This vegan lentil shepherd’s pie is a warm, hearty, and comforting winter dish. Soft and creamy mashed potatoes on top of intensely flavored mushrooms and lentils to warm those bellies.
The vegan shepherd's pie recipe is a flavor-packed comfort food that would work well as the main dish for holiday celebrations. It’s not a quick meal, but it's rich with bold savory flavors. Typically shepherd's pie uses ground lamb as opposed to ground beef for a cottage pie.
My plant-based version uses brown lentils and mushrooms cooked with garlic, thyme, and rosemary to give the casserole a meaty texture. The tamari gives it that underlying umami flavor and then finishes with slightly sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar.
- The recipe is oil-free, vegan/vegetarian, and can be made gluten-free!
- Great for a holiday main dish or any time of year!
- Can be made in advance!
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Please see the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and exact measurements for the plant-based shepherd's pie.
Brown lentils - We use brown lentils for this version, in a pinch green lentils can be used. Red lentils break down and become creamy, so I wouldn't recommend using those. Canned lentils can be used instead of dry. Skip the step of boiling with the bay leaves, drain the cans, and add them to the recipe as if you cooked them. Substitute 1 cup uncooked with about 2 ½ cups cooked.
Bay leaves - Two dried bay leaves to help flavor the lentils while they cook. Remove them when you drain the cooked lentils to prevent adding them to the vegetable mixture.
Red onion - White or yellow onion can be used.
Mushrooms - Mushrooms add a meatiness to the lentil filling. I opt for cremini or button mushrooms, but most varieties should work.
Whole wheat flour - This is used to thicken up the lentil filling or for a gluten-free option use brown rice flour.
Vegetable broth - I opt for low-sodium vegetable broth/vegetable stock. If you don’t, add salt to taste to the lentil mixture.
Petite diced tomatoes - I opt for petite diced to have smaller bites of tomato.
Tamari - If you can’t find tamari you can substitute low-sodium soy sauce (regular soy sauce may be too salty). Since tamari already has sodium, taste for salt before placing the lentil mixture in the casserole dish.
Tomato paste - When you add the tomato paste, stir frequently. The color should darken some as it cooks. It's thick so it may start to stick to the pan. If needed, turn down the heat and add a splash of vegetable broth to prevent it from burning.
Balsamic vinegar - Adds a slightly sweet tangy flavor to balance the savoriness of the dish.
Yukon gold potatoes - The recipe calls for Yukon gold potatoes but Russet potatoes can also be used. But not red potatoes.
Dairy-free milk - Any dairy-free milk will work. From personal experience, some shelf-stable plant-based milks are thinner than refrigerated ones. This may alter how much milk you need to thin out the potatoes and it may affect the creaminess of the mashed potatoes.
Nutritional yeast - There is no butter or oil in this recipe so the nutritional yeast is used to flavor the mashed potatoes or try them with oil-free roasted garlic. You can always add vegan butter if you're not oil-free.
- If you want to make the dish extra special, add roasted garlic to the mashed potatoes. Here's a detailed post on how to roast garlic without oil. Just add the roasted garlic cloves to your cooked potatoes before you start to mash them. The potatoes can also be swapped with my recipe for rosemary roasted garlic mashed potatoes with coconut milk or mashed potatoes without butter or oil.
- To make gluten-free shepherd's pie, use gluten-free tamari and brown rice flour instead of whole wheat flour.
- Try canned lentils to save time on the dish, see lentils notes above for instructions.
Start this vegan version by chopping all of the veggies and pre-measure the seasonings. Add the dry lentils, 3 cups of water, and 2 bay leaves to a pot, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 20-25 minutes. The lentils should be tender when done. Drain the lentils, remove the bay leaves, and set them aside.
While the lentils are cooking, start the potatoes. Add the chopped potatoes to a large pot, cover with water, and salt generously. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the potatoes, and add them back to their pot.
Set them aside, keep them covered to steam until you’re ready to mash. When ready to mash the potatoes add the milk, nutritional yeast, and salt to the cooked potatoes and mash with a potato masher. Start with 1 cup of milk and mash into the potatoes. Add more milk if they’re too thick, taste and adjust for salt and nutritional yeast.
I use a large non-stick skillet when I cook the vegetables to keep the dish oil-free. Preheat the pan to medium heat and once the skillet is hot add the red onion, carrots, mushrooms, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are translucent, the carrots have softened, and the mushrooms have reduced in size and released their liquid.
