This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (or Vegan Cottage Pie) is true comfort food for fall and for winter with rainbow carrots, zucchini (courgette) and eggplant (aubergine) topped with creamy vegan mashed potatoes. If you are looking for a Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie recipe for Thanksgiving or for Christmas with a light veggie stew filling (no legumes, no grains, and no nuts), this is the one to check out.
It is a classic fall/winter comfort food. When it is grey, wet and cold outside, all you need is a warm, filling and homemade meal such as a steaming bowl of hearty Vegan Beef Stew, or a rich and warm Vegan Bean Chili, or a plateful of veggie-loaded Vegan Pot Pie. But for me, winter also means lots of baking. I love it when my house smells cinnamon while I am making Apple Crisp Pie or Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingerbread Pie Crust.
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
Originally, it is a meat-based pie with a mashed potato topping. They call it Shepherd’s Pie if the meat in it is lamb, but Cottage Pie if the meat is minced beef.
We first ate Shepherd’s Pie when we were living in the UK. It was ages ago, but definitely way before we discovered the benefits of plant-based eating. I don’t think that we tried the traditional one, as we have never been very keen on the lamb. So, I believe it was rather a Cottage Pie with minced beef, which we ate back then. This dish became quite popular in our kitchen for several reasons:
- First, easy to make.
- Second, great for batch cooking.
- Last but not least, we love the flavor that thyme brings to this dish. My wife firmly believes that the main ingredient of any version of Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie vegan, vegetarian or meat-based should be thyme.
Why are we making a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie now?
Well, for one thing, we make it fairly frequently. The other reason is that my wife went shopping and saw these rainbow carrots. Never had them before, but they reminded her of Shepherd’s Pie. So here we go. I am showing you how to make Vegan Shepherd’s Pie exactly as I have made the meat-based version.
Our plant-based version is light, but filling, hearty and full of flavors especially thyme. Just what you might need in this rainy, cloudy fall weather. They are also a perfect main course for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Ingredients of our Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
In this recipe, we opted for a light veggie-packed filling without any legumes, grains or nuts. So the ingredients are the following:
- zucchini (courgette)
- eggplant (aubergine)
- rainbow carrots (yellow, orange and purple)
- tomato paste
- vegetable stock
- thyme and
- bay leaves
What else can I add to this Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie?
I would happily add mushroom, or any of the root vegetables (parsnip, rutabaga, celeriac). You can certainly add legumes like peas, kidney beans or lentils to make the stew loaded with extra protein.
How to make Vegan Shepherd’s Pie?
Prepare the vegetables
Wash, peel and dice carrots and eggplant (we always peel eggplant as its skin can be bitter). Wash and dice zucchini (no need to peel them if it is young so its skin is thin). Peel and chop onions and garlic.
Cook the veggie stew filling
Heat a stockpot or a Dutch oven to medium heat and add olive oil. Cook the chopped onion for 1-2 minutes, add the chopped garlic and cook for a few seconds. First, add the diced carrots. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes. Now, Add diced eggplant and season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir well and cook for a few minutes. The last one to add is the diced zucchini and the bay leaves, as zucchini needs a shorter time to be ready. Stir well and cook for a few minutes.
Add tomato paste and mix it well before pouring in the vegetable stock. I usually only add half of the stock. I only add the other half when the excess water evaporated. Bring to boil and then cook on medium heat until veggies are tender. It already smells amazing. Check the carrots as they will need the longest to soften. If they are soft, all the other veggies are good as well.
Stockpot vs Dutch Oven
We made this recipe several times both in a stockpot and in the Dutch oven. Both of them makes delicious veggie stew.
The Dutch oven is made of thick cast iron so it distributes and keeps the heat more evenly. And due to its enamel coating, it is more unlikely that anything is sticking to the bottom or burning down. While the stockpot is usually made of stainless steel or aluminium thus it is thinner. Therefore, you need to watch the heat more carefully.
Two things to pay attention to if you are making this recipe in a stockpot are
- do not let the liquid evaporate and
- stir more frequently.
Make vegan mashed potatoes
Peel and dice potatoes and cook them in boiling water until tender. When the potatoes are soft, drain the water and transfer the cooked potatoes into a large bowl. Add a bit of dairy-free butter and milk (we usually use our homemade cashew milk). For mashing the potatoes we use a hand mixer. In this way, you will get a very smooth almost foamy texture at the end. If you prefer oil-free mashed potatoes, use the potatoes’ cooking water instead of butter. More top tips here on how to make vegan mashed potatoes.
If you would like to turn your vegan mashed potatoes up a notch, make our Vegan Mashed Potatoes with Celery Root instead. Your guests will never guess why your mashed potatoes have more flavor than their usual version.
Top tips to make Perfect Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
- Chop vegetables evenly – We added carrots first as they need the most time to be cooked, then zucchini and eggplant.
- Cook the veggies until soft – Contrary to Vegan Pot Pies, where you shouldn’t cook veggies until they are soft as pot pies need time in the oven to get the top crust baked. However, with Shepherd’s Pie, we recommend cooking the veggies until they are soft and only broil the top of the mashed potatoes in the oven.
