Vegan Sweet Potato Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
November 17, 2015

Vegan sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie is the perfect hearty, filling, and wholesome main dish for your holiday table!

A small, rectangular baking dish is filled with a vegan sweet potato lentil shepherds pie.

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!

Veganizing shepherd’s pie

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!

Preparing sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie

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!

A neatly cut square of lentils, topped with mashed potatoes and garnished with herbs and bread crumbs.

A nutrient-dense vegan main dish

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!

A vegan holiday dish is made with a mashed sweet potato topping, which is then decorated with bread crumbs and thyme sprigs.

Storing and freezing sweet potato lentil shepherd’s pie

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.

Serving options & sides

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.

A small, rectangular baking dish is filled with a vegan sweet potato lentil shepherds pie.
4.89 from 9 votes

Vegan Sweet Potato and Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yields: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the mashed sweet potato layer:

  • 3 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter

For the lentil layer:

  • 2 1/4 cups brown or green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium sized carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium sized stalks of celery, chopped
  • 10 ounces sliced white button or cremini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (optional, for topping)

Instructions

  • First, make the mashed potatoes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While it's warming, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into large cubes (about 1 1/2 inches). When the water is ready, add the sweet potatoes and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until they're very tender when pierced with a fork.
  • Drain the potatoes and add them to a large mixing bowl. Mash roughly with a handheld potato masher, and then add the salt, garlic powder, almond milk, and oil. Mash well, but leave a little texture. Season to taste and set the potatoes aside. You can do this up to three days in advance, storing the mashed potatoes in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to use them.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly oil a 9x13 casserole dish.
  • To cook the lentils, place them in a medium or large saucepan and cover them with 3 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce it to a simmer, then cover. Simmer the lentils for 20-25 minutes, or until they're tender but still have some chew; I recommend checking them at the 18 minute mark to be sure they don't get mushy. When the lentils are ready, drain them and set them aside. (This can also be done up to 2-3 days in advance.)
  • Heat the olive or grapeseed oil in a very large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and shallots, along with a pinch of salt. Cook the onions for 5 minutes, or until they're becoming clear. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, or until it's very fragrant. Add the carrots and celery. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, and then add the mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, sage, and vinegar. Give the mushrooms another generous pinch of salt, and then cook for 7-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released all of their juices. Stir in the wine, if using, and allow it to cook off.
  • Add the cooked lentils and broth to the pot. Heat everything and mix it together. Check the lentil mixture for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed (I add about a 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 1/4 teaspoon pepper).
  • Remove the lentil/mushroom mixture from heat, and then pour it into your prepared casserole dish. Top it with the sweet potatoes, and then gently use a spatula to spread them out over the lentil mixture. If desired, top it all with 1/3 cup bread crumbs.
  • Bake the shepherd's pie for 40-45 minutes, or until it's crispy on top. Serve.

Notes

Leftover pie will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Sauteed lentils and mushrooms are baked with a sweet potato topping and cut into squares.

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.

xo

Vegan Sweet Potato and Lentil Shepherd's Pie | A hearty, flavorful #vegan and #glutenfree main dish for the holiday season! | The Full Helping

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    43 Comments
  1. 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!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this yesterday and it was amazing! I will certainly be making it in the future.
    Soooooooooooh tasty

  3. 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?

  4. 5 stars
    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!

  5. 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!

  6. Can you use coconut milk instead of almond? My daughter is lactose intolerant and is also allergic to almonds. Thanks!

  7. 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!

  8. 5 stars
    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!

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. Do you think it would work not to peel the sweet potatoes? My family usually eats the peels (scrubbed well). Thank you!

    • Hey Kristina,

      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!

      G

  12. 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.

  13. 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 =)

  14. 5 stars
    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. 🙂

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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!

  21. 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!