Add a tablespoon of water or vegetable broth to the skillet if the veggies are sticking. Don’t use too much because you don’t want to boil the vegetables, you want them to brown. (You can use this method multiple times to alleviate sticking vegetables.). Or use a neutral-tasting oil.
Add the minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then, add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Next, stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Then add the vegetable broth and deglaze the pan, scraping off any cooked-on bits with a wooden spoon. Add the diced tomatoes, tamari, balsamic vinegar, drained cooked lentils, and salt to the vegetable mixture.
Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened, if it gets too dry add a bit more vegetable broth or water.
Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the peas, they'll thaw when added to the hot lentil mixture.
Scoop the vegetable mixture into a 9”x 13” baking dish, then top with potatoes. Dropping mashed potatoes in small clumps versus one large one will make spreading them easier. Then run the back of a fork across the top to get ridges.
Bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 400 F (200 C), if you want the top to be more golden brown, broil for an additional 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or freeze for 2-3 months. I like to thaw the shepherd’s pie before reheating it. To reheat leftovers in the oven, preheat to 325 F (160 C), cover with aluminum foil, and heat until the filling and potatoes are warmed through.
How long it takes will depend on how much you’re warming up. Or use the microwave for small batches. I haven't tested freezing an entire unbaked pie and then baking it, so I can’t say for sure how well it would work. I have tested small baked portions, which work well.
Frequently asked question
Can I make the vegan shepherd's pie in advance?
Yes, you can! The entire dish can be made and put together, then baked as per the instructions. If it's coming straight out of the fridge you may need to add more time to baking it. The components can also be made and stored separately, then put the pie together and baked.
- A simple side salad
- Rustic bread
- Roasted maple dijon Brussels sprouts
- Slow cooker quinoa chili
- Butternut squash chickpea curry soup
- Red lentil dahl with coconut milk
- Vegan loaded baked potatoes
I hope you enjoy the vegan recipe for lentil shepherd’s pie! If you liked it feel free to rate it and leave a comment.
Originally published on December 23, 2019.Print
Vegan lentil shepherd's pie with a flavor-packed filling made from lentils and mushrooms. Then topped with creamy mashed potatoes for an oil-free, hearty, and filling dinner.
Shepherd's Pie Filling
- 1 cup (180 g) dried brown lentils
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 red onion (diced)
- 3 large carrots (diced)
- 8 oz (226 g) mushrooms (diced)
- 4 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (or brown rice flour)
- 1 cup (240 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups (280 g) frozen peas
- ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 ½ pounds Gold Yukon(1151 g) potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1- 1 ¾ cup (240-414 ml) unsweetened dairy-free milk
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Add the dry lentils, 3 cups of water, and 2 bay leaves to a pot, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 20-25 minutes. The lentils should be tender when done. Drain the lentils, remove the bay leaves, and set them aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).
- While the lentils are cooking, start the potatoes. Add the potatoes to a pot, cover with water, and salt generously. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the potatoes and add them back to their pot. Set them aside, covered to steam until ready to mash. When ready to mash the potatoes, add the milk, nutritional yeast, and salt (to taste). Start with 1 cup of milk and mash into the potatoes. Depending on your desired consistency and how much liquid the potatoes need, add more milk if needed.
- In a large non-stick skillet, cook the red onion, carrots, and mushrooms for about 10 minutes (or until the carrots have softened and the mushrooms have released their liquid and reduced in size), add a pinch of salt to the veggies while they're cooking. For oil-free cooking add a tablespoon or two of water at a time if the veggies start to stick and prevent burning. (Or use a neutral-tasting oil)
- Add the minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sauté for 2-3 more minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Then add the vegetable broth and deglaze the pan scraping off any cooked-on bits with a wooden spoon.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tamari, drained cooked lentils, balsamic vinegar, and salt to the vegetable mixture.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in frozen peas.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
- Scoop the vegetable mixture into a 9”x 13” baking dish, then top with mashed potatoes. Use the back of a fork to make ridges in the potatoes.
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. To get a darker, top broil for an additional 5 minutes.
Cook for a few minutes until the veggie mixture thickens, you should be able to spoon the mixture in the pan and some liquid is left but see the bottom of the pan. Like a gravy.
For oil-free cooking having a bowl or squeeze bottle of water nearby is helpful.
If you use regular soy sauce (not low sodium), you want to adjust the salt.
- Prep Time: 55 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: English, American
Keywords: vegan lentil shepherd's pie, vegan cottage pie, lentil shepherd's pie