This hearty vegan shepherd's pie is made with a base of savory lentils simmered up with a touch of whiskey and topped off with a crust of creamy garlic mashed potatoes. The ultimate vegan comfort food main dish!
Have you ever had shepherd's pie? Or cottage pie, shepherd's pie's cousin? I was actually unfamiliar with the dish until just a few years ago, until one day my husband asked if he could make a meatless shepherd's pie with some leftover mashed potatoes we had.
I can be a little bit of a control freak in the kitchen, so instead of letting him go ahead and make one, I went and made it myself. I've tweaked and perfected the recipe since then, and I'm pretty confident at this point that I've finally created the best vegan shepherd's pie ever (or vegan cottage pie, if that's how you prefer to think of it!).
I used one of my favorite meat swaps for the base of this vegan shepherd's pie: lentils. My secret ingredient for infusing the lentils with lots of savory flavor is whiskey.
I'm not much of a drinker at all, and whiskey in particular I find pretty unpleasant in liquid form...but cook off that alcohol and what's left is a rich, woodsy flavor that's perfect for seasoning up veggie shepherd's pie like this one.
What You'll Need
Okay, so you'll need more than just whiskey and lentils to make this one. Here's the full list!
- Olive oil. Feel free to substitute your favorite high-heat oil.
- Whiskey. You're welcome to leave this out if you prefer, but it adds a wonderful smoky, savory flavor.
- Thyme. Fresh or dried works!
- Vegetable broth. I use Better Than Bullion's roasted vegetable flavor.
- Lentils. Brown lentils are the "meat" in this vegetarian shepherd's pie. You can substitute green lentils if you like — they might take a bit longer to cook.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce. Annie's, Edward & Sons, and Whole Foods brands are all vegan.
- Red wine vinegar.
- Liquid smoke. Some people love this, some hate it, so it's an optional ingredient.
- Frozen peas.
- Salt and pepper.
- Non-dairy milk. Just about any kind will work, as longs as you use something unflavored and unsweetened.
- Vegan butter. Look for brands like Earth Balance or Miyoko's.
How to Make Lentil Shepherd's Pie
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll to the bottom of the post if you'd prefer to skip to the recipe!
Make the Filling
- Heat up some oil in a large pot, then add diced onion, leek, carrots, and garlic. Sweat the veggies for a few minutes until they begin to soften up, making sure to stir them occasionally.
- Now stir in whiskey and thyme. Add the whiskey carefully and make sure your heat is low when you do so — there's always a risk of alcohol catching fire if it's too hot! Bring the liquid to a simmer and let it cook most of the alcohol cooks off.
- Stir in the broth and lentils.
- Let everything simmer until the lentils are tender.
- When the lentils have finished cooking, drain any excess liquid, then season them with some red wine vinegar and liquid smoke.
- Stir in some thawed frozen peas, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Make the Crust and Assemble the Lentil Pie
- You can boil the potatoes for the crust while the lentils cook. When they're done, mash them up with some non-dairy milk, vegan butter, and garlic, then season them with salt and pepper.
- Spread the lentil mixture into a pie or casserole plate.
- Spoon the mashed potatoes over the lentil filling.
- Smooth the top out with a spoon.
Now pop your pie into the oven and bake it until the crust shows crispy browned spots!
Leftovers & Storage
Leftovers are best stored in the original dish that was used for baking, covered tightly with plastic. They'll keep in the fridge for about 4 days, or in the freezer (if sealed really well) for about 2 months.
Vegan Shepherd's Pie Tips & FAQ
Yup! Just omit the whiskey and skip steps 3 and 4 of the recipe. You can add the thyme when the vegetable broth goes in.
Green will absolutely work (I've done it!), although the simmer time in step 6 may be a bit longer. I don't recommend using red, as the texture wouldn't work well for this dish.
More Savory Vegan Pies
The Ultimate Vegan Shepherd's Pie
For the Lentil Base
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup whiskey
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
- ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Garlic Mashed potatoes
- 1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks
- ½ cup unflavored non-dairy milk, plus more as needed
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter (olive oil works too)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Make the Lentil Base
Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with olive oil and place over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add the onion, leek, carrots, and garlic. Sweat the veggies until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the whiskey and thyme. Raise the heat and and bring the liquid to a simmer.
Continue simmering until most of whisky has evaporated, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in vegetable broth and lentils, then raise the heat and bring the liquid back to a simmer.
Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 25-30 minutes. Stir the pot occasionally and add a bit of water if it reduces too much. Remove from heat and drain any excess liquid when done cooking.
Remove the pot from heat and drain any excess liquid when done cooking.
Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke and peas. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the Mashed Potatoes
While the lentils simmer, place potatoes into a large pot and cover them with water.
Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and boil the potatoes until fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not overcook the potatoes.
Remove the pot from heat and drain the potatoes into a colander.
Return the potatoes to the pot and mash them with a potato masher. Stir in the milk, garlic and butter. You can add more milk if needed to reach your desired consistency, but you want to keep the potatoes relatively thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the Shepherd's Pie
Preheat the oven to 400º. Transfer the lentil mixture to an 8 inch by 8 inch baking dish or deep dish 9-inch pie plate. Gently press down into a uniform layer with a spoon or spatula.
Top the lentil mixture with mashed potatoes, smoothing them out all the way to the edges to create a seal.
Bake the pie until brown spots form on top, about 30 minutes.
Remove it from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
This dish firms up as it sits, so it'll be a soft casserole straight from the oven, and a very sliceable pie after a few hours in the fridge.