Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Photo by Deborah Murphy

One of the benefits of eating vegetarian or vegan on Thanksgiving is that you can be as creative as you want with your main dish. I love making hearty casserole dishes like this vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie, which is filled with flavorful root vegetables and protein-packed lentils. Traditional shepherd’s pie is topped with mashed potatoes, which can look a little boring. To add a pop of color to the dish, I stirred a puréed beet into the potatoes, turning them a pretty purple. And, to save myself some prep time, I roasted the beet ahead of time so I could easily purée it in when I was ready to make the dish. Although the recipe as written below is vegetarian, you can easily adapt it to be vegan or gluten-free — see notes at bottom of recipe.

Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd’s Pie -

Serves 4 



  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 2½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Mashed potatoes: 

  • 1 pound yellow skin potatoes (about 6 to 7 potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 medium-sized roasted and peeled beet (about 6 ounces)
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 diced stalks celery
  • 3 peeled and diced carrots
  • ½ large diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 peeled and diced parsnips
  • 1 peeled and diced rutabaga
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine lentils and broth. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and cook another 3 to 5 minutes or until liquid is cooked off and lentils are tender. Set aside.
  3. Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with 1 inch cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Use a colander to drain potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add butter, milk, salt and ground black pepper. Use a potato masher to mash by hand. Purée beet in a blender until smooth — I found this worked best in a single serving blender cup attachment. Stir into mashed potatoes.
  4. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add celery, carrot and onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Stir in minced garlic and cook 1 more minute until fragrant.
  5. Stir in parsnips, rutabaga, oregano, thyme, rosemary and flour. Toss to coat all the vegetables in the herb/flour mix. Cook for 1minute.
  6. Stir in broth, salt and black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 35 minutes or until sauce is thickened and rutabaga and parsnips are crisp-tender.
  7. Stir in lentils and frozen peas. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Transfer filling to an 8-by-8-inch baking dish or four 16-ounce ramekins.
  9. Spoon potatoes over filling and use the back of a spoon to spread evenly. Transfer to oven and bake for 20 minutes.


To make it vegan: Use vegan butter or olive oil in place of the butter in the mashed potatoes and replace the whole milk with an unsweetened non-dairy milk.

To make it gluten-free: Replace flour in the filling with 2 tablespoons of corn starch.

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Deborah Murphy
Deborah Murphy, MS, RD, practices clinical dietetics in Chicago. She shares practical nutrition tips and healthy recipes on her personal blog, Dietitian Debbie Dishes. In her free time, you’ll likely find her either shopping the farmers market or in the kitchen, camera and spatula in hand. Connect with Deborah on Twitter and Instagram.

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