Lentil, quinoa & barley vegetarian shepherd’s pie with a potato, parsnip and goats cheese topping! This veggie pie is packed with flavor and texture. It’s sure to be adored by your family and is one of the healthiest comfort food dishes you can prepare. Easily adapted to be gluten free.
Please note: This recipe is tagged as gluten free because it’s very easy to adapt by leaving out the barley and marmite. See recipe notes for more information.
Lentils, quinoa and barley make up the bulk of this vegetarian shepherd’s pie. These foods have everything going for them. They are cheap, healthy, easy to cook, filling and so adaptable. Why don’t I eat them more often?
Lentils and grains can really excel in recipes where they are intended to replace ground meat, but they need a lot of help in doing so. You can not just do a straight-up substitution of beef to lentils because where meat would have added flavor to the dish, the lentils are soaking it all in. You need much more to go around.
This filling is loosely based on the “lentil mustard pottage” recipe in Leith’s Vegetarian Bible. This was the recipe that finally convinced me that I could cook lentils in a way that would be tasty… after being instructed to add a serious amount of mustard to the equation.
As this veggie shepherd’s pie recipe evolved, adding some grains felt like the right thing to do. I opted for quinoa and barley, and having all three makes for a more interesting mix of textures as well as ticking a lot more nutritional boxes.
There is not huge list of ingredients for this pie, but the filling is absolutely flavorful enough because the ingredients are all very strong.
Mustard powder and prepared dijon mustard go a long way to infusing a savory depth, without it getting spicy.
If you can get your hands on faux beef stock, definitely use it. It makes a difference for sure.
Yep. It’s brilliant at adding a beefy and umami note to vegetarian sauces.
Aussies, go ahead and use vegemite. Americans, I know this is not a common household ingredient for you but you can buy it on Amazon and Amazon is full of grateful Americans who have been converted to this rather eccentric British concoction.
If you don’t have it, you will need to add something else to inject some added umami to the recipe. If you’ve got the faux beef stock, you’re good to go. If you’ve got neither, add more mustard, herbs and other strong ingredients.
And this topping. Oh, this topping. It is rather stealing the show in these photos, mostly due to my general lack of food styling abilities. But whatever, it’s so much prettier than the filling anyway. (Delicious does not always equal pretty.)
This topping plays a bigger role in this pie than in more traditional shepherd’s pie recipes. It carries a whole load of flavor of its own.
A mix of potatoes and parsnips are whipped with goats cheese to form a creamy and luxurious mash. This is topped with a sharp cheddar cheese and some sliced green onions. Every bite is a little bit different and interesting.
But the most important thing to remember is how adaptable this recipe is.
Variations on this Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
You can easily use your own favorite grains in the filling, and bring in your own favorite cheeses or veggies to the mash.
- Replace some of the grain with kidney beans for additional texture.
- Try blue cheese in the topping instead of goats cheese.
- Use sweet potato instead of parsnip in the mash.
- Add a little pour of red wine to the filling.
For me, this iteration of veggie shepherds pie was the best, but if you start with my recipe, in a couple years you may have taken it in a whole new direction, and your best will be rather different. So go forth and make pie! Hope you enjoy it.
Want more lentil recipes?
The Best Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
- 3 potatoes, chopped (you could peel the the potatoes if you don’t like skins in your mashed potato, but I leave them on)
- 5 parsnips, chopped
- 125 g (4.5 oz) goats cheese
- A few spoonfuls of butter
- A couple handfuls of cheddar cheese
- 1 bunch of spring onions, aka green onions or salad onions, sliced, with the green and white bits separated
- 2 onions, minced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 200 g (7 oz) mushrooms , sliced
- 2 Tbsp dried herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme
- 1 Tbsp + 1 Tsp of dried mustard powder
- 1 Tbsp + 1 Tsp of dijon mustard
- 500 g (2.5 cups) mix of green lentils, quinoa and barley*
- 1500-1700 ml 6 or 7 cups of vegetable stock (faux beef stock works great too and gives a darker color to the filling)
- 1 spoonful of Marmite*
- 2 bay leaves
- 250 g (1 cup) frozen peas
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat a few glugs of olive oil a large saucepan, and cook the carrots and onions until they start to soften (maybe 3-5 minutes).
- Add the mushrooms, herbs and mustard powder. Cook until the mushrooms start to let out moisture and the herbs are fragrant (another 2-3 minutes)
- Add the lentils, quinoa and barley (or whatever combo you’re using) to the pan along with the vegetable stock, marmite and bay leaves.
- Bring to a low boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly, until the grains have cooked. You may need to add more liquid throughout. It depends on your grains so just keep an eye on things.
- Meanwhile, make the topping. Boil the potatoes and parsnips for 15-20 minutes until both are fully cooked. Drain and return to the pan with the goats cheese and butter. Using a hand mixer, whip the mixture until it’s creamy and totally smooth.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 355F
- Once the filling is fully cooked, add the frozen peas and cook for another few minutes until they are defrosted.
- Assemble the pie. Pour the filling into a large oven dish (see notes below) and top with the mashed potato and parsnip mixture. Add the grated cheddar and the white parts of the spring onion to the top.
- Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes.