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This Lentil Shepherd’s Pie proves that vegan main dishes can be just as hearty and filling as ones made with meat! It all starts with a savory brown lentils and vegetable base, then a layer of fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. Once your shepherd’s pie is layered in the pan, just bake until golden brown. This is the perfect vegan option for Thanksgiving, but you’ll love it all year long!
Table of Contents
- Recipe At a Glance
- Ingredients you’ll need to make lentil shepherd’s pie
- Popular substitutions & additions
- How to make lentil shepherd’s pie
- Tips for making the best brown lentil shepherd’s pie
- What to serve with vegetarian shepherd’s pie
- How to store & reheat lentil shepherd’s pie
- Frequently asked questions
- More vegetarian dinner recipes:
- Lentil Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Thanksgiving can be difficult to navigate. Dishes like this lentil shepherd’s pie make it easy.
Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with a beef or lamb filling, but lentils make a fantastic substitute. They’re much more budget-friendly than meat substitutes, plus they break down a bit when you cook them, giving them a texture that’s a little bit like ground meat. You won’t mistake it for beef, but it does make for a natural swap!
What I love about this easy lentil shepherd’s pie recipe is that while the meat eaters at the table would probably refuse a faux turkey roast, this recipe is made with real food ingredients that are delicious whether or not you eat meat. And everyone sitting around the table sharing the same dishes is what meal time is all about, right?
Recipe At a Glance
Cuisine Inspiration: British
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop and Oven
Dietary Info: Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free (use tamari instead of soy sauce)
Key Flavor: Savory
Skill Level: Intermediate
- Main That Doubles as a Side: Serve this easy lentil shepherd’s pie as a holiday main dish for the vegans and vegetarians at your celebration and as a side dish for everyone else.
- Ideal for Making Ahead: You can make the topping ahead of time, make the filling ahead of time, or assemble the whole lentil shepherd’s pie and pop it in the oven just before dinner. Perfect for holidays or weeknight meal prep!
- Hearty and Satisfying: If there was any doubt that vegan food can be just as satisfying as meat, this lentil shepherd’s pie settles the question! Lentils are an excellent source of fiber, which makes them satisfying and filling.
- A Comfort Food Classic: Shepherd’s pie has that cozy comfort food quality to it—the kind of meal you want to eat on a chilly winter day! But unlike so many other comfort food dishes, this one is also packed with nutrients.
- No Fake Meat: While more and more vegan dishes are relying on plant-based meat substitutes, they can be expensive—and they’re not exactly natural. Lentils are a whole food ingredient, and they won’t break the bank!
Ingredients you’ll need to make lentil shepherd’s pie
- Yukon gold potatoes: These have a rich, buttery flavor to them even before you add butter! They’re my favorite choice for the mashed potato topping.
- Salt and pepper: Freshly cracked black pepper is best.
- Vegan butter: If you’re making a vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie, you can use regular butter.
- Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is often used to add a cheesy flavor to vegan dishes; it also adds a tangy, savory note to the mashed potatoes.
- Olive oil: Or another oil you like to cook with.
- Onion, carrots, and celery: These three vegetables form the base of flavor for the filling.
- Fresh thyme leaves: If you’d like to substitute dried thyme, you can use 2 teaspoons—but I do recommend fresh!
- Tomato paste: Tomato paste doesn’t just add concentrated tomato flavor! It’s also a great source of umami, which is exactly what we want in the savory lentil filling.
- Brown lentils: Don’t substitute red lentils here; they break down a little too much.
- Fire-roasted diced tomatoes: An easier option than fresh tomatoes, plus the fire-roasted variety adds another layer of flavor to the dish.
- Vegetable stock: I love using homemade vegetable stock, but a high-quality store-bought brand is also fine.
- Frozen peas: For a pop of color and to work another veggie into the mix!
- Low-sodium soy sauce: You can also use liquid aminos or tamari, which would make this a gluten-free vegan shepherd’s pie.
Popular substitutions & additions
- Make a cauliflower mashed potato topping. While you can never go wrong with mashed potatoes, you also can’t go wrong with cauliflower mashed potatoes! Cauliflower and lentils are a great pairing, so a cauliflower topping would work well here.
- Add cheese. If you’re vegetarian, you can add a sharp shredded cheddar on top of the mashed potatoes for a cheesy finishing touch.
