Vegan Shepherd’s Pie made with lentils, butternut squash, cauliflower and spices in a rich savory tomato sauce and topped off with creamy mashed potatoes. This is comfort food at it’s best, and it’s healthy too! Grab a spoon and dig in to this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie!
This Lentil Shepherd’s Pie casserole is packed with healthy plant protein and vegetables baked in a savory sauce and topped with creamy mashed potatoes.
It’s easy to make-ahead and freezes wonderfully.
A delicious meatless dinner the whole family will love!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Lentils ~ Lentils act as the meat replacement in this vegan version of shepherd’s pie. Use brown or green lentils, which hold their shape well even after cooking. Red lentils will not hold their shape, so I don’t recommend using those.
I like to use canned or steamed lentils in this recipe to save time, but you can cook your own dried lentils first if you like. This is also a great recipe to use up any leftover cooked lentils you have in the fridge.
Cooked vegan ground “beef”, like Beyond Beef or Impossible, could be used instead.
Veggies ~ Typical veggies in shepherd’s pie are peas and carrots, and sometimes celery. I strayed from traditional in my Lentil Shepherd’s Pie and used butternut squash and cauliflower.
I love the texture of the cauliflower – it adds to the meatiness of the dish. And the butternut squash brings a subtle sweetness that mingles well with the other savory flavors.
To save prep time, frozen butternut squash and cauliflower can be used instead of fresh and does not need to be cooked first.
You could certainly add some peas and carrots if you like, as well, or use them instead of the squash and cauliflower. Or just throw in a bag of frozen mixed vegetables containing peas, carrots, green beans, and corn. If you increase the amount of vegetables, be sure to also increase the amount of broth a bit.
Spices and flavorings ~ Worcestershire sauce is not usually vegan, but there are a few vegan brands available. The Wizard’s is our favorite and it is also gluten-free. Annie’s also makes a vegan version, but it is not gluten-free.
You’ll also need tomato paste, tamari (or soy sauce), dried thyme, salt, and pepper.
Dried rosemary or parsley would be great in this casserole, as well.
Flour ~ A little bit of flour helps to thicken the filling. All-purpose flour or a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend works well. You could also use cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
Potatoes ~ This Lentil Shepherd’s Pie is topped with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes work best for this. Be sure to peel the potatoes for ultimate creaminess.
I added vegetable broth to the potatoes for this recipe, but you could use an unsweetened, plain non-dairy milk if you prefer.
How to make the recipe
If you are using dried lentils, cook them according to package directions until tender. This generally takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
Boil the potatoes for the mashed potatoes during this time, as well, which should also take about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain when fork tender and place back in the hot pot to evaporate any remaining liquid.
At the same time, if you are using fresh butternut squash and cauliflower, chop them into small pieces and simmer in water (or broth for added flavor) for 15 minutes or so until fork tender. Alternately, you could roast the squash and cauliflower if you prefer.
Sauté the onions with the herbs and seasonings until soft. Sprinkle with flour (1). Stir well until no visible white flour remains.
Slowly add the broth while whisking (a flat whisk works great for this) to avoid any clumping of the flour (2). Simmer until thickened a bit.
Add the cooked lentils, butternut squash, and cauliflower (3) and stir to combine (4).
Spoon the filling into a baking dish and smooth out evenly (5).
Finish making the mashed potatoes by adding butter and broth and mashing until smooth.
Dollop the mashed potatoes over the top of the filling (6).
Gently smooth out the potatoes evenly over the filling (7). Be careful not to push down too hard or the potatoes will mix with the filling instead of being a separate layer over the top.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Then broil for a minute or two to brown the top (8).
Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
You could also freeze this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, before or after baking. If you’ve already baked it, be sure to cool it completely before transferring to the freezer. It will freeze well for up to 3 months.
When ready to bake, I recommend thawing it in the fridge overnight. However, you can also bake it from frozen, but it will obviously take longer to heat through this way.
Pro tips and tricks
Use brown or green lentils, not red, so they maintain their shape and texture.
If using canned lentils, be sure to drain and rinse before adding them to the recipe.
Use frozen butternut squash and cauliflower to make this dish quick and easy. Or fresh, pre-chopped vegetables will save you some time, as well.
Whisk the flour with the vegetables before slowly adding the broth to avoid any clumping of the flour.
Taste and adjust seasoning before baking. Don’t be shy about adding more salt or pepper. The potatoes, especially, need to be salted well.
To make this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie gluten-free, use gluten-free flour, gluten-free worcestershire sauce, and gluten-free tamari.
To make this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie oil-free, use water or broth to sauté and omit the butter in the mashed potatoes. Use extra broth of non-dairy milk in the potatoes instead.
Make ahead ~ You could make portions of this dish ahead of time, like cooking the lentils, cauliflower or squash, or making the mashed potatoes. You could even make the entire casserole a day or two ahead and then pop it in the oven when you’re ready for dinner. You’ll need to bake it longer than the recommended 20 minutes if you are starting from cold.
Traditional shepherd’s pie is a casserole type dish made with ground meat topped with a layer of mashed potatoes.
This Lentil Shepherd’s Pie has all the savory comfort of the typical dish, but made with healthy lentils and vegetables instead of meat.
The main difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie is the type of meat used. Shepherd’s pie uses ground lamb, while cottage pie is generally made with ground beef.
More vegan comfort food dinners
- Vegan Jambalaya
- Sloppy Joe Cornbread Casserole
- Vegan Mushroom Pepper Steak
- Easy Chili Mac
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
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Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
For the Filling:
- 1 ½ cups cubed butternut squash
- 1 ½ cups cauliflower florets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons vegan worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour gluten-free, if desired
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
- 1 can (15 oz) green or brown lentils drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups cooked lentils)
For the Potatoes:
- 4 cups peeled and cubed Yukon Gold potatoes about 2 pounds of potatoes
- water to cover
- 2-3 tablespoons vegan butter
- ¼-1/2 cup vegetable broth or unsweetened, plain non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
For the potatoes:
- Place the potatoes in a pot of water (enough to submerge the potatoes). Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes until soft and easily pierced with a fork or knife. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the butter, ¼ cup broth, and salt. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Or add more broth if you like a looser mashed potato.
For the filling:
- Place butternut squash and cauliflower in a pot and add enough water to cover the vegetables. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Drain. (You can do this step at the same time you are cooking the potatoes.)
- In a large, deep skillet on the stove, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, vegan worcestershire sauce, tamari, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook another 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the flour and whisk to combine with the vegetables. Slowly add the vegetable broth while whisking continuously to prevent clumping.
- Add the cooked lentils and squash/cauliflower mixture and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and bubbly.
- Pour the lentil filling into a 2.5 quart casserole dish and spread evenly. Dollop the mashed potatoes (see below) over the top and gently spread until even. Be careful not to press down too hard or the potatoes will end up in the filling instead of on top of it. (Alternately, you could let the filling cool first before adding the potatoes to the top, but I'm never that patient.)
- Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Then place under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes until the top is browned and golden.