Vegetarian shepherds pie was a staple dinner for me all of those years that I was following a stricter ovo-lacto vegetarian diet. Especially when I was in college, I could make this recipe on a weekend and have it several times as leftovers for dinner when I got home from school late during the week. It’s easy to make, very satisfying and comforting to eat.
Although my vegetarian diet isn’t as strict as it once was, I still prefer soy “meat” alternatives today instead of meat in many recipes I make. Soy crumbles, which I use instead of regular ground meat, are high in protein and low in fat. I’ve served this recipe to meat eaters who didn’t know the difference or miss “real” meat once other seasonings and ingredients were added. Morningstar Farms, Boca, and a number of other companies make soy crumbles now. You can find them either in the frozen vegetarian foods section or typically in the produce aisle at grocery stores with dairy-free cheese and other vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options.
I’ve made shepherds pie both with and without crust; with homemade mashed potatoes, store-bought from the fresh prepared food section at the grocery store, and even instant potatoes to really speed things up; and with a combination of fresh and frozen veggies, as well as leftover veggies from a previous dinner on a few occasions.
After years of experimenting, I’ve settled on what I think is the best variation: no crust, binding a sauteed combination of vegetarian soy crumbles and vegetables together with a little flour-milk mixture as the filling, a quick batch of homemade mashed potatoes, and mixing grated cheese into the potatoes as well as tossing cheese with some panko breadcrumbs as a crunchy topping.
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped parsnips
- 5 small to medium Yukon gold potatoes
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh or dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp ground sage
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese Use pre-shredded, bagged cheddar cheese or a three cheese or Mexican blend of cheeses. If you want to grate from a block of cheddar, choose a cheddar that's not too sharp so it melts well.
vegetarian soy meat crumblesFrom one bag of frozen meat crumbles, such as Morning Star or Boca. Measurement is approximate; if the brand you are using comes in a smaller package, you may just use the entire package.
- 1/2 stick butter
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare ingredients and set aside: Chop onions, carrots, parsnips, celery, and garlic.
In a small bowl, toss panko with 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese, season with salt and pepper.
Prepare the potatoes: cut potatoes into quarters and add to a pot that has been filled with water. Add a large pinch or two of salt to the pot.
Boil potatoes approximately 15-18 minutes or until tender. To check potatoes for doneness, pierce a potato with a fork and it should break in half or fall off the fork easily.
Drain potatoes well and transfer back to the same pot.
Add sour cream, 3 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 cup milk to the potatoes, season with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (or to taste), and mash. Stir in remaining grated cheese, and set aside.
Heat remaining butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan. Add onions and garlic, and cook until translucent, approximately 4 minutes.
In a small measuring cup, stir together 1/2 cup milk with 2 tablespoons flour; set aside.
Add celery, carrots, and parsnips along with seasonings (sage, parsley, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.) Cook until carrots are tender, approximately 8-10 minutes.
Add frozen soy crumbles and peas to the vegetables, then add the flour-milk mixture. Stir together and cover.
Cook, stirring periodically, about 10 minutes until soy crumbles and peas are heated through and the mixture has thickened.
Spoon vegetable mixture into baking dish and top with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle panko-cheese mixture on top of potatoes, and cover the dish with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese on top of the potatoes is melted and the Panko is golden brown.
If using instant or store-bought mashed potatoes instead of following the recipe for homemade, make or heat the potatoes according to packaged directions, stir in remaining grated cheese, season with pepper (add salt if needed), and set aside until ready to use later in the recipe.