This vegan shepherd’s pie is hearty, filling, and combines a veggie-packed lentil filling with a fluffy mashed potato topping for ultimate comfort food! Even better, this lentil shepherd’s pie is gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free, ready in under an hour, perfect for a mid-week meal or impressing at Thanksgiving!
Comforting Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
This time of year is perfect for digging into big portions of pure comfort food like creamy lasagna soup, mac and cheese, vegan meatballs and gravy, and this vegan shepherd’s pie (also called vegan cottage pie/gardener’s pie)! Whereas regular shepherd’s pie relies on a meaty lamb filling, this lentil shepherd’s pie is 100% meat-free and vegan, replacing meat with lentils, but still packed with all the same wholesome comfort and satisfaction as the original!
More so, this recipe relies almost entirely on pantry staples (and fairly budget-friendly ones at that!), meaning you can probably make it right now! Missing any of the fresh veggies? No problem, they’re pretty versatile and can be substituted with other veggies (fresh or frozen). In fact, you can even substitute the lentils or swap out the fluffy mash for creamy sweet potato mash. I’ve never had a bad batch of this vegetarian shepherd’s pie recipe!
Combine the above with the fact that this easy shepherd’s pie is super simple to prepare, ready in under 60 minutes, and packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals, and you have a winner. This recipe is perfect for enjoying in the chilly winter month or year-round when you crave comfort. You can even make this crowd-pleaser ahead and freeze/reheat it for later!
Lentil Pie Filling
- Lentils: Use cooked brown or green lentils. Either cook from dry or use canned.
- Vegetables: This vegan shepherd’s pie recipe uses the classic mirepoix mix of carrot, celery, and onion, along with peas and corn (fresh, frozen, or canned).
- Garlic: Adjust the amount to taste. Use dried garlic powder in a pinch.
- Seasonings: I use a simple combination of onion powder, dried thyme (or fresh thyme), dried rosemary (or fresh rosemary/ you can use Italian herbs instead), and salt and pepper. I also add a pinch of sugar (or maple syrup) to balance the acidity.
- Umami: These elements help add depth of flavor to the lentil shepherds pie. I used soy sauce (coconut aminos/ tamari for gluten-free), balsamic vinegar, and vegan red wine (or more stock if preferred).
- Vegetable stock/broth: Use reduced-sodium vegetable broth if preferred. Adjust the added salt accordingly.
- Oil: I used vegetable oil, but any neutral cooking oil will work.
Mashed Potato Layer
- Potatoes: Use all-purpose or starchy potatoes like Russet potatoes or Yukon Golds (I prefer the latter for this lentil shepherd’s pie recipe).
- Milk: Use your favorite plant-based milk (or even canned coconut milk for creamier results).
- Butter: Use unsalted dairy-free butter OR olive oil.
- Seasonings: All you need is salt, black pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.
Optional add-ins & Recipe Variations
- Nutritional yeast: To provide a slightly subtle, cheesy flavor to the mashed potato topping.
- Cheese: Sprinkle a vegan cheddar or similar melting cheese over the lentil pie before baking.
- Other vegetables: Adjust the veggies in this ‘gardeners pie’ to your taste. If you aren’t a fan of celery, omit it. You can also use other veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, frozen mixed veggies, etc.) in this vegan shepherd’s pie recipe. Sliced mushrooms would also work but make sure to sauté them with the other veggies to release their water.
- Alternative mash topping: Use mashed sweet potato instead. The combination of sweet and savory is absolutely delicious. Mashed root vegetables would also work.
- Lower-carb topping: Use cauliflower mash or a cauliflower-potato mash.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: You can add this in place of the balsamic vinegar.
- Fresh herbs: Parsley works well as a garnish for this vegan shepherds pie.
- Truffle oil/Garlic oil: Add a small amount (about 1 tbsp) of either oil into the mashed potato topping for extra depth of flavor and that ‘something special’.
Please read the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information.
How to Make Vegan Shepherd’s Pie?
Step 1: Prepare the vegan mashed potato topping
- First, peel and chop the potatoes into 1-inch pieces, and transfer them to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, and then cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until fork-tender. Then drain.
- Transfer the potatoes back to the pot with the vegan butter, milk, and seasonings. Mash with a potato masher (alternatively, use a potato ricer before adding all the add-ins).
Step 2: Prepare the lentil filling
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. First, mince the garlic and finely chop the onion, carrot, and celery. If you haven’t already, the lentils will also need cooking (use canned for convenience and drain/rinse them).
- Then, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and all the spices. Stir and sauté for around three minutes.
For even more flavor, sauté for slightly longer, until the vegetables are becoming golden brown. This caramelized flavor will enhance the flavor of this vegetarian shepherd’s pie.
- Add the tomato paste, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and stir.
- Next, add the cooked green or brown lentils, corn, peas, red wine, and stock. Bring to a boil, and then allow the mixture to simmer for between 5-7 minutes, or until slightly reduced.
Step 3: Assemble and bake
- Preheat the oven to 390F/200C.
