This Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe is a cozy comfort food dinner with the delicious rich flavor of a traditional cottage pie but stars lentils instead of meat! It is both lower in fat and calories than regular shepherd’s pie and we have added in a variety of hearty veggies including mushrooms, butternut squash and Swiss chard to make it nutritious yet filling! Even meat-eaters will be fully satisfied!

Why We Love This Recipe For Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

No matter what time of year it may be, there are times when we all crave a perfect all-in-one dish that satisfies the soul. And for us, Shepherd’s Pie is that dish! We’ve made Individual Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pies that are topped with sweet butternut squash, a Chicken Shepherd’s Pie made with rotisserie or leftover chicken, AND a Healthy Shepherd’s Pie that’s low in calorie and gluten-free. Yes, we love this simple and humble dish, that’s for sure.

And for those of you who may not be familiar with this casserole, it originated in Scotland and quickly became popular in Northern England and Ireland. And it was the Irish who started to top this casserole with mashed potatoes instead of the original pastry topping. Shepherd’s Pie is now a St. Patrick’s Day staple in the UK and the US!

This savory meat pie is full of sweet vegetables, a rich gravy, and topped with velvety mashed potatoes. The casserole is then browned in the oven to form a crust-like topping that is perfectly crisp on the top and ultra-creamy underneath.

And our Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie is an adaptation of the UK classic. While traditionally the recipe calls for minced lamb, this vegetarian version calls for hearty lentils, nutty butternut squash, and creamy homemade buttermilk mashed potatoes.

And while we know many of you may be intimidated to make shepherd’s pie, we’re here to tell you that this recipe is simple, uncomplicated, and just what you need when you and yours need a hearty, filling, and oh-so-comforting meal.

Key Ingredients for this Recipe

the ingredients with text overlay

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold is of the waxy potato varieties, meaning they are thin-skinned and have a moist and creamy interior. And waxy potatoes are generally best used for wet heat cooking methods, such as steaming or boiling. Therefore, for mashed potatoes, you will only want to use large, as they are easier to peel, waxy potatoes.

Canned Lentils

Lentils are an excellent easy vegetarian protein source. While this recipe can be made using 3 cups of cooked brown or French green lentils (i.e. de Pouille), but not red lentils as they are too mushy. Canned lentils work great in this recipe and slightly cuts down on the cooking time.

Vegetables: Mushrooms, Onion, Swiss Chard

  • Mushrooms: We recommend using white mushrooms as they are readily available in most grocery stores and have a very mild flavor. When purchasing, look for mushrooms that are smooth, firm, and dry. Avoid buying mushrooms that are slimy, soft, and have brown spots as they are already past their prime.
  • Onion: We recommend using a diced sweet onion but feel free to use white.
  • Swiss Chard: Swiss Chard is a dark green leafy vegetable with an array of nutrients. Containing a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, Swiss Chard is a versatile vegetable that pairs well with many foods. Feel free to use either Red Swiss Chard or Rainbow Chard; just make sure to purchase large leaves that aren’t wilted or torn.

Fruits: Roma Tomatoes & Butternut Squash

  • Roma Tomatoes: A plum variety of tomato that has a denser flesh with less juice, Roma Tomatoes help thicken the lentil mixture broth. When buying, look for tomatoes that have a consistent deep red color around the fruit, heavy for their size, with a strong sweet tomato smell.
  • Butternut Squash: A winter squash that has a sweet, nutty flavor similar to pumpkin. Pick a squash that is dark beige in color with a matte finish and a thick-hard skin; literally, gently prick the skin, if your nail goes through it’s not a good squash.

Salt & Pepper

Note that we recommend table salt for this recipe. You may use kosher salt instead, but you will want to double the amount.

White pepper has a distinct light, earthiness to its flavor that pairs extremely well with creamy, buttery notes in the potatoes.

Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth adds a deep savory element to the gravy. Our favorite brand is Imagine No Chicken as we find the taste superior to other brands in that it is not bitter or dark. However, feel free to use your favorite store-bought vegetable broth.

Additional Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter (see notes below for vegan options)
  • Buttermilk
  • Paprika
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried thyme

Step By Step Instructions To Make This Recipe

lentil shepherds pie steps 1 and 2

Step 1: Preheat Oven

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Step 2: Cook Potatoes

In a large or medium saucepan, add potatoes and salt. Generously cover potatoes with cold water. Over high heat, bring to a boil and reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 19 minutes.

lentil shepherds pie steps 3 and 4

Step 3: Mash Potatoes

Drain potatoes and return to the saucepan. Add butter and roughly mash. Add salt, buttermilk, and white pepper. Continue to mash while gradually adding in more buttermilk to achieve desired consistency.

