This vegan shepherd’s pie recipe, richly flavored with lentils and mushrooms, can only be described as a deep dish of comfort.
It’s a bit of a project but not at all difficult, and definitely worth it for a special occasion or holiday meal. This is a perfect vegan main dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner!
(Photos by Susan Voisin.)
- 8 large or 10 medium potatoes Yukon gold works well
- 2 tablespoons Earth Balance or other vegan butter
- 1/2 cup unsweetened rice milk or other nondairy milk
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms sliced
- Two 15-ounce cans lentils with their liquid
- 2 tablespoons dry red wine optional
- 1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
- 2 to 3 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning blend such as Frontier or Mrs. Dash
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
- 8 to 10 ounces baby spinach or arugula leaves
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- Peel and dice the potatoes. 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.
- Stir the vegan butter into the potatoes until melted, then add the rice milk and mash until fluffy. Season with salt, cover, and set aside until needed.
- Preheat the oven to 400º F.
- 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.
- Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the optional wine, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.
Note: I call for canned lentils here to cut down on the amount of cooking and work, but if you want to cook lentils from scratch, by all means! You’ll need 3 to 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils (start with 1 1/2 cups uncooked to make sure you have enough. Different varieties of lentils cook swell to varying degrees).