Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas my partner makes his observation that in homes everywhere people are busy cooking at least twice as many white potatoes as other vegetables for the holiday dinner and will inevitably have lots left over from the meal. In our case it seems that we cooked too many sweet potatoes and had a large bowl of leftover sweet potatoes begging to not be wasted after the family holiday meal.
They sat for a day until I had the epiphany that I would do what many folks do with their leftover white potatoes, I would make a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with a sweet potato top. This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie is hearty, filling and the epitome of winter comfort food.
There seems to be a variety of interpretations of Shepherd’s Pie, including a term that I’ve come across a while back referring to Vegan Shepherd’s Pie as ‘shepherdless pie’. I assumed from the shepherdless that someone decided that the shepherd part of the pie is the meat.
Climbing a little further down into the rabbit hole, I’ve learned that it’s even more complicated than shepherd equals meat. For the decades that my mom thought she was making Shepherd’s Pie it turns out that she was actually making Cottage Pie because she used beef and not lamb. Cottage Pie, made from leftover beef and affordable potatoes, got its name from poor Irish peasants who lived in cottages. Shepherd’s Pie is made from lamb, apparently named so because shepherds tended sheep and lambs.
Whatever you want to call it, this recipe checks all the boxes for delicious, nutrient dense, plant based, hearty and filling. For the meat eaters in your life the brown lentils add a nice meatiness to the dish, along with extra fiber. The sweet potato top provides a good dose of beta-carotene and fiber as well as manganese, potassium and vitamin B6.
I love that I can use root vegetables purchased from local farmers at the farmer’s market along with some frozen vegetables. I left out the tomato paste and red wine common in many Shepherd’s Pie recipes, and although I did not use mushrooms, I would recommend adding shitake or cremini mushrooms for their umami taste and meaty texture. Switch up the vegetables if you’d like and add butternut squash or turnip instead of parsnips. If you want more of a gravy-like consistency, add additional water mixed with brown rice flour to thicken.
Vegan Shepherd's Pie
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes
- ¼ cup nut milk
- 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 2 cups water
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 carrots chopped
- 2 parsnips chopped
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp dried rosemary
- 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons tamari soy
- 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
- ½ cup frozen corn
- ½ cup frozen peas
Cook sweet potatoes
- Peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks. Place in medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Add olive or coconut oil and nut milk and mash.
- Add water, brown lentils and bay leaves to medium saucepan. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until they are the consistency you prefer. Discard bay leaves and drain.
- In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add carrots, parsnips, celery and dried herbs and sauté for about 8 minutes, until the carrots are fork tender.
- Mix water, tamari and flour in a measuring cup. Stir into sautéed vegetable mixture until the liquid thickens.
- Add drained lentils, peas and corn. Stir to combine ingredients and simmer over low heat for five minutes to thicken the liquid. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Add filling to 9x13 pan. Cover with mashed sweet potatoes. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.
- Mushrooms can be added for a meatier texture and taste.
- Parsnips can be replaced with squash or turnip.
- This can be prepared in advance and baked later.
- Keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge or can be frozen.