Step 4: Prepare Lentil Mixture

Meanwhile, in a large oven-proof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, squash, mushrooms, oregano, salt, paprika, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms release their juices and moisture has evaporated and the veggies start to brown, 6 to 10 minutes.

lentil shepherds pie steps 5 and 6

Step 5: Add Lentils, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Broth

Add lentils, spinach, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

Step 6: Top with Mashed Potatoes

Next, just spread the mashed potatoes over the lentil filling and sprinkle with paprika. We like to use a fork to make rough edges that crisp-up under the broiler. Of course, you can also use a casserole dish if you prefer or want to make this ahead.

lentil shepherds pie step 7

Step 7: Bake Lentil Sheperd’s Pie

Bake until the lentil mixture is bubbling, and the potatoes are browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Broil to crisp the mashed potato topping if you like. (Note that if you made this in a casserole dish, verify that it is broiler-safe before broiling!) Allow pie to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

FAQs and Expert Tips

How to store leftovers

Store leftovers of this vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Can vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie be made ahead of time?

Of course – this dish is a perfect make-ahead meal! To make ahead, prepare through step 6. Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, continue with the remaining step on the recipe card, keeping in mind that the dish may need any extra 10 to 15 minutes to warm all the way through.

What is the difference between a shepherd’s pie and a cottage pie?

Shepherd’s pie is a traditional savory British casserole made with ground or “minced” or diced lamb, whereas Cottage Pie is made with a minced beef filling. Both dishes include a mixture of sweet vegetables, rich gravy, and are topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes and baked off until golden brown.

While the title of this recipe is a shepherd’s pie, the dish is technically a cottage pie since it is not made with lamb.

Can this recipe be made Vegan?

Yes! You can easily make this as a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie by using vegan butter or olive oil instead of butter. For the mashed potatoes, skip the buttermilk. Instead, use a neutral-tasting nut milk such as cashew milk. Or you can use vegetable stock or broth to thin the potatoes instead of buttermilk.

What goes with Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie?

We like to serve this with steamed fresh veggies such as these Green Beans with Balsamic Vinegar or green salad such as this Beet Green Salad, Chopped Winter Salad or Garden Salad.

Variations To Try

  • Feel free to add cooked corn or cut green beans to the vegetable mixture
  • For added richness, add 2 tablespoons tomato paste in step 5 with the broth
  • Instead of Mashed potatoes, use mashed root vegetables
  • Top with two tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Additional Lentil Recipes To Try

  1. This ultra-hearty Vegetarian Lentil Soup is loaded with tender veggies, spices, tomatoes, and kale. With only 300 calories per serving and 14 grams of protein per serving, this will be the only lentil soup recipe you’ll ever need!
  2. This healthy Mediterranean Black Lentil Salad is full of classic Mediterranean flavors with cucumbers, feta, spinach, and red pepper. Perfect for a vegetarian gluten-free side salad or filling enough as a main course.
  3. Lentils with Bacon is a French bistro-inspired dish. Hearty enough to serve as a mostly meatless main course or pair with salmon for one delicious complete meal.
  4. Lentil Quinoa Bowls with Coriander and Lemon uses canned lentils for those busy weeknights when you need a hearty meal in just 30-minutes.
  5. Celery Root Salad with Lentils combines raw celery root and cooked French lentils in a rich lemon, garlic, olive oil, and anchovy dressing. This hearty and wholesome side dish is full of earthy and complex flavors.
  6. Serve this Vegan Paté made with lentils and walnuts as a spreadable appetizer or with crackers for any occasion.

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make these recipes, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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close up of lentil shepherd's pie recipe in cast iron skillet with a scoop in a spoon

Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 25 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 Minutes
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top/Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe is a cozy comfort food dinner with delicious rich flavor of a traditional cottage pie but stars lentils instead of meat! It is both lower in fat and calories than regular shepherd’s pie and we have added in a variety of hearty veggies including mushrooms, butternut squash and Swiss chard to make it nutritious yet filling! Even meat eaters will be fully satisfied!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds organic thin-skinned “waxy” potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup non-fat buttermilk, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large, sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, or smoked paprika, plus more for garnish
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 15-ounce cans lentils, drained and rinsed (or 3 c cooked lentils)
  • 1 packed cup finely chopped Swiss chard leaves or Spinach
  • 1 large Roma tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup water or vegetable broth

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Place potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover generously with cold water. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Place saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and continue cooking until the potatoes are fork tender, 15 to 19 minutes.
  3. Drain potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Add butter and mash the potatoes roughly with a potato masher. Add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup buttermilk and white pepper and continue mashing. Gradually add more buttermilk as you mash to achieve desired consistency. 
  4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, squash, mushrooms, oregano, salt, 1 teaspoon paprika and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms release their juices and the moisture has evaporated, and the vegetables start to brown, 6 to 10 minutes.
  5. Add lentils, Swiss chard, tomatoes and broth, cover and reduce heat to a simmer (medium-low.) Cook until the squash is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  6. Spread the mashed potatoes over the lentil mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.
  7. Bake until the lentil mixture is bubbling, and the potatoes are browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Broil until lightly browned if desired. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • To Make Ahead: Can be prepared through step 6 up to 2 days in advance. Store covered with aluminum foil in the refrigerator.
  • Storing Leftovers: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. 

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
  • Calories: 368
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Carbohydrates: 48 g
  • Fiber: 15 g
  • Protein: 14 g