Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

by Gena on December 26, 2010

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Hey all! Hope you’re recovering from a wonderful Christmas celebration (or from a nice day of rest). My day was cozy and quiet, just as I was hoping it would be! But before I get to Christmas day, let me tell you a big more about my Christmas eve.

For the last five years or so, I’ve taken the liberty of cooking Christmas dinner for my Mom and me. I’ve always enjoyed the meals, and for the most part, Mom has too. There have, however, been a few meals she didn’t relish: I’m thinking, for example, of the raw beet ravioli with cashew cheese and massaged kale salad we split two years ago. It all tasted good, she said, but it was a little “cold.”

Of course it was cold. It was raw.

Looking back, I see that I have a tendency to bombard my mother with food that I like, but I’m not certain she’ll like. Given that eating 100% vegan on any holiday is already a concession for her, I decided that this year, I’d focus more on her palate than on mine. I’d find a dish she loved, and veganize it. The choice wasn’t very hard: my mom has one favorite comfort food dish that stands out above all others, and it’s shepherd’s pie.

Traditional shepherd’s pie is, as you probably know, made with ground beef, carrots, and beans or celery, and it’s topped with mashed potatoes and then baked. When I was growing up, my mother made a very traditional version for parties and entertaining friends. I still remember the smell of beef browning in butter (not fondly), and the sight of her putting dots of butter on top of the potatoes before it all went in to the oven. My mom was always adamant about the fact that her shepherd’s pie was a “special treat” dish—too rich, she said, to serve on just any old night. Now, all these years later, I hope I’ve persuaded her that it’s not hard to make shepherd’s pie that’s healthy enough for any weeknight supper, but also tasty enough to satisfy our appetites.

My vegan shepherd’s pie was borrowed heavily from this recipe, courtesy of Aida Mollencamp. I did, though, make a few adjustments, so I thought I’d go through it all step by step.

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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (serves 6 generously)


1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup red wine
3/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, and cut into large dice
4 tbsp Earth Balance, divided
1/3 cup rice, almond, or soy milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
1 small celery root, peeled and small dice
3 medium carrots, peeled and small dice
2 large parsnips, peeled and small dice
1 tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp all purpose flour (if you’re gluten free, you can go ahead and use GF flour, or you can try a thickener like agar agar or arrowroot)


1) In a medium bowl, whisk together broth and wine. Stir in dried porcinis and set aside to plump up; give it at least 30 minutes. Strain mushrooms before using, reserving liquid.

2) Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with heavily salted water. Bring them to a boil and cook until very tender (about 30 minutes).

3) Using a potato masher or potato ricer, mash the potatoes. Add 2 tbsp Earth Balance and milk as you go along. Add more of both or either if you need to adjust texture. Season well with salt and pepper. Set mashed potatoes aside.

4) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a large cooking dish with olive oil or coconut oil.

5) In a large pot (at least 3-4 quarts), heat 1 tbsp Earth Balance over medium heat and begin cooking mushrooms. Start with 1/2 of the creminis, seasoning them well with salt and pepper as you cook them. When they’re brown and well cooked, set them aside. Add the remaining half to the pot and repeat.

6) When mushrooms are cooked, set them aside and heat the remaining 1 tbsp Earth Balance in the pot. Add onions and garlic and cook till translucent or golden. Add carrots and celery and cook till carrots are tender. Add parsnips and celery root and continue cooking till all vegetables are getting tender.

7) Add the cremini and the porcini mushrooms to the pot. Next, whisk 3 tbps flour into the reserved broth and wine, and add the liquid to the pot, along with the sage and thyme. Continue cooking the vegetables in the broth over a low to medium flame, stirring frequently. Check the broth and vegetables for seasoning, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

8 ) When the vegetables are very tender, and the broth has reduced almost completely (you want a bit of liquid in the pot, but not much), you’re ready to assemble the shepherd’s pie. Take the pot off of the heat. Transfer the vegetables to the large baking dish or casserole.

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Next, spread the mashed potatoes carefully over the surface of the vegetables, so that it forms two neat layers.

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Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with dried parsley or thyme. Transfer the dish to the oven, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are bubbling ever so slightly, and the top of the potatoes is golden brown.

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9) Remove shepherd’s pie from oven, and cut to serve.

It should be piping hot, fragrant, and absolutely scrumptious-looking:

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My mom, who claims that I “only eat vegetables,” declared that she could not possibly eat both the pie, and a salad. “And I don’t know how you can possibly eat so many vegetables, either!” she added.

I scoffed. Just try me, Mom.

