Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

This is a dairy-rich vegetarian pie. The topping is creamy mashed potato topped with grated cheese that turns into lovely golden brown bubbling patches as it bakes.

One of the earliest recipes I added here was a recipe for vegan shepherd’s pie. I made that topping with potato mashed with almond milk topped with a herb-breadcrumb crust. Being honest I prefer the dairy-rich topping here. With this I made a small vegan alternative using a topping of a few slices of boiled potatoes drizzled in olive oil and seasoned with some herbs, salt and pepper. It works quite well – but I think it would work better with some herbed breadcrumbs over it.

vegan shepherd's pie
The vegan option.

So the topping of the old vegan shepherd’s pie recipe wasn’t gluten-free and neither was the base because I used Marmite to give a dark gravy flavour. Marmite is yeast-extract – I’m not sure if it definitely contains gluten or not, but here is what say about it. It’s a pity because adding a little of it really does give a dish a sort of beef gravy flavour – while still being totally vegetarian.

What I use instead here is tamari sauce with mustard and red wine vinegar. This does not create any gravy-like consistency but it adds a nice savoury flavour. If you’re not worried about gluten though I’d advise adding a 1 teaspoon of yeast extract instead of the tamari sauce. You might need to add just a little tomato purée also just to lighten the bitterness of the yeast extract. If you’re looking for something gluten-free though hopefully you’ll like the flavour of this as much as I do.

veg in blender
It’s just so much quicker this way.

The old recipe took ages as well. But this you can prepare in 45 minutes – with baking time of 30 minutes after that. But in order to get it made in this time you have to prepare the ingredients in a certain order. And I cut down the prep time by just throwing the carrot, onion and celery in the blender.

I’ve listed mixed herbs in the ingredients. I didn’t have any to hand when I made this so I used some Herbes de Provence mix with some oregano. Use whatever mix you like – I think some mix with oregano goes really well in this type of dish.

Too many ingredients to fit into one shot – Puy lentils, carrots, celery, onion, leek, mushrooms, herbs, mustard, tamari sauce, red wine vinegar, potatoes, milk, butter, cheese, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4 - 6


  • 6 - 8 large potatoes
  • 150g Puy lentils
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 tablespoon mixed herbs
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 leek
  • mushrooms
  • 1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • good splash whole milk
  • good slice butter
  • 25g cheese (Cheddar or Gruyère), grated
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil


  1. Peel and slice the potatoes thinly (about 1/2 cm) and put on to boil in a pan of water. Boil until they are tender enough that a fork will easily push through a slice. When done drain off the water and add a good splash of milk and enough butter to easily mash the potatoes. Leave aside until ready to assemble the pie.
  2. ** If you want to make a vegan topping, boil half as many potatoes, slice thinly, drain them and drizzle in olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, rinse the lentils well and place in a saucepan with twice their amount again of water, stir in the garlic cloves and half of the herbs. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are tender and most of the water has evaporated but the lentils should still be wet not dry. Pick out the garlic cloves and discard.
  4. Peel, top and tail the onion, carrots and celery. Chop very roughly and place in blend. Blend until it is all minced. Slice the mushrooms and topped and tailed leek.
  5. Heat the oven to 200 C.
  6. Heat a little olive oil in a deep frying pan. Add the mushroom and leave to cook on a moderate heat for about 5 minutes. Add the sliced leek, stir in, cover and leave for a couple of minutes.
  7. Add in the minced carrot, onion and celery and stir around, sprinkle over a good pinch of salt, pepper and the rest of the herbs, stir around and then cover and leave for 2 minutes or until the veg is tender. Remove from the heat.
  8. If the lentils are done stir them in now. Gently stir in the tamari sauce, vinegar and mustard. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
  9. Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil, spoon in the lentil-veg mix, top with the creamy mashed potato, and sprinkle over the grated cheese.
  10. Bake in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving - otherwise it doesn't slice as well.

puy lentils on to boil
Boil lentils in twice their volume of water with herbs and with garlic cloves. You can discard the cloves when the lentils are done.
potato ready for mashing
Drain the boiled potato slices into a bowl. Add in a good splash of milk and a good slice of butter.
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie and a small vegan alternative.
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie and a small vegan alternative.
plate of shepherd's pie with salad
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with a little salad. A filling but healthy start to the new year. Hope it’s a good one for us all!

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butternut Written by:

I was a vegetarian for 4 - 5 years in my late teens. A very unhealthy vegetarian. Never cooked any proper meals. I set up this blog with the intention of adding more vegetables to my diet but it occurred to me recently I'm also kind of talking to the unhealthy vegetarian teenager I once was.