Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

This unique vegetarian shepherd’s pie is made with plant-based ‘beef’ and topped with a root vegetable mash. Same rich flavors and textures as a traditional shepherds pie  – and just as delicious.  (You can, of course, use regular ground beef if you’re not a vegetarian).

Some vegetarian shepherds pies use mushrooms or green lentils instead of the meat. This one mirrors the more traditional beef shepherds pie. Except we’re using a combo of mashed root vegetables instead just mashed potatoes.

piece of vegetarian shepherds pie on plate

Technically, the recipe should be called vegetarian cottage pie since it's made with beef (ok, a beef alternative). Traditional Irish shepherds pie is made with ground lamb. 

But these days, shepherds pie simply refers to a layer of ground meat and vegetables, topped with fluffy mashed potatoes and baked in the oven. 

Key ingredients - the building blocks

Making vegetarian shepherd's pie - in fact any shepherd's pie recipe -  is pretty easy. Yes, there are more than just a few ingredients and it takes about one hour to make (unless you use a shortcut). When you break it down, though, you need to tackle just 3 simple steps. *Make the root vegetable mash topping layer. *Make the filling layer. *Assemble and bake.

Here are the 3 building blocks. 

Plant-based 'beef'

  • We used Impossible Burger which tastes and acts almost exactly like ground beef. Another good brand is Beyond Beef. One or the other should be available in most large grocery stores now. 
  • Meat eaters won't be able to tell the difference (especially when mixed with vegetables and gravy). And vegetarians can eat it. Some vegetarians, of course, don't like the texture of meat, so this dish wouldn't be for them. The other kook is one of these 🙁
  • The nutrition content of the plant-based beef is about the same as regular ground beef. Because it is highly processed, I wouldn't call it a health food. But it's certainly not bad for you when eaten once in awhile, just like any meat. Here is a Harvard Public Health article answering the question: can plant based meat alternatives can be considered part of a healthy and sustainable diet?

Vegetables, gravy and seasonings

  • Diced carrots, peas, onions and corn are the traditional vegetables in a shepherds pie recipe, if there is such a thing anymore. I used carrots, corn, onions and celeriac as that's what I had on hand. I also like to add fresh baby spinach for the extra nutrients (and I'm not fond of peas). 
  • For the gravy, which is mixed with the 'meat', we're using veggie broth or bouillon instead of the typical beef broth. I like to combine broth and red wine for extra depth.  Adding a bit of flour and tomato paste is important to keep the shepherds pie from becoming soupy. 
  • The seasonings kick up the flavor - garlic, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and rosemary.

Root vegetable mash topping

  • You can certainly top the meat and vegetables with a layer of plain mashed potatoes, sprinkled with some Parmesan cheese. This is traditional.
  • In this recipe, we're changing it to include root vegetables. It's a great way to add extra nutrients and a touch of sweetness by mixing regular potatoes and sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots. Celeriac or turnips would be great too. For the regular potatoes, prefer Yukon gold or yellow potatoes, but Russet potatoes will also work.
  • The root vegetables are mashed together - as in this root vegetable mash - to create the 'mashed potato' layer. Delicious and beautiful. 

Since this dish is a combination of potatoes, veggies and meat, I just serve it on its own or with a simple salad or coleslaw. And maybe a nice glass of red wine 🙂

How to make vegetarian shepherds pie

bowl of cut up root vegetables, butter, milk, salt, green onions
For topping: about 5 cups cubed root vegetables, butter, salt, cream, Parmesan cheese, green onion
boiled root vegetables in strainer
Boil root vegetables in a large pot. Drain.
mashed root vegetables in pot
"Dry" over heat on stove. Mash with butter, a dash of cream, Parmesan and green onions.
Impossible Burger (plant-based beef), chopped onions, small diced veggies, frozen corn, seasonings, flour, broth and wine, baby spinach.
Filling ingredients: Impossible Burger (plant-based beef), chopped onions, small diced veggies, frozen corn, seasonings, tomato paste, garlic, flour, broth and wine, baby spinach.
vegetarian shepherds pie assembled in casserole dish unbaked
Layer filling in casserole or baking dish. Top with root vegetable mash. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
baked vegetarian shepherds pie assembled in casserole dish
Bake at 400F/204C for 15 minutes. Then broil for 203 minutes until browned.
piece of vegetarian shepherds pie on plate
Rest for 10 minutes before serving.
piece of vegetarian shepherds pie on plate p2

Tailor To Your Taste

Consider one or more of these variations or substitutes based on what you like and have on hand. 

  • Instead of spinach, use ½-1 cup frozen peas.
  • Add ½ cup cooked lentils
  • Replace the veggies in the recipe with chopped mushrooms, red peppers or whatever else you have around. 

Shortcut

  • Take a big shortcut by buying real mashed potatoes or using leftovers. This will cut the time almost in half. 
  • Another option (not as good, but quick and easy) is to use instant mashed potatoes from a box.

