Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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This is the best vegan shepherd’s pie you’ll try! A hearty, flavor-packed lentil and sticky onion filling meets fluffy mashed potatoes and cauliflower in this protein-rich plant-based dinner. The perfect healthy comfort food for winter!
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 1 hour 30 minutes
Total 1 hour 45 minutes
5 from 525 votes

One of my favorite cozy winter recipes is this Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie. I came up with this recipe when I realized that the shepherd’s pie recipe from my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook was so popular.

It’s hearty winter comfort food that is packed with bold and rich flavors but is sneakily healthy. It’s impressive enough to serve as a holiday main dish, but works great for any cold weather dinner.

This lentil shepherd’s pie starts with a sticky, umami-packed lentil and onion filling. It gets topped with a buttery mashed potato-cauliflower topping, then baked in the oven until perfectly golden brown. It’s a community favorite adored by both vegans and omnivores alike!

In this post:
1. Ingredients in Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
2. Step-by-step Instructions
3. Tips for making this recipe
4. Frequently Asked Questions
5. Video: How to make Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

healthy vegan lentil shepherd's pie - flat lay in skillet

Ingredients in Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

A traditional shepherd’s pie fillings contain onions, carrots, celery, peas, and of course meat (typically lamb).

My plant-based version starts with brown (or green) lentils and onions, which get cooked down until beautifully browned, alongside plenty of garlic. These ingredients pack in so much savory depth of flavor that there’s no need for carrots and celery. Also, I hate mushy peas.

A few other ingredients help take this recipe over the top:

  • Tomato Paste gets cooked down, bringing a subtle tangy sweetness and amping up the umami.
  • Red wine enhances the meaty earthiness of the lentils (see FAQ below for substitutes if you can’t have red wine).
  • Tamari (or soy sauce) and vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional) add additional bold savoriness.
  • Balsamic vinegar brings a slight sweet tang that balances everything out.
  • And tahini adds a nutty creaminess that pulls the filling together

As for the mashed potato-cauliflower topping, I prefer Russet Potatoes because their high-starch content makes for the fluffiest mashed potatoes. This is especially useful to balance the cauliflower, which is not starchy.

Step-by-step Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the onions until nicely browned, 8-10 minutes. Then add the garlic and fresh herbs and cook for 2 minutes.

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Add the tomato paste and cook until darkened (2-3 minutes), then stir into the onions.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is jammy.

Add the vegetable broth, lentils, bay leaves, and paprika. Simmer for 30 minutes until lentils are al dente.

Finish the lentil filling by stirring in tahini, balsamic vinegar, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional), and salt and pepper.

Stir well until the lentils are creamy and thickened.

While the lentils are cooking, make the mashed potato-cauliflower topping. Boil the cauliflower florets and potatoes in boiling salted water with rosemary for 15 minutes until fork tender. Drain and dry thoroughly.

Add the vegan butter, plant milk, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to the boiled cauliflower and potatoes. Use a potato masher or ricer (or an electric mixer on low speed) to mash until smooth.

Spoon the mashed potato-cauliflower topping on the lentil filling and gently spread out out with an offset or silicone spatula. Drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, and black pepper.

Bak for 20 minutes at 375°F/190°C. Afterwards, pop under the broiler for a few minutes for extra browning on top.

In the mood for even more cold weather vegan comfort food? Give these a try:

Creamy Mushroom and Black Beluga Lentil Stew
The Best Vegan Mashed Potatoes
Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry

Tips for making this recipe

How to avoid a watery mashed potato-cauliflower topping.

  1. Once the cauliflower and potatoes are done boiling, drain them thoroughly in a colander. Let the potatoes sit in the colander to dry out while you work on the cauliflower.
  2. Transfer the cauliflower to a fine-mesh sieve, and place a bowl on top of the boiled cauliflower. Push down and squeeze out as much water as you can. There will be a lot more water than you think! Or wrap the cauliflower in a clean dish towel and tie it up. Then squeeze it into a ball and wring out all of the excess water.

How to make this recipe more indulgent (great for a holiday meal).

  1. If you taste the mashed potato filling and think it needs a bit more buttery goodness, add some more a little more vegan butter!
  2. Or just use all potatoes and skip the cauliflower. My Miso Butter Mashed Potatoes take this recipe over the top.

How to make this recipe as efficiently as possible.

  • First, prep the lentil filling ingredients. Second, prep the topping ingredients.
  • Third, start cooking the lentil filling. While that’s simmering, boil the potatoes and cauliflower + preheat the oven.
  • Next, drain and dry the potatoes & cauliflower. And make the mashed potato-cauliflower topping.
  • Assemble the shepherd’s pie and bake it off.
slice of vegan lentil shepherd's pie on plate

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute the red wine?

