This meatless Shepherd’s pie has an incredibly tasty and textured filling with a mix of lentils, quinoa & barley (though you don’t have to use all three) and a creamy goat cheese mashed potato topping. Packed with flavor and texture, it can easily be adapted to suit your family perfectly. This is vegetarian comfort food at its very best.

This recipe was originally published in 2015, but has been updated for 2023 to give more precise measurements, different proportions and a better flavor. If you’re here because you love the old recipe, you can see what’s changed and access the original version here.

Look no further for a tried and tested vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

When it’s time to start living your best cozy life, you can’t do much better than a big pan of Shepherd’s pie! But making this dish excel without meat may seem tricky. And it is. Lucky for you, I have put YEARS of trial and error into mastering vegetarian Shepherd’s pie so that you don’t have to! You can just take this recipe, take my notes, and get it right the very first time.

My recipe uses the usual veggies plus a combination of lentils, pearl barley and quinoa to make up the bulk of the filling. Lentils and grains can really excel in recipes where they are intended to replace ground meat, but they need help! Where meat would have added flavor to the dish, our lentils and grains are soaking it all up, so we have to give them a lot to work with. And because we want this pie to be completely epic, we are also going to make an extra tasty cheesy root mash topping with a cheesy topping and making sure there is not a single bland bite to be had here.

Nothing about this recipe is half hearted, and it does take a little bit of time, so make this on a weekend when you’ve got some time. Put on some tunes, pour a glass of wine if you wish, and we’ll make magic happen!

Reader Feedback for Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

This is delicious, we are constantly trying out vegetarian alternative recipes for comfort food we love and have been so disappointed until trying this. Clean plates all round including my four year old who is stereotypically fussy! Love the fact that it’s made from lots of staple and cheap ingredients, gorgeous thank you!


Made this for New Year’s Day lunch… it was a big success. The best veggie shepherd’s pie recipe I’ve tried. And marmite was a great “secret ingredient”. Thanks!


Delicious! My husband just said it was one of the best things I’ve ever made.


Ingredient Notes for the Filling

Everything you need to know to understand the mechanics of this recipe and customize it to your tastes…

  • Lentils, quinoa and barley are our “meat”. They work together really nicely to create a varied texture. I like to weigh it more towards lentils (1 cup of lentils, 1/3rd cup each of barley and quinoa) which turns out quite soft, but if you upweight the barley you get something with a lot more chew to it. Also, feel free to only use lentils or to use two out of three of these ingredients. Just aim for 1 2/3rd cups of whichever grains you wish.
  • Meatless beef style stock: When I first created this recipe in 2015, I recommended using this if you could find it, but nowadays vegan ingredients are more widely available so I am going to assume that you can. In the US there is “Better than Boullion” brand and in the UK there is an Oxo Meatless Beef. You will get much better results using this over vegetable stock.
  • Mustard powder and prepared dijon mustard go a long way to infusing a savory depth, without it getting spicy. This is an idea I’ve borrowed from a mustard lentil recipe in Leith’s Vegetarian Bible and the entire recipe was kind of born from that.
  • Miso or Marmite / Vegemite adds some additional umami flavor. Marmite was in the original recipe and my UK readers love it, but I have always wanted to offer an alternative to overseas readers. I have now tested it with miso and it works just as well.
  • It’s optional, but the pat of butter in the pan with the herbs helps to infuse some richness and enhance the flavors. Not completely necessary if you want to keep this on the lighter side, but I do notice a difference when I use it.
  • With so many different things going in to add flavor to this recipe, don’t stress too much if you have a missing ingredient. Taste it and decide if you’d like to add more of another flavor source instead, but you may feel like it’s perfectly tasty enough without the missing ingredient anyway.
  • You can control how saucy the filling is – those grains really drink up liquid, so just add additional stock (or red wine) as needed to get the texture right.

Ingredient Notes for the Topping

If you want to save time, you can of course use a premade mashed potato, you can also just use your favorite mashed potato recipe. But for the full epic-ness of this recipe, do use my root mash if you can!

  • I like to use 2/3rd white potatoes and 1/3 parsnip, sweet potato or a bit of both. This yields a super comforting fluffy mash with a nice hit of sweetness. You can play around with these ratios and you can’t go too wrong.
  • You want a soft creamy goat cheese, not an aged one with a rind.
  • As is always the case with cheese, a mature / aged cheddar tastes best.
  • The cheese topping is completely optional – I have enjoyed this many times without it and I wouldn’t consider it critical to the recipe’s success so if it feels like overkill, or you’re looking to cut ingredients or calories down, go ahead and skip it.
  • You don’t have to use the same cheese in the mash and for topping. You might wish to get some pre-bagged cheese for the topping, it’s fine either way, but those pre-bagged cheeses tend to brown a little quicker than when you grate it off the block. So you’re either going to need to bake it a little less time (which means the pie won’t be as “set”) or you could add it for the last 10-15 minutes of baking time.

