Vegan Shepherd’s Pie? You Bet.

by Gena on October 18, 2012

Vegan shepherd's pie Vegan shepherd’s pie

Try to think of ten classic, comfort food dishes that are as far from vegan as you can imagine. I’ll name some of the ones that spring to my mind: moussaka. Meatloaf. Stroganoff. Goulash. All of these are (traditionally speaking) full of ground meat and/or béchamel. And did you notice that all are hyperlinked? Those links take you to vegan versions of the traditional dishes in question. In my opinion, going vegan isn’t about relinquishing or learning to replace old favorites. It’s about finding innovative ways to create those same cherished dishes with plant ingredients.

Did shepherd’s pie come to mind for anyone? It was a standard “special occasion” dish in my home as I was growing up: layers of ground beef, onion, carrot, and a mashed potato topping oozing with butter and cream. Served, of course, with a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese (we put parm on everything).

As you can imagine, before going vegan I’d have been flabbergasted at the mere thought of a vegan shepherd’s pie, let alone excited to create one. But I’ve now created two shepherd’s pies. I shared one two Christmases ago, and today, over at Food52, I have a new and much improved version of this most comforting and hearty of cold weather casseroles.

My original version of vegan shepherd’s pie was based on a recipe from a very old vegetarian cookbook. It had a ton of ingredients and steps, and though it was delicious, I found it very exhausting to make. My new version is, I think, every bit as delicious but much easier. It is a lentil shepherd’s pie with a potato and parsnip topping. It’s still a time commitment, but if you cook lentils a day in advance, and mash the potatoes and parsnips in advance of cooking the veggies and assembly, you’ll find it’s really a cinch to make. More importantly, I guarantee that you can serve this dish to hungry family and friends of all different eating styles, and count on them to be impressed!

With the holidays around the corner, it’s never been a better time for this one dish wonder. When you head on over to see the recipe, you’ll also get my five tips for building hearty, authentic vegan casseroles. If you’re just exploring plant based eating, remember: veganism doesn’t have to be a sacrifice of taste or pleasure. With the right preparation techniques and ingredients, vegan food will be as abundant, filling, and as celebratory of tradition as you want it to be.


All photos courtesy of Food 52.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ricki October 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

That potato-parsnip topping is calling to me! This sounds just lovely, so warming and comforting for fall. And thanks so much for linking to my nutloaf recipe! :D


Lia October 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm

MMMMMMM! I have made a sort of shepherd’s pie a year or so ago, but I’m eager to try something a bit more intentional and hearty. I like the idea of the parsnips in there too!


Audrey October 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Oh, how I love hearty warming winter fare!


bitt October 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm

This looks great! As fall has come I find myself wanting more comforting fall-ish foods like this, even if it’s still in the 80s. I love the idea of using parsnips instead of potatoes, great for people who have to avoid potatoes and probably more nutritious.


Sarah (The Simple Dietitian) October 19, 2012 at 5:17 am

This truly is comfort food at its finest! I can’t wait to try this. :D


Janae @ Bring-Joy October 19, 2012 at 8:22 am

I love a good shepherds pie. It makes me sad when people say they can’t eat potatoes, because they have “too many carbs” or that they’re “too starchy.” Such a shame, don’t you think?


Hannah October 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

I used to make different versions of shepherd’s pie all the time at home, because I loved that I could make it entirely in advance and then just warm it up/burnish the top in the oven at dinnertime. I love sweet potato toppings, and putting rosemary and balsamic in with the filling, or I’d use Aussie ingredients like lemon myrtle and call it “drover’s pie”. And now, with that self-involved ramble out of the way, I’m off to read your version!


Skye October 19, 2012 at 10:12 am

YUM! I have made vegetarian/vegan shepherd’s pie before – both a traditional one using veggie crumbles in place of ground beef, and your old recipe! (I brought yours to a potluck last year and it was quite popular!) I want to start making more casseroles this fall – both for holidays/events and for myself so I can simplify meals for the week. Casseroles are such yummy comfort food. :)


Kathleen October 19, 2012 at 10:54 am

Definitely my Christmas recipe this year. Looks delicious!!!


Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day October 20, 2012 at 7:34 am

I just made a Lentil Shepherd’s Pie for my Personal Chef client yesterday. I topped with with both white and sweet potatoes.. its came out super yummy.. I like your addition of parsnips.


Tanya @ Playful and Hungry October 21, 2012 at 5:23 am

Your version looks delicious!
And you’re right, being vegan is not about imitating the traditional flavor – but it’s about finding so many wonderful alternatives that taste not the same – but at least as good – or even better!


Rachel October 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I made this with sweet potatoes instead of white, because that’s what I had. It was incredible. Thanks for posting.


Brian October 24, 2012 at 2:18 am

All of these comfort foods look absolutely amazing. Since my mothers passing & the advent of my vegan lifestyle I long for a veganized version of her warm & delicious comfort foods. I recently made your sweet potatoe/lentil loaf for my brother & his family & let me tell you, it was a huge hit! I made it once before for my omnivore wife & she loved it so much she requested a loaf when I made it again for my bro. It’s a perfect stand-in for my moms meatloaf. I’ll be making your mushroom stroganoff tonight. Thanks Gena


jinx watson December 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

thanks for this — I’m making it right now!! My topping will be rutabaga, white potato and sweet potato mash, tho’.


AR Fans January 31, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Have wanted to make this for awhile now! Made it yesterday. Even though it takes awhile to put together the outcome is well worth the extra effort! Lovely recipe, Gena… very comforting. As you can tell… WE enjoyed it!!! :) Thanks!


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