Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

With weather cooling down here, I've been doing a lot more cooking in my oven. I don't know what it is about cooler temperatures that makes me want comfort food but it never fails. I've tried a few different shepherd's pie recipes over the years and I'm always looking to try different versions. There are just so many spins you can make on this classic dish that the possibilities are endless. So far I've made your classic shepherd's pie with ground beef but I've also flipped the switch on it for holidays and meatless versions.

This is a really easy recipe to make. Especially if you have a big skillet that can go in the oven. You can just cook everything in the pan (except mashed potatoes, those you still have to do separately), and then top it with the mashed potatoes and throw it in the oven. There's no need to transfer it to a casserole dish. That is, unless you are the complete opposite of me and just LOVE to do dishes. The less dishes I have to do, the happier I am.

So in short, if you are looking for a hearty shepherd's pie sans the meat and dairy, this is a great recipe. It's got just enough going on that it will appease any meat eater while still catering to anyone who can't eat meat or dairy. The Mr. and I are hot sauce fiends so we felt like it needed some hot sauce mixed into the lentil base but the great thing about shepherd's pie is that you can alter it however you'd like. I'm lazy and don't see the purpose in peeling my potatoes so I left the skins on. But if you want to try sweet potatoes instead of red? Go for it! After all, that's how I came up with the corned beef version. I just took our typical St. Patty's day dinner and turned it into a pie. So taste the lentil mixture before putting the potatoes on top and tweak it to your hearts content.

recipe adapted from Vegan Holiday Cooking

  • 8 large or 10 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk such as rice/soy/almond milk (just not almond coconut)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 oz mushrooms (crimini or button mushrooms)
  • 2 (15 oz) can lentils, lightly drained but not rinsed (or about 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils with a little of their cooking liquid)
  • 2 Tbsp dry red wine, optional
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp seasoning blend (such as Mrs. Dash table blend)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 8 to 10 oz. baby spinach or arugula leaves
  • 1 c. fresh bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed)

  1. Dice the potatoes (you can peel them first if you prefer mashed potatoes without the skin). Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir the margarine into the potatoes until melted, then add the non-dairy milk and mash until fluffy. Cover and set aside until needed. Preheat the oven to 400° f.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  4. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the wine (if using), soy sauce, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.
  5. Add the spinach, a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  6. Lightly oil a 2-quart (preferably round) casserole dish, or two deep-dish pie plates. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom. Pour in the lentil mixture, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top. If using two pie plates, divide each mixture evenly between them.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty (I always pop mine under the broiler for a few minutes to give it a nice golden crust). 
  8. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

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