Vegetarian food blog featuring delicious and nutritious whole food recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils

Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This vegetarian shepherd’s pie is winter comfort food at its best. It’s my take on my grandmother’s “best shepherd’s pie ever”. Lentils and vegetables form a rich umami base which is topped with cheesy mashed potato.

When I first posted this lentil shepherd’s pie I called it Granny’s shepherd’s pie. But it really isn’t. It reminds me of my grandmother because if ever anyone asks me what my favourite dish is, I’m most likely to say Granny’s shepherd’s pie. Hers was a true British dish. It’s become a legend in our family and often comes up in conversation at family get togethers. It’s been many years now since I’ve eaten it; my grandmother is no longer alive and I’ve been a vegetarian for the last twenty years or so. Because of this, I’ve renamed it vegetarian shepherd’s pie. But whenever I eat it, it always reminds me of my much loved grandmother.

I don’t even know how Granny made her version, except for one thing, she always added baked beans to her shepherd’s pie. This is the legacy she has left. So although I make my shepherd’s pie with lentils rather than lamb and tend to use whatever vegetables I have to hand, I always add a tin of baked beans.

Oxo Good Grips

As always, it’s good to get tooled up for the job. Our tin opener has been faltering of late and I have never had a decent sized serving spoon. Luckily, OXO have come to the rescue – just in time to make this dish. The OXO Good Grips range of utensils are specifically designed for comfort and ease of use. I needed the tin opener for the baked beans. What a joy to open the tin without a hitch. It was easy to use and to quote OXO has “an oversized knob” which does indeed turn with little effort. The handles have a particularly comfortable grip too.

OXO Good Grips

The large spoon was perfect for scooping out a whole portion intact and it dished up the pie beautifully. The stainless steel makes it particularly durable and again the handle is very comfortable. Both implements are sturdy and stylish and are welcome additions to my kitchen utensils.

Rapeseed Oil

Rapeseed Oil

As well as a large plate of cake, I came away from our Clandestine Cake Club meeting last week, with a bottle of Mrs Middleton’s Oil. Our CCC organiser, Ellie Michell, has many strings to her bow and this cold pressed rapeseed oil, grown on the family farm in Bedfordshire, is one of them. It is nutty in flavour and has a beautiful golden colour. It’s fabulous used as a salad dressing or as a simple dip for bread. I was certainly happy to use it in my lentil shepherd’s pie.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

I’ve not made a veggie shepherd’s pie for quite a while as it is not a spring or summer dish, But now autumn is upon us, it feels like the right sort of time for something warm, comforting and bathed in nostalgia. As it’s now British Food Fortnight which celebrates the glory of good British food and runs from 21 September to 6 October this year, I give you my vegetarian take on Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie.

I tend to use whatever vegetables I have to hand, but carrots and celery are a sort of must have. Mushrooms are always a good addition and I have a secret ingredient for extra richness and colour. We grow our own sarpo potatoes, so I was able to use those for the mash. The quantity given in the recipe here made us one large (ish) pie and one small one. It’s definitely enough to feed six hungry people.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie with Lentils

Oh, this pie was so good, I can’t tell you. It gave the two of us three substantial dinners and if we weren’t so greedy would have done four. Last night, I arrived home from work, soaking wet, tired and hungry. CT had the mini version in the oven and the smell when I opened the front door was not only mouth-watering but so comforting too. My mood quickly changed from despondency to delight. A mouthful of this takes me right back to Granny’s house and I can’t help feeling that my shepherd’s pie is nearly as good as hers.

Chocolate Shepherd’s Pie

I have a magic ingredient for my vegetarian shepherd’s pie. You’ve probably guess it. Yes that’s right, it’s chocolate. You may wonder, but do try it. It makes this savoury dish, somehow even more savoury. Does chocolate, perhaps, contain that elusive umami flavour? It also gives a nice rich brown colour to the gravy and has a thickening effect too. The chocolate isn’t detectable as such, but it adds richness, thickness and colour which turns a good dish into an exceptional one.

Other Savoury Chocolate Recipes You Might Like

I’ve even made a six course chocolate themed dinner which was even better than it sounds. And for even more savoury chocolate inspiration, take a look at the savoury chocolate category on Tin and Thyme.

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Lentil Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. PIN IT.

Lentil Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – The Recipe

Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd's Pie
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5 from 1 vote

Veggie Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This is a vegetarian take on my grandmother’s excellent shepherd’s pie. Lentils and vegetables form a rich umami base which is topped with cheesy mashed potato. Add whatever vegetables you have to hand plus dark chocolate for extra richness and colour.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Soaking Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British
Keyword: lentils, mushrooms, pie, potatoes
Servings: 6 people


