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Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Chef, and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Oh lentil shepherd’s pie, how I love you so. The perfect plant-based main dish for the holiday table, while also being cozy and easy enough to make for weeknight dinner. It’s one recipe that I come back to over and over again this time of year and it’s always a crowdpleaser.
If you’ve never made vegan shepherd’s pie before, you are essentially making a lentil stew and mashed potatoes, then combining the two. Easy, right? I’ve even made a video for this recipe below that shows you exactly how to make it step-by-step.
Homemade mashed potatoes are one of my favorite comfort foods, especially when piled high on top of a creamy lentil stew. Not only is this one comforting, it’s healthy too! Lentils provide healthy plant-based protein and fiber and it’s much lower in both calories and fat than more traditional ground beef or lamb versions.
This lentil shepherd’s pie is one of those recipes that everyone loves, regardless of diet. I’ve served it at countless holiday and family get togethers to rave reviews– if you like melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes and hearty, meaty stew then you will love this recipe.
Whether you call this a lentil shepherd’s pie, a cottage pie, or a casserole, it’s an easy comforting dish that’s perfect for company. Here’s what you’ll need:
Start by heating the olive oil in a large pot, pan, or a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Next, add the onion, carrots, celery and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper then sauté for 10 minutes until vegetables are soft and tender.
For there, stir in the garlic, lentils, vegetable broth, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a low, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes until lentils are tender. Stir every 5 minutes or so, making sure vegetables aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once lentils are cooked, whisk in the tomato paste.
While the lentils are cooking, it’s time to make the mashed potatoes. Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover by 1-inch with water. Stir in the salt and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer potatoes until they are fork tender, about 15 minutes.
Drain the water from the potatoes and pass them while they are still hot through a food mill or ricer. Place the potatoes back in the medium saucepan and stir in the milk and melted butter, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. See full directions for how to use a ricer to make mashed potatoes below.
Remove the bay leaves, thyme bundle, rosemary from the lentil mixture and stir in the peas.
Transfer the lentil mixture to a 9×13 baking dish or large oven-safe skillet and spoon the mashed potatoes over the lentils in an even layer. Place the baking dish under the preheated broiler and broil until the potatoes are golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.
Finally, remove from oven, garnish with parsley and serve.
The key to these incredibly light and fluffy mashed potatoes is a ricer or food mill. I own a ricer for my how to make gnocchi afternoons, but I think it’s one of the easiest gadgets out there to produce the best mashed potatoes. Never again will you suffer from glue-like, lumpy mashers. After a quick run through the ricer, I literally just stir in milk and melted butter. This method is foolproof.
After your potatoes are cooked and peeled, but still warm, place them in the basket of your ricer. Hold the ricer over a large bowl and squeeze the handles of the rice together until the potato comes through the holes. Continue with the rest of your potatoes.
Stir in the melted dairy-free butter, milk, salt and pepper then stir to combine. They milk and butter should melt into the potatoes creating a creamy, fluffy batch of mashed potatoes without additional mixing needing.
I love yukon gold potatoes first, followed by russet potatoes for making mashed potatoes. Their rich texture and subtle, buttery creaminess make them a great choice.
If you have any leftovers, transfer them to an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. I don’t recommend freezing after making this as the mashed potatoes will change consistency once frozen.
However, you can make the cooked lentil mixture ahead of time and freeze until ready to use. Then thaw, warm and top with mashed potatoes and bake as directed.
You know how I feel about casserole-y things topped with carbs. In that I love them. Since soup is one of my food groups, it’s only natural that topping a thick, lentil stew-like base with carbs is my idea of the best meal ever. (Um, see also my Black Bean Tamale Pie and Vegetable Stew with Scallion Biscuits).
After reading this report on the myth of easy cooking, I know not to the the E word around lightly. But, for such a fancy looking dinner, this definitely borders on uncomplicated. If you can make soup and mashed potatoes, you can make this.
It’s such a show-stopping recipe and it’s perfect for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas or anytime you need a delicious, vegan and gluten-free main dish.
If you try this vegan lentil shepherd’s pie recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking!Print
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The Ultimate Lentil Shepherd’s Pie! A rich and hearty vegan lentil stew topped with homemade mashed potatoes. Perfect as a vegan main for Thanksgiving and Christmas!