Filled with mushrooms, lentils, carrots, and green peas and covered with fluffy mashed potatoes, this vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie is a hearty plant-based meal. Not only does it feed a crowd, but it keeps incredibly well in the fridge or freezer, so you’ll have healthy leftovers for days to come.
I think we can all agree that shepherd’s pie is the ultimate comfort food. On a cold fall or winter’s day, there is nothing quite like a stick-to-your-ribs meal like shepherd’s pie. While I love a traditional shepherd’s pie made with ground beef or ground lamb and, to be clear, there is nothing unhealthy about it, using lentils in shepherd’s pie is simply a good way to create a vegetarian shepherd’s pie and a fun way to mix up a traditional dish!
What is the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie?
Shepherd’s pie and cottage pie are savory British casserole dishes made from ground meat and mashed potato topping but the difference between the two is found in the meat. While the names are often used interchangeably, a shepherd’s pie is made with ground lamb, while traditional cottage pie is made from ground beef.
Can you add lentils to shepherd’s pie?
Yes! While a traditional shepherd’s pie is made with ground lamb, if you want to make a vegetarian version, you can use lentils. Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and a great alternative for ground meat in a shepherd’s pie recipe as their texture resembles that of ground meat once cooked. You can replace 1 pound of ground beef or ground lamb with 1 cup of dry lentils or 2.5 cups of cooked lentils in a shepherd’s pie recipe.
What lentils are best for shepherd’s pie?
Green or brown lentils are best for shepherd’s pie. Green and brown lentils have the best texture and flavor for shepherd’s pie; their mild flavor allows them to absorb the flavors they are cooked in, and their texture more closely resembles ground meat once cooked. Yellow or red lentils have a stronger flavor and are too soft once cooked and will not work well as a replacement for ground meat in a shepherd’s pie recipe.
Ingredients for Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
Here’s what you’ll need to make a shepherd’s pie recipe with lentils.
Lentils: Be sure to use brown lentils or green lentils as they provide the best meat-like texture and flavor.
Potatoes: While you can use any white potato, I recommend using Russet potatoes are their flavor pairs nicely, they have a great fluffy texture once mashed, and they are the more traditional potatoes used in shepherd’s pie. You could also use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes for the topping. Although they’re not necessarily healthier in any way, sweet potatoes add a touch of sweetness to the dish, which would contrast nicely with the earthy lentil and mushroom flavors.
Mushrooms: Some chopped mushrooms help to enhance the meaty texture and flavor of the dish, feel free to use any type of mushroom or combination of mushrooms you like.
Carrots and Peas: You can use fresh or frozen peas and carrots.
Thyme, Onion, and Garlic: Some aromatics to enhance the flavor of the dish. Although I used dried thyme you could use fresh thyme and a little rosemary would work nicely too.
Vegetable Broth: Cooking the lentils in broth instead of water helps to add an extra depth of flavor. Depending on dietary preferences, beef broth, chicken broth, and mushroom broth would all also work well.
Worcestershire Sauce: A traditional ingredient to enhance the savory and umami flavor. Note, if you follow a vegan diet Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies so you can replace it with vegan Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or tamari.
Tomato Paste and Flour: Some essentials to help thicken the gravy and lentil mixture.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils
Making shepherd’s pie with lentils is very similar to making shepherd’s pie with meat, you simply need to ensure the lentils are well seasoned and cooked before layering them into the casserole. Here’s an overview of the steps:
- Cook the potatoes. Peel and cook the potatoes until they are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork.
- Cook the veggies. While the potatoes are cooking you can start on the vegetable filling of onion, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and thyme.
- Make the lentil filling. Once the veggies are ready, add the flour, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and lentils and cook them with the broth until the lentil are just tender and the broth is thickened.
- Mash the potato topping. Once the potatoes are cooked and fork tender, mash them with butter, broth, and milk until fluffy and creamy.
- Layer the shepherd’s pie. In a large casserole dish, layer the bottom with the lentil and mushroom filling and evenly spread the mashed potato mixture over the top.
- Bake until golden and bubbling. Once prepared, transfer the shepherd’s pie to the oven to bake until the mashed potato top is golden brown, and the lentil filling is just bubbling out the sides. If you want it extra crispy and golden on top, turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes before removing it from the oven.
