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This vegan shepherd's pie recipe with curry-like spices is the ultimate healthy comfort food! With lentils, chickpeas, carrots, mushrooms, and a sweet potato top, it's a hearty main that's perfect on the holiday table or as a family-friendly meal. It's simple to make and it's ready in just over an hour!
Calling all comfort food lovers! As the temperatures drop, we naturally start craving cozy dishes and this vegan shepherd's pie is as delicious as it gets.
This plant-based casserole is jam-packed with lentils, chickpeas, and veggies cooked in curry-like spices so it's healthy, filling, and full of flavor. It's also ridiculously easy to make.
If you're planning a holiday dinner party, this is a great make-ahead meal that's suitable for the vegans and vegetarians around the table. It's a hearty dish so all you need to complete the meal is to serve it with some bread and a simple side salad. Voila, dinner is served.
Vegan shepherd's pie ingredients
Don't let the longish list of ingredients shy you away from making this cozy, comforting casserole. Most of the ingredients you're likely to have in your kitchen so you may not even need to head to the store.
Here's everything you'll need:
- Dried brown lentils – we use dried lentils, but you could also use canned lentils to skip a step.
- Sweet potatoes – for the fluffy mashed potato topping, with a sweet potato twist!
- Coconut milk – makes the mashed sweet potatoes rich and creamy.
- Onion, garlic, and ginger – this aromatic mix is sauteed in coconut oil and is the perfect complement to curry.
- Vegetables – we use a classic mix of carrots, celery, cremini mushrooms, and frozen peas.
- Spices – cayenne, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and sea salt
- Tomato paste – adds rich tomato flavor to the vegetable mixture and sauce.
- Chickpeas – for more toothsome texture, and they're full of fiber and protein, too!
How to make this vegan shepherd's pie
This vegan lentil shepherd's pie is a healthy, hearty, and cozy meal for holidays or weeknights. It's simple to make, and it will fill your home with the most wonderful aromas. Here's how we make it:
- To start, cook the lentils. Add them to a pot with water, cook them until soft, and then drain the excess water.
- Then, boil the sweet potatoes in a pot with the coconut milk, water, and cayenne and cook until they're tender. Then, mash them with the liquid left in the pot and season them to taste.
- Now make the vegetable mixture by sautéing the onion, garlic, ginger, and all the veggies (except the peas) in a pan until soft and starting to brown.
- To the vegetable mixture, add the spices followed by the tomato paste. You want the tomato paste to caramelize a bit so cook it until it darkens and smells sweet. Once you've removed it from the heat, stir in the peas, chickpeas, and cooked lentils.
- Now it's assembly time! In a casserole baking dish, layer the lentil vegetable mixture on the bottom, and top with the mashed sweet potatoes. Then, bake the pie until it's hot and bubbling at the edges. Once it comes out of the oven, we like to top it with some minced parsley and a few cracks of fresh pepper.
Vegan shepherd's pie variations
While we love this shepherd's pie recipe as-is, it's really flexible in terms of making substitutions to suit your tastes or to use what you have on hand. Here are a few easy swaps that come to mind:
- Frozen (or canned) corn might not be a classic ingredient but it works great and we always seem to have some in the cupboard or freezer.
- Don't like chickpeas or have some canned beans you'd rather use? Other beans like white beans, black beans, or kidney beans work as well. You could also simply use more lentils.
- Not a fan of sweet potatoes? Go the classic route with regular mashed potatoes using russet potatoes or yukon gold potatoes.
- For texture and more protein, add texturized vegetable protein (TVP) or finely chopped walnuts to the lentil mixture.
- Add fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary to the potatoes.
Pair this lentil shepherd's pie with other festive vegan recipes to create the ultimate Thanksgiving or holiday menu. Here are a few of our favorite options:
- A warm bowl of cozy celery soup or carrot soup with coconut and ginger
- A leafy green salad like our pomegranate salad with spinach, hazelnuts, and mint or kale apple salad
- Finish it off with something sweet like our chocolate vegan pumpkin pie
What to serve with vegan shepherd's pie
This lentil shepherd's pie recipe will make enough to feed a small crowd so it's perfect as a vegetarian main for the holiday table at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
We also love it as a cozy, hearty meal on weeknights. It leaves us with lots of leftovers for quick lunches or to freeze for later.
Festive salads that taste great with this vegan shepherd's pie
Can I substitute the coconut milk?
Yep, you can. The coconut milk makes the potatoes extra creamy and gives a subtle coconut taste, but you can use regular milk (not vegan) or your favorite dairy-free alternative instead.
Can I prepare it ahead of time?
Yes, this is a great dish to make ahead of time. You can assemble it up to 2 days in advance and store it in the fridge. When the time comes, uncover it, and bake it in the oven as directed.
Can I freeze it?
Yes! If you're planning on freezing it, we recommend baking it part way (about 10 minutes). Allow it to cool completely, then cover it, and keep it in the freezer for up to a month. You can also freeze the leftovers.
How long do leftovers keep in the fridge?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until warmed through.
How do I add texturized vegetable protein?
To add texturized vegetable protein (TVP), simply rehydrate it according to the package directions and stir it into the cooked lentils.
- ½ cup dried brown lentils (or 1 cup cooked)
- 1 lb sweet potatoes (about 2 medium, peeled and chopped)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- ½ cup water
- A pinch of cayenne
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 medium onion (minced)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 inch piece of ginger (minced)
- 3 medium carrots (diced)
- 2 stalks celery (diced)
- 5 crimini mushrooms (diced)
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon EACH: chili powder, cumin, and sea salt
- 5.5 ounce can tomato paste
- 19 ounce can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Add the lentils to a small pot and cover with a few inches of water. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Drain any remaining liquid.½ cup dried brown lentils
- Add the sweet potatoes, coconut milk, water, and a pinch of cayenne to a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the sweet potatoes are soft. Mash the sweet potatoes with the leftover cooking liquid and salt to taste.1 lb sweet potatoes, 1 cup coconut milk, ½ cup water, A pinch of cayenne
- While the lentils and sweet potatoes are cooking, heat the coconut oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until transparent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 medium onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 inch piece of ginger, 3 medium carrots, 2 stalks celery, 5 crimini mushrooms
- Add the garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and sea salt to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and let it caramelize for about 3 minutes, or until it has darkened slightly and is sweet smelling. Remove from the heat and stir in the chickpeas, peas, and cooked lentils.1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon EACH: chili powder, cumin, and sea salt, 5.5 ounce can tomato paste, 19 ounce can chickpeas, 1 cup frozen peas
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the lentils to a casserole dish and top with the mashed coconut sweet potatoes. Bake the Vegan Shepherd's Pie for 20-25 minutes, or until hot and bubbling at the edges.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.