When you think of your favorite comfort food meals, what are the first recipes that come to mind?
Shepherd’s pie is another favorite.
This rustic casserole dish, also called cottage pie, is a traditional English comfort food. It’s typically made with ground beef or lamb, mixed with gravy and assorted vegetables, and topped with a thick layer of buttery mashed potatoes.
Although many hungry mouths adore the taste of this dish, there is no doubt that the meat, gravy, and fats are very heavy.
To avoid the artery-clogging ingredients, yet still enjoy this comfort food classic, make our recipe for a vegetarian version.
Layered with just a bit of mozzarella cheese and butter-free mashed potatoes, omnivores and vegetarians will all savor this comforting casserole. And it’s easy to swap out the mozzarella for a dairy-free version if you like.
Take a look at the recipe below, and make this healthy option for dinner tonight!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather the Ingredients
Measure out the lentils, water or vegetable stock, bulgur wheat, and mozzarella.
Step 2 – Cube, Dice, Mince, and Chop
Peel and cube the potatoes. Dice the onions and tomatoes, mince the garlic, and chop the chives.
Step 3 – Boil and Mash
Fill a large pot with generously salted water, and then bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add the potatoes. Let them cook until they are tender enough to be easily mashed with a fork. This should take about 30 minutes.
Drain in a colander. Mash the potatoes well, making sure there are no lumps, and then mix with salt and pepper to taste.
If the potatoes are too dry, add a little vegetable stock or oil, one tablespoon at a time.
Step 4 – Cook the Legumes
As the potatoes are cooking, combine the lentils with 2 cups of water and the bay leaves and bring to a boil, either in a deep skillet or in a medium pot. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for the next 25 minutes until the legumes are tender.
Step 5 – Cook the Bulgur
Meanwhile, mix the bulgur wheat and minced garlic in a medium bowl. Pour over 2 cups of boiling water or stock, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel.
Let it sit for 10 minutes, allowing the bulgur wheat to soak up the water until it becomes fluffy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 6 – Layer
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a deep baking dish with oil.
While the oven is preheating, start off by creating a base layer with the bulgur wheat.
Next, create a layer of lentils and a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.
Add a layer of tomatoes and onions.
Finally, top the casserole with the mashed potatoes, making sure to compact it as much as possible with the back of a slotted spoon.
Step 7 – Bake and Serve
Bake for the next 40 minutes, or until the top of the mashed potato layer starts to turn slightly golden. Top with fresh chopped chives and serve.
A Taste of Vegetarian Comfort Food
Sure, we may be putting the shepherd out of a job with our meatless shepherd’s pie recipe, but this vegetarian update is so delicious!
We won’t miss him. Or the meat.
With endless layers of healthy ingredients, and a topping of naturally creamy mashed potatoes, you’ll definitely be satisfied with our alternative to the classic.
What are your favorite ways to update meaty recipes with vegetarian versions? Tell us your best ideas in the comment section below!
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Photos by Felicia Lim, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published February 18th, 2015 by Lynne Jaques. Revised and updated October 31st, 2017, with additional writing by Felicia Lim.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.