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Spinach, fennel, and celery met olive oil, lemon, and salt. I rarely eat a meal that hasn’t at least got a raw, green component, and I’m not about to start.

My plate:

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The pie was divine – earthy, comforting, very flavorful, and bursting with root vegetable goodness. My mom claimed I was heavy on the pepper; I disagree, and so did my father when he devoured some leftovers the next day. Even so, season according to your whole family’s tastes!

For dessert, I treated mom to lemon coconut Bundt cake, courtesy of Epicurean Vegan. Perfect example of a food Mom loves, and I don’t. I’d so much rather have a raw macaroon or chocolate for dessert than cake. But Bundt cake is mom’s favorite, and I was thrilled to show her how easy it is to veganize:

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By the end of the night, Mom seemed thrilled with her eats. And I, in turn, was thrilled to have given her a meal that she loved.

Today, it was back to meals I love, and that included some raw soup. Raw soup isn’t always a crowd pleaser—even among raw foodies, it’s not for everyone—but it happens to be one of my favorite dishes, and after all of the chopping and dicing and sautéing and baking on Christmas, I was thrilled to throw together a soup as simple as the following.

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Raw Celery Soup (serves 1)

1 cup celery juice
1 cup almond milk
1/4 avocado
Small squeeze lemon

Blend all ingredients in a blender till smooth.

Paired with a salad, it was a lovely and simple lunch—just for me.

Before I go, I wanted to mention that I also visited my father and his girlfriend on Christmas day, and that they have a new domestic companion. Meet my rambunctious younger brother, Fritz:

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Meeting him was the best of Christmas presents!

How were your holidays? Did you cook mostly for yourself, or for others? According to your own tastes, or in keeping with the tastes of a crowd? I’m dying to know.


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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

JL goes Vegan December 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Your shepherd’s pie looks divine (and I’ve added it to my recipe file!)

My husband and I decided to stay in NY this year, just us, and it was perfect. He veganized mashed sweet potatoes and dressing for me, I made a veggie “meat” loaf (“Vegan Comfort Food” recipe), we enjoyed sauteed garlic-spinach-almonds and he was on his own with his turkey breast (blech).

Congrats on your “brother”! Adorable.


aubrey December 26, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Everytime you have a recipe with almond milk do you homemake it these recipes look awesome but almond milk raw is hard to make. Thanks


Gena December 26, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I do typically make my own almond milk, but there’s nothing wrong with using boxed.


Kate@andwhenshesays December 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm

The shepherds pie looks AMAZING, Gina. I can’t wait to try this for my (very Irish) fiance – I love veganizing old favorites!


Evan Thomas December 26, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Your mom has great taste, and you are such an amazing cook! Shepherd’s pie is one of my favorites. I just love something hearty made of meat and potatoes, but this looks just as decadent and delicious without the meat.


Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) December 26, 2010 at 5:56 pm

You covered so much ground in this post Gena:
the shepards pie..not something I would have ever thought to make, but what a lovely, hearty, comforting recipe for those days when we just need some lovin’ and warmth and heavier foods in our tummies!

The celery soup…looks like a great way to get more veggies in (altho according to your mom you dont need anymore…lol)

And the lemon bundt cake….that’s where it’s at for me: cake! But I am w/ you, I’d go more for raw/choc stuff but hey, cake is cake :)

Glad you had a nice, chill, holiday!



VeggieGirl December 26, 2010 at 6:57 pm

She said it best :)

Merry (belated) Christmas, Gena!


sofia December 26, 2010 at 6:10 pm

i’m far from vegan, but i love healthier comfort foods such as this. i made an awesome vegetable pot pie from the candle cafe cookbook that reminds me of this in its heartiness and all. yum! glad your mom enjoyed.

i’ve been eating out this holiday season as i’m vacationing in vermont. i did find out about a new vegetarian restaurant in town where we have reservations at in an hour. looking forward to what should be a delicious belated holiday meal!


Namaste Gurl December 26, 2010 at 6:10 pm

What a food and family filled day you had miss, Gena! Love how you accustomed your eats to more of your mom’s likings– that’s what I do when I cook for my family as well. It’s not always about us and our safe foods and routines on Christmas, but about our loved ones around us.
I had a lovely Christmas and definitely had up my usual routines and safe foods. Flexibility is definitely a hard task, especially as a foodie :-)


Christin@purplebirdblog December 26, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Uh, Fritz is the cutest!!

