Make Ahead

Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip and and Potato Mash

October 17, 2012
9 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao
Author Notes

OK, even the easiest of shepherd's pies can feel like an undertaking. To make this delicious, hearty dish a lot more accessible, try cooking the lentils and prepping the vegetables one day in advance. On the day of assembly, mash the potatoes and parsnips early in the day, and sautee the veggies and assemble the pie later on, before dinner. Leftovers can easily be frozen. And I dare you not to eat all of the mashed parsnips and potatoes before you even get to finishing the recipe! —Gena Hamshaw

Test Kitchen Notes

Shepherd’s pie screams comfort food, and this vegan version is no exception. Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with ground lamb, even though it’s often confused with cottage pie, its ground-beef counterpart. Recipe developer Gena Hamshaw smartly swaps lentils for the traditional ground meat in this vegan option, which give the pie substance and makes it hearty and filling. She also adds sautéed mushrooms to give the lentils that extra boost of umami you’d typically get from meat.

Shepherd’s pie is usually topped with mashed potatoes and baked until the top is golden brown and just slightly crunchy; in Hamshaw’s adaptation, the mashed potato topping gets bulked up with parsnips, giving it a slight tang and sharpness. The resulting purée is simply irresistible: Hamshaw isn’t exaggerating when she warns how hard it is not to eat all the topping before you put it on the shepherd’s pie. In the end, you get a hearty dish made up of a symphony of textures and flavors. It's almost guaranteed to please meat-lovers and vegetarians alike. Don’t just take it from us—this review from Ana S. says it all, “Shared with neighbors and they all asked for the recipe. A winner!”

A few notes on cooking this dish: As she writes above, Hamshaw recommends splitting up the cooking into two days, or at least prepping some components ahead. Lentils are easy to prepare ahead of time and can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. The potato-parsnip purée can also be made ahead; boil the potatoes and parsnips the day before and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to mash and assemble. We’d even recommend preparing the entire dish (up to the final bake) ahead of time and storing it (tightly wrapped) in the fridge for a day or two, then popping it in the oven to finish whenever you’re about ready to eat. With a little meal-prepping this dish goes from weekend project to easy, weeknight dinner. And the best part? The leftovers somehow taste even better the next day. —The Editors

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 pounds (about 4 large) russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 6 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup almond, soy, rice, or other non-dairy milk
  • 1 pinch Sea salt to taste
  • 1 pinch Black pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided into 2 tbsp and 2 tbsp
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (up to 3)
  • 2 large carrots, diced evenly
  • 2 ribs celery, diced evenly
  • 6 ounces baby bella, cremini, or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils, dry
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot and submerge in cold water (there should be at least 1 inch of water over the vegetables). Salt water well. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and allow potatoes and parsnips to cook for approximately 25-35 minutes, or until both vegetables are very fork tender. Drain, return the vegetables to the pot, and add 2/3 cup milk, 2 tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash well with a potato masher. If you need more milk, add the remaining 1/3 cup. Set the mashed potatoes and parsnips aside.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, bring 1 1/2 cup lentils and 3 cups water to a boil. Reduce and simmer until lentils have absorbed all liquid, and are soft (about 30 or 35 minutes). Set lentils aside.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent and golden (10 minutes or so). Add the carrots and celery and cook till both vegetables are tender (another 8 minutes). Add the cremini mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes before adding the lentils, the rosemary, the thyme, and 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Simmer the mixture, stirring well to incorporate flavors. Add more liquid as needed: you don’t want there to be too much broth or liquid in the bottom of the pan, because you’ll get a runny shepherd’s pie, but you do want it to be quite moist. When everything is warm and well mixed, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat oven to 350. In a large casserole dish, layer the lentil and veggie mixture. Spread the mashed potatoes delicately and evenly over. Bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are browning. Sprinkle with extra rosemary, if desired, and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Hannah
    Hannah
  • Cheryl
    Cheryl
  • Aubergine Dream
    Aubergine Dream
  • Änneken
    Änneken
  • Nancy O'Leary
    Nancy O'Leary
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.

    56 Reviews

    Hannah October 8, 2019
    I love this recipe - I've made it probably 20 times. I like to use 2 fewer parsnips and about 2/3 of the potatoes and add in a rutabaga and a turnip for a nice peppery flavor. I also use redskins, rather than russets, and leave the skins on. Sage is also very nice with the shepherds pie filling.
     
    jcasare August 17, 2019
    This is a great recipe! Loved it. Didn't use the parsnips as didn't have any. Otherwise made as directed and will make it again.
     
    Ana S. January 13, 2019
    Fantastic plate, loved it the day I made it and it also reheats well. Shared with neighbors and they all asked for the recipe. A winer!!
     
    jane October 15, 2018
    Excellent recipe. The portions of ingredients are spot on. Not too too much potato but enough to satisfy. No parsnips at the grocery store when I went shopping. I substituted rutabega instead and it worked well. I also made a "gravy" using liquid aminos and corn starch to bind the lentils and add an even more of a meaty flavor for my husband.
     
    Cheryl November 21, 2017
    This was good, but next time I will omit the parsnips--don't like them. I added tomato paste as others suggested, also brown miso and a dash of soy sauce for umami.
     
    Noxolo November 29, 2015
    Amazing! Substituted the potato/parsnips for sweet potato. But other than that, followed the recipe as it was. Whole family loved it!
     
    Crystal L. November 18, 2015
    What do you think of using sweet potatoes instead?
     
    lsgerman November 18, 2015
    I have used sweet potatoes and it was wonderful.
     
    Aubergine D. November 13, 2015
    I'm wondering what size parsnips to use? I made this for dinner tonight and used 3 large parsnips and 6 medium Russet potatoes. The parsnips, while good, were a bit overpowering and the mash volume was a little on the large side. Overall though, a delicious and hearty dish worth the time and dirty dishes.
     
    Änneken February 8, 2015
    What a great dish! I found the mashed parsnip-potatoes part of it is so outstanding I have made these four times already. Such a winner.
     
    Nancy A. January 14, 2015
    This dish sounds amazing. I'm going to try it this week. Thanks for the tip you offered about cooking the lentils ahead. I'll do that. Be well. Love well. Lead a colorful life! Nancy Andres @ www.nancyandreswriter.com
     
    Nancy O. January 2, 2015
    I incorporated others' suggestions and added the cloves of a roasted head of garlic, some smoked paprika and a few TBSP dijon to the mash which gave great flavor without masking the subtle sweetness of the parsnips, used french green lentils (they hold their shape better) which I cooked in water with a couple bay leaves, then substituted a cup of soaked, drained and chopped dried wild mushrooms for the creminis and used the mushroom soaking liquid instead of the vegetable broth as well as fresh rosemary, thyme and sage. As others suggested I also added some tomato paste and a few splashes red wine vinegar to the lentil-vegetable mix. Really good with deep, rich flavor! Thanks F52!
     
    dcfoodie December 30, 2014
    I agree this dish is a bit labor intensive, but really good. We made this for our Christmas meal and it was a big hit. I added white wine to the simmering liquid to add some more flavor. And I had a lot of potato parsnip mash, too much for the topping, not that it was a problem! Thanks for this great recipe
     
    Tinaindenver December 19, 2014
    This dish was a bit of a faff to make, but I worked on it simultaneously with baking some cookies, so it didn't seem too bad. I also added some red wine right after the mushrooms, and used dried rosemary and thyme from my garden that is more potent than dried herbs in a jar and it was very flavorful. Also, there was enough to serve four people plus enough for a second meal.
     
    Amybeth H. November 25, 2014
    Finally, a truly vegan side dish. Yum! Thanks. Amybeth Hurst
     
    SugarnStuff November 22, 2014
    Made this tonight, so good ! I've never been a lover of parsnips, but get them in my CSA. This recipe was perfect, and yes, I had to keep myself from eating all the potato-parsnip mash ! Thanks for a great recipe :)
     
    Beth February 13, 2014
    This was awesome! Added bacon, Worcestershire sauce, and Montreal steak seasoning to lentils to make them "beefier" also added dairy...cream and Parmesan cheese made the mash awesome. Sorry, no longer vegan, but superb recipe!
     
    Charles T. October 2, 2015
    Why comment on a vegan recipe then?
     
    Jen January 16, 2016
    Who cares? People who aren't vegan have the liberty of using a vegan recipe as an inspiration and then adding other ingredients to it. She is commenting because she made the recipe, just like everyone else is. Is this a no omnivores allowed comment section? Step off your vegan high horse.
     
    Charles T. January 16, 2016
    Vegans care. People choose veganism for a reason. If you don't respect that and you want to put meat in vegan recipes then just don't comment.
     
    Julie J. January 17, 2016
    This isn't a vegan website and many of us who enjoy vegan cooking are not vegans, although we do respect your choice. I appreciate all comments from people who have made the dish.
     
    Charles T. January 17, 2016
    This isn't a vegan world either. But it's a matter of showing some respect. I wouldn't go to a recipe for gluten free bread on this site and post about how I substituted the ingredients with all purpose flour and how yummy it is. That just isn't polite.
     
    Julie J. January 18, 2016
    I cook for vegans often. I understand that many disrespect their choice and are impolite about it, although I have not noticed any intent of that here. There are many recipes on this website that include meat or dairy or gluten, and those with different dietary choices comment about how they made the dish vegan or gluten free or accommodating to other dietary needs. It's helpful. You wouldn't say that was impolite and disrespectful of the meat and dairy consumers here, would you? We are all just exchanging information and trying to help each other. I doubt that anyone intends a personal attack. If you can help me make other dishes here into vegan recipes, I'd love that.
     
    Katie K. February 3, 2014
    Amazing. I'm always looking for things to do with parsnips.
     
    caseymsy January 26, 2014
    Tried this yesterday .loved it, tweaked it slightly, added some crushed tomato and used potato only.sprinkled cheese on top ,so not truly vegan.
     
    Christine T. January 10, 2014
    As per the advice of some comments, I added tomato paste, and red wine vinegar to the lentil mix. I also used shiitake mushrooms as I prefer those. What is a really great addition as well is to add a balsamic reduction or aged balsamic to the dish after its plated. It adds some extra flavor and a nice sweetness. I am definitely going to make this again, and I'm planning to try with sweet potato next time.
     
    infinitezest December 1, 2013
    I added tomato paste, fresh minced rosemary, and a heavy splash of red wine vinegar to the lentil vegetable mixture. I also added an entire (mashed) roasted head of garlic to the potato-parsnip mash for extra flavor. It was a hit at Thanksgiving and the leftovers were great!