  • 8 oz whole brown lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large carrots – chopped
  • 1 large stick celery – chopped
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 large onion – chopped
  • 1 courgette – chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 8 chestnut mushrooms
  • several sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp tamari or shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 1 400g tin baked beans
  • 25 g 70% dark chocolate (optional) (I used 100%)
  • 5 large floury potatoes – scrubbed and chunked
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 120 g cheddar cheese - grated
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Soak the lentils for a few hours in cold water or for 1 hour in hot water. This reduces the cooking time. Wash well and just cover with water. Add the bay leaves and bring to the boil.
  • Add the carrots and celery and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
  • In a separate pan, fry the onions in the oil for a few minutes. Chop two of the garlic cloves and add to the pan. then add the courgette followed by the mushrooms. Fry for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the fried vegetables to the lentils together with the thyme, beans and soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
  • Simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir well and pour into a large casserole dish or two smaller ones.
  • Boil the potatoes in slightly salted water with the remaining clove of garlic for about 15 minutes or until soft.
  • Drain the potatoes and garlic, add the milk and mash. Add 100g of the cheese and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.
  • Spread the mash over the lentils. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake at 180℃ (350℉, Gas 4) for about 25 minutes when the lentils are bubbling and the mash is nicely browned on top.


Of course being British, you’d hope that most of the ingredients involved would be not only British, but as local as possible. Whilst I can’t claim that the lentils are British, most everything else was either grown in Cornwall or bought from small local shops. I buy the lovely organic milk I use from our local market and it comes from Ayreshire cows from Helsett Farm on the north coast of Cornwall. The potatoes, garlic and courgettes were grown by my own fair hands, so you can’t get much more local than that. I am thus submitting this to Shop Local over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen.

As I used sprigs of fresh thyme from the garden as well as bay leaves, I am entering this into Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

Family Foodies is a new monthly challenge to showcase food that the whole family will enjoy. Hosted by Louisa of Eat Your Veg and Venesther of Bangers & Mash, this month’s theme is week-end slowies.

I’m also sharing my chocolate veggie shepherd’s pie with Lost in Food for #CookBlogShare.


  1. Laura @ Kneadwhine

    3rd October 2013 at 8:36 am

    I keep meaning to make my veggie ‘shepherdless’ pie for my blog and then don’t get around to it. I’m pinning this as an alternative – looks really good!

  2. Louisa, Eat Your Veg

    3rd October 2013 at 8:22 am

    Oh lovely Choclette! Just when I was on a bit of a quest to find a fab veggie Shepherd’s Pie recipe, loving the baked beans & choccie additions. Shall definitely be giving it a whirl, thanks so much!

  3. belleau kitchen

    3rd October 2013 at 8:35 am

    such a lovely post… The Viking always makes me put baked beans in shepherds pie when I make it as he says that’s what his mum put i hers, so there’s clearly a tradition there… it’s a lovely recipe, thanks so much for sharing x

  4. Foodycat

    3rd October 2013 at 8:43 am

    I have one of those OXO can openers – they really are good!

  5. Laura Denman

    3rd October 2013 at 9:59 am

    I’ve only ever heard of chocolate being added to chilli before but because all of your dishes sound lovely I’m going to be brave the next time I make a cottage pie and add some to it. Or I might just give your veggie version a go because it looks so yummy =)

  6. Jacqueline Meldrum

    3rd October 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I made a lentil shepherds pie this week too. No chocolate though, although I do add it to my chiilii and it does enrich the flavour.

  7. Johanna GGG

    3rd October 2013 at 1:27 pm

    As soon as I saw the title I hoped you had chocolate in it – I love baked beans in stews – not sure if it happened much in my childhood but I did love tinned baked beans and still do. I can imagine the chocolate added to the richness of the gravy which is right and proper in a good shepherd’s pie

  8. Elizabeth S

    3rd October 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Oh yum! It’s cold, windy and miserable up here in Shetland, I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner and i want this in my oven RIGHT NOW!! Thank you for sharing your lovely recipe with Shop Local!

  9. Galina Varese

    5th October 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Sounds absolutely delightful, and I love the story behind the recipe.

  10. Karen S Booth

    7th October 2013 at 7:31 pm

    A wonderful recipe and a great story behind this lovely shepherd’s pie too! I love the addition of baked beans in this, Karen

  11. Alida

    9th October 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Lovely recipe Choclette! Nice especially now that it is gradually getting colder. And I love those utensils too. If there is something I cannot stop buying is kitchen gadgets!

  12. Elaine Livingstone

    11th October 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I love shepards pie but have never thought to add chocolate – Im loving this linky.

  13. Deena Kakaya

    19th October 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I just found you after entering Karen’s herb challenge and have to say I do love a proper veggie shepherds pie, loving the look of this recipe…think I need some now! X

  14. Tracy

    12th September 2015 at 4:05 pm

    I always used to put baked beans in my shepherds pie too – adds a nice sweetness. Yummy, and lovely to do it because of the memories too.

    • Choclette

      12th September 2015 at 5:51 pm

      I expect it was quite traditional at one point in order to bulk out expensive meat. Watching the pennies must have resulted in all sorts of innovation.

  15. Rosemary

    18th October 2019 at 8:53 am

    I’ve never thought about adding chocolate when I make veggie shepherds pie – what a great idea. I often add it when I make veggie chilli but never thought about what it might add in other dishes. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Choclette

      19th October 2019 at 11:52 am

      Yay, my pleasure. Chocolate has a really interesting effect on some savoury dishes I’ve found. It not only adds richness, but also a certain umami something.


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