This Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils offers all the heartiness, coziness and comfort of its lamb or beef counterpart. So much so that my meat-loving husband didn’t realize that it was a Lentil Shepherd’s Pie. So delicious and filling.
The lentil filling is based on my super-comforting Creamy Lentils recipe, which is a french style of braising lentils. And I guarantee you’ll want to face plant right into the buttery mashed potato topping (it could take the place of a warm hug). So hearty and delicious.
Why You’ll Love this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
Get ready to fall in love with this cozy Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (also known as Cottage Pie) with lentils and creamy mashed potato topping. (Psst. if you love potato-based comfort food, don’t miss my Aloo Masala, Crispy Potato Fish Cakes, Gluten-Free Scalloped Potatoes and Aloo Naan.) Here are a few reasons why this dish is simply irresistible:
- Meatless Magic: This recipe is completely vegetarian, but you won’t even miss the layer of ground beef! Lentils add a heartiness that will convince even the most devoted carnivores.
- Comfort Food Classic: Shepherd’s Pie is a beloved classic, and this vegetarian version is no exception. It’s warm, comforting, and perfect for chilly days.
- Healthy and Nutritious: Lentils are chock-full of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients, making this dish a healthy option that will leave you feeling good.
- Easy to Make: This recipe may look like it takes a lot of work, but it’s actually simple and quite quick (especially if you opt to use canned lentils).
Gather Your Ingredients
This Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils recipe is easy to follow and uses simple ingredients you might already have in your pantry or fridge. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Butter: Adds richness and flavour to the filling and mashed potatoes.
- Onion, celery, garlic: The aromatic base that adds complexity to the flavour.
- Carrots: A sweet and earthy vegetable that adds texture.
- Green lentils: The star of the show! These legumes add a hearty and nutritious base to the filling, giving it a meaty texture.
- Pepper: Adds a lively and sharp flavour to the filling.
- Milk, whipping cream: Dairy makes the mashed potato mixture silky and deliciously creamy (but see below for vegan options).
- Parsley: Adds a fragrant and fresh flavour to the filling and can be used for garnishing on top of the pie.
- Potatoes: The star of the topping! Choose russet or yukon gold potatoes for fluffy, buttery texture.
How to make Lentil Shepherd’s Pie: Step-by-Step
Here’s how to make this delicious lentil cottage pie.
- Step 1 – Sauté the Vegetables: Melt butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until soft. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Step 2 – Add the Carrots, Lentils, and Water: Stir in carrots, lentils, pepper, and water (salt is intentionally left out at this point to prevent the legumes from softening). Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook, mostly covered, until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
- Step 3 – Add the Cream, Milk, Salt, and Parsley: Stir in cream and milk, then season with salt and add minced parsley. Add a splash of water if the mixture is dry – you want it quite saucy.
- Step 4 – Prepare the Mashed Potatoes: Simmer the potatoes in salted, boiling water until tender. Drain and mash them with milk and butter until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Step 5 – Assemble the Pie: Spread the lentil mixture into a casserole dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top and spread them out evenly. Dot with the remaining butter.
- Step 6 – Bake in the Oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden on top.
- Step 7 – Serve and Enjoy: Let the pie cool for a few minutes before serving, then sprinkle with more parsley if desired. Enjoy a cozy and comforting meal!
Grab these Tools
To make this delicious Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, you’ll need just a few essential kitchen tools. Here’s what you need:
- Large Pot or Dutch Oven: This recipe involves cooking the lentils, and you’ll need a large pot or dutch oven to ensure that everything fits.
- Masher: For the mashed potato topping, a sturdy potato masher is key. A fork can work in a pinch, but a good masher will give you that silky, luscious texture you’re looking for.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: This recipe is all about precise measurements, so make sure you have your measuring cups and spoons handy.
- Knife and Cutting Board: You’ll need to chop up your onions, celery, garlic, and carrots, so a trusty knife and cutting board are a must.
- Casserole Dish: You’ll need a 2-litre (2-quart) casserole dish for baking the pie.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
This Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe is perfect for a cozy weeknight meal, but it can also be made ahead of time or stored for later. Here are a few tips to make this dish even more versatile:
- Make Ahead: You can prepare the lentil filling and the mashed potato topping up to three days in advance and store them separately in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, assemble the pie and bake in the oven until heated through and golden on top. Or make this recipe as a way to use up leftover mashed potatoes after a big Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner.