If you do not consume alcohol, skip the step of deglazing the pan with red wine. Instead, just start deglazing the pan with the vegetable broth. It helps to use a vegetable broth that is quite flavorful and rich (a homemade one, or my favorites are Imagine Organic and this vegan “chicken” broth seasoning).

While I do think the wine adds something special, many readers have made this recipe without the wine with great results.

What kind of potatoes do you recommend for the topping?

I recommend Russet potatoes when I make the topping with cauliflower. They are fluffier and work better with the cauliflower than, say, Yukon Golds. But if you make a mashed potato-only topping, either variety works great.

Are my lentils cooked through?

30 minutes should be enough time to cook your lentils al dente, but not overdone or soft. It’s okay if the lentils feel firmer than you’d expect, as they’ll also cook again in the oven.

What if I don’t have a 12-inch ovenproof skillet?

Make the Lentil Filling in the largest skillet you have and then transfer it to a large (3 quart/3 liter) baking dish. Spread the topping on and bake as instructed.

How do you store and reheat shepherd’s pie? Can you freeze it?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Or, in the freezer, for up to 3 months.

To reheat, transfer portioned out leftovers to an ovenproof dish and tent with foil. Heat at 325°F/163°C until lentils and potato-cauliflower topping are both warmed through.

If frozen, I recommend allowing the shepherd’s pie to thaw before reheating (otherwise, the potato-cauliflower topping can be a bit icy and lend watery results).

What should I serve this shepherd’s pie with?

A hunk of rustic multigrain bread or sourdough
A fall or winter salad like this Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad or this Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad
Steamed or lightly sauteed broccoli or green beans

closeup of vegan shepherd's pie in a skillet

Watch! How to make Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

My YouTube video is packed with tips so give it a look if you’re interested in learning more!

A perfect vegan meal for cold winter days ❄️
A perfect vegan meal for cold winter days ❄️

If you love this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe, be sure to rate and review the recipe below :)

The Best Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

5 from 525 votes
This is the best vegan shepherd’s pie you’ll try! A hearty, flavor-packed lentil and sticky onion filling meets fluffy mashed potatoes and cauliflower in this protein-rich plant-based dinner. The perfect healthy comfort food for winter!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: English
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 8

Ingredients

Lentil Filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic minced (use less if you’re not a huge fan of garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) dry red wine (such as Pinot Noir or Malbec)*
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 ounces / 285g) green lentils (or brown lentils)
  • 3 3/4 cups (900 mL) vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
  • 1/4 cup (56g) smooth tahini**
  • 1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)***
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional)****
  • Plenty of kosher salt or sea salt (I used 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Mashed Potato Topping

  • 20 ounces (680g) Russet potatoes
  • 16 ounces (454g) cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 rosemary sprig (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter, softened at room temperature (or olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) “lite” coconut milk*****
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Optional finishes and garnishes

  • Extra virgin oil for baking and finishing
  • Flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  • Make the Lentil Filling. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat until hot. If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, you’ll need to transfer the cooked lentil filling to a baking dish when it’s time to bake.
  • Add the onions with a couple pinches of salt and sauté for 8-10 minutes, or until most of the onions are browned. Stir occasionally to prevent burning, but not too often so that they can brown. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  • Push the onions to the edges of the pan so there’s an empty space in the middle of the pan. Add the tomato paste into the empty space and stir for 2-3 minutes, or until it darkens in color. Reduce the heat to medium, as needed.
  • Pour in the red wine and deglaze the pan, stirring up any browned bits, until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the smell of alcohol has dissipated, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the vegetable broth, along with the lentils, bay leaves, and paprika. Stir to combine and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to maintain a rapid simmer, and simmer until the lentils are just tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 25-30 minutes.
  • Turn the heat to low. Add the tahini, tamari, balsamic vinegar, and vegan Worcestershire sauce (if using). Stir until well incorporated. Taste for seasonings, adding a generous amount of salt (I used about 1 teaspoon kosher salt) and black pepper. Set aside.
  • Make the Mashed Potato Topping. Peel the Russet potatoes and then rinse them under cold water. Chop the potatoes into eighths.
  • Place the potatoes and cauliflower florets in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and add just enough water to cover. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and stir to combine. Place the rosemary sprig on top. Bring to a boil and cook until both potatoes and cauliflower are fork-tender and are very soft when poked, about 15 minutes.
  • Thoroughly drain the potatoes and cauliflower in a colander and discard the rosemary sprig. For the potatoes, pat them dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. For the cauliflower, you’ll need to squeeze out the excess water or it’ll be very watery.
    NOTE: See the “tips” section in the post for details on how to squeeze out the excess water.
  • Return the vegetables to the saucepan or transfer them to a large bowl. Add in the softened vegan butter, lite coconut milk, nutritional yeast, along with salt and black pepper to taste. You can mash everything together using a handheld potato masher, but I use an immersion blender. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt as needed (I used about 1 teaspoon kosher salt).
  • Assemble the Shepherd’s Pie. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. If your skillet is ovenproof and has enough space, leave the Lentil Filling in there. If not, transfer it to a large (3 quart/3 liter) baking dish. Smooth the Lentil Filling out. Then, spoon and carefully spread out the Mashed Potato Topping on top, covering the whole surface. For more flavor, drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil and some extra pinches of salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until the lentil filling starts to bubble up. Remove from the oven and turn on your oven’s broiler. Place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until the crust is golden brown. To finish, drizzle with more olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.
  • Note: if you want the pie to solidify more, allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes in the pan.
    Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Notes