- Thickening the stew – You can evaporate the excess water if you cook them longer. However, if you feel that your stew has too much liquid, you can thicken it starting with one Tablespoon of flour or starch and repeat if needed. It can happen if the zucchini releases a lot of water or you add other veggies that behave similarly like mushrooms.
How to layer a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie?
To layer your Veggie Shepherd’s Pie, first, take 4 mini ramekins or alternatively a large oven-safe glass baking dish if you want to make it in one batch. We prefer to use a glass pot as in this way we get to see exactly how the stew is doing in the oven.
- The bottom layer should be the veggie stew.
- The top layer should be the creamy mashed potatoes.
- To make it even more decadent, you can add an extra layer by sprinkling it with some shredded non-dairy cheese before popping it in the oven.
Take your ramekins or large oven-safe dish and fill them with the boiling veggie stew leaving 1 inch (1-2 cm) empty. Make sure to add from the liquid sauce not only the veggies. Cover them with vegan mashed potatoes and bake them in a pre-heated oven or broiler of 400 Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for 15 minutes.
As everything is already cooked and ready to eat. You don’t need much time to bake this Meatless Shepherd’s Pie in the oven. It just needs to get a nice light brown color on top and the stew should be a little bit of bubbling up around the sides.
What to serve with Vegan Shepherd’s Pie?
The best to serve this Vegan Shepherd’s Pie is right out of the oven. But don’t be mistaken here, it also makes glorious leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Your future self will thank you for it.
As Shepherds Pie is topped with mashed potatoes, we can call it a one-pot meal. You might not even need any other side dish than mashed potatoes and that is totally fine. However, along with the principle of eating the rainbow, let us introduce you to some other side dishes that would pair well with this Vegan Shepherd’s Pie. Wouldn’t they be lovely on your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table next to it?
- Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms
- Sauteed Mushrooms in Soy Sauce Glaze
- Sauteed Carrots in Maple Thyme Glaze
- Shredded Brussels Sprouts, Kale and Apple Salad over at Emily’s (This Healthy Table),
If we make Vegan Shepherd’s Pie during a weeknight, we pair it with some lovely, creamy veggie soup for example:
This Vegan Shepherd’s Pie recipe is meat-free, dairy-free and egg-free. It is also suitable for vegan, vegetarian, nut-free and gluten-free diets. It can also be WFPB-friendly (whole foods plant-based) if you cook the onion and the garlic in water or in veggie broth.
More dinner recipes
- Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
- Vegan Lentil Loaf
- Vegan Mushroom Risotto
- Vegan Cabbage Lasagna
- Vegan Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
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Vegan Shepherd's Pie or Vegan Cottage Pie
Vegan Shepherd's Pie Veggie Stew Filling
Cooking Veggie Stew Filling
- Peel then chop onion and garlic into fine pieces. Peel then dice carrots and eggplant into smaller cubes. Dice zucchini with skin on, also into smaller cubes.
- Pre-heat frying pan on medium heat and fry onion and garlic first. Once it's sauteed, add diced carrots. Stir well and cook for a few minutes.
- Add diced eggplant and season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir well and cook for a few minutes.
- Add diced zucchini and bay leaves at last, as zucchini needs a shorter time to be ready. Stir well and cook for a few minutes.
- Add tomato paste and mix it well before pouring in the vegetable stock. I usually only add half of the stock. I only add the other half when the excess water evaporated.
- Cook until all vegetables are soft. When ready, take them off the heat.
Vegan Mashed Potatoes
- Peel and dice potatoes. Cooked them in salted water until soft. The smaller you dice the potatoes, the faster they will be ready.
- When the potatoes are soft, drain the water and transfer the cooked potatoes into a large bowl. (Reserve cooking water if your want to make oil-free mashed potatoes.)
- Add dairy-free butter and milk (we use our homemade cashew milk) and season with some salt.
- For mashing the potatoes I use a hand mixer. In this way, you will get a very smooth almost foamy texture at the end. For more tips see our Vegan Mashed Potatoes recipe.
Baking Vegan Shepherd's Pie
- Preheat the oven at 400F (200C).
- Take 4 ramekins (8-oz) or 1 larger oven-safe pot (8x8) and add the vegetable stew filling first. Spread it evenly before topping it with creamy vegan mashed potatoes.
- Bake for 15 minutes under a broiler or until it gets light brown on top and the stew is bubbling up around the sides.
- Chop vegetables evenly - We added carrots first as they need the most time to be cooked, then zucchini and eggplant.
- Cook the veggies until soft - Contrary to Vegan Pot Pies, where you shouldn't cook veggies until they are soft as pot pies need time in the oven to get the top crust baked. However, with Shepherd's Pie, we recommend cooking the veggies until they are soft and only broil the top of the mashed potatoes in the oven.
- Thickening the stew - If you feel that your stew has too much liquid, you can thicken it starting with one Tablespoon of flour or starch and repeat if needed. It can happen if the zucchini releases a lot of water or you add other veggies that behave similarly like mushrooms.
- Extra safety - As the stew is bubbling up, we usually put a sheet pan below the oven-safe pot to capture any liquid pouring over the sides. Easier to clean the oven as you only have to wash the sheet pan not your entire oven.
UPDATED: This recipe was originally posted in October 2018, but was rewritten and republished with detailed instructions, and tips in November 2019.