- Try another herb. If you have rosemary or sage on hand for your holiday cooking, either of these would be delicious instead of or in addition to the thyme.
- Swap out the peas. Not a pea fan? You can add frozen green beans instead, or add diced mushrooms; if you use mushrooms, you’ll add them with the onions, celery, and carrots.
How to make lentil shepherd’s pie
As mentioned above, you can make this in two phases if you’d like, or you can make it all in one go. Prepping one of the components ahead of time makes this brown lentil shepherd’s pie doable for a busy weeknight!
Make mashed potatoes
- Boil the potatoes in salted water, then add the vegan butter, nutritional yeast, pepper.
- Mash the potatoes until they’re mostly smooth.
Make the shepherd’s pie in a skillet
- Cook the onion, carrot, and celery in a large skillet with the olive oil until they’re softened, then add the thyme and tomato paste.
- Stir until all the vegetables are coated in the tomato paste.
- Add the lentils, diced tomatoes, and stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the soy sauce and peas.
- Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the lentil filling.
- Bake your vegan shepherd’s pie in the oven until the topping is golden and just beginning to brown in spots.
Tips for making the best brown lentil shepherd’s pie
- Use an oven-safe skillet. This saves you from having to wash an extra dish and expedites the assembly process. If you don’t have one, you can transfer the lentil filling to a baking dish and then spread the potatoes over the top.
- Cut the vegetables into uniform sizes. This will ensure that they all finish cooking at the same time. You don’t want to have hard carrots or crunchy onions in your filling!
- Deglaze the pan. After stirring in the tomato paste, there may be some browned bits at the bottom of the pan. When you pour in the fire-roasted tomatoes, you can use the liquid from that to loosen those bits and scrape them from the pan. This will make the filling even more flavorful!
- Keep an eye on the lentils. Stir occasionally and make sure the liquid doesn’t boil off before the lentils are tender.
What to serve with vegetarian shepherd’s pie
How to store & reheat lentil shepherd’s pie
Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator. You can warm them up in the microwave or in a 350ºF oven until heated through. (The exact amount of time needed will depend on the amount of leftovers you’re heating.)
How long will shepherd’s pie last in the fridge?
Brown lentil shepherd’s pie will last for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Can I freeze shepherd’s pie?
I don’t recommend freezing shepherd’s pie; mashed potatoes can be mealy after freezing, thawing, and reheating.
Frequently asked questions
If you want to get a head start on this recipe, you can make either the topping, the filling, or both up to 2 days in advance. Store them in the refrigerator, then assemble them in a baking dish or oven-safe skillet and bake according to the recipe instructions.
You can substitute French lentils (also known as puy lentils) if you’d like, but note that they’re a bit more firm, so they won’t have quite the same ground-meat-like texture that brown lentils get.
If you have the brochure that came with your cookware, that should specify if it’s oven-safe. If not, a cast iron skillet is a safe bet, as is any skillet that is entirely metal.
Everyone at the table will love this lentil shepherd’s pie—vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike! The rich, savory flavor of this hearty dish is impossible to resist.
More vegetarian dinner recipes:
- Sweet Potato Chili
- Vegetarian Pad Thai
- Zucchini Lasagna
- Hearty Eggplant Stew
- Mujadara Hamra
- Cheesy Eggplant Lasagna
- Mushroom Risotto with Peas
- Southwest Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
If you try this feel good Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe or any other recipe on Feel Good Foodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. We would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots, share it on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!
Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
- 2 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes peeled and chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt divided
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon pepper divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 3 carrots diced
- 3 celery stalks diced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups brown lentils
- 1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- Place the potatoes in a large pot with 1 teaspoon of salt, cover with an inch of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes until fork tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Drain, then mash with vegan butter, nutritional yeast and ½ teaspoon pepper. Set aside off of the heat on top of the stove top to keep warm.
- In a large, oven safe skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. Add the thyme and tomato paste and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to coat all of the vegetables.
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Add the lentils, diced tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Add the peas and soy sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add the mashed potatoes on top of the lentil mixture, smoothing them into a single layer. Place the skillet on a rimmed sheet pan (to catch any drips) and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes become lightly golden. Let cool slightly before serving.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.