We went to a friend’s house for dinner where I knew there would be meat (which I eat) and a lot of rich sides, but no greenery. So I made an avocado/lemon/miso massaged spinach salad and coconut oil sauteed brussels sprouts, along with orange maple whipped sweet potatoes and a dairy-free pumpkin/peanut butter crustless pie to take with us. My contributions were much appreciated and I loaded up on what I brought plus a little of everything else and was very satisfied and not left feeling overly bloated or too stuffed. It was great. :)


Ela December 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm

The celery soup sounds delectable.

It sounds like you’re having an amazing journey in terms of learning how to communicate your love for your mom as well as your passion for vegan food, and putting them together in her world. Sounds like you’re having great success too–which is a great gift to you both.

I tend to skimp on my own foods and use available time to ‘crowd-please.’ However, this Christmas I made a whole bunch of raw/vegan/gluten free/very-low-sugar treats (my husband’s daughter is also avoiding sugar and gluten atm, which helps me to feel ok about going that way). And everybody loved everything and didn’t even necessarily realize that it wasn’t ‘the real thing,’ which is amazing, since most of the folks up here are very ‘mainstream’ and suspicious of alternatives. Made me feel good! Trying to get some pics up on blog right now.

Thanks for sharing yours. And Fritz is adorable!


Dorry December 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Your Shepherd’s Pie looks delicious – perfect for a Christmas meal. We made a baked risotto with porcini mushrooms last week and I love them. I think my husband would love this pie, too. I’m with you on the raw green component with every meal. Something cold and fresh to round out the hot, hearty dish.

Fritz is so cute!

I always bring a couple of vegan dishes to holiday meals with my family…usually something with quinoa and lentils. I also bring veggies to steam since most of the veggie sides are casseroles which include dairy. This year, I brought some vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, too.


Howard From Seattle December 26, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Thanks for sharing the recipe! I plan to make it this next week.

Regards, Howard


Christine (The Raw Project) December 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Wonderful post and the shepherd’s pie looks great, like a recipe my hubby and I could enjoy. My mom is the same way about veggies, she doesn’t understand how I can eat so much spinach at a time. :-P The celery soup also looks wonderful! And Fritz is a cutie!


Green & Juicy December 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Scrumptious-looking pie, it’s always hard to know what to cook for the ‘uninitiated’! The other night I whipped up a warm, creamy potato salad using avocado as the mayonnaise, romaine, chives, pickled onions etc. So good, and the whole family liked it! I don’t think they even realised it was all veggies :)


Andy December 26, 2010 at 10:20 pm

For Christmas, my mom made the shepherd’s pie from the recipe you based this off of, and it was delicious! There’s still more in the fridge–I can’t wait to have some leftovers.


bitt December 26, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Raising my hand as one of the raw foodies who doesn’t love green soup. But I do like green smoothies, so we’re even. :-) And I am not that thrilled about raw beets, so I can see where your mom is coming from. I win a lot more over with cooked vegan main dishes, but I do have a lot of success with my raw desserts. More so than with cooked ones!

Fritz is as adorable as they come for brothers. What a cute mustache he has.


Gena December 26, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I think raw soups and green smoothies are a very even trade!


melissa December 26, 2010 at 10:55 pm

merry christmas, looks delicious!


Mama Pea December 26, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I see where you get it from now. Your amazingness that is. Spell check informs me that “amazingness” is not a word, but I assure you, it is. I think your mom is pretty spectacular to eat vegan for you. And I think you are pretty incredible to stray a little from what you normally eat and to bake for her. (That is baking, by the way.) Being a little uncomfortable to be with the ones you love. That IS what Christmas is all about, right?


Diana (Soap & Chocolate) December 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Haha, high-five to Mama Pea. It wouldn’t be Christmas without at least a token split second of discomfort. Luckily my holiday was far more pleasant than unpleasant, so I won’t complain. :)

Kudos to you, Gena, for striking a gracious balance, and I shall put the rest of my comment in an email! xo


Michelle December 27, 2010 at 3:49 am

Oh, I’ve been craving shepherd’s pie; thank you!
I made vegan chocolate truffles for Christmas and they were a mad hit. People were raving about them and no one detected the truffles were vegan. Score!
Love Fritz; is he a Schnoodle?


Alexandra (Veggin' Out in the Kitchen) December 27, 2010 at 9:01 am

Mmmm…. I’ve always wanted to make a shepherd’s pie. I’m going to have to give yours a try sometime!

I just started a new blog not to long ago. Would you mind looking at it and letting me know what you think? Thanks so much!


