Open Arms of Minnesota

Weekly Recipe #206: Lentil Shepherd's Pie

by Kristen O’Brien, Dietetic Intern [University of Minnesota – The Emily Program]

Photo credit: MellowFood/Flickr

Shepherd’s pie was a classic meal in my house growing up, featuring simple ingredients: ground hamburger, corn, and instant potatoes.

I enjoyed this basic recipe for many years and never thought I was missing anything, until I discovered this vegetarian version that I just had to try! This recipe features lentils rather than ground beef, as well as tons of vegetables, spices, and flavor. It’s the perfect comforting meal for chilly nights.

Lentils are a great source of fiber; a single cup alone has 16 grams, which is over half the recommended daily allowance! Fiber is beneficial for digestive health, and helps lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Lentils are also rich in iron, an important mineral for red blood cell production. Without enough iron in your diet, you can develop anemia, which can make you feel very tired.

Lentils are naturally very meaty in texture, so this recipe is sure to please the avid meat eater! Be adventurous and give it a try.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Roberto Martin’s Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

(Serves: about 8)


  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup almond milk or other non-dairy milk (or low fat milk), warmed
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. high heat oil (e.g. safflower or grapeseed)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 long or 3 small celery stalks, diced
  • Two 15-oz. cans low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ cup spinach, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 420°F.
  2. In a medium-sized pot, add lentils and enough cold water to cover about 1 inch above the lentils. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes. The lentils may not fully done – they will cook further in the oven.
  3. While the lentils are cooking: wash, peel, and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with water to cover about 3 inches above the potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are soft and tender.
  4. Drain the potatoes and return to pot. Add warm milk and melted margarine to the potatoes. Use a potato masher to mix well until the consistency is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  5. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and celery, sautéing for about 5 minutes until translucent in color. Mix in diced tomatoes and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook for another 5 minutes, mixing frequently.
  6. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir. Carefully pour broth over vegetables and stir until well mixed. At this time, lentils should be about done; add them to the mixture. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in frozen peas and carrots to the lentil mixture. Evenly spread mixture into a 11″ x 7″ ovenproof baking dish, covering the entire bottom of the dish. Top the lentil mixture with sweet potatoes, beginning around the edges to seal in mixture and prevent from bubbling over. Even out the top with a rubber spatula.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown. (Tip: Place a cookie sheet under the baking dish in the event it bubbles over!)
  9. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!

Nutritional Information:

Per Serving (1/8 of the pie): calories: 336 calories, 10g total fat (4g saturated fat), 52g carbohydrates, 425mg sodium*, 8g fiber, 11g protein.
*Sodium will vary depending on how much salt you add and the sodium content of the canned tomatoes. If on a low sodium diet, avoid adding additional salt and use low-sodium or no-sodium canned tomatoes.

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