A few days ago I was staring into the refrigerator, wondering what the heck to make for dinner. My husband and I prefer to eat meatless on weekdays to keep things light, but I hadn’t really planned ahead and I was kind of out of ideas. After taking a quick tally of ingredients, I started imagining a warm casserole– something hardy and filling, winter comfort food. Shepherd’s pie! That’s what I was craving. But how the heck do you make a shepherd’s pie without the meat? I don’t like using the ground soy meat substitutes because eating too much soy makes me break out. I thought back to my Vegetable Moussaka recipe, where I used lentils as a meat substitute. I thought it might work in this dish, so I decided to give it a go. With a little creativity and a lot of sriracha, I whipped up something that I’m sure many of you will enjoy! With Purim coming up (a Jewish holiday that is sometimes celebrated with a vegetarian meal), I thought it was the perfect time to share this tasty, comforting Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie recipe with you.
This dish can be enjoyed by people who have a variety of dietary restrictions. It’s vegetarian, and can be made vegan/pareve with a couple of simple substitutes. It’s gluten free if you use a GF tamari sauce. It’s much lighter and healthier than traditional shepherd’s pie, and it’s a great choice for those on a low cholesterol diet. If you use the vegan substitutions, you can serve this as a meatless option alongside a kosher meat meal.
I really like the flavor that Worchestershire sauce adds to this dish, but most brands contain anchovies, which means they can’t be enjoyed by vegetarians. It’s also tough to find gluten free Worchestershire sauce. Wan Ja Shan brand produces an organic, vegan, kosher, and gluten free Worcestershire- click here for information. If you can’t find a sauce that suits your particular dietary needs, use 2 tsp of tamari sauce– gluten free tamari is widely available, and it’s a vegetarian product.
Now, for those traditionalists out there, my topping of choice for this dish may sound strange. I like spice, and lately I find myself adding sriracha sauce to just about everything. Topping my shepherd’s pie with sriracha took this dish from yum to yumtastic. Those who crave sriracha will understand what I mean. Amazing.
If, however, you’re craving a simple, British-style shepherd’s pie without the meat, the sriracha is totally optional. Feel free to sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top, if you’re feeling cheesy. Enjoy!
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Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
- 2 lbs Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
- 1 whole garlic clove
- 1 cup dry brown lentils (1/2 lb)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup corn
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, divided
- 2 tsp vegan Worcestershire or tamari sauce
- 3/4 tsp dried oregano
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup milk or milk substitute (soy, almond, or rice milk)
- 3 tbsp butter or vegan butter substitute (ex. Earth Balance)
- Salt and pepper
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
- Sriracha sauce for topping (optional)
- Note: If making paree, substitute dairy-free products for dairy (suggestions above).
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the peeled potatoes in a pot along with one whole peeled garlic clove. Cover the potatoes with plenty of water.
- Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then reduce heat to medium to the potatoes continue to simmer. Let the potatoes cooks for 25-30 minutes till fork tender.
- Meanwhile, rinse and sort the lentils. Pour the lentils into a pot along with a bay leaf. Cover with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and let the lentils cook for 15-20 minutes till just tender-- keep a close watch on them and don't overcook, or they'll become soft/mushy. Remove from heat as soon as they're cooked. If there is any excess water, drain it.
- As potatoes and lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion to the skillet and saute for 5-6 minutes till softened.
- Add the diced carrots and celery. Continue to saute for 5-6 more minutes till the vegetables are tender-crisp.
- Add crushed garlic, peas, corn, 3 tbsp of the chopped parsley, vegan Worchestershire or tamari sauce, oregano, and cayenne pepper to the skillet. Stir and saute for 3-4 minutes more till the vegetables are tender and fragrant.
- Stir the skillet vegetable mixture into the cooked, drained lentils. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drain the cooked potatoes; reserve the whole garlic clove that cooked with them. Mash the potatoes and softened garlic clove with milk and butter (or vegan milk and butter substitutes) till smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the lentil and vegetable mixture in an even layer across the bottom of the dish.
- Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the vegetable mixture, using a spoon or fork to add texture to the top of the potatoes for browning. Top with cheddar cheese (or vegan cheddar shreds), if desired.
- Place the dish in the oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes till the tips of the potatoes turn golden brown. Increase heat at the end of cooking for more browning, if desired. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp of chopped parsley on top of the pie to garnish. Serve hot.
- I like to top each serving with a squirt of sriracha-- it's very spicy, but oh so delicious!