Looking for a vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free substitute for a classic Irish comfort food? Look no further. We've got you covered.
The traditionally known shepherd's pie is usually made up of some type of minced or ground meat (lamb in the U.K. or, known as cottage pie across the pond, beef) and, while it's not the custom to do so in the states, is usually cooked in a pie crust. The vegetarian version of shepherd's pie or cottage pie, a peasant-food-turned-comfort-food, is known as shepherdess pie.
We love this recipe for St. Patrick's Day dinner and we're also huge fans of it for Thanksgiving as well. Try different toppings to mix up the dish for different holidays or weekend meals (see variations below). This dish is a meal in itself but if you're cooking for a crowd you can add a side platter of sauteed cabbage or roasted carrots to round it out.
You can make this recipe using dry lentils (about 1 cup) however we suggest soaking them overnight (in 4-6 cups of water) with a teaspoon each of salt and white distilled vinegar (apple cider vinegar works fine too). You will then have to cook them for about 15-20 minutes before you can add them to the rest of the recipe.
The type of lentils doesn't matter overly much. We've tried this recipe with French, green, brown and black lentils. Try it with orange or yellow lentils and it might make a more colorful pop on your plate for St. Paddy's Day.
Definitely only use sweet paprika for this recipe, not smoked paprika. The smoked version is too overpowering and will mix with the other flavors in a clashing sort of way.
The arrowroot powder is an allergy-friendly starch that is used as a thickener in this recipe to help the lentil-mushroom mixture thicken and stick together. It's not always necessary to use so wait until all the other ingredients are added and see if a thickener is needed, even after adding 1/2 cup of vegetable broth (definitely need at least 1/2 cup or the lentil-mushroom mixture can turn out too dry after baking).
Never add the red wine to the wet mixture of vegetable broth, tamari sauce (or coconut aminos) and arrowroot powder - it will harden and be unusable and will need to be scrubbed out of whatever container it was mixed in.
Our favorite brand of panko bread crumbs is Ian's Gluten-Free Italian-Style Panko Bread Crumbs. They're allergy-friendly and taste just like traditional bread crumbs.
This recipe can survive without carrots and celery with minimal taste and appearance variation.
This recipe can survive without cayenne but the other dry seasonings would be easily missed if omitted.
If you feel like the lentil-mushroom mixture could use a flavor boost, try adding a 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder and onion powder before baking.
Try adding 16oz of fresh or even frozen spinach or kale to the lentil-mushroom mixture before assembling the layers for that additional nutritional value and bits of green in every bite.
Don't have dry red wine or don't wanna use wine in the recipe? You can skip that step altogether or try 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or, in a pinch, white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar, with only slight flavor variations) in it's place. It won't be exactly the same but it won't be too terribly different to the taste and it will still be a bangin' savory pie.
Instead of lentils try dry peas or canned chickpeas for a flavor twist - it won't be too drastically different that you can't enjoy it, but it'll be different enough to feel festive.
Instead of mashed potatoes, top the lentils and mushrooms with mashed cauliflower, colcannon or champ or try Savory Drop Biscuits on top and use mushroom gravy to serve.
If you don't have panko bread crumbs or would prefer not to use them you can skip them altogether or use one large russet or yellow potato instead, thinly sliced and laid out in one layer on the bottom of the greased pan. They'll be crispy and crunchy on the bottom and soft and buttery on top at the end of cooking the casserole.
Make the potatoes creamier by adding vegan sour cream (about 1/3 cup; we suggest the Wayfare brand made from butter beans) or rice milk (about 1/4 cup) to them. You can boil the potatoes the same time you're making the lentil-mushroom mixture or you can make the potatoes while the lentil-mushroom mixture is in the oven. If you bake the potatoes as the top layer the entire time you bake the rest of the savory pie the potatoes may be a bit dry and crusty on the top (as you can see in our pictures of this recipe) - but still delicious.
Recipe: Lentil Mushroom Shepherdess Pie
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Irish Comfort Food
Skill Level: Intermediate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
2 Tbsp avocado oil
1 large onion
8 cloves garlic (about 1 1/2 Tbsp finely diced)
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
12oz cremini or baby bella mushrooms
2 15oz cans lentils (or about 1 1/2 cooked cups lentils)
2 Tbsp dry red wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp paprika (not smoked)
1/4 tsp nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp mustard powder (or 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard)
1/2-1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
2 Tbsp tamari sauce (or 4 Tbsp coconut aminos)
1 cup Italian-style panko bread crumbs (or 1-2 large russet or yellow potatoes, sliced)
10 yellow or gold potatoes (about 5 lbs)
1/2-1 cup potato boil water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp dry chives
2 Tbsp dry parsley
Peel and chop onion. Peel and dice carrots. Dice celery and finely dice garlic. Rinse and chop mushrooms (can be small pieces or thick chunks).
Preheat oven to 400.
Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat until a piece of onion sizzles when added.
Add onion, carrots and celery and saute for about 4 minutes.
Add diced garlic for about 2 minutes.
Drain lentils and rinse before adding to onion-carrot-celery mixture.
In a small bowl mix together all dry spices - salt, pepper, paprika, nutritional yeast, cayenne, sage and mustard powder (if using Dijon wet mustard, add it in with wet ingredients later). Add dry spices to lentil mixture and thoroughly combine, cooking for about 2 minutes.
Add chopped mushrooms to pan and cook for about 4 minutes.
Add dry red wine (or vinegar) to lentil mixture and cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.
Mix together vegetable broth, tamari sauce or coconut aminos and arrowroot powder in small bowl until arrowroot powder is dissolved. Add wet mixture to lentil mixture in pan. If you're using spinach or kale in this recipe, add it now and cook for another 2 minutes before turning off the heat.
Grease a 9x13 casserole dish or two smaller pie dishes then evenly spread the panko bread crumbs or sliced potato in a thin layer.
Layer the lentil-mushroom mixture over the bread crumb layer.
Bake for 20 minutes.
While first two layers of the savory pie are baking, rinse and roughly chop potatoes, put them in a large pot with water that covers all the pieces, and bring to a boil, cooking for about 15-20 minutes.
Potatoes are cooked when a fork can easily go through a thick piece. Drain potatoes, preserving about 1 cup of the potato boil water.
Using the same pot, mash the potatoes with a potato masher or another heavy kitchen utensil (avoid using your hands because the potatoes are especially hot and you want them to stay hot as long as possible).
Once potatoes are well mashed (chunks are fine if you like them), add in the seasonings and the boil water, about 1/4 cup at a time, until it's a smooth consistency. Taste to make sure you don't need to add any further seasoning.
Layer the mashed potatoes over the lentil-mushroom layer in the casserole or pie dishes and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the top of the potatoes are slightly crispy and the whole savory pie is hot.
Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving. This pie can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for about 4 days or frozen for about 2 months. Leftovers can be kept for about a week in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer. When reheating add a couple sprinkles of water or vegetable broth.
Tell us how you liked this recipe! Did you make it for a special holiday? Did you find it challenging or did it come out exactly like you'd hoped? What else did you add or take away to make it your own? Let us know in the comments below!