This savory and hearty Vegan Smoky Shepherd’s Pie is the ultimate cozy dinner, perfect for a weeknight or special occasion. Easy to make, customizable, and healthy, this delicious and classic dish is a great, budget-friendly, stick-to-your-ribs meal.
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Hey Internet, I’m sure you’ve heard of Shepherd’s Pie, but if you haven’t, it’s basically veggies and traditionally meat (but we’ll use lentils) in a savory sauce, topped with mashed potatoes and baked. SO GOOD.
This cozy meal is totally easily made vegan with the substitution of lentils for meat. I also add mushrooms, which help enhance that meaty flavor.
And the sauce? Oh my gosh the sauce. So savory and rich and creamy and… well… saucy.
It’s my quick vegan gravy which is great, because then this is really just a fancy version of mashed potatoes and gravy.
The lentils amp up the protein and make this a great hearty dish, while the veggies make it healthy and the gravy just makes it awesome.
This was actually one of the first recipes on my blog, but as you can see it’s had a bit of a refresh (new pics, etc.). I’m honestly pretty embarrassed about the old pics, but we all have to start somewhere, right?
I digress. Moving on.
Vegan shepherd’s pie has long been a staple dish of ours, even before going vegan as lentils are even cheaper than meat. This dish has always been a great budget-meal for us to fall back on.
But the great thing about it is that it doesn’t taste like a budget meal, in that the flavors are complex and rich.
The umami from the mushrooms, the smokiness from the smoked paprika, the subtle hint of dried thyme, and the rich gravy make for pretty fantastic flavors if I do say so myself.
I just loved the mashed potato topping too. Potatoes are one of my favorite foods... I even made a compilation of over 75 of the best vegan potato recipes if you're interested.
This is a fantastic dish for meal prep and it also freezes very well, so make a double batch if you like or just save what you don’t eat for later.
I love taking the leftovers of this to work for a few days after I first make it. The flavors hold up great, and it warms me in my chilly workplace.
Anyway, let’s get into this easy and delicious recipe!
What You’ll Need
There are three parts to this recipe: the filling, the sauce, and the topping. I’ve divided up this section to keep everything neat and tidy.
The meat replacement in this recipe is lentils. I’ll give you some other ideas in the Substitutions section below.
I used a 15 oz can of lentils, but you can also use one and a half cups of cooked lentils if you’d like. I will say that cooking lentils from dry will save you more money than using canned, but it will take a bit more time (you could cook them at the same time as the potatoes though, so while they’d take a little longer it would be a little more convenient).
I used brown lentils, but green would also work. I’m afraid that red lentils would just dissolve into this recipe.
For the veggies, I used a one pound bag of frozen four vegetable medley which contained carrots, green beans, corn, and peas.
You can technically use any frozen veggies (or fresh!) you’d like, but keep in mind that you might need to cut them smaller, as the four vegetable medley contains fairly small pieces.
Finally, mushrooms. I added sliced (diced would also work) mushrooms to this recipe because the mushrooms really add to the meaty and umami flavor, but if you don’t like mushrooms just leave them out.
Flavor Tip: Saute your mushrooms in a little gluten-free tamari (you can use soy sauce if not gluten-free, and you can use no-soy if you can’t eat soy), extra smoked paprika, and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a LOT of extra flavor.
This sauce is amazing. It’s actually my quick vegan gravy.
While you could use any sauce you like, even a store bought vegan gravy mix, I highly recommend using some kind of sauce and it makes this meal rich and moist (sorry).
Though I may be biased, my gravy recipe is incredible, and it only takes a few minutes to throw together using ingredients you probably already have.
Every time I make this gravy my husband and I stand in the kitchen for a few minutes, scraping out the pot and licking the spoon. It’s that good.
For my gravy you’ll need vegetable broth, soy sauce / gluten-free tamari / no-soy, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, nutmeg, arrowroot powder or cornstarch, and a bit of water.
Go to my quick vegan gravy to see the full recipe, and it can be prepared while your potatoes cook.
Speaking of which…
I have a very simple approach to making mashed potatoes. I actually have a recipe for vegan mashed potatoes here on my site, but I’m putting it below too to minimize extra steps.
Besides, like I said, it’s simple.
All you’ll need is some potatoes--any will work. Sometimes I leave the skins on (usually with organic potatoes) but for this dish I often peel them, mostly for presentation. The skins are an awesome texture though if you’d like to keep them in.
And the other things I put in my mashed potatoes are a little of the water I boiled them in and salt.
Sometimes I add garlic powder. Sometimes I don’t.
