Sometimes you just want comfort food. Maybe you’re like me and you associate comfort food with savoury herbs, potatoes, and a strong umami (meaty) flavour. That’s why I love this Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. It has all the delicious flavours of a traditional shepherd’s pie or turkey dinner and none of the meat. That’s also why this recipe is one of my favourite dishes for family dinners or holidays. It is both vegetarian and meat-lover friendly. In fact, I have had many guest finish this meal and then say, “Wow. I forgot there was no meat in there”. That’s when I do a victory dance!
While this shepherd’s pie is one of my favourite dishes, it is what I consider a “weekend” meal. It takes a little more time and effort than meals I make on weekdays. However, this dish is by no means difficult, it is just a little time consuming. First, you have to simmer green lentils until they are soft (which takes about 45 mins and its own pot), then, you have to boil and mash potatoes (which takes about 30 mins and another pot), then, you put all together and bake it. Yes, this dish does take a little time, but I promise that it is will worth the effort!
I can also attest that this meal tastes great after it has been frozen and re-heated. So, feel free to make an extra big batch and then throw some in the freezer (to heat up on a weekday). That’s what I did just before my second son was born and it worked like a charm.
A Note on Green Lentils
I would like to take a moment to talk about lentils. I remember being completely overwhelmed the first time I walked down the beans and lentil isle of the grocery store. Who knew there were so many different kinds of lentils? I certainly didn’t. Red, yellow, green, brown, split peas, sprouted. Why so many?
The two lentils I use most often are red lentils and green lentils. Most people have had red lentils before. They become extremely mushy when they are cooked and are typically used in soups and Indian dahls. Not surprisingly, I use red lentils for those same dishes (and, sometimes, in pasta sauces to up the iron/protein content). The other kind of lentils I use a lot are green lentils. Like red lentils, green lentils can be used to thicken up a broth or stew. However, unlike red lentils, green lentils hold their shape (instead of becoming mushy) which gives them a consistency similar to ground meats. Both of those properties make green lentils the perfect candidate for shepherd’s pie filling.
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
A delicious vegetarian shepherd's pie made with green lentils and sweet potatoes.
Green Lentil Layer
- 1-2 tsp olive oil
- 1 red onion or large leek diced
- 1 cup baby carrots chopped
- 3/4 cup green lentils
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp soya sauce
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 1-2 sprigs fresh)
- 1-1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
- 1-1 1/2 cups frozen corn
Sweet Potato Layer
- 3 large sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
- butter, milk, and/or stock to taste
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 cup grated cheese
Cook the Lentil Layer
On medium-high, heat large saucepan and olive oil. Sautée onions and carrots until onions are translucent and carrots are slightly soft.
Add green lentils, vegetable stock, soya sauce, and thyme and bring to a boil. Immediately turn down to low and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and all of the liquid is absorbed.
Stir in green peas and corn.
Cook the Sweet Potato Layer
Boil sweet potatoes in water until soft, about 30 minutes.
Mash sweet potatoes with butter, cream and/or stock, to taste.
Put the Pie Together
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Pour lentil mixture into an 8 x 8 square roasting dish and then top with mashed sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika.
Bake in oven until cheese is melted and lentil mixture begins to bubble, about 15 minutes.
Let rest for 15 - 30 minutes. This step is not necessary, but helps the shepherd's pie to stay together when serving.
VEGAN OPTION: Omit the cheese garnish (or go for a dairy-free cheese) and use vegetable stock in the sweet potato mash.
Recipe adapted from Harvest Vegetable Shepherd's Pie of Whole Foods
Last Words: Helpful Tips for this Recipe
Thinking of making this recipe for some vegetarians who are coming over for dinner? Great idea! Take a look at some of my tips for hosting vegetarians.