Lentil Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Shepherd's pie is often thought of as a simple, unfussy, and delightfully hearty all-in-one meal that's perfect for pairing with a nice, sturdy ale while sitting at the bar at your favorite local pub. But where does the name come from, we couldn't help but wondering? According to Catherine Brookes, the food photographer and recipe developer at Blue Sky Eating who's behind this particular take on the classic, here's the deal: "Shepherd's pie is a British dish typically made with ground lamb — hence the name." Aha! Well that explains it! 

But just because the name "shepherd's pie" derives from its use of lamb as its protein, that doesn't mean that you must use lamb. Ground beef is quite commonly substituted for ground lamb, and, as a matter of fact, Brookes' modern and healthier take on shepherd's pie makes brilliant use of lentils in place of lamb, with wonderful results that will have you forgetting that your meal is actually vegetarian.

Gather your ingredients for this lentil shepherd's pie

Lentil shepherd's pie is one of those recipes that might have you thinking it has a lot of ingredients. In fact, it does, but many are items you probably already have in your kitchen. Here's what you'll need: Three large baking potatoes (which will need to be peeled and roughly chopped since you'll be mashing them), one coarsely chopped yellow onion, three minced cloves of garlic, two large carrots, two sticks of celery, a handful of green beans, tomato paste, dried rosemary, dried parsley, a can of green or brown lentils (around 14 ounces), a can of chopped tomatoes (also around 14 ounces), a half cup of vegetable stock, and a quarter cup of red wine that's good enough for drinking but not so good that you'll be sad to use it for cooking. 

You'll also need oil for cooking the onions and garlic, and a handful of grated cheese for topping the whole thing before popping it into the oven. If you'd like, you can season the mashed potato topping with whatever you like, such as butter, milk, salt, and pepper. You can also top the finished dish with chopped fresh herbs of your choice.

Get your potatoes cooking

To begin, place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat, and wait for it to boil. When it does, lower the heat, add the chopped potatoes, and allow them to simmer for 20 minutes. While the potatoes are simmering, you can move directly on to the next steps. And please note: If your potatoes are finished simmering before you finish the rest of your prep, you can always just turn off the flame. The potatoes will be waiting for you when you're ready. 

Cook the onions and garlic

While the potatoes are boiling, splash a bit of oil into a large frying pan and let it heat to where it sizzles when you toss a drop of water onto the surface of the pan. At that point, add the onions, and cook them over medium heat until they start to look translucent and moist, as shown. This should take about five minutes. 

Then add the minced garlic, stirring frequently for one minute. Turn off the heat while you move on to the next step, because that will help keep the garlic from burning. 

Add the veggies, tomato paste, and seasonings to your lentil shepherd's pie filling

It's now time for you to add the carrots, celery, and green beans. So let's go ahead and do that now, and then turn the heat back up to medium. Stir everything together, and allow it to cook for another two minutes. Then add the tomato paste, rosemary, and parsley. Stir it together again to thoroughly combine. 

You can keep the flame on medium as you move onto the next step.

Finish your best lentil shepherd's pie filling

At this point, all that's left for you to do to finish preparing your lentil shepherd's pie filling is to add the lentils, chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, and wine. Give everything a good stir, and then bring the mixture to the boil. 

When you see bubbles, turn the flame down to low, cover the pan, and allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes. While it simmers, it's time to turn to the potatoes once again.

Make the mashed potato topping

Assuming your potatoes have finished their 20 minutes of cooking (at which point they should be tender enough to poke a fork into), drain them in a sieve, and pop them into the empty saucepan for mashing. Use a potato masher (a metal tool with holes in it), and "completely squash them," as Brookes advised Mashed. "I just keep squashing until there's no lumps!" 

At this point, you can add butter, milk, salt, and pepper if that's how you like your mashed potatoes.

Assemble your lentil shepherd's pie

After the filling mixture has been simmering for 20 minutes, transfer it to an oven-proof dish. Brookes says that she uses an oval-shaped dish like the one pictured above, which measures approximately 11x7 inches. 

Gently, using a spatula or other spreader, place the mashed potato mixture on top of the mixture in an even layer. Then use a fork to roughly make a few lines across the surface, and if desired, sprinkle over some cheese and bake for 40 minutes. 

Serve the shepherd's pie with fresh herbs sprinkled on top, if desired.

Lentil Shepherd's Pie Recipe
5 from 21 ratings
This modern and healthy take on shepherd's pie will make you forget that your meal is vegetarian. It's the best lentils shepherd's pie recipe we've tried!
Prep Time
Cook Time
Best Lentil Shepherd's Pie Recipe
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • Handful of green beans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 (14-ounce) can green or brown lentils
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • Handful of grated cheese
Optional Ingredients
  • Butter, milk, salt, and pepper to season the mashed potatoes if desired
  • Fresh herbs for sprinkling on top
  1. Boil a pot of water and place the potatoes in the boiling water.
  2. Simmer the potatoes for 20 minutes.
  3. Add oil to a large pan, and fry the onion until moist and translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the carrot, celery, and green beans and fry for another couple of minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste, rosemary, and parsley and stir thoroughly.
  7. Add the lentils, chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, and wine.
  8. Give everything a good stir, and bring the mixture to the boil.
  9. Turn down the flame to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  10. Mash the boiled potatoes in a separate pan, and season to taste with butter, milk, salt, and pepper if desired.
  11. Transfer the lentil mixture to an oven-proof dish.
  12. Spread the mashed potatoes on top in an even layer.
  13. Use a fork to trace a few lines across the surface of the potatoes
  14. Sprinkle the dish with cheese and bake it for 40 minutes.
  15. Top the baked shepherd's pie with fresh herbs as desired and serve.
Calories per Serving 432
Total Fat 3.7 g
Saturated Fat 1.7 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 7.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 82.8 g
Dietary Fiber 15.6 g
Total Sugars 10.1 g
Sodium 259.3 mg
Protein 18.7 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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