Holy moly, this vegetarian shepherd’s (cottage) pie is like speed dialing the cozy-and-delicious-dinners hotline. This dish has a saucy layer of browned meatless “ground beef”, nestled in with veggies and fresh herbs. Then, it’s topped with a cozy layer of fluffy mashed potatoes. AND as if that’s not all: once the potatoes are baked to golden brown perfection, they’ll get drizzled with some melted butter, a sprinkle of cheese, and a bit of parsley (for some token greenery). This recipe can be easily adjusted to make it vegan-friendly too. We’ve made it seven times now, at least - and every time it got absolutely devoured (mostly by meat-eaters!). So, are you ready to dig in?
To make this recipe, we’ll be cooking up the “meat” and vegetable filling in a skillet pan. And then, at the same time, you can get the potatoes going in a separate pot for the mashed potatoes. We find it faster to multi-task and have both cooking at once; but you can definitely make the filling first, and then let it cool while you move onto the potatoes. Totally up to you.
For the filling, you’ll need:
- Aromatics and herbs: Onion, garlic, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary
- Umami flavor boosters: Tomato paste and vegetable broth
- Meatless ground: Use your favorite uncooked meatless “ground beef”
- Vegetables: Carrots, celery, frozen corn and frozen peas
We prefer using fresh carrots and celery because they’ll retain a bit more firmness than frozen veggies tend to have. It helps provide some texture to the filling. For the corn and peas, we actually prefer buying these frozen for most of the year (except during summer). Vegetables are picked and frozen at their prime, so for very seasonal items like corn and peas, during the off-season you’re likely getting a better product when you buy it frozen. Also, frozen corn niblets and shelled peas are so much easier to work with!
For the mashed potatoes, you’ll need:
- Potatoes: We recommend Yukon Gold potatoes. Yukon Golds are less likely to get waterlogged when boiled, have a slightly buttery taste, and make for super smooth and creamy mashed potatoes. Russets are tasty, but we prefer to bake those (rather than boil).
- Milk and butter: For flavor and to make a smooth, soft mash. You’ll want to add enough so the mashed potatoes are creamy and loose enough so you can run the back of a spoon through them. If you’re vegan, you can use dairy-free milk and butter. Just make sure the milk is unflavored and unsweetened to keep it savory.
- Salt and garlic powder: For seasoning! You can’t have mashed potatoes without salt, it just wouldn’t be right. We use garlic powder here for a slightly milder garlic flavor, compared to how sharp raw garlic would be.
- Cheese: Optional, but delicious! We add it into the mashed potatoes and sprinkle it on top (with a bit of melted butter).
We recently bought a potato ricer and have since been obsessed with using it to make all the mashed potatoes. It really helps them get nice and fluffy. If you don’t have a potato ricer, you can definitely make the mashed potatoes with a regular potato masher. The step of using a spoon to make swoops in the mashed potatoes isn’t just for looks (although we do think it looks cute). More importantly, it creates ridges of mashed potatoes that will get extra brown in the oven; and then the butter will pool in the pockets, which is just magical.
This recipe was developed in a shallow 2 quart oval baking dish, but it would work in a different shaped dish with the same capacity (for example, an 8x8 baking dish). If you want to make a larger amount of shepherd’s pie in a bigger casserole dish, just make sure you scale up the recipe accordingly.
Usually when we serve this Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, it gets completely polished off at the table. But leftovers would keep well in the fridge, tightly wrapped or in an airtight container. Reheat before serving.
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd's Pie Filling
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 lb meatless ground beef (uncooked, see note 1)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (or rice flour if gluten free)
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (more for garnish)
- 2¼ lb yellow potatoes, quartered (peeled optional, see note 2)
- 6 to 8 tablespoons milk (see note 3)
- 6 to 7 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided (see note 3)
- 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup grated Parmesan, divided (more for garnish, see note 4)
- Boil potatoes: Add potatoes to a large pot of water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Boil until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well (let the potatoes sit in the colander for 1 minute after draining, to release excess moisture).
- Mash potatoes: While the potatoes are still warm, run them through a potato ricer over the pot (or alternatively use a potato masher). Add 6 tablespoons of the milk, 5 tablespoons of the melted butter, garlic powder, salt and ¼ cup of the Parmesan. Stir with a rubber spatula to mix. Taste and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of the butter if needed. You want the mashed potatoes to be on the looser side (not too stiff). Stir until smooth. Cover and keep warm on lowest heat.
Shepherd's Pie Filling
- Preheat: Put a rack in the upper-third of the oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
- Start filling: Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the meatless ground. Use a spatula to break up the ground into smaller pieces, and sauté until crisp on the edges, 8 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir well to mix. Add carrots and celery, sauté until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Finish filling: Reduce the heat to medium. Add garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add flour, then toss to coat vegetables evenly. Add stock and stir well. Once the mixture is bubbling, stir in frozen corn and peas. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley.
- Bake: Transfer filling to 1 (2-quart) baking dish (see note 5). Top with mashed potatoes, using the back of a spoon to make swoops in the surface (this way, the ridges will get golden brown in the oven and melted butter will nestle in the pockets). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the mashed potato ridges are golden brown.
- Garnish and bake: Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter on top, and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup Parmesan. Return to the oven until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Garnish with more parsley and cheese.
- Meatless ground: Use your favorite brand of meatless ground beef here. This recipe has been tested with Impossible (Burger Ground) and Beyond Meat (Beef Ground).
- Potatoes: For the smoothest texture, peel the potatoes. But, since Yukon Gold potatoes have thin skin, you can also get away without peeling them if you want to save a step.
- Vegan option: Use non-dairy milk and vegan meltable butter. We recommend using a very neutral tasting non-dairy milk for this recipe, such as a barista-style oat milk. Many store-bought vegan butters are salted, so at first add less salt to the the potatoes than the recipe calls for; then taste and add more if needed.
- Parmesan cheese: Imported Parmesan cheese typically contains animal-based rennet. If you wish to avoid this, look for cheese labelled as "vegetarian friendly" or lists "microbial enzymes" as an ingredient (instead of rennet). Asiago cheese is also a good alternative.
- Baking dish: Any baking dish that's about 2-quarts (1.9L) in capacity will work, such as an 8 x 8-inch, 11 x 7-inch, or 2½ quart oval baking dish.
- Timing tip: Shepherd's Pie takes a bit of time to make! If you can recruit a helper to make the mashed potatoes - while you work on the filling - it'll speed things up. Otherwise, start cooking the filling when the potatoes are boiling.