I’m partial to shepherd’s pie. I think it dates back to childhood; my mom and I didn’t eat too many casseroles or bakes when I was growing up, but she was a great fan of shepherd’s pie, and so it was her meal of choice for special occasions or weekend meals. I inherited her love for the dish, though the shepherd’s pie we ate when I was little was very different from the vegan sweet potato and 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. In place of meat, I use a hearty filling of lentils and mushrooms, which are simmered with onions, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. 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 dish is filling, flavorful, and absolutely perfect for feeding a crowd.
In other words, it’s perfect for the holidays. So perfect, in fact, that I plan for it to be my own Thanksgiving contribution at a gathering with Steven’s family this year.
As with many holiday centerpiece 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, and preparing the potatoes and cooking the lentils on Day 1. Keep both in the fridge overnight. On Day 2, you can simply create the pie filling by sautéing the lentils with onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs, then pour it into your prepared baking sheet. Cover it with the potatoes, and then it’s 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 very straightforward. Here’s how it all comes together.
In addition to being very delicious and very satisfying, this dish is also very healthy. It boasts a ton of protein from the lentils and mushrooms, as well as iron and fiber. The sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which may help to support eye health. All things considered, it’s pretty nourishing for a Thanksgiving meal.
I hope that you’ll make it and love it. Having enjoyed the leftovers two evenings in a row, I already suspect that this recipe is going to become a regular holiday and winter celebration dish for me. And, if you prefer a slightly more traditional shepherd’s pie, you can also check out my Food52 version from 2012. It also features lentils as a filling, but the top layer is a white potato and parsnip mash. Different, but also delicious.
I’ll be back on Thursday with another holiday-appropriate recipe — this time a kale and brussels sprout salad that’ll knock your socks off! And on Friday, I’ll check in with a quick roundup of my vegan Thanksgiving picks for the year. Till soon 🙂