I don’t add non-dairy milk or vegan butter to my mashed potatoes. I just don’t think it’s necessary. You can if you like, though. I’d recommend cashew milk or oat milk for creaminess if you’d like.
But I feel like the boiling water makes mashed potatoes silky and awesome. It’s the starch that leaches out into the water. Somehow makes it awesome.
What Substitutions Can I Make?
This vegan shepherd’s pie recipe is super customizable, so I’ve included a list of substitutions below.
While green or brown lentils are super cheap and widely available, some people don’t like lentils (BLASPHEMY! Just kidding.). You could use any cooked bean instead, like chickpeas or black beans.
You could also substitute it for TVP (textured vegetable protein) which is a dehydrated vegan ground beef substitute that you can rehydrate to use as you would ground beef.
As I mentioned above I used a medley frozen veggie blend of carrots, green beans, corn, and peas, but any will work.
You could use fresh veggies too, but keep in mind that some veggies are harder and may have a longer cooking time. Chop those veggies a little smaller than ones that cook quickly like peppers or broccoli.
If you don’t want to make my delicious quick vegan gravy I’ll be very offended. Just kidding. You can use a store bought vegan gravy mix or experiment with other sauces. Tomato sauce would probably be delicious in this.
Don’t want to top the shepherd’s pie with white potatoes? A great substitute is sweet potatoes! I’ve actually tried this and it’s incredible. Great combo.
A good lower carb option is cauliflower mash, but you can mash other veggies too, like carrots and parsnips, turnips, etc.
Tips for Making Vegan Smoky Shepherd’s Pie
This is a pretty easy recipe to make, despite how it may seem with three components. Each component is pretty easy, so keep on reading.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 degrees Celsius).
- Start by boiling your potatoes. I like to dice my potatoes beforehand, using a half inch dice. This helps them cook faster. Add the potatoes to the pot and add water until they’re just covered. Throw on a lid and bring them to a boil. You’ll want to cook them till they’re soft which will depend on how big you’ve cut them. If you diced them in a half-inch dice like I did, they should actually be soft enough to match pretty much as soon as they’ve come to a boil. Test with a fork: if your fork easily goes through them, they’re ready.
- Drain the potatoes over a bowl to catch some or most of the water. It’s hard to say how much I use since I add little splashes of the cooking water while I mash, but reserve at least ½ to ¾ cup.
- While the potatoes are cooking you could be making the quick vegan gravy or whatever other sauce you’re making. Cook that and set it aside.
- Mash your potatoes, adding little bits of the cooking water at a time while you mash. Add salt and anything else you’d like in there, like garlic powder. Mix it in and set the bowl aside.
- Cook your mushrooms by sauteing them in a large nonstick skillet (I love my B1 All Clad Skillet for sauteing veggies) over medium high heat. I don’t add any liquid at first while they’re sauteing because they release a bit of their own liquid. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the tamari or soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and smoked paprika a little bit at a time, letting it cook off each time until the mushrooms are half their size and nicely browned, about 5 more minutes (10 min total).
- Now add the frozen veggies and lentils to the pot along with your spices and let everything heat up. The veggies should thaw but don’t need to be totally cooked yet as they’ll cook more in the oven.
- Mix in the gravy and stir everything together really well.
- Add the filling to a deep baking dish (a square or rectangular baking dish will work, as will a glass pie dish) and flatten everything with the back of your spoon, pressing down lightly to compact everything.
- Top with the mashed potatoes, and press a fork in a pattern across the top if you desire.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes. You can throw it under the broiler for the last few minutes if you’d like the top slightly crispy (SO GOOD).
- Done! Serve with fresh cracked black pepper and a good sprinkle of chopped parsley. Enjoy!
- Store the leftovers up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Alternatively, freeze leftovers in a freezer-save airtight container up to 3 months.
More Hearty Vegan Meals
Love vegan meals that are hearty and stick-to-your ribs? Me too. Check out some of the below recipes.
- Vegan Goulash (American-style, like chili mac)
- Vegan Hamburger Helper
- Lentil Mushroom Loaf
- Spinach Noodle Kugel
- Seitan Brisket
- Seitan Turkey
- Vegan Drumsticks
- Vegan Cream of Chicken Soup
As always, I hope you love this recipe–I know I do and so does Mr. Zardyplants, who is vegan but occasionally misses the flavor of meat (but not the cruelty–he insisted I add that line).
This vegan shepherd’s pie is:
- “Meaty” (hold the cruelty)
- Packed with umami flavor
- and great for anyone in your life that either isn’t vegan or vegetarian yet and needs to be convinced or is already and just kinda misses the taste of meat.
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!