* If you do not consume alcohol, just skip this step and start deglazing the pan with the vegetable broth instead of wine. 
** The tahini brands I regularly use are Soom Tahini, Seed + Mill, and the Whole Foods 365 brand. If you typically refrigerate your tahini, try to bring it to room temperature, as it’ll be easier to stir into the lentils.
*** To keep this dish soy-free, omit the tamari and just add a bit more salt to taste.
**** Vegan worcestershire sauce brands: Annie’s Homegrown, Whole Foods 365, Sprouts, Simple Truth, O Organics. 
***** If allergic to coconut, use full-fat unsweetened oat milk. 
Tip: If using golden potatoes instead of Russets, do NOT use an immersion blender – the potatoes will get gummy. Use a potato masher or ricer instead. 

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1432mg | Potassium: 1040mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 842IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 5mg

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4.95 from 525 votes (196 ratings without comment)

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715 comments on Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

  1. Fran

    5 stars
    We made this on Sunday. The length of the recipe was a little intimidating, but it wasn’t difficult at all. And … it was delicious. Great recipe. I used Burlap and Barrel’s Szegedi 178 Hot Paprika instead of sweet paprika. The flavors were great; texture was very good. Just an excellent recipe to be made again and again. Thank you!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re so happy that the shepherd’s pie turned out well for you, Fran. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for trying out the recipe!

  2. Victoria

    5 stars
    This Shepherd’s pie was so delicious. I made it for St. Patrick’s day and my fiancé and I loved it. I used Yukon gold potatoes instead of the cauliflower since that is what we had at home and it turned out to be nice and creamy.

  3. Lorelle

    5 stars
    This recipe is one of my go-to’s in the Winter. A little time consuming as far as prep goes, but boy, is it well worth it! It’s Autumn here in Australia at the moment, so I’m looking forward to making this again.. I add mushies cooked first and added at the end along with spinach at the end. I also only make 1/2 the amount and I still have leftovers for a couple of days… love that… leftovers for lunch!
    Looking forward to your new book Nisha! Well done and congrats in advance..
    I’m 56 and been vegan for 5-6 years now, and your YT channel was one of the first I found, along with Gaz Oakley and Pick Up Limes and the 3 I have stayed with throughout my journey. Consistently good recipes, tips and guidance. Thank you for all the work, energy and really good food you bring to my life and journey.
    Peace, Love, Plants

  4. Karen

    5 stars
    Love this! Delicious & well worth all the prep.
    Next time I’ll add peas & maybe mushrooms.
    Served with a pretty cabbage, cauliflower, ginger slaw.

  5. Pat

    5 stars
    I made this recipe tonight and it was delicious! I used Tahini for the first time and it has a marvelous flavor. It was pretty complicated so I will only make it occasionally but definitely will make again.

  6. Stacy

    5 stars
    This is not only the best Shepherds Pie it is the best vegan recipe I have had as a vegan of 2 years. Everyone going vegan needs to try this. The best! So rich with flavor

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Your review made our day, Stacy! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and for trying out the recipe.

  7. Rebecca

    This looks so good! Do you have any suggestions for making it a few days in advance? Can the filling be precooked, stored in the fridge, then the potato/cauliflower topping added just before baking?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Rebecca, you can put everything together ahead of time and bake when ready to eat if you’d like. I personally would keep the lentil filling and mashed potato topping separate, and then assemble them in one baking dish right before they go in the oven! But if you can’t do that, assembling everything in the morning, then refrigerating and baking it off in the afternoon should be just fine.

      1. Rebecca

        5 stars
        Thank you! We made it yesterday and it was delicious; we’ll be making it again soon! I’ll probably add in some diced vegetables with the onions (carrots & celery) for variety next time.

  8. jude maloney

    5 stars
    This is the best vegan shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had. The tahini gives it a satiating mouth feel and richness. I fed it to my adult kids – my son-in-law is a big meat eater – and he loved it. He suggested catsup. I only ever eat catsup on french fries but it was fantastic on it. I put in a layer of corn kernels.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for the wonderful review, Jude! We’re delighted to hear the recipe was loved by the whole family.

