Food and Recipes, In the Kitchen

Recipe: Vegetarian Shepherd Pie

Vegetarian Shepherd Pie

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 20 years now.  I was still a teenager living at home when I first stopped eating meat, so by the time I got my own place with my own kitchen, I had never learned how to prepare meat dishes.  Not that it mattered, I became a pro at whipping up dishes with all sorts of vegetarian ingredients.  I enjoyed all sorts of new cuisines and ingredients that my family had never even heard of (such as millet, quinoa, all sorts of field beans, even kale was an unpopular vegetable a couple of decades ago!). 

However, from time to time I got a craving for some sort of comfort food that reminded me of home.   I had tried picking up some of the Amy’s brand of vegetarian meat loaf and shepherd pie, and even though they were okay, they were still frozen meals that didn’t quite have that same down-home cooking that I so craved.  So I started experimenting ways to recreate my favorite meat dishes in a vegetarian form.

It’s an ever-evolving process, and I’ve made quite a few doozies that have barely been edible, but years of experimentation has allowed me to perfect some of my faux-meat dishes.   This Vegetarian Shepherd Pie is one of my success stories.  Even the hardcore meat eaters in my family have been impressed with its flavor and texture, and now it’s a staple and an often asked for dish in our holidays and celebrations.

Vegetarian Shepherd Pie

It’s a little labor intensive, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once.  I make the mashed potatoes usually a day or two beforehand, and the lentils can also be made up to three days before preparing this dish.  So if you’re making a meal plan for the week, this is a great way to use up lentils and mashed potatoes.

It’s also an extremely versatile dish.  I put down the vegetables that I had on hand and that we all like here, but you can feel free to swap them out for your own favorite vegetables, or you could even substitute a bag of mixed frozen vegetables that you can just steam in your microwave.

Please do feel free to play around with this (and all) my recipes.  Cooking is an art, not a science!

Vegetarian Shepherd Pie

Vegetarian Shepherd Pie

 * vegetarian * 6-8 servings *


For the lentil layer:

  • 1 1/2 c lentils
  • 3 c water
  • 2 T dry minced onion
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/4 t celery seed
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • cracked black pepper
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 t salt

And later you will be adding:

  • 1 white onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 T cooking oil
  • 1 c sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T mustard
  • 1/3 c (+) red wine (or other liquid, such as broth or water)

For the vegetable layer:

  • 1 t cooking oil
  • 1/2 c chopped celery
  • 1 c chopped carrots
  • 1 c broccoli florets
  • 2 c cooking greens, chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c frozen peas

For the potato layer:

  • 5 to 6 cups prepared mashed potatoes *



To Make the Lentils:

Combine lentils and water.  Add all seasoning ingredients except salt.  Bring to a low boil and reduce heat to low.  Simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.  Add salt and stir to combine.  Use immediately following directions below, or cover and chill for up to 3 days.

To Make the Shepherd Pie:

Chop onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat in oil.  After a few minutes, add mushrooms and sauté for another few minutes until fragrant.  Add cooked lentils to the cooking pan and combine with onion mixture.  Heat through.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and wine (or other liquid).  Season with salt and pepper.  If at any time the mixture starts to stick to the pan, add a small bit of liquid. Place in a greased 8×8” baking dish.

For the vegetables, add oil to the same pan and sauté celery, carrots and broccoli florets until crisp-tender.  Add greens and wilt for a few moments.  Add frozen peas and stir until heated.  Spoon over lentil layer.

Spread mashed potatoes smoothly over vegetable layer.  Place the pan in a preheated oven at 375 and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool

*I make my mashed potatoes with the skins on.  After cooking, I mash them with buttermilk and then whip them, including the skins, with my immersion blender.


I invited my mother and sister over last night to join me and we finished off the entire pan in no time.  (I might have had more than my share of second – or third – helpings, shhhh!)  I love warm, hearty, filling dinners on cold winter days.  Sometimes it seems that if you’ve got so much love and warmth indoors it can melt even the iciest arctic winds.

~ Mellie ★

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  1. Tabetha says:

    This looks REALLY good! I’m not vegetarian all the time, but we do try to enjoy some meatless meals throughout the week. I like this because it doesn’t use any kind of soy-replacement like TVP. Soy doesn’t really sit well with me. Thanks for this recipe. We’ll be trying it for dinner this week.

  2. YUM! Looks delicious!

  3. Looks delicious, Mellie! Can’t wait to try it.

  4. Looks tasty! I made this this week also. We vary in the spices we used but mine was a similar recipe. I also used mashed cauliflower as my top layer. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  5. Marg Haile says:

    Do you think Garlic Mashed Cauliflower would work as a replacement for potatoes? I’m going to the grocery store tomorrow…..can’t wait to get this one made.

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