What Is Lentil Shepherds Pie?

Lee Johnson

Lentil shepherds pie is a variation on a traditional shepherds pie so that it can be eaten by vegetarians or vegans. Traditional shepherds pie features lamb meat underneath the mashed potato; the lamb is replaced with lentils in lentil shepherds pie. The bottom layer of a vegetarian or vegan shepherds pie contains lentils typically mixed with stock, wine, onions, and carrots. This is topped with a layer of mashed potato, which in turn is generally covered with grated cheese before the entire pie is baked in the oven. Vegan variations on the dish can be made without cheese or butter to make it suitable for vegans to eat.

Lentils can be used to make vegetarian shepherds pie.
Lentils can be used to make vegetarian shepherds pie.

Traditional shepherds pie is basically the same as lentil shepherds pie, except that lamb mince is used instead of lentils for the pie’s base. The potatoes are mashed with butter and milk, and then layered on top of the stock, lamb, and vegetable mixture. Chefs usually grate cheese on top of the mashed potatoes before baking the pie in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. This process works essentially the same when creating a lentil shepherds pie, except lentils are used in place of lamb.

Mashed potatoes are an essential ingredient in any version of shepherds pie.
Mashed potatoes are an essential ingredient in any version of shepherds pie.

Most recipes for lentil shepherds pie use green or Puy lentils as the main ingredient in the dish. Chefs shallow-fry the onion until slightly caramelized, and then add carrots and a sprinkle of thyme for additional flavor. Wine, water and tomatoes are then added, along with two vegetable stock cubes. At this point, the lentils are added into the mixture, which is then left to simmer for around 10 minutes. The lentils will soak up the flavor from the surrounding mixture and turn into a pulpy slurry during cooking.

The lentil base for lentil shepherds pie is only part of the dish as a whole. Chefs usually start boiling potatoes while the lentil mixture is cooking, and, once done, then mash the potatoes. If the dish is being made for a vegetarian, milk and butter can be used freely in the mashed potato mixture, but olive oil can be used instead if the dish is being made for vegans. Seasoning is added to the mashed potatoes to increase their flavor, and then the pie’s content can be transferred to a cooking dish. Champ or sweet potato mash can be used as a variation on ordinary mashed potatoes.

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