More Vegetarian Comfort Food Staples

I have sooooo many more classic recipes made meatless – these are perfect for those who are new to vegetarian cooking…

The Best Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

This meatless Shepherd's pie has an incredibly tasty and textured filling with a mix lentils, quinoa & barley (though you don't have to use all three) and a creamy goat cheese mashed potato topping. Packed with flavor and texture, it can easily be adapted to suit your family perfectly. This is vegetarian comfort food at its very best.
4.79 from 19 ratings



  • 800 g (28 oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped – weigh before peeling
  • 400 g (14 oz) parsnips, sweet potatoes or both, peeled and chopped – weigh before peeling
  • 50 g (3.5 tbsp) salted butter
  • 125 g (4.5 oz) goats cheese
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) cheddar cheese
  • 180 g (1.5 cups) additional grated cheese, for topping – can be more cheddar or a mixed blend
  • 1 small bunch sliced green (spring) onions, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 300 g (10 oz) mushrooms , diced
  • 40 g (3 tbsp) salted butter
  • 1 Tbsp dried provencal herbs
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1.5 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1.5 Tbsp dried mustard powder
  • 2-3 Tbsp red wine, approximate
  • 190 g (1 cup) dry green or brown lentils
  • 60 g ( cup) dry quinoa
  • 60 g ( cup) dry barley
  • 1 litre (4.5 cups) meatless beef style broth
  • 1 tbsp marmite or miso
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 150 g (1 cup) frozen peas
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • In a large, deep saucepan or casserole pan, heat a thin layer of olive oil and saute the carrots and onions over a medium heat until they start to soften.
    1 large carrot, 2 medium onions
  • Add the mushrooms and garlic, and cook until the mushrooms start to let out moisture and reduce.
    300 g mushrooms, 3 cloves garlic
  • Add the butter, herbs and mustard powder and mix through just until the fragrance is released and the butter is melted. If you're using the red wine, add it now to deglaze the pan. Saute for a couple of minutes, allowing the vegetables soak it in
    40 g salted butter, 1 Tbsp dried provencal herbs, 2 tsp dried thyme, 1.5 Tbsp dried mustard powder, 2 tsp dried sage
  • Add the dried lentils, quinoa and barley to the pan and cover with the beef style broth.
    190 g dry green or brown lentils, 60 g dry quinoa, 60 g dry barley, 1 litre meatless beef style broth
  • Bring the pan to a simmer, then reduce the heat and add the miso / marmite, dijon mustard and bay leaves.
    1.5 Tbsp dijon mustard, 1 tbsp marmite or miso, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper
  • Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are cooked through and soft. Check in regularly – add extra stock if you find it gets too dry and add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, make the root mash topping

  • Boil the potatoes, parsnips and sweet potatoes for 15-20 minutes until they are fully cooked.
    800 g potatoes, 400 g parsnips, sweet potatoes or both
  • Drain and return to the pan. Using a masher or a hand mixer, mash or whip the mixture with the butter until it's creamy and totally smooth.
    50 g salted butter
  • Add the cheddar and goats cheese. Stir through until melted and add salt and pepper to taste.
    125 g goats cheese, 100 g cheddar cheese, salt and pepper

Assemble and bake!

  • Heat the oven to 180C / 355F.
  • Remove the bay leaves from the filling and add the frozen peas. Mix through.
    150 g frozen peas
  • Spread the filling in a 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Spread the root mash over the top.
  • Sprinkle the cheese and sliced green onions over the top of the mash.
    180 g additional grated cheese, 1 small bunch sliced green (spring) onions
  • Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.
  • Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


To make this recipe gluten free, omit the barley (just add more of the other grains) and the marmite/miso (you could add more of the other flavour sources if you wish, but it’s pretty flavorful so don’t worry too much).
Calories: 579kcal, Carbohydrates: 62g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 66mg, Sodium: 973mg, Potassium: 1244mg, Fiber: 16g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 2734IU, Vitamin C: 41mg, Calcium: 351mg, Iron: 5mg

The 2015 —> 2023 Update

The original recipe lives here, if you’d like to save or print that off. What’s changed:

  • The proportions have been adjusted to ensure it fits into a normal rectangular 9×13 casserole dish, instead of being baked in the Dutch Oven.
  • I’ve strengthened the overall flavor – as lovely as most reviews were, some readers did report needing to add more seasoning. I decided it was better with a little extra mustard, some added red wine, optional salted butter and garlic. And I now strongly recommend you seek out the vegetarian beef style broth instead of using veggie broth. It is SO tasty now.
  • More flexibility for non UK cooks! I’ve tested this with miso instead of marmite, and sweet potato instead of parsnip, so I can confidently recommend these swaps and keep the recipe easier to make globally.
  • More precise and specific measurements to take out some of the guesswork. 2015 was the “winging it” era – I’ve since learned that not everyone enjoys that way of cooking!