Shepherd's pie is proper British comfort food, and this vegetarian version is absolutely packed with flavour and wholesome ingredients.
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Shepherd's pie has got to be one of the best comfort foods in existence. Not only is it creamy and warming, it's also packed with wholesome ingredients. This vegetarian version is made with lentils and plenty of veggies, and it's the perfect cold weather dinner. I even added a special secret ingredient to really take it to the next level!
What is shepherd's pie?
Shepherd's pie is practically a British institution. It's the sort of dinner we Brits were raised on.
There are two main layers to a shepherd's pie:
- A mixture of minced meat and vegetables in a rich gravy
- A fluffy mashed potato topping
Obviously vegetarian shepherd's pie swaps the meat for some sort of alternative - usually either a vegetarian mince substitute, or beans and lentils.
This time I used tinned lentils, as they're ultra convenient, and they work so well to make this vegetarian shepherd's pie quick and easy to make.
What's the difference between shepherd's pie and cottage pie?
Just in case you're wondering - some people use the terms 'cottage pie' and 'shepherd's pie' interchangeably, but there is actually a slight difference between the two. Usually, cottage pie is made with beef, and shepherd's pie is made with lamb.
But obviously, in the case of vegetarian shepherd's pie, this distinction is entirely irrelevant - so you could definitely call this a vegetarian cottage pie if you prefer!
How to make vegetarian shepherd's pie
Right, onto the recipe!
Step 1: Make some mashed potato
I like to start by getting my potatoes on to boil, so they can be bubbling away while I'm working on the filling of the pie.
Although I often leave on the potato skins when I make mash, I do think it's worth peeling the potatoes for a shepherd's pie. A nice smooth mash definitely contributes to the comfort food vibe of this recipe.
If you've never made mashed potato before, I've previously shared my perfect mashed potato recipe, so check that out first!
Step 2: Cook the vegetables and lentils
While the potatoes are doing their thing, cook off some vegetables in a frying pan.
For me, mushrooms are a must-have in a shepherd's pie, as they add a lovely meatiness that makes the pie really hearty and satisfying.
I also added a frozen vegetable mix, containing carrots, green beans, peas and sweetcorn. I love frozen veg for this kind of thing, just like I did in my cheesy vegetable pie - it's such an easy way to add a nice variety of veg without having to bother cutting everything up individually.
Don't forget to add the tinned lentils, to make the pie nice and filling.
Step 3: Create the sauce
This step is the one that will make or break your vegetarian shepherd's pie. The more flavour you can get into that lower layer, the better!
My secret ingredient is Geo Watkins mushroom ketchup. It's not thick and gloopy like tomato ketchup; it's actually a thin liquid, more like soy sauce. The flavour it brings to a dish like this is unbelievable. It gives a huge boost of umami (that savoury richness that vegetarian food sometimes lacks), and really amps up the flavour.
I also added some tomato puree, my favourite herbs and spices, and some veggie stock.
Step 4: Layer it up and bake
Transfer the lentil and vegetable mixture to a baking dish, and top it with the mashed potato.
You can draw lines in the potato with a fork, if you like - the ridges help it to become extra crispy on top. You can also sprinkle over a little grated cheese before baking, if you're a fan of a crispy cheese topping like me.
Pop it in the oven for half an hour or so, until the topping is golden brown and crispy, and the gravy is bubbling up around the edges. The perfect veggie bake!
Easy shepherd's pie
There you have it - my super easy vegetarian shepherd's pie. I'll admit, in my head shepherd's pie always sounds like a pretty high-effort dinner - but actually, this version really doesn't take that long at all.
There are a few little tricks in this recipe that make it quicker and easier to cook:
- using tinned lentils instead of cooking dried lentils from scratch
- using a mixture of frozen vegetables instead of preparing each one individually
- and you can even use frozen mashed potato if you like, to speed things up further
What else can you use mushroom ketchup for?
If you fancy making this vegetarian shepherd's pie, you may be looking for other ways to use the rest of your bottle of Geo Watkins mushroom ketchup. I know how you feel - I can't stand buying an ingredient just for one recipe.
Luckily, there are all sorts of ways to use the mushroom ketchup. I find myself adding it to anything that needs a bit of richness. Even just a splash is enough to make a difference.
For example, it would be a great addition to any of these recipes:
- lentil sausage rolls
- French onion soup
- stew and dumplings
- spaghetti bolognese
- pretty much any lentil recipe
- pretty much any casserole
- pretty much any mushroom recipe
Basically any recipe that could benefit from some extra oomph... get it in there. It's so perfect in dishes like this vegetarian shepherd's pie!
Shepherd's pie FAQs
How to serve shepherd's pie
Shepherd's pie is pretty much a full meal in itself - it's already got protein, carbs, and plenty of vegetables. So really, you don't need to make anything extra to serve on the side if you don't want to.
We had ours with just a handful of fresh rocket (arugula), to add a bit of extra colour and interest to the plate. Some garlic bread is also tasty, and adds a bit of crunch (will I ever not recommend garlic bread? Doubtful), or just some extra veggies work nicely too.
Can you cook shepherd's pie in advance?
Shepherd's pie is the perfect dinner to prep in advance. Just cook the mashed potatoes and the lentil mixture, and let them cool a little before layering them up. Then, once you've assembled the pie, you can store it in the fridge throughout the day, or even overnight, until you're ready to bake it and serve.
If you're baking it straight from the fridge, just remember that you shouldn't preheat your oven - let your baking dish warm up slowly as the oven comes to temperature. It will also take a little longer to bake if it's being cooked from fridge cold.
Can shepherd's pie be frozen?
Absolutely! Shepherd's pie is a great meal prep option. I tend to cook it fully (including baking), then once it's cooled, cut into portions and freeze in tubs.
It will last in the freezer for a few months, until you're ready to eat it. Allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat. I find the microwave is the best way to reheat shepherd's pie, as cooking it for a second time in the oven can cause it to become dry.
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📖 Printable Recipe
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
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For the mashed potato topping:
- 1 kg (~ 2 ¼ lb) potatoes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 25 g (~ ¼ cup) grated cheddar cheese (optional)
For the lentil mixture:
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 250 g (~ ½ lb) mushrooms, diced
- 250 g (~ 2 cups) mixed frozen vegetables
- 2 tablespoon Geo Watkins mushroom ketchup
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree (paste)
- 400 g tin green lentils, drained (265g, or ~ 1 ¼ cups, when drained)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- 100 ml (~ ½ cup) water or vegetable stock
- To begin, peel the potatoes, and cut them into chunks. Boil them in plenty of water until they're totally soft - around 15-20 minutes or so. Then drain the potatoes, and add the butter, milk, and plenty of salt and pepper. Mash thoroughly until smooth. Set aside.
- While the potatoes are boiling, you can begin the lentil mixture. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and add the diced onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, until fragrant, then add the frozen vegetables. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the vegetables have defrosted.
- Add the remaining ingredients (mushroom ketchup through vegetable stock), and mix to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer, and allow to cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer the lentil mixture to a baking dish (mine measured approximately 8 x 8 inches), and dollop the mashed potato on top. Spread the potato out with a fork, and sprinkle over some grated cheese if you want to. Bake at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F) for around 30 minutes, or until the topping is crispy and the gravy is bubbling up around the edges.
Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.