Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils

This vegetarian shepherd’s pie 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 vegetarian.

In other news, we made it to San Francisco, where we are hunkering down for a month to work and play.  It was hard packing for two little kids for such a long trip (not to mention myself, I’m embarrassed to admit I’m a total travel diva – there are at least a dozen necklaces and six pairs of shoes in my non-negotiable pile).  I was pretty stressed on Saturday, the day before we flew, when I actually dug out the suitcases and realized how much we needed to fit inside them.

At one point, I was actually on the brink of tears, and the only place I could appeal for sympathy (besides Instagram) was my two year old.  It went like this:

Me: Theo, we’re going to san francisco tomorrow for a whole month, we haven’t packed anything, I just found out there’s no bed for your brother when we get there, and I haven’t gotten any sleep in days.

Theo, gazing into the distance: meow (and wanders away licking his paw.)

I obviously didn’t get the sympathy I wanted, but I got a laugh.  I did eventually get the job done without tears, and we arrived without incident. I’m already totally in love with this city! We’re staying in North Beach.  So beautiful.

But now I’m faced with 30 days of finding toddler-and baby-friendly things to do on my own in an unfamiliar city where I know no one, while my husband is working full days. HELP ME!

We’ve been living on pizza and Chinese food for the past 3 days – I haven’t actually inaugurated my new kitchen.  I made this recipe before we left.

The lentil filling is based on my super-comforting Creamy Lentils recipe, which I loved when I lived in Belgium – my host mom would make it with the smoothest mashed potatoes.  So hearty and delicious.

I feel like planting my face right into the buttery mashed potato topping right now.  It could take the place of a warm hug. Our adventure is exciting, but traveling with toddler and baby on my own is a bit daunting.  Any words of advice are welcome and appreciated!

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie with Lentils

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Servings 6


For Filling

  • 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 uncooked green lentils (or canned green or brown lentils and skip water)
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 5 cups water
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
  • 3 tbsp minced parsley plus more for topping

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 January 30, 2022 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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1 year ago

5c of water seems like a lot of the lentils go into the pot cooked. Is this ok?

3 years ago

This looks like an amazing dish to make for the week! Just curious if the lentils are cooked before being added or just going in hard? Thanks!

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