Meatless Monday: Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Main Courses, Meatless, Vegan / Monday, February 28th, 2011

When I announced last Monday that I was going vegan for a week, I was being optimistic.

Deep down, I thought I might break around Day 5 and NEED a cheeseburger. Need it like sinners need Jesus. And then I’d write about how I just couldn’t hang with it.

But I DID hang with it. Over those seven days, I lost three pounds, my sinuses cleared up, and I started getting these crazy energy boosts. My typical two-mile workout jumped to five.

I feel GOOD.

Did I have cravings? Hell yes, especially after I watched Anthony Bourdain eat his way through Charleston on “No Reservations.” That was rough. But I had a secret weapon: Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new vegan cookbook, “Appetite for Reduction.”

It’s loaded with creative recipes that you can get geeked-up about trying: Pad Thai Salad with Peanut-Lime Dragon Dressing, Big Fat Taco Salad with avocado-edamame guacamole, Curried Corn and Veggie Chowder, Veggie Potpie Stew and Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits.

They’re the kind of recipes that help you focus on what you CAN have instead of what you can’t.

One of my favorite recipes from the book is Moskowitz’s Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd’s Pie, a bed of cauliflower mashed potatoes topped with stewed lentils, mushrooms, zucchini, onion, carrots and peas.

I’m not usually a lentil fan, so I was surprised by how meaty they tasted with the mushrooms and zucchini. When I put the filling on the bottom of my bowl and piled the cauliflower mashed potatoes on top, the lentil mixture just registered as a meaty stew.

This shepherd’s pie is as hearty and satisfying as the original, but it’s also way more body-friendly. (A mammoth two-cup portion is 400 calories, with 5.5 grams of fat, 16 grams of fiber, 19 grams of protein and more than 100 percent of your daily requirements for vitamins A and C.)

It’s comfort food you don’t have to work off.

So, am I giving up barbecue and fried chicken for life?


But I am keeping veganism in my diet, whether that means being like Michael Pollan(who eats vegan until 6 p.m.) or being a weekday vegan or just finding the combination that works for me.

P.S. If you’re interested in trying a few vegan recipes, I’ve added a new “Vegan” category to the Recipe Index.

Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s “Appetite for Reduction”

Makes 4 servings; 210 calories per serving (Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes counted separately)

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) shiitake mushrooms, chopped (Feel free to substitute another mushroom.)
  • 1 zucchini, diced small ( 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon or oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup carrots (about 3), peeled and diced small
  • 3/4 cup du Puy lentils (also called French lentils), rinsed (You could substitute another lentil.)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (recommended: Annie’s, Wizard’s or Edward & Sons)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 recipe Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (recipe below)
  1. Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and saute them until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots, lentils and broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring every once in a while.
  4. By this point, the lentils should be tender, and most of the broth should be absorbed. (If that hasn’t happened, then keep the pot covered and simmer the lentils a while longer. Conversely, if the broth has evaporated and the lentils are not soft, then add a bit of water and simmer.)
  5. When the lentils are soft, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, corn (if using) and peas. Let the mixture sit off the heat for 10 minutes or so for maximum flavor. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  6. To Serve: Spoon a cup of Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes into a bowl, and top it with a cup of lentils.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Makes 4 servings; 190 calories per serving

  • 2 russet potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (1 pound, or about 3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place the potatoes in a 4-quart pot, and fill it with enough cold water to cover them, making sure there are about 4 inches of extra water on top (for when you add the cauliflower). Bring the potatoes to a boil.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add the cauliflower, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.
  3. Drain them in a colander, return them to the pot, and use a potato masher to mash them a bit.
  4. Add the oil, 2 tablespoons of broth, and the salt and pepper. Mash a bit more. Use a fork to make sure all the seasoning are mixed well.
  5. If needed, add another 2 tablespoons of broth. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Serve warm.

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36 thoughts on “Meatless Monday: Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

    1. Most brands do, but there are vegan brands, like Annie's, Wizard's and Edward & Sons. I should make a note in the recipe about that … Thanks!

  1. YUM – this rocks my non-vegan world. And so does your blog. I only found you recently but have grown addicted to your compelling voice (the writing) and your great take on recipes and food. Thank you!

  2. I don't think I could ever go fully vegan but I do try to eat at least vegetarian several times a week. Shepherd's Pie is a regular in my house so I might try this version next time.

  3. This is a fabulous recipe! I have never tried shepherds pie with lentils before, and can't wait to try! I'm a vegetarian and found giving up meat was a great choice for me. For so many more reasons than just "saving the animals". Great post!

  4. Hey thanks for posting this! Looks delicious. Even just taking small steps makes a big difference.

    Check out for some encouragement, too :)

  5. I'm not sure I can go without cheese, but you're awesome!! Congrats! I'm going veggie during the week (I know the feeling…by Friday…), so going to definitely try this!

  6. So glad to hear you had such a positive vegan experience! I have been making a conscious effort to eat vegetarian most days of the week, though I admittedly don't think I could give up cheese!

  7. Rebecca, you are so funny! I hope you end up with a nationally syndicated column so I can read you every day!

  8. I enjoy your site and am glad you are adding a vegan category. More importantly, I'm glad to hear that your experiment went well! I think many people assume vegans have a boring, restrictive diet…and as you now know from your experiement, it's just the opposite!

  9. Wow, I am impressed that you went vegan for a whole week! I like lentils but I rarely cook with them so this one sounds like a great place to start.

    BTW, I'm a huge fan of your blog! I love your intros to the recipes. Thank you!

  10. This looks great! We eat vegetarian a few times a week, and I suppose many of those meals ARE vegan with no dairy or other animal product … but I just don't think I could give up eggs and cheese for good. And I'm with you on craving the occasional fried chicken and cheeseburger and I'll take 'em, thankyouverymuch..

  11. you think it really helped your sinuses?? Tell me more!!!! By the way this looks amazing and I am making it tomorrow!!!

  12. Looks sososo good! I have to make this right away. I've been reading Jonathan Safran Foer's 'Eating Animals', so my interest in doing just that had plummeted to zero at the moment…

  13. I love your recipes and your writing. I'm so glad you have this great balance of meatless Mondays and crazy, fattening desserts. You are my hero.

  14. This is a cool idea. You could also make it quite seasonal by adding butternut squash, pumpkin, or some hearty winter greens (kale, collards) to this dish.

  15. Love this post! I too enjoy vegan food, though I am not strictly vegan. I cut back tremendously on meat for over a year now (limited to a couple of bites every couple of weeks…depending on if my hubby is eating a gyro or a meatball I can't restist)…I have adjusted well to my new way of eating and like you said, I feel GOOD. I love this recipe and will have to try it out. I also like what you said about focusing on the recipes about the food you CAN eat versus can't…

    good post girl! :)

  16. I meant to comment on this a while back, but I know what you mean about feeling better on a vegan diet. It's amazing what effects dairy products have on the body (particularly the mucous-y parts). But I so love cheese…

  17. This looks really delicious! I am not a vegetarian, but try to eat this way a few times a week. I have lots of friends that are vegetarian, so I am always on the lookout for great recipes. This looks soooo good…

  18. I love Shepherds Pie. This really sounds amazing. Not sure if my kiddos would think so, maybe I'll give it a try.

  19. I made this tonight. Absolutely delicious! I'd cut way back on the broth next time though (I had to cook it uncovered an additional 20 minutes to burn off the excess.) But it's a really flavorful dish. My only change was to use a different Mashed Cauliflower Recipe. I chose one by Eating Well Magazine that's 100% cauliflower (instead of a potato-cauli combination.) It's delicious too & I highly recommend it:
    Thanks for sharing this recipe (and your fabulous blog in general!)

  20. […] and her hair appointments to slave in the kitchen, my time is a bit more restricted. When I found this recipe that uses lentils, cauliflower, olive oil, and requires no baking I was sold. Seriously it’s as […]

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