This post may contain affiliate links. By browsing this website, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use.

This Lentil Shepherd’s Pie swaps the traditional ground meat for hearty lentils for a more budget-friendly main dish. It’s the ultimate comfort food recipe that’s beautiful enough for your holiday table, yet easy enough for busy weeknights. 

Pie dish with baked shepherd's pie and a scoop taken out for serving.

Traditional Shepherd’s pie or “cottage pie” originated in rural England, Scotland, and Ireland and was made with minced lamb or ground lamb. It then became a staple in Britain during the 18th century and was brought to the Americas. 

Today in America, most shepherd pie recipes are made using ground beef, as beef is generally more affordable than ground lamb. But like my other healthy vegetarian recipes (Lentil Sloppy Joes, Lentil Meatloaf, Lentil Tacos, Lasagna Soup, and Crockpot Taco Soup), I’m showing you that lentils can make a vegetarian shepherd’s pie that’s equally delicious, yet 14x cheaper than cooking with ground beef

​In 2024, 1 pound of green or brown lentils costs just $1.34. The cheapest ground beef, on the other hand, is $4.88 per pound for 80/20 or nearly $7 a pound for a leaner beef. Swapping just half the beef in your family’s favorite recipes for cooked lentils will drastically lower your grocery bill overtime (and no one will notice the difference!). 

Today we’re making a 100% plant-based version of shepherd’s pie. The whole family will love this $10 dinner!

Ingredients in Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

  • Mashed potatoes: This shepherd’s pie recipe is topped with my Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes made with Yukon Gold potatoes. If you do not have an Instant Pot, don’t worry! I’ve included full stovetop instructions in the blog post as well. 
  • Aromatics: ​You’ll need onion, garlic, and dried thyme.
  • Tomato paste: ​Adds depth of flavor, umami richness, and beautiful color to the filling. 
  • Dry lentils: Use either green lentils, brown lentils, or french green lentils. Avoid red lentils – save these for one of these red lentil recipes
  • Broth: ​I use vegetable broth, but you can also use a beef broth or chicken broth (vegan or regular). 
  • Mixed vegetables: ​Pick up a frozen vegetable medley with carrots, green beans, corn, and peas. 
  • Balsamic vinegar: Adds acidity, a subtle sweetness, and depth of flavor that balances the savory, rich flavors. 

Substitutions

  • Mashed potatoes: ​You can replace my mashed potatoes recipe with your favorite mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes for a sweet potato mash topping. This vegan lentil shepherd’s pie recipe is also a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes, if you have them! 
  • Fresh thyme: ​If you have it, replace the dried thyme with 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme or a combination of fresh herbs. Fresh rosemary would also be great. 
  • Vegetables: Replace the mixed vegetables with 2 cups of fresh veggies, or 2 cups of canned vegetables. 
  • Balsamic vinegar: ​Can replace 1:1 with vegan Worcestershire sauce.

How to Make Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Potatoes before pressure cooking to make the mashed potato topping.
  1. Make the mashed potatoesCook using the desired method, then set aside.
  2. Sauté the onions. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the diced onion and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until the onions soften and begin to brown. 
  3. Add the aromatics and tomato paste. ​Once the onions are beginning to brown, stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and thyme. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. 
  4. Cook the lentils until tender. To the same skillet, add the rinsed lentils, vegetable broth, frozen mixed veggies, balsamic vinegar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir until everything is well combined, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. 
Final mashed potatoes recipe for topping lentil filling.
  1. Preheat the oven. ​10 minutes before the lentils are done cooking, preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease a large casserole dish. I used a deep 9-inch pie dish. 8×11 works great, too. 
  2. Season the filling to taste. ​Once the lentil filling is cooked through, taste and adjust the salt and black pepper as needed. 
  3. Assemble the pie. Transfer the savory lentil filling to a large casserole dish. Top with the fluffy mashed potatoes and smooth out, creating some ridges with a fork. 
  4. Bake. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top of the mashed potatoes are lightly golden brown and crispy. To give them additional color, you can broil for 2-3 minutes at the end as well! 
  5. Serve. Cool the shepherd’s pie for at least 10 minutes to set, then serve while warm, as desired. Enjoy! 
Final baked lentil shepherd's pie in pie dish.