Make ahead vegetarian shepherds pie

  • To make up to 2 days ahead
    • Prepare the shepherds pie recipe and refrigerate it. When ready to use, bake for 30 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes. 
  • To freeze before baking
    • Prepare the full recipe without baking. Freeze, well wrapped in casserole dish, for up to 1 month. Bake from frozen for about an hour at 350F/176C, then broil for a few minutes. 
  • To freeze after baking
    • Freeze the fully baked shepherds pie for up to 2 months, well wrapped. Bake from frozen at 350F/176C for about an hour or until heated through, covered with foil.
  • Store leftovers
    • In an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Other vegetarian comfort foods you might like

Check out more vegetarian recipes in our 25 Meatless Monday dinner ideas.

piece of vegetarian shepherds pie on plate
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Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

This unique vegetarian shepherd's pie is made with plant-based 'beef' and topped with a root vegetable mash. Same tastes and textures as a classic beef shepherds pie  - and just as delicious. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time35 mins
rest time10 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British, Vegetarian
Servings: 5 -6
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

Root Vegetable/Potato Mash Topping

  • 2 pounds root vegetables, cut into 1 inch/2.5cm cubes, Note 1
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 4 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, divided (optional) (3 for mash; 1 to sprinkle before baking)
  • 1 tablespoon -2 light cream or milk, optional
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions (optional) (about 3 small)

Filling Layer (in order of use)

  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup (160 grams) chopped onions (about ½ a medium onion)
  • 1 cup (110 grams) small diced carrots (or half carrots, half other veggie like peppers, celeriac, parsnip, etc)
  • ¾ pound (340g) plant based beef (best brands: Impossible Beef and Beyond Burger)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme, Note 2
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon each, salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or broth (I use ¾ cup broth, ¼ cup red wine), Note 3
  • ½ cup frozen corn niblets
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped

Instructions

  • GET READY: Preheat oven to 400F/204C and place rack in top ⅓ of oven. Spray an 7-8 inch (18-20cm) square pan with oil.
  • MAKE POTATO/ROOT VEGETABLE TOPPING:
    °Boil: Place potatoes and other root vegetables in a medium pot. Add enough cold water to cover veggies by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Add 2-3 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil. Lower heat to medium and gently boil for about 15 minutes or until soft and fork tender.
    °Drain: Drain vegetables in a colander and return to the pot. On medium heat, shake cooked vegetables to evaporate water for 1 minute.
    °Mash: Add butter, green onions and 3 tablespoon Parmesan (if using) and 1-2 tablespoons milk/cream if you like (not too much milk - you don't want the potatoes soupy). Mash with a fork or potato masher. Do not use a food processor or immersion blender. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.
  • MAKE FILLING LAYER:
    ° Heat oil in large skillet to medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    ° Add plant based beef and chop it up into small pieces with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Stir in garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes, until 'beef' is brown.
    ° Stir in flour for 2 minutes.
    ° Add broth/wine, frozen corn and spinach. Stir to combine well. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes to let the mixture thicken for a rich gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • ASSEMBLE AND BAKE/BROIL: Spoon 'beef' filling layer into casserole dish. Top with a thick layer ~3 cups/630 grams root vegetable mash (you may not need all the mash you made). Fluff topping with fork. Sprinkle on 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan if desired.
    °Bake for 15 minutes. Note 3. Turn oven to Broil.
    °Broil for 2-3 minutes until topping is golden brown. Top with extra green onions if you like.
    °Rest on counter for 10 minutes. Serve.

Notes

  1. Root Vegetables - Use two or more of: white potatoes (I like Yukon/yellow potatoes best), sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga (swede), celery root (celeriac). For this recipe, I use 1 sweet potato, 1 yellow potato, 1 parsnip and 1 carrot for a total of about 2 lbs (a bit more or less won't matter). Alternatively, use 3 cups fresh, store-bought or leftover mashed potatoes. 
  2. Broth: Good brands for vegetable broth, based on taste tests, are Brodo, Zoup, Swanson’s Organic Vegetable Broth and Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base (mixed with water). If you are not a vegetarian, use beef broth (my favorite is Campbell's Beef Broth 30% less sodium in a can).
  3. Seasoning substitution: You can replace the thyme and rosemary with a total of 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning. 
  4. Baking: If you made the filling earlier and it is now cooled, add about 10-15 minutes extra time to the baking. 
  5. Make Ahead/Freeze: 
    • To make up to 2 days ahead
      • Prepare the shepherds pie recipe and refrigerate it. When ready to use, bake for 30 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes. 
    • To freeze before baking
      • Prepare the full recipe without baking. Freeze, well wrapped in casserole dish, for up to 1 month. Bake from frozen for about an hour at 350F/176C, then broil for a few minutes. 
    • To freeze after baking
      • Freeze the fully baked shepherds pie for up to 2 months, well wrapped. Bake from frozen at 350F/176C for about an hour or until heated through, covered with foil.
    • Store leftovers
      • In an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
 
Nutrition values are loose estimates as they depend on the type of root vegetables used and include all the root veg mash (you will likely not need it all). Wine is also not included. 

Nutrition

Calories: 394kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 1631mg | Potassium: 1266mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 5835IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 164mg | Iron: 4mg
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4 Comments

    1. Absolutely. I do that all the time. Just make sure you include a potato or two as well for texture.

  1. 5 stars
    This is a fantastic dish! I came across this recipe looking fur healthier recipes, wanting to reduce the amount of meat we eat. I used diced mushrooms, sautéed until not watery, in place of the meatless crumble but followed the rest of the recipe exactly - turned out great. So delicious, we didn’t miss the meat at all.

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