- Then, spoon the lentil mixture into the baking dish (e.g. a 9-inch baking/casserole dish) and top with the mashed potato layer, spreading it with a spatula to cover the top of the pie.
You can optionally use a fork to create a pattern on the top of the vegan mashed potato topping, as I did. Not only does it look great, but it gives the spuds plenty of fluffy ridges to become crispy and browned. For more decadence, add a generous brush of oil or vegan butter to the top of the mash.
- Bake the lentil shepherd’s pie in the oven for 15 minutes, then broil at the end until the top is golden brown. Optionally, garnish the lentil pie with some fresh herbs, slice, and enjoy!
How to Make Ahead and Store?
Make-ahead: You can prepare the entire vegan shepherd’s pie recipe up until baking and then store covered in the fridge for up to 2 days OR freeze (for up to 3 months). Let it defrost in the fridge overnight before baking.
Store: Allow it to cool and then store either wrapped tightly or in an airtight container for 4-6 days.
Freeze: Let the lentil shepherd’s pie cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap (2 layers), and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
What to Serve with Vegan Shepherd’s Pie?
This lentil shepherd’s pie is wholesome and comforting enough to enjoy a large portion on its own. However, if you want to serve it with a side, some of my favorites are:
- A thick, rustic slice of bread like sourdough, this gluten-free loaf, or even french bread, etc. I sometimes also use garlic naan.
- A simple, leaf green side salad.
- More veggies – I particularly like adding simple steamed or roasted veggies like cabbage, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, etc.
- Serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas, with all the classic sides.
Can you reheat lentil shepherd’s pie?
Absolutely, you can either reheat it in the oven (15-30 minutes at 350F/180C, based on the amount you’re reheating, tented with foil) or in the microwave (2-3 minutes), until piping hot.
Why does my mash sink?
This can happen if you haven’t reduced and thickened the lentil filling enough. It can help to allow the filling to cool slightly before topping with the mash (it thickens as it cools).
Should I freeze shepherd’s pie before or after baking?
You can do either, as all the elements are pre-cooked, even before baking.
What is the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie?
This comes down to the protein used in the pie. Shepherd’s pie contains lamb, and cottage pie contains ground beef. When making a vegan version, many use the terms interchangeably, so this is called a vegan cottage pie, too. However, more accurately (but less commonly), it can also be called a ‘gardener’s pie.’
Can I substitute the lentils?
I’ve tried this vegan shepherd’s pie recipe before with other pulses, too, with excellent results. Black beans and kidney beans would be my first suggestions.
Recipe Notes and Top Tips
- Fluff up the potato: Using your fork will help create lots of ridges to crisp up.
- Bake over a tray: The filling can sometimes bubble up and over the sides of your baking dish, so placing it on a tray makes clean-up a breeze!
- Experiment with veggies: This recipe is versatile, AND you can use fresh or frozen veggies, so experiment and have fun!
- Avoid red lentils: They’ll turn to mush in this vegan shepherd’s pie recipe.
- To cook the dried lentils: Combine ¾ cup lentils with 3 cups water or veg stock, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until the lentils are tender (usually between 20-25 minutes). Then drain and continue with this recipe.
- Make individual serve portions: Bake and serve the lentil pie in ramekins topped with tall piped potato mash.
More Vegan Comfort Food Recipes
- One-pot lentil soup
- Lentil stuffed eggplant
- Cheesy broccoli quinoa casserole
- The BEST vegan chili
- Gluten-free, vegan pot pie
- Pumpkin curry
- Tantanmen ramen with bok choy
Or browse through my entire collection of main dishes for tons more vegan dinner inspiration!
If you try this vegan shepherd’s pie recipe with lentils, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Vegan Shepherd's Pie
- 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 1 stalk of celery diced (see recipe notes)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh)
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or tarragon)
- 1/2 tsp sugar (or maple syrup)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine OR more veggie stock
- 2 cups (400 g) cooked lentils (cooked from dry or use canned)
- 1/2 cup peas (frozen or canned)
- 1/2 cup corn fresh, frozen or canned
- 2 pounds of (1 kg) potatoes
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) plant-based milk
- 2 tbsp vegan butter OR vegetable oil (or use plant-based milk if oil-free)
- nutmeg, salt, and black pepper to taste
- You can watch the video in the post for visual instructions.
- Peel and chop the potatoes, transfer them to a pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender, then drain.
- Transfer back to the pot, add vegan butter, plant-based milk, nutmeg, black pepper, and sea salt to taste, and mash with a potato masher (don't use a food processor or blender).
- In the meantime, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and all spices. Fry for about 3 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.
- Add cooked lentils, corn, and peas and pour in the red wine and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until slightly reduced.
- Preheat the oven to 390 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Spoon the lentil mixture into a baking dish (e.g. square 9" pan). Spoon the mashed potatoes over the lentil mixture and spread it evenly.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, then broil for a few minutes to get it golden brown on top.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy!
- You can leave out the celery if you don't like the taste and use any other vegetables instead (for example cauliflower, broccoli, etc).
- Recipe serves 4. Nutrition facts are for one serving.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically