Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils, Mushrooms, and Sweet Potato

When I saw this recipe for Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils, Mushrooms, and Sweet Potato in one of my emails from The Kitchn last week, I swooned. I really did. One of my goals for 2013 is to eat “healthy” during the week, then have fun with a new recipe on the weekend — nutritional emphasis encouraged, but not required. This recipe has it all covered. Filling, tasty, healthy, and promising leftovers to enjoy and share.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, the filling comes together. It starts with lentils and steel-cut oats for heft and bite, flavored with bay leaf.

Mushrooms (both diced and quartered) join forces with carrots, celery, and onions for flavor and fragrance.

Along with garlic, tomato paste, broth, red wine, tamari, and paprika, a generous dose of fresh parsley seals the deal.

Filling complete, it’s smoothed into a casserole dish before being topped with the cooled, peeled, mashed sweet potatoes.

I left my sweet potatoes a little on the lumpy side, but if you’re a “smooth potatoes” purist you can keep at it until they are your preferred consistency.

I loved this vegetarian shepherd’s pie (how could I not when it’s packed with so much delicious stuff?) but my one complaint was that the sweet potatoes tasted a little bland. I thought about how much I love making baked sweet potato fries, which are essentially the same thing, so I added some ketchup to my plate for a little side-dipping, and it was exactly what I had been missing.

My friend Heather got some of the leftovers, and she suggests mixing the potato layer into the lentil layer, then adding a few spoonfuls of pico de gallo (or another chunky, fresh salsa) for a little burst of tomato flavor. I’ll be trying her tip next time!

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils, Mushrooms, and Sweet Potato
Adapted from The Kitchn

5 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup brown or green lentils, washed and picked over
3/4 cup dry steel-cut oats
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound cremini mushrooms, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick each sweet potato several times with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for around 45 minutes , or until very soft to the touch. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the lentils, oats, bay leaf and salt with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are soft but not mushy, stirring occasionally to keep the oats from sticking. Discard bay leaf and drain mixture into a colander.
  3. While the lentils and oats are cooking, finely chop half of the mushrooms and set aside. Cut the remaining mushrooms into quarters. Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the quartered mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until browned and soft.
  4. Add the chopped mushrooms, onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent. Lower heat to medium and add the lentil and oat mixture, followed by the vegetable stock, wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, paprika, and parsley. Taste and add salt if needed. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add a few grinds of black pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the potato skins and place in a medium bowl. Use a fork or potato masher to mash them into a smooth paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Evenly spread the lentil mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Spoon the sweet potato mixture on top and smooth. Drag a fork through the top for ridges. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling at the edges.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Click to view and print the recipe for Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils, Mushrooms, and Sweet Potato.

4 thoughts on “Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils, Mushrooms, and Sweet Potato

  1. ellen says:

    I made this recipe because it sounded good, but it is disappointingly bland. I made it better by doubling the liquid ingredients (tripled the wine). I put the liquids in a saucepan and boiled them until the liquid was reduced by one half. I also added about a tablespoon of thyme.

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