Once baked, the lentil shepherd’s pie can be served immediately on its own or with a side of vegetables or a light green salad.
How many calories in lentil shepherd’s pie?
The number of calories in a lentil shepherd’s pie depends on the exact recipe made and the portion sizes consumed. This recipe makes a total of 6 servings and contains 463 calories per serving.
Can you freeze lentil shepherd’s pie?
Yes. Lentil shepherd’s pie can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. You can freeze this recipe directly after it’s been assembled in the casserole dish and bake it when you’re ready to serve or freeze it once it’s baked.
To freeze after assembly, cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil and plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag and transfer it to the freezer for up to 3 months.
To freeze after baking, allow the shepherd’s pie to cool completely, then cover it tightly with aluminum foil and transfer it to the freezer for up to 3 months.
If you have a casserole dish with an airtight lid, that would also be a great option and storage solution to freeze the shepherd’s pie.
Can you reheat lentil shepherd’s pie?
Absolutely! You can reheat leftover lentil shepherd’s pie in the oven or microwave much like you would reheat a meat shepherd’s pie.
To reheat in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F, place your shepherd’s pie in an oven-proof casserole dish covered with foil, and heat a single portion for 10 minutes or an entire pie for 30-40 minutes until warmed through. To reheat an entire shepherd’s pie from frozen, follow the same instructions but extend the cooking time to 60-90 minutes to ensure the entire shepherd’s pie is completely warmed through.
To reheat in the microwave, place your shepherd’s pie in a microwave-safe dish and warm single portions on high for 2-3 minutes, with additional 30-second increments as needed, until warmed through.
Swaps and Alternatives
Short on time? Swap the dry lentils for canned lentils. Use three 15-ounce cans of lentils instead of 1 cup of dry lentils.
Want to make it low-carb? Top the shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.
Want to make it gluten-free? Use a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose flour.
Want to make it dairy-free? Swap the butter and milk in the mashed potatoes for olive oil and unsweetened almond milk.
Want to make it vegan? Use vegan Worcestershire sauce or omit the Worcestershire sauce completely and use soy sauce or tamari instead, and trade the butter and milk in the mashed potatoes for olive oil and unsweetened almond milk.
Honestly, this shepherd’s pie with lentils is absolutely delicious and will convert even the most skeptical eaters. Whether you make it for a family meal, dinner party, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, this recipe is sure to please meat eaters, vegans, and vegetarians alike.
More Vegetarian Lentil Recipes:
Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
The combination of brown lentils and mushrooms in the filling ensures that this lentil shepherd’s pie is a high-protein and flavor-packed vegetarian meal.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Main
- Method: Stovetop & Baked
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 cups mushrooms, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 1/2 cups brown lentils, dry
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- Black pepper
- 5 large white potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup milk
- Begin by preparing the potatoes. In a large pot, add the 2 cups of broth, 4 cups of water, a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes (add extra water to cover them if needed), reduce to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes until tender and can easily be pierced with a fork.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. In a large and deep skillet or pot on medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add onions and carrots and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender and onions are translucent.
- Add mushrooms, stir to combine with the onions and carrots, and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until mushrooms have reduced in size by roughly half. Add garlic and thyme, stir to combine with the vegetables, and cook for an additional minute until fragrant.
- Reduce heat to low-medium, add dry lentils, stir to combine with the vegetable mixture. Add flour, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir until everything is well combined.
- Add broth and salt, stir again until everything is well incorporated, increase heat to bring to a boil, and then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed and lentils are tender.
- Once the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and then return them to the pot. Add butter, a splash of milk, and a generous pinch of salt, and mash until well fluffy, adding more butter and/or milk as needed. Once mashed, taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Once the lentils are cooked, add peas and stir to combine with the lentil mixture. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Once the filling is ready and the potatoes are mashed, transfer the lentil mixture to a large baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top of the filling and spread it to cover the lentil mixture, right to the edges to ensure the mixture doesn’t bubble out of the dish, until well covered.
- Transfer the baking dish to the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. You can place a baking sheet underneath it to prevent spillage.
- Once baked, remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Any leftovers can be stored in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 463 calories
- Sugar: 9 grams
- Fat: 13 grams
- Carbohydrates: 72 grams
- Fiber: 11 grams
- Protein: 18 grams
Keywords: vegetarian, easy