A real seasonal favourite – this mushroom based vegan shepherd’s pie is great for a holiday meal or any time you need a good comfort food meal. It is more of a special dinner kind of recipe, needing about an hour from start to finish – not all active time – so it may be best saved for the weekend. Luckily, it makes enough for at least a couple of meals and leftovers are great.
I’ve included a little red wine for richness with the mushrooms, some fresh herbs (or dried), and a pumpkin and potato topping. Those are the stars. There are lentils for protein and lots of spices for flavour, too. This is a great recipe to make for picky eaters – it’s almost universally liked, even for people who think they don’t like mushrooms.
This is not one of my go-to seasonal depression meals but if you have the energy and drive for it, this is truly very well worth it. It’s a nice thing to get lost in for an hour or so and focus on the task at hand.
There are always some unhappy people with veg versions of shepherd’s pie (‘but it needs lamb!’), but I did ask Aimee from Twigg Studios about shepherd’s pie versus cottage pie and she said if it’s vegan it doesn’t matter what it’s called. So I’m going with a vegan shepherd’s pie for the sake of familiarity.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
This is truly one of my all-time favourite recipes, and we make it at least twice a month all through autumn and winter every year.
- It’s gluten-free: a great allergy-friendly option for guests that still looks nice, it’s both vegan and GF so the most common allergens aren’t present.
- You make great use of seasonal ingredients: most of the elements are autumn-specific but that keep in storage through winter, so it’s a lovely cosy cold weather meal.
- It never disappoints: even non-veg people love this dish, people who say they don’t usually like mushrooms, the lentil skeptics – it’s well loved!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutons
- Red wine: no worries if you don’t drink wine. A tablespoon of balsamic vinegar will add a similar depth of flavour and makes a good substitution. Make up the liquid difference with an extra splash of vegetable broth.
- Topping: if you prefer a more classic pie, feel free to leave the pumpkin out of the topping and go all potato.
- Lentils: I used black lentils purely for practicality here – they’re the least expensive where I’m living right now. Black, green, and brown lentils are all appropriate here in terms of texture, though brown will give you the most typical kind of colour you expect from a shepherd’s pie. Don’t use red lentils.
- Mushrooms: any kind of mushroom can be used. White mushrooms are easiest, of course, but also the least flavourful – for a bigger punch, use brown, portobello, or a mix with shiitake or oyster mushrooms.
- Herbs: you can substitute a tablespoon of herbs du provence for the fresh herbs, or a teaspoon each of dried oregano and rosemary.
Step by Step
1. Cook the mushrooms, the follow with the onions, garlic, and herbs.
2. Add the wine and broth, then bring to a boil.
3. Add the lentils and simmer until cooked, about 20 minutes.
4. While the filling is going, cook the pumpkin and potato topping. Puree and set aside.
5. Once the filling is cooked, thicken and then season to taste.
6. Add the pumpkin topping and then bake until bubbling. Serve hot.
Tips and Notes
That tiny bit of smoked paprika adds a nice depth and very subtle meatiness to the dish, and alongside the mushrooms and wine, brings a truly excellent flavour here. It’s widely available, but if you don’t have it, don’t worry! It’ll still taste great without, or using sweet paprika instead.
Since this cooks for about an hour total, there will still be traces of alcohol from the wine present in the final dish. As there’s just 60ml in the whole thing and it is cooked, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would be affected. If this is a concern for you, or you avoid alcohol completely, use balsamic vinegar as noted below.
Using the cooking water from the potatoes and pumpkins for mashing has two positives. One, it’s already there, so you don’t need to worry about warming milk. Two, the starch in the water makes for a silky smooth, perfect mash. A range is offered for the amount needed because it’ll vary depending on the types of potato and pumpkin used.
How to Store
Storage: if you want to make this ahead of time, make both the filling and topping, then refrigerate for up to a couple of days before baking. Cooked leftovers can be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about three days.
Freezing: place cooled leftovers in an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
- Don’t over-blend: the starch in potatoes can quickly become gluey if mixed in a food processor or blender. Mash by hand or carefully with an immersion blender on low power for the best results.
- Season to taste: while herbs and additions like mushrooms and wine add lots of flavour here, it’s still essential to add enough salt. Once the filling is cooked, be sure to taste it and add more salt if needed.
- Use an oven-safe dish: if only to save dishes, it’s worthwhile to cook the lentil filling in an oven-safe pot that can be transferred from stove to oven.
- Keep red wine: if you ever have leftover red wine, freeze it in an ice cube tray and then store in a sealed container and add a cube to mushroom and tomato based dishes.
More Comfort Food Dinners
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Vegan Mushroom and Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie
Mushroom and Lentil Filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 250 grams button mushrooms halved and sliced
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 small sprig of rosemary leaves finely minced
- 2 sage leaves finely minced*
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- 60 ml dry red wine**
- 625 ml vegetable broth
- 150 grams brown lentils
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot*** powder + 2 tablespoons water
Pumpkin and Potato Topping
- ½ large hokkaido pumpkin or another pumpkin variety
- 500 grams potatoes
- 1 cup cooking water you’ll probably need less, but best to reserve extra
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Mushroom and Lentil Filling
- In a large, heavy bottomed pan, oven safe if possible, heat the oil over medium. Add the mushrooms and sear for 5 minutes. Avoid stirring.1 tablespoon olive oil, 250 grams button mushrooms
- Add the onions and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Stir in the garlic, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper, and cook for an additional minute.1 medium yellow onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 small sprig of rosemary leaves, 2 sage leaves, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Add the red wine and stir to release any spices stuck to the bottom of the pan.60 ml dry red wine**
- Add the vegetable broth and increase the heat to high to bring to a rolling boil. Add the lentils and reduce the heat to medium-low, then simmer for 20-25 minutes, covered, or until the lentils are cooked. Make the topping in the meantime.625 ml vegetable broth, 150 grams brown lentils
- Taste and season if needed. Whisk the arrowroot powder into the 2 tablespoons of water and then stir it in to the filling. It should thicken immediately. Remove from the heat and set aside.2 teaspoons arrowroot*** powder + 2 tablespoons water
Pumpkin and Potato Topping
- Peel the pumpkin if necessary and cut it into small chunks, about 4 cm (1.5 inches). Wash and chop the potatoes to the same size.1/2 large hokkaido pumpkin, 500 grams potatoes
- Place both into a medium pot, cover with water, and add a good pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer, covered, until the vegetables can be easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
- Drain the water, reserving a cupful, and let the potatoes and pumpkin dry in the pot for a few minutes before mashing.
- Use a potato masher to mash the vegetables before adding half of the reserved water, oil, salt, and pepper. Add more water as needed to get a smooth, spreadable consistency. If it’s too thick it’ll be difficult to spread over the mushroom filling.1 cup cooking water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
To Bake the Pie
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). If you used an oven safe dish, simply spread the topping in an even layer over the mushroom base. If not, spoon the filling into a baking dish and top with the potato pumpkin mixture.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and the sauce has started to bubble up around the edges. Serve hot.
- Leftovers can be frozen and keep well for 3-4 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat in the oven if possible to keep the layers distinct.