  9. Sara

    Tried two of your recipes and they were absolutely flavour bombs!! Truly delicious!! Howerer the portion sizes were off both times. I’m not a big eater and usually the recipes I find online are accurate serving-wise, even tend to give a little extra. This one for example says 8 servings and barely gave 4. So I wonder if yours take into consideration sides maybe? just so I can adjust for future tries.

    Thank you for sharing these jewels otherwise. Truly a blast for the senses <3

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Happy to hear you enjoy the recipes, Sara! And as for the serving sizes, sorry, many people have different ideas of what one serving looks like. You can look at nutrition facts to get a more accurate picture of how much this will fill you up with the given serving size. This would be 4 hearty dinner portions or 8 to 12 side servings.

  10. Thomas Sobol

    5 stars
    I’m not even a vegetarian but subbing lentils for meat was a great idea. I’m probably eating healthier and saving money. Thank you for posting such great recipes

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Yay, thanks for the kind words, Thomas! You are very welcome for the recipes. :) We hope you keep enjoying them!

  11. Lyndon Keenan

    Amazing but my lentils were still hard, even after alllllll that cooking?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Lyndon, were they fresh lentils? Older lentils take much longer to cook. Sorry this recipe didn’t work out as planned for you!

  12. Jeanette Holder

    5 stars
    My husband and I enjoyed this dish and wonder, would it freeze well?

    1. Jaymi

      Did you use canned Lentils? It doesn’t say, I was going to use the packet but if you used the packet and were still hard I think I might use the canned.

      1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

        Hi Jaymi, we don’t use canned lentils in the recipes because dried are so quick cooking and better tasting in our opinions!

    2. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Jeanette, we’re happy to hear you are a fan of the recipe!

      Yes you can store leftovers in the freezer for up to 3 months.

      Allow the shepherd’s pie to thaw before reheating (otherwise, the potato-cauliflower topping can be a bit icy and lend watery results).

      After that, to reheat you can transfer portioned out leftovers to an ovenproof dish and tent with foil. Heat at 325°F/163°C until lentils and potato-cauliflower topping are both warmed through.

  13. Patty Demant

    5 stars
    All I can say is…. OMG
    My daughter and her family are vegan so I have been on the hunt for the perfect vegan rabbit hole to go down, found it!!!! I really like this shepards pie as well as the brownies, vegan ranch and banana bread. I appreciate the videos and all the little jokes, especially Nishaś parents….. they are so cute. This last Sunday super event I received more compliments than usual, thank you Nisha.
    The texture of the pie filling with loads of onions and green lentils is spot on. The addition of the cauliflower in the mashed potato topping was really nice. lastly, thanks for all the tips, I am also learning a lot about cooking vegan.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Patty, thank you so much for the wonderful review! It warms our hearts to hear you’ve been trying and loving the recipes! :)

  14. Will

    5 stars
    Very good recipe, I skipped the tamari and it was delicious. Should be pretty healthy too. Thanks!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Will, it’s great to hear you had success with the recipe. Thanks for the review!

  15. Lorenza

    Hi,
    Just a few questions:
    1) can you make it one day in advance and leave it in the fridge ready to be baked in the oven on the following day?
    2) Also, if I steam the cauliflower, do I still need to drain the water
    out?
    3) to avoid the lentil sauce being too dry, is it ok to leave it a little watery?
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Lorenza!

      1) Yes, you can certainly assemble it the day before, cover it, and bake it the next day. If you can, let the assembled dish sit out at room temp for a little while so it’s not ice cold when it hits the oven (it might take longer to bake if ice cold).

      2) Yes, cauliflower is quite water-heavy so be sure to drain well, even if you steam it. Otherwise, the topping will be a bit watery.

      3) The lentil filling is supposed to be quite creamy, but if you’d like to add a bit of extra water or broth, that’s fine. It should cook off in the oven, and the “pie” will set up more as it rests.

  16. Marilyn

    5 stars
    WOW!!!! This is a fantastic recipe! We entertained last night and served this as a main course for dinner. Everyone loved it. I made it in my cast iron fry pan. Definitely will be making this again.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Marilyn!

  17. Anthony Campbell

    4 stars
    How to avoid a watery mashed potato-cauliflower topping: bake the potatoes for 75-90 mins and the cauliflower for 45-50 mins.
    Great dish!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re happy to hear you enjoyed the shepherd’s pie, Anthony!

  18. Heather

    4 stars
    New to the vegan way of eating, my husband and I both loved this recipe. Full flavor and quite simple to put together. Very satisfying.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We appreciate your feedback and support, Heather. Thank you for leaving a review!

  19. Simone

    5 stars
    This is Amazing!!! And so easy to follow instructions. The whole family loved it!! Thank you.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Simone, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  20. Debra

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious!!! thanks for this, it will be a regular dish for me now.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s lovely to hear, Debra! :) Thanks for sharing!

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