Lentil Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

Two red ramekins topped with crusty mashed potato on a wooden board with scattered thyme and mushrooms

Just because you're laying off the meat this Veganuary, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavour.

by Erin Henderson

January or not, I tend to lean to veg-heavy meals, often forgetting about the meat all together. 

Since my teen years, I've waded in and out of vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore diets. I would categorize myself as democratic eater these days, enjoying all food groups, but with a decided edge given to plants. 

You may also like: How to Properly Cook Dried Beans

I love creating something soothing, delicious, and enticing out of so-called humble ingredients such as the lentils in these excellent sherpherd's pies. 

Thanks to the quick-cooking nature of lentils, this is a hearty winter dinner that can get on the table lickety-split for those impatient diners in your house, but also offers a generous and warm welcome for weekend lunch parties after a morning hike in the woods.

Two red ramekins topped with crusty mashed potato on a wooden board with scattered thyme and mushrooms

Two red ramekins topped with crusty mashed potato on a wooden board with scattered thyme and mushrooms
Lentil Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

This makes quite a bit of filling, so instead of making a family-sized shepherd's pie in a big lasagna pan, which can lose structure constantly going from fridge to oven to reheat, I scoop my filling into individual, oven-proof ramekins and top each one with mashed potatoes made a la minute. It also makes for a pretty presentation.

Makes: About 8 cups of filling
Chef level: Easy

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • ½ cup carrot, diced
  • 1 ½ cup mushrooms, cremini, shitake, portobello, or a mix, diced
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 ½ Tbsp white miso paste
  • ½ dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 4 cups mushroom broth
  • Fresh thyme sprigs, enough to make about the diameter of a nickel, bundled with kitchen twine
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ Tbsp (vegan) Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Tamari or soy sauce
  • ½ Tbsp Sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 cups chopped, frozen kale
  • Mashed potatoes (or try this celeriac purée reipe for a delicious twist)
How to Make It:
  1. Warm a large pot with olive oil over med-low heat.
  2. Add onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook gently to soften but not colour. About 5 minutes.
  3. When the vegetables are soft and liquid released, add the miso to the pot stirring to coat the vegetables and pour in the white wine and stirring into a paste.
  4. Add the lentils, thyme bundle, smoked paprika, and mushroom broth. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer until the lentils are soft to the bite, but not mushy. About 20-30 minutes.
  5. When the lentil mixture has absorbed most of the broth, but there is still a bit of gravy in the pot, add in the Worcestershire, Tamari, vinegar, and nutritional yeast, stirring to combine.
  6. Stir in the frozen kale, cooking until it is wilted and soft, about 5 more minutes.
  7. Adjust the seasonign to your preferances.
  8. Heat the oven to 350°F
  9. Scoop the mixture into your desired serving vessel – casserole dish or ramekins – top with mashed potatoes and place in the hot oven to bake through for about 10-15 minutes.
  10. Broil under high heat for another 5 minutes to get the mashed potatoes crispy on top.
Wine Pairing

Despite being vegan (or vegetarian depending on how you prepare the mashed potatoes), this is a robust, hearty, and filling dish that could use a wine with a little gravitas to stand up to it. The earthy flavours of the lentils and mushrooms would do well with an equally earthy wine, but one with a bit of acidity to lighten the whole thing up.

I’m partial to Cahors for this dish. Cahors is a region in southwest France which makes rustic, hearty red wines from the Malbec grape. But it’s much different from the fruit-forward, soft Malbecs you know from Argentina. Cahors produces Malbecs that are dense and savoury with a slight herbal note, but good whack of acidity. It absolutely checks the pairing boxes here for flavour and structure.

 

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