Vegan sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie is the perfect hearty and wholesome main dish for your holiday table. It’s an untraditional version of the classic dish, made with layers of herbed lentils and pillowy mashed sweet potatoes.
I’m very partial to shepherd’s pie.
I think it dates back to childhood. My mom is a great fan of shepherd’s pie. It was her meal of choice for wintery special occasions.
I inherited her love for the dish. But the meaty shepherd’s pie that we ate when I was little is very different from the sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie that I’m sharing today!
The major difference, of course, is that this is a totally meatless spin on the classic recipe.
In place of meat, I use a hearty filling of lentils and mushrooms. They’re simmered with onions, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. The mushrooms give this dish umami, which helps to keep it as satisfying as the original.
In place of traditional mashed potatoes, I include a mashed sweet potato topping that’s buttery and rich in spite of being entirely dairy free.
For me, the potato layer of shepherd’s pie is what makes the dish. So you’ll see that there’s a pretty even ratio of lentils to potato here. The potato may even be predominant, which contributes to the recipe’s comfort food power!
As with many holiday dishes, this one requires a little bit of time and prep work.
I highly recommend spreading the process out over two days, if you can. Prepare the potatoes and cook the lentils on Day 1. Keep both in the fridge overnight.
On Day 2, create the pie filling by sautéing the lentils with onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs. Then, pour this mixture it into your prepared baking sheet. Cover it with the pre-made mashed sweet potatoes. You’ll be ready to go.
Prepared this way, the dish is actually very manageable. And if you do have to whip it all up in a single day, no worries. It’s a bit of a kitchen project, but each of the steps is straightforward!
In addition to being delicious and satisfying, sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie is also super wholesome.
It boasts a ton of plant protein from the lentils and mushrooms, which most definitely makes it a Power Plate.
The sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which may help to support eye health. The mushrooms are packed with phytonutrients that may prove protective against chronic disease, including cancer.
There are onions, carrots, and celery here, so the meal is packed with vegetables as well as legumes and healthful starch. Altogether, it’s an especially nutritious meal. Those aren’t standard during the holiday season—and they’re not always as tasty as this one!
There’s nothing more valuable than a holiday recipe that can be made ahead of time. Sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie is most definitely one of them.
The cooked lentils, mashed potatoes, and/or the fully prepared lentil and vegetable filling can all be made one or a couple days ahead. The baked casserole can be prepared up to two days in advance and stored in the fridge.
And if you’re wondering about freezing, yes: the entire pie (or squares of it) can be frozen for up to six weeks.
I definitely think of this sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie as being a holiday main dish. It’s even more of a feast when served with a good side dish or two.
For example, the pie goes beautifully with a good salad. My Brussels sprout kale salad, maple mustard quinoa salad, and cauliflower kale pomegranate salads are all great options. If you’d like to think outside of the conventional holiday recipe box, try it with a delicious crispy broccoli Caesar!
Soup is a nice accompaniment to the sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie. I’d keep it simple, since the pie is so substantial. My super simple, very green soup and broccoli quinoa soup are nice options.
Alternatively, Brussels sprout hash (with coconut bacon!) is a lovely, warm accompaniment. And if you’d like to pair the pie with a traditional Thanksgiving side, you can try serving it with green bean casserole.
Hope this colorful, feel-good entrée will find its way to your holiday table sometime. And I hope you’ll love it as much as I do. It’s become a little November and December tradition for me, and I think it’ll be that way for a long time.
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Hi, the recipe calls for a white or yellow onion AND shallots. I’ve substituted shallots for onions before, but am not sure of the difference. Can you provide a brief explanation or point to a good article?
Thank you for your site; I still eat meat on occasion and eat mostly vegetarian, but have grown frustrated with all the cheese. Your site gives great *healthy* vegan options that have been wonderful!
Hi Amanda! I find shallots to be sweeter and like mixing them with onions sometimes; you could choose to do all one or all the other for this recipe.
Here is a mash: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/mashed_parsnips_and_potatoes_with_chives_and_parsley/
It could be veganized with vegan butter 🙂
I am so glad that some of my recipes have been appealing and useful; thank you for reading!