Michelle (Housewife in the Raw) December 27, 2010 at 10:20 am

This year I brought a few vegetarian items like salad, fruit salad and some empanadas, but mostly I quietly didn’t eat the meat based dishes. One family member this year rather rudely asked my very health conscious mother in law to ‘not have too many healthy foods.’ It really upset me, but also made me aware that I don’t want to demand the flip side from my family and make the host do extra work to cater to me. If they are gracious and generous enough to provide a huge meal for a lot of people, the least I can do is be grateful and make up my dinner plate from the veggie tray and salad. Christmas is about much more than the food.


Amalfi Girl December 27, 2010 at 11:43 am

Shep. Pie is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Thank you for this healthified recipe!


Gloria December 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Hi Gena! I thought I’d share with you that I made the caesar kale and white bean salad for myself on Christmas Eve and absolutely loved it. That is my kind of comfort food. I was able to do this because it was just me and my parents that night and they had the traditional spread of Italian seafood dishes. My mom kept eyeing my plate and I had to keep giving her bites because she enjoyed it so much!

Christmas day my mom made stuffed shells, meatballs, and sausages. She also made broccoli with olives and pignolis that is totally vegan and one of my favorites. To mesh with the theme, I brought my own jumbo brown rice shells and tofu/cashew ricotta (her tomato sauce is vegan which I smothered it in). My sister-in-law is dairy and soy-free so I made her an all cashew ricotta (your recipe!) and she brought a salad. My sis was about to die she thought the cheese was so fantastic! The desserts were totally vegan because I made them – gingerbread cookies, pumpkin pie coconut ice cream, and red velvet cake with pistachio cream cheese frosting.


Little Bookworm December 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm

That Vegan Shepherd’s Pie looks amazing! Sounds like you had a lovely weekend! :)


Natasha Zeligs December 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Yummy recipe and always a great winter staple.
Greens are the main fuel that runs my body. As we age we need all the nutrition we can get to keep metabolism high and to stay healthy and encourage all hormones to keep on firing!


Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day December 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Awww.. Fitz is a cutie pie..

I think your meal looks amazing and delicious. I pretty much cooked what my kids wanted for christmas, but I enjoyed it too… my kids and I have similar taste in food most of the time.


kelli December 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm

This pie looks delish!!

I have a question could you reccommend any restaurants with vegan options near penn station? going to dinner with 2 friends but can’t be too much $$$.



Hillary December 27, 2010 at 4:18 pm

(1ST time posting) First of all LOVE your blog! I am inspired everyday reading it to try to stay with my veganism (1 yr vegan with some speed bumps) and to try to incorporate more raw dishes. I have a question which I hope you wont think of as silly. Since I am new to the concept of raw dishes, I was wondering if you are suppose to eat the raw soups you describe (like the one above) cold? I know raw means not cooked, but I was wondering if you even just warm them at all?


Ana December 27, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Shepard’s pie is meal that brings comfort here at our home too, both my son and husband like it a lot (my son loves mashed potatoes!). And I always make it vegetarian too, much the way you do, but I like to add lentils to the vegetable portion sometimes, it makes it really delicious, gives it an even heartier feel and taste/flavor – but I may be bias, I love lentils!
I like your pie, looks delicious!!


tweal December 28, 2010 at 7:45 am

I made vegan shepherd’s pie for xmas dinner too! It is so easy to make and it always seems to please the omnivores – especially when served with miso gravy. Good thing I have leftovers :)


Donna November 5, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Yes… divine is the perfect word for this tasty/earthy Shepherd’s Pie!!! It is everything Gena says it is. Made a trial run of this recipe today in hopes that I would love it and could serve it for Thanksgiving! Well, after eating it, watching my husband go back for seconds, and listening to my meat-eater neighbor rave over every bite and make several great comments my decision was made! Boy are we going to love Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I don’t think anyone will miss Tom… Turkey. I know I won’t. Went strictly by the recipe and wouldn’t change a thing. This Shepherd’s Pie could easily be served in any Fine Dining Restaurant in the country and would definitely be a repeat favorite!!!
Gena, you’re A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. :)


Gena November 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Thank you!!!


Angie January 26, 2014 at 7:58 pm

I tried this today and it was AWESOME and I DON’T COOK!
I substituted sweet potatoes for the white ones (made half white potatoes) and the sweet potatoes were better in my opinion.
My only criticism is that all of the chopping takes a long time (did I mention that I’m not a cook?). My husband gave it 9/10 and that says a lot for a girl that hates cooking :) Thx for a great recipe!


Gena January 27, 2014 at 8:07 am

Hooray! So glad it was a hit, Angie!


8 ball pool April 1, 2014 at 3:25 am

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