How to Serve

Lentil shepherd’s pie is quite filling on it’s own and complete with protein, vegetables, carbs, and plant-based fats. 

We regularly enjoy it as a stand alone meal, but also love it paired with a simple green salad, a slice of crusty bread or bread rolls, and/or additional roasted vegetables, like these Air Fryer Green Beans or Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts would be perfect! 

Storage Instructions

Leftover shepherd’s pie will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator when covered tightly. Feel free to store directly in the casserole dish, covered tightly with plastic wrap or tin foil. Or, transfer the leftovers to an airtight container. 

Closeup of crispy potato topping.

How to Freeze Shepherd’s Pie

This dish can be frozen before or after baking. It can also be frozen as a whole casserole or in individual servings. If you are making this recipe as a freezer meal to defrost as a quick and easy dinner in the future, I recommend freezing in individual servings as it will defrost and bake much faster in smaller portions. 

  • To freeze in individual servings (best method): Divide the filling between 4-5 2-cup Souper Cubes. Top with the mashed potatoes and let cool to room temperature. Cover, and freeze for up to 2 months. Then, when ready to eat, transfer a 2-cup serving to a 5″ Stoneware Baking Dish and bake, covered, from frozen for 35-45 minutes at 350F.

You’ll love this!

Souper Cubes

My favorite way to freeze individual portions and meals. Use code HOMECOOKEDROOTS10 for 10% off.

  • To freeze as a whole casserole: Assemble in a freezer-friendly casserole dish, then cover tightly with plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to eat, allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, remove the layer of plastic wrap, then bake, covered, at 350F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until completely warmed through. 

How to Make this Shepherd’s Pie Budget-Friendly

  • Look out for deals on potatoes. Every Wednesday, most grocery stores release their weekly ad, showcasing the best discounts in store for the week. I regularly find 10-pound bags of potatoes on sale for $2.99 (even in 2024!) this way and use them to make a number of cheap and delicious potato recipes
  • Buy canned tomato paste, not tomato paste in a tube. The tubed versions are always sold at a premium because they are convenient and easy to store once opened. At my local Walmart in 2024, 6 ounces of the Great Value Tomato Paste costs $0.94. The tubed Tomato Paste costs $2.97 for just 4.56 ounces. Almost 5x more expensive!!! Instead, go for canned and freeze the excess tomato paste in 1-tablespoon scoops so it doesn’t go to waste. 
  • Buy Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base at Costco. It costs just $0.09 per cup and is so much easier to store than tetra-paks or jars. 

The Best Budget-Friendly Vegetable Broth

This bouillon paste contains 100 cups of broth in one jar and sells at Costco Wholesale ONLY for $8.99 (they recently raised the price in 2024!).

Do not buy on Amazon – it is way overpriced!

Closeup of lentil shepherd's pie filling.
Home-Cooked Roots Logo

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

5 from 1 vote

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Cost: $8.21 per recipe / $1.03 per serving
This Lentil Shepherd's Pie swaps the traditional ground meat for hearty lentils for a more budget-friendly main dish. It's the ultimate comfort food recipe that's beautiful enough for your holiday table, yet easy enough for busy weeknights. 

Ingredients
 

Mashed Potatoes – full cooking instructions found on this blog post

  • 3 pounds gold potatoes scrubbed and peeled ($2.70)
  • 1/4 cup butter regular or dairy-free ($0.60)
  • 1 cup sour cream regular or dairy-free ($1.14)
  • 1/4 cup plain milk regular or dairy-free ($0.15)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt ($0.02)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder ($0.06)

Lentil Filling

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil ($0.38)
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped ($0.60)
  • 1 teaspoon salt divided ($0.04)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced ($0.24)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste ($0.24)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme ($0.06)
  • cups dry green or brown lentils rinsed ($0.66)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth ($0.36)
  • 8 ounces frozen mixed veggies ($0.72)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar ($0.24)

Instructions

  • Follow this blog post to make the mashed potatoesCook using the desired cooking method, then set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the diced onion and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until the onions soften and begin to brown. 
  • Once the onions are beginning to brown, stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and thyme. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. 
  • To the same skillet, add the rinsed lentils, vegetable broth, frozen mixed veggies, balsamic vinegar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir until everything is well combined, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. 
  • 10 minutes before the lentils are done cooking, preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease a large casserole dish. I used a deep 9-inch pie dish. 8×11 works great, too. 
  • Once the lentil filling is cooked through, taste and adjust the salt and black pepper as needed. 
  • Transfer the savory lentil filling to a large casserole dish. Top with the fluffy mashed potatoes and smooth out, creating some ridges with a fork. 
  • Place the pie in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top of the mashed potatoes are lightly golden brown and crispy. To give them additional color, you can broil for 2-3 minutes at the end as well! 
  • Cool the shepherd's pie for at least 10 minutes to set, then serve while warm, as desired. Enjoy! 

Storage Instructions

  • Leftover shepherd's pie will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator when covered tightly. Feel free to store directly in the casserole dish, covered tightly with plastic wrap or tin foil. Or, transfer the leftovers to an airtight container. 

Freezing Instructions

  • To freeze in individual servings (preferred): Divide the filling between 4-5 2-cup Souper Cubes. Top with the mashed potatoes and let cool to room temperature. Cover, and freeze for up to 2 months. Then, when ready to eat, transfer a 2-cup serving to a 5″ Stoneware Baking Dish and bake, covered, from frozen for 35-45 minutes at 350F.
  • To freeze as a whole casserole: Assemble in a freezer-friendly casserole dish, then cover tightly with plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to eat, allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, remove the layer of plastic wrap, then bake, covered, at 350F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until completely warmed through. 
  • Mashed potatoes: You can replace my mashed potatoes recipe with your favorite mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes for a sweet potato mash topping. This vegan lentil shepherd’s pie recipe is also a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes, if you have them! 
  • Fresh thyme: If you have it, replace the dried thyme with 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme or a combination of fresh herbs. Fresh rosemary would also be great. 
  • Vegetables: Replace the mixed vegetables with 2 cups of fresh veggies, or 2 cups of canned vegetables. 
  • Balsamic vinegar: Can replace 1:1 with vegan Worcestershire sauce.

Notes

  • To save time, you can prepare the mashed potatoes 1-2 days in advance. 
How to Make this Shepherd’s Pie Budget-Friendly:
  • Look out for deals on potatoes. Every Wednesday, most grocery stores release their weekly ad, showcasing the best discounts in store for the week. I regularly find 10-pound bags of potatoes on sale for $2.99 (even in 2024!) this way and use them to make a number of cheap and delicious potato recipes
  • Buy canned tomato paste, not tomato paste in a tube. The tubed versions are always sold at a premium because they are convenient and easy to store once opened. At my local Walmart in 2024, 6 ounces of the Great Value Tomato Paste costs $0.94. The tubed Tomato Paste costs $2.97 for just 4.56 ounces. Almost 5x more expensive!!! Instead, go for canned and freeze the excess tomato paste in 1-tablespoon scoops so it doesn’t go to waste. 
  • Buy Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base at Costco. It costs just $0.09 per cup and is so much easier to store than tetra-paks or jars. 

Nutrition

Calories: 462kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 1155mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 7g

Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American

Did You Love This Recipe?

Rate the recipe here and make sure to leave a comment below!

5 from 1 vote

More Lentil Recipes to Try

12 Dirt Cheap Weeknight Dinners ebook page.
12 Dirt Cheap Weeknight Dinners ebook cover.

Wallet-Friendly Recipes & Smart Shopping Tips in Your Inbox

Plus get a free cookbook with 12 Dirt Cheap Dinner Ideas that’ll cost you $2 or less per serving.

leave a comment

I love to hear from you. Submit your recipe questions or review here and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

related recipes