them all together? 

While traveling in Ireland, I sought out a good Shepherd’s Pie.  Just as I keep a hit list of must-see places, I love doing the same with traditional cuisines.  Sitting in a cozy pub, savoring a hearty portion of Shepherd’s Pie accompanied by a frothy stout, was a quintessential Irish experience.

While working at a restaurant on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, we often had leftover short ribs and pomme puree. Both were guest favorites and staple menu items, as a cook, it was crucial never to run out of these either during dinner service. “Better to make more than less,” so the silky spuds and decadent short ribs frequently ended up on our leftover shelves. I took the initiative to organize a “family meal” before each dinner service feeding 40-50 employees and prided myself on my ingenuity in utilizing short rib in all types of cuisine.

However, the pomme puree presented a trickier challenge. Made fresh daily, this ultra-decadent potato puree consisted of riced potatoes, heavy cream, an abundance of butter, salt, and a healthy glug of Italy’s finest olive oil. These potatoes were luxuriant and rich. I tried various uses for the leftover pomme puree, including potato leek soup, loaded mash, colcannon, and champ (both Irish dishes), but the unanimous staff pleaser was always Shepherd’s Pie.

Who can resist the allure of mashed potatoes? 

A hefty portion of the vegetarian Shepherd's pie showcasing both the mashed potatoes and the filling.

Looking for other crowd pleasing vegetarian dinners: try my Lasagna, Boerewors Cassoulet, or Austrian Krautfleckerl.

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