Looks great but haven’t baked it yet. Recipe instructions mention adding wine (optional) but it is not in the ingredient list so I didn’t know how much to add. Instead, I added a splash of BBQ sauce for some zing and instead of bread crumbs, I used Durkee onions. I assembled and will bake tomorrow. Hope that will be okay?
That will certainly be OK! I’ll fix those instructions so that it’s clear about the wine.
Made this yesterday, and it turned out heavenly! Thank you for sharing your recipe. I did make one substitution exchanging the mushrooms for zucchini squash as I’m allergic to mushrooms. This worked perfectly. Oh, one other thing….I didn’t have any gluten free bread crumbs on hand so I used chopped parsley instead. This worked well too…very minor substitutions to a fantastic recipe!
Thanks so much for sharing how you prepared it, Sheryl! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe.
Hi Gena, I love your recipes and am so excited to make this. Would you be able to tell me the correct amount of cooked lentils to use for this? I make big batches of lentils in my slow cooker and would like to use those for this recipe, but I’m not sure how to convert the measurement you offer in the recipe for dried lentils. Any advice would be much appreciated!
I made this today, and it was delicious. Because I’m allergic to mushrooms, I substituted zucchini squash for them. That worked well and added some nice green color to the mix! Very good and very healthy! Thank you for sharing this recipe!
So glad you enjoyed it, Sheryl!
Delicious comfort food and easy to make, thank you. A few went back for seconds (and thirds!).
I love hearing that 🙂 Thanks, Megan!
Would this recipe freeze well?
Hi, would you be able to suggest a lentil alternative – I can’t eat lentils & would love to make one that resembles traditional shepards pie. thank you 🙂
Hi Shirley! I think a small legume, such as adzuki beans or black beans, would be good. You could also try a vegan meat, like vegan beefy crumbles, in place of the lentils. I hope you enjoy!
Hello! Does anyone know the nutritional information for this?
My family is obsessed with this his! Thank you for this!
I made this yesterday and it was amazing! I will certainly be making it in the future.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Gina, this recipe looks DIVINE! I would love to try it, ASAP, but I can’t eat mushrooms, onion or garlic! Urgh!!! Any substitution suggestions?
I made this tonight and it turned out extremely nicely – for once, my version looked similar to the pictures in the post! I made this recipe exactly as written, with only one exception (substituted coconut milk for almond milk because that’s what I had on hand). The texture and flavor were excellent. I was expecting this to taste good but look awful, but it actually held together and looks as good as it tastes. Thank you for the recipe!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
I have this in the oven as I type this! Was short on sweet potatoes so I cooked and added some red split lentils to the sweet potato mash. Can’t wait to enjoy it!
Hope you enjoy it, Kalli!
Can you use coconut milk instead of almond? My daughter is lactose intolerant and is also allergic to almonds. Thanks!
Yup, or soy!
I’m always looking for recipes that I’m ready to share with my nonvegan family during holidays and I’m really excited to share this one. Also, being in college and vegan, finding recipes that are cheap, healthy and flavorful are a challenge so this is definitely one I’ll be holding on to for a long time. Thank you!
Just made this for my boyfriend and I tonight and it was amazing! I served this with Oh She Glows vegan gravy and it was sooooooooo tasty.
Thank you for the recipe!
Hooray! I’m happy to hear that, Rebecca!
Looks very good. Can it be frozen? My son is vegan, and I cook him couple meals a week, and try to freeze the left overs for quick meals
Definitely can be, Karan, for up to 1 month. Enjoy!
Hello! Longtime reader here but I’ve never posted a comment, I don’t think. I made this tonight because I had all the ingredients (except mushrooms) and it was delicious! I’m so looking forward to the leftovers. I’ve recently decided to give plant based eating a good effort and this was a sure winner. Yum!
Hooray! Thanks so much for letting me know, Julie 🙂
Do you think it would work not to peel the sweet potatoes? My family usually eats the peels (scrubbed well). Thank you!