- Leftovers: Don’t be afraid to make extra and keep it in the fridge for a delicious and filling lunch or dinner within the next few days.
- Freezing: Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils can be frozen for up to three months. Simply assemble the pie in a freezer-safe dish, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil, and freeze. When you’re ready to eat, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as usual.
- Storage: Store leftovers or pre-made pie in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
What to Serve with a Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Here are a few ideas to make turn this lentil shepherd’s pie recipe into a full meal.
- Veggies: For a healthy and nutritious side dish, prep some simple steamed green beans as the dish bakes, or try some air fryer eggplant, candied brussels sprouts, or baked butternut squash. The caramelized flavor is the perfect match for the savory lentil filling.
- Crusty Bread or Rolls: There’s nothing like some warm, crusty bread to dip in the saucy lentil filling. Try my favorite Oatmeal Brown Bread or Pumpkin Dinner Rolls to make this meal even more hearty and satisfying.
Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie are very similar, but not exactly the same. The main difference is the type of meat used in each dish – Shepherd’s Pie uses ground lamb (or beef), while Cottage Pie uses ground beef. In addition, Shepherd’s Pie is said to have originated in Scotland and Northern England, while Cottage Pie is said to have originated in Ireland. Despite these differences, the two dishes are often used interchangeably and share many similarities in terms of ingredients and preparation.
Homemade cottage pie can last for up to three to five days in the fridge when stored properly. It’s important to let the pie cool completely before refrigerating, and to cover it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. When reheating, make sure to heat it thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). If you have leftovers that won’t be eaten within five days, it’s best to freeze them for future consumption.
Shepherd’s Pie falling apart can be caused by several factors, including:
Too Much Liquid: If there is too much liquid in the filling, it can make the mashed potato topping too soft, causing the pie to fall apart.
Not Letting it Cool: It’s important to let the Shepherd’s Pie cool for at least 10-15 minutes after baking before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute and helps the pie to set.
Not Baking Long Enough: If the pie is not baked long enough, the filling may be too watery and cause the pie to fall apart.
To prevent your Shepherd’s Pie from falling apart, be sure to not add too much liquid in the filling or overcook the vegetables. Also, allow the pie to cool before serving and make sure it is baked all the way through.
Variations and Substitutions
Looking to switch up this vegetarian cottage pie and make it your own? Try one of these variations for a new twist:
- Peas: Instead of or in addition to carrots, try adding some peas to the lentil mixture at the end. They’ll add a sweet burst of flavor and texture that complements the lentils perfectly.
- Mushrooms: For an earthy and savory depth of flavor, sauté some mushrooms and add them to the lentil filling. They’ll give the filling a meaty depth that will take this dish to a whole new level.
- Sweet Potato Topping: Swap out the traditional mashed potatoes for a sweet potato topping. The natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes will complement the savory filling perfectly.
- Cheesy Topping: For an extra layer of flavor, add some grated cheese to the mashed potato topping. Cheddar, Parmesan, or even goat cheese would be delicious.
- Fresh Herbs: For a burst of freshness, add some chopped herbs to the lentil filling or the mashed potato topping. Fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage would all be great choices.
- Vegan Shepherd’s Pie: To make this a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie, simply substitute the butter and cream in the recipe for vegan alternatives such as vegan butter and barista oat milk (which is creamier than regular oat milk). This recipe is already vegetarian, so it’s an easy switch to make it dairy-free, and it will still taste just as hearty and delicious.
- Flavor Boosters: add a little splash of umami-packed Worcestershire sauce or tamari/soy sauce in the lentil filling instead of more salt if you find it needs more seasoning at the end.
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 large stalk celery finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 medium carrots peeled and diced
- 1 ½ cups dry green lentils (or canned green or brown lentils and skip water)
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 5 cups water
- ½ cup whipping cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 tsp salt or to taste
- 3 tbsp minced parsley plus more for topping
- 3 medium russet potatoes
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3-4 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until soft. Add garlic and cook a minute more, then stir in carrots, lentils, pepper and water. (Salt is intentionally left out at this point, it prevents legumes from softening.)
- Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, mostly covered, until very tender, about 35 minutes. Stir in cream and milk, then season with salt and stir in parsley. Add a splash of water if the mixture is dry – you want it quite saucy.
- Cook the potatoes in salted, boiling water until tender, then mash with milk and 3 tbsp butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spread lentils into a 2-litre (2-quart) casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top. Dot with last bit of butter, then bake at 375 until golden on top, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with more parsley, if desired.
Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD