Make-Ahead Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie - Vegetarian | Vegan

Shepherd's pie and I - we... well, we don't have a very good history. And by not very good, I mean quite horrible. I'm talking PTSD triggered by the words alone.

(Literally anyone around me): "Shepherd's Pie."
Me: (Flashback) Cue the image of my 10-year old self, crying and *welp* vomiting at the kitchen table.

It was a mix of really not liking ground beef, (my parents supported me when I came out as a vegetarian a couple of years later), not really liking potatoes, and REALLY not liking that they were taking something that I loved (corn) and somehow turning it vile and unpalatable.

Fast-forward twenty something years, and my husband tells me that he would like me to make one of his favourite meals, which happens to be... you guessed it... Shepherd's pie. I freeze. My heart starts to palpitate. Sweat covers my body. *Gulp* I can do this. I can conquer this fear.

I started out by replacing the things that I hate with the things that I love: regular potatoes with sweet potatoes, and ground beef with Dupuy lentils and sautéed mushrooms. The corn, well, it's still corn, because I still love it. Full disclosure: I was still quite reluctant to take my first bite, as the idea of eating anything resembling Shepherd's pie still made my palms sweaty.

Lo and behold, it was damn delicious.

I definitely added butter to my mashed sweet potatoes, but if you're keeping this vegan, a little olive oil and a couple of pinches of salt will do in it's place. The rest is entirely vegan and so hearty that my meat-loving husband insisted that I "write this down and make this again. All the time."

  • Substitute dry lentils for canned (make sure to drain and rinse!) 
  • Substitute homemade BBQ sauce for store-bought
  • Prepare potatoes and lentils the day before assembly

Vegan Shepherd's Pie
with Lentils, Mushrooms and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
an original recipe by allison sklar

ORGANIZATIONAL TIP: As lentils and potatoes both take a long time to cook, I like to prepare them the day before. You can organize yourself with the lentils on one burner at the same time as the potatoes are on the other. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and it's all ready to assemble the next day!


682g (2 cans) corn niblets, drained
1/4 cup fried onions (You can find these at Costco, or in the salad section of any large grocery store.)

1 kg sweet potato, peeled and cubed
6 cups water
100ml olive oil or butter
6 tbsp honey or date molasses
1/4 tsp salt (if not using butter)

2 cups Dupuy (brown or green) lentils, cooked*
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 onions, diced
2 packages mushrooms, diced
1 bulb garlic (about 16 cloves), half diced, half shredded

homemade smoky BBQ sauce
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp hot sauce (such as Frank's)
2 tsp molasses
a few drops liquid smoke
pinch salt & freshly ground pepper

Bring potatoes, water, honey (or molasses) and butter (or olive oil) to a boil. Cover and continue cooking over medium heat until much of the water has been absorbed and the potatoes are nice and soft, about 40 minutes. Do not drain. Mash with a potato masher, or transfer to a food processor for an even smoother result.

Mix all sauce ingredients together & set aside. In large saucepan, heat oil on high heat. After about two minutes, reduce heat to medium and add onions (they should sizzle!). Stir once or twice with a heatproof or wooden spatula. Once onions begin to become translucent, add mushrooms and garlic. (After this, stir only once or twice. Do not stir too much as the mushrooms will lose their water and become boiled rather than sautéed!) Allow everything to become slightly golden, about 10 minutes.
Add lentils and BBQ sauce and stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spread lentil mixture evenly into greased 9x13 baking dish.
Top with corn kernels.
Top with mashed sweet potato.
Sprinkle on fried onions & ground black pepper.
Bake for 25 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

*To cook lentils from dry: rinse under cold running water and remove any visible stones or rocks.
In medium saucepan, bring lentils and 4 cups water to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until lentils are tender and water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.