This red lentil shepherd's pie is totally delicious. It's the ultimate comfort food, but it's also budget friendly, and incredibly healthy. Each helping has 3 portions of vegetables, and it's also packed with healthy fibre.
Why this red lentil shepherd's pie is such a family favourite
The flavour of the red lentil sauce in this dish is really tasty and flavoursome. It's vegan, but will delight meat eaters too. A balanced base of vegetables, with tomato puree and marmite adds a real depth of favour, in combination with the mild earthiness of the lentils. And you really can't go wrong with a cheesy sweet potato topping!
*Easy to make*
Most of the ingredients in the recipe are pantry items, or veggies that you are likely to have in the fridge. It's really easy to make the red lentil sauce, and the sweet potato mash is also very simple. In addition, each portion will only cost around 50 pence.
*Healthy and nutritious*
Red lentil shepherd's pie is super healthy. It's high in protein, and a really good source of iron. It's packed with 3 portions of veg, and high in fibre. If you want a low fat shepherd's pie, omit the cheese or use a low fat cheddar.
*Ideal for meal prep*
Both the assembled dish and the lentil bolognese sauce are great for meal prep. If you want to eat the pie straight away, just pop it under the grill to heat through and save time. If you've prepared it in advance and stored it in the fridge, heat it through in the oven. It also freezes brilliantly. I definitely recommend making double the quantity, either for freezing or enjoying later in the week.
Ps Apologies to shepherds who are feeling left out. I know a shepherd's pie would traditionally contain lamb, but as we've come to know a shepherd's pie as a rich tasty filling underneath a creamy potato topping I've borrowed the name for this veggie version!!
Carrots, celery and onion. This classic combination makes a great flavour base for many recipes. It's sometimes known as a soffritto, which means slightly fried. These 3 veggies are sauted before adding the other ingredients to bring out maximum flavour. It's best to have the carrots, celery and onion very finely chopped so that they cook down well. Even if you've not a fan of celery, try to include it as it'll add subtly to the flavour without being noticeable.
You'll also need a small amount of olive oil or other healthy oil for frying.
Tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. Tinned tomatoes provide some texture in the lentil bolognese, and tomato puree adds a tasty savoury flavour.
Garlic, marmite, thyme. Additional flavourings in this red lentil shepherd's pie are important. Marmite adds an almost meaty, savoury flavour (sometimes called umami). Even if you're not a fan of Marmite on toast, it's worth giving it a try in this recipe. You can use fresh or dried thyme, or if you prefer, add a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs. Garlic compliments the other flavours well, but isn't overpowering. You won't need extra salt in the recipe.
Lentils. You'll need red lentils for this vegetarian shepherd's pie. You'll find them with the other dried pulses in a supermarket or health food shop. They are not usually available in tins, as they'd end up mushy. You don't need to soak red lentils, and they cook quickly, so they are really easy to use. (They are also great in soups such as this red lentil and tomato soup, and butternut squash soup.)
Stock. Although 700ml of stock seems like a lot of liquid, it'll quickly get absorbed by the lentils. You can use either a fresh vegetable stock or a stock cube. If you'd prefer, you could also switch 100 ml of the stock for a glass of red wine.
Sweet potatoes. These are a good source of beta carotene, and they are rich in fibre. They are very easy to prepare and mash and won't go gluey like a white potato. Sweet potato also complements the tomato lentil mixture really well. You can leave the sweet potatoes unpeeled if you prefer, and they'll have slightly more vitamins and fibre. I season the sweet potato mash with a pinch of grated nutmeg.
Why not try slow cooker sweet potatoes if you have any leftovers.
Mature cheddar cheese. This is optional - you can leave the top plain it you prefer. You can use a vegan cheddar, or a low fat cheddar if you like. I like to put half of the cheese into the sweet potato, and the other half on top so there's a crispy cheese layer. A strong tasting cheese will give a better flavour.
How to make red lentil shepherd's pie
Saute the carrots, onion and celery in frying pan for 7-8 minutes. They should start to take on a tiny bit of colour which will add to the flavour.
Then add the garlic, tinned tomatoes and puree, Marmite and herbs, and mix together.
Add the stock and lentils and mix together. Put a lid on the pan, and bring to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the sweet potatoes. Cut them into even sized chunks and place in a pan of boiling water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and mash. You can either mash them by hand or use an immersion blender or food mixer. Season with a pinch of grated nutmeg, and mix in half of the grated cheese. If you're not using cheese, add a pinch of salt to the sweet potato mash.
Pile the cooked red lentil base into an ovenproof dish, and add the sweet potato topping. Add the remainder of the grated cheese.
If you are eating the shepherd's pie immediately, you can pop it under the grill to heat through and brown the top slightly. If you've prepared the dish ahead of time, it'll take longer to heat through. Place it it a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes.
You can also vary this veggie shepherd's pie by using homemade vegan mince with lentils, walnuts and mushrooms. It's got a rich meaty flavour and is a good replacement for minced beef.
Leftovers and freezing
It's definitely worth making extra portions when you make this recipe. Either store the leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days, or leave to cool and freeze.
Individual veggie shepherd's pies
If you have some little individual gratin dishes, they are perfect for making this recipe. Individual pies are easy to serve and easy to freeze.
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Red Lentil Shepherd's Pie
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stick celery finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic peeled and very finely chopped or minced
- 400 g canned tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or use 1 teaspoon dried thyme or mixed dried herbs
- 1 teaspoon Marmite
- 200 g red lentils
- 700 ml vegetable stock or use 1 stock cube plus 750 ml water
- 750 g sweet potatoes cut into cubes about 2 cm
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- 120 g mature cheddar cheese grated
- Place a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and fry the onions, carrot and celery for 7-8 minutes until starting to soften and brown slightly.
- Add the garlic, herbs, Marmite, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. Mix well.
- Add the lentils and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile, boil the sweet potato cubes for 15 minutes. Drain well and mash, seasoning with the grated nutmeg. Stir in half of the grated cheese.
- Pile the red lentil mixture into an overproof dish and top with the sweet potato. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
- If the mixture is freshly cooked and still hot, pop it under a preheated grill to brown the top. If you've prepped the dish before hand and it has been in the fridge, place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes to heat through thoroughly.
- If you'd like, you can reduce the stock by 100 ml and add a glass of red wine to the bolognese sauce
- You can use dairy, vegan or low fat cheddar for this recipe
- It's unlikely you'll need extra salt in this recipe as the Marmite and stock should add plenty of seasoning. If you choose not to add cheese to the sweet potato, you might want to add a pinch of salt to the mash.
- You can cook the red lentil shepherd's pie in one large dish, or make 6 individual dishes which are ideal for freezing.
Please note nutritional information is per serving and is provided for guidance only.