That’s totally up to your personal preference. If you’re used to keeping the skins intact and you like the texture they give the mash, go for it! My only suggestion would be to use 3 or 3.25 lbs potatoes to compensate for the weight that would be lost after peeling. Enjoy!
We made too much filling last time and used it in butter lettuce cups — YUM
Stunning creation! Oh so excited to make this soon… Would black beluga lentils work in place of brown or green? Thank you thank you for the inspiration!
You’re so welcome! I hope you enjoy it. The beluga lentils will have a slightly more crumbly texture, but they’ll certainly work fine. I wouldn’t hesitate to swap them if that’s what you have — the pie will just be a little harder to scoop neatly 🙂
Thank you Gena! I went ahead with the beluga lentils- I even sprouted them first. I served this yesterday and it was an astounding hit. The contrast of the black lentils against the vibrant orange sweet potatoes was striking. And yes, a bit crumbly in serving but no complaints from anyone on that note. 🙂 Thank you thank you for this, I am excited to make it again! Blessings to you.
Oh, I’m thrilled to hear it. It was a hit at my celebration, too — and I was so glad. Happy Thanksgiving!
This sounds so delicious. It is in face perfect for the holidays. I love this new spin on an old favourite – my dad used to make really great shepherd’s pie. I love the fresh herbs to really heighten the flavours.
Oh and great tip on spreading it out over 2 days =)
I’m partial to shepherds pie too. I make mine with mushrooms and a cauliflower mash on top, but your sweet potato topping looks amazing. I’ll definitely be trying a sweet potato topping next time. 🙂
Beautiful dish, Gena! I grew up on my mom’s shepard pie too, the dish carries so many comforting memories for me. I love that you’ve added sweet potatoes here, such a perfect combinations of flavors that everyone will love! Happy weekend to you x
Thanks, Jodi! It’s so nice to hear that you have similar associations with the dish.
Yes, this looks perfect! We’re projected to get our first snow of the season this weekend so I’ll definitely be craving some comfort food like this.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie?! Yummy. Perfect for this time of year as well. It’s warming me up just looking at the pictures.
Looks amazing! I’ve never made Shepherd’s pie with sweet potato, but given how great of a combo sweet potato + lentils are, you can’t really go wrong here!
As a german girl I only had sheperds pie once, long ago in an english pub. It was a vegeterian version and I loved it! Ever since I have promised myself to create a vegan version, but whom am I kidding, I know nothing about sheperds pie. Yours sounds so good anyways, why would I fiddle around with a recipe myself? Can’t wait to try it, it’s so festive!
Sonja, I’m sure this might be considered an affront to the original version, but it’s delicious and it’s so hearty! I hope you enjoy it.
Hands down my favorite recipe of the week! LOVE this. I’ve never made the original non-vegan version of this, but I do know that this one looks 100,000,000 times better! This will def be on the menu ASAP!:)
Gena, this looks fabulous, and I’m sure I’ll make it or something very much like it over the holidays, although I’m not in charge of the menu this year (which is wonderful!!)–I really love sweet potatoes as a topping on veggie shepherd’s pie, perhaps more than regular potatoes, so this really appeals to me. Thanks for sharing your wonderful version with us. I know Stephen’s family will love it!! xo
It’s a relief not to be in charge of the menu sometimes, Maria — glad you get a break this year! And so glad you like the pie. I totally agree about a sweet potato topping; regular potatoes just don’t have as much flavor (which may be why I’ve added parsnips to them in past versions of shepherds pie). Happy happy Thanksgiving, in advance xo
You mentioned adding parsnips to ‘regular’ mashed potatoes if substituting them for the sweet potato mash… How much parsnips and how to cook them? Or can you direct me to a mashed potato/parsnip recipie? Thank you, looking forward to making this!!!
This recipe is both a dream come true for me…as well as a nightmare for my husband. I’ve made it a life goal to get him to enjoy sweet potatoes as well as lentils. Maybe one day!
Mmmmm. I might make this for a Thanksgiving potluck I’m going to this weekend. Haven’t decided what to bring yet, but if time allows, this may be it!
Gena, this pie looks heavenly! I never did try Shepards pie (not even before I stopped eating meat) but I am going to give this recipe a try!