Shepherd’s pie is the original comfort food. Creamy mashed potatoes blanketing a steamy, saucy filling make it high on the list for a Sunday supper. The traditional filling is lamb, but that leaves out the vegetarians at the table. No fair!
Meat eaters, take a break! And vegetarians, relish this version that will fill your tummies ever so agreeably.
You will bask in the pleasure of a shared meal, because this recipe makes a lot. You’re going to have to fill the seats at your table with obliging and hungry friends or family. Doesn’t that sound like a brilliant idea?
Easy Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
A shepherd’s pie is often a catch-all for leftovers, topped with mashed potatoes and baked in a casserole. This vegetarian version omits the ground lamb or beef and replaces it with an array of mushrooms, carrots, celery, pearl onions, green beans, and peas, all baked in a creamy sauce and topped with cheesy mashed potatoes.
Tips to Save You Time
This recipe takes a little more time than the average weeknight meal, but it’s so worth it. Here are a few tips to save you some time and energy.
- Use a mixture of butter and flour to thicken the sauce: Instead of a roux (a paste of butter and flour cooked in a pot), I mix the flour and butter in a bowl and whisk it into the sauce to save on cooking time. This is known as beurre manié in French cuisine. Also, I always think it’s easier to clean a small bowl than a pot!
- Choose large potatoes: I’m not a fan of peeling potatoes, but the larger they are, the fewer there are to peel! And the less time I need to spend doing it. If you don’t mind the skins, you could skip the peeling altogether, but that’s an aesthetic choice. It doesn’t affect the overall taste, but perhaps the potatoes won’t be quite so melt-in-your-mouth creamy.
- Buy grated cheese: Usually, I like to grate my own cheese because packaged cheese often has added cellulose to keep the shreds from clumping. That said, there are brands that have only a few additives, and I find skipping this one step just moves things along faster.
Yes, You Can Make It Ahead!
Once you have topped the filling with the potatoes and sprinkled the last bit of cheese over it, let it cool completely, then cover it with plastic wrap. You can keep it assembled, but unbaked, in your refrigerator for up to three days.
To bake the pie, remove the plastic wrap and take it straight from the fridge to the oven. Add an extra 15 minutes to the baking time. Check the pie after 30 minutes.
Cover it loosely with foil if the top browns too quickly.
How to Freeze Shepherd's Pie
Cool and cover the baked shepherd's pie loosely with plastic wrap. Place it in the freezer for two to three hours, or until it’s fairly firm. Remove the frozen pie and cover it firmly with plastic wrap. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on the counter. Set the baking dish on top. Bring the sides of the foil up and over the pie. Crimp or fold the edges all around to firmly seal the pie in the foil.
Mark the date on a piece of masking tape. The pie will keep for up to two months in the freezer.
When ready to serve the shepherd's pie, take the casserole from the freezer and remove the foil and the plastic wrap. Use the foil you just removed to loosely cover the pie. Make sure that your casserole dish can go straight from freezer to oven; if not, set the casserole in the oven while the oven preheats so that the dish warms slowly.
Bake the casserole for an hour, or until the pie is hot all the way through. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to allow the top to brown. To shorten the baking time to 40 to 45 minutes, defrost it in the refrigerator one day before you plan to bake it.
More Vegetarian Casseroles to Try!
- Three Sisters Casserole with Cornbread Topping
- Eggplant Parmesan
- Cauliflower Pasta Bake
- Cheesy Tortellini Casserole
- Vegetarian Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Carrots and Mushrooms
- For the filling:
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) soft, unsalted butter
- 3 1/2 cups low-salt vegetable stock or water
- 1 cup white wine
- 8 ounces baby carrots (about 2 cups)
- 8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, halved, or quartered if large (about 2 cups)
- 4 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch lengths (about 2 cups)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 8 ounces green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup frozen pearl onions
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 1/2 cup whole milk or cream (optional)
- For the topping:
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 very large potatoes), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 1/3 cups grated sharp cheddar
- 1/2 bunch scallions, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Make the beurre manié for the filling:
In a small bowl, stir the butter and flour together until blended and set aside.
Cook the vegetables:
In a large pot, bring the stock and wine to a simmer. Add the carrots, mushrooms, celery, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook at a low boil for 15 minutes. Add the green beans to the pot and cook for 5 minutes longer, or until the vegetables are tender.
Assemble the filling:
With a slotted spoon, transfer the celery, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms to the baking dish, blotting each spoonful on a folded paper towel to drain excess liquid. Leave the broth in the pan.
Distribute the frozen onions and frozen peas over the vegetables in the baking dish. Remove the bay leaf.
Make the sauce:
Bring the reserved broth in the pot to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the beurre manié. Simmer the sauce, whisking often, until it has thickened. The beurre manié will look clumpy at first but will quickly smooth out as the butter melts into the sauce.
If you would like a richer sauce, stir in the optional milk or cream. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
Combine the sauce and vegetables:
Pour the sauce over the vegetables in the baking dish. Stir gently to coat and set aside while you finish the topping.
Heat the oven:
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cook the potatoes:
In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, adjust the heat to a simmer.
Simmer the potatoes for 12 to 14 minutes, or until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander. Return the potatoes to the pot and set it over medium heat.
Mash the potatoes:
Stir the potatoes constantly for about 1 minute, or until the liquid in the pot evaporates and the potatoes look dry. Push them to one side of the pot and pour 1/2 cup of the milk into the empty space. Cook until the milk is hot, then add the butter pieces. (Hot milk makes the mashed potatoes fluffier.)
Mash the potatoes, milk, and butter with a potato masher. Gradually add enough additional milk to achieve a creamy consistency. Beat with a whisk to lighten the potatoes and smooth them out.
Finish the potatoes:
Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese, scallions, and parsley. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
Top and bake the pie:
Spoon the potatoes over the vegetables in the baking dish. Use a fork to make swirls in the potatoes to create peaks and valleys. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/3 cup grated cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling bubbles and the potatoes are golden. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.