French Onion Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils & Creamy Cauliflower Potato Mash

French Onion Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils & Creamy Cauliflower Potato Mash

French onion shepherd’s pie with lentils & cauliflower potato mash is a hearty and flavourful main course that will satisfy all eaters.

This post is sponsored by All-Clad

A single serving of lentil shepherd’s pie in a bowl topped with mashed potatoes and cauliflower.An overhead shot of ingredients for a vegan shepherd’s pie.An overhead shot of onion skins in a bowl.Image shows a lot of sliced onions on a cutting board.

Another great holiday entertaining recipe for you! This French onion shepherd’s pie is a total knockout. Super comforting, hearty enough to serve as a plant-based main, make ahead-friendly, and just so flavourful from all of the caramelized onions. We top it with a creamy and satisfying cauliflower potato mash for a little extra vegetable goodness.

This recipe takes some extra time because of the caramelized onions. They’re combined with French lentils and other aromatics to form the base of this pie. Once all of that’s squared away (and you could definitely make the base portion several days in advance), we steam some cauliflower and potatoes and whip them up into fluffy clouds to dollop on top. This is about 2 hours of cooking when all is said and done, but that’s what holidays are all about, right? A little extra effort for all of your favourite people 🙂

I cooked all of these components, and even did the final bake on the pie itself, in pieces from the All-Clad Essentials Nonstick Set. While this post is supported by All-Clad, I have to say that I love cooking with these pans so much (and basically everything else that All-Clad makes). These pans have all the ease of nonstick (so much easier to clean), they can go straight from the stove to the oven, and they’re easy to store in your cabinets without getting scratched thanks to the tidy nesting capability. I’ve been working with All-Clad since the summer, and as someone who used to have a total mish mash of pots and pans, it definitely inspires cooking confidence to have all the right tools for the job.

With all that said, I hope that you give this cozy recipe a shot for your next gathering! If you’re in the throes of planning your holiday meals, I have all my best recipes rounded up right here. Is it too early to get a Christmas tree? Asking for a friend 🙂 Have a great week!

Image shows caramelized onions being stirred.A deep brown caramelized onion and lentil stew is shown in a pot with a ladle. Cooked potatoes and cauliflower are being mashed with vegan butter.Image shows creamy mashed potatoes and cauliflower being spread on top of a lentil stew mixture.Image shows a shepherd’s pie before baking.An overhead shot of a vegan French onion shepherd’s pie in a skillet on top of a beige tablecloth.

French Onion Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils and Creamy Cauliflower Potato Mash

French onion shepherd’s pie with lentils & cauliflower potato mash is a hearty and flavourful holiday main course that will satisfy vegans AND omnivores.

PREP TIME1 hrCOOK TIME2 hrsTOTAL TIME3 hrs

Course Main Course, Side DishDiet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

Servings: 6 -8

Author: Laura Wright

Ingredients

FRENCH ONION & LENTIL FILLING:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra
  • 3 lbs yellow onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups French lentils, rinsed
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sherry/balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons gluten-free tamari soy sauce
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, plus extra

CAULIFLOWER POTATO MASH:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 ½ lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (from approximately ½ a large head)
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and swirl it around. Add all of the sliced onions to the pot. You should hear a moderate sizzle. Sauté the onions, stirring often, until they are just starting to soften on the edges. Then, lower the heat slightly.
  • Keep cooking and stirring the onions occasionally until they are light golden brown, jammy, and super sweet. Not quite in the caramelized state, but getting there. This process will take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Add splashes of water if the onions start to dry up/stick.
  • Increase the heat back to medium. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and garlic to the pot and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for about one minute. Add the lentils to the pot and stir. Then, add the sherry vinegar and tamari to the pot. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Season everything with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable stock to the pot and stir once more. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and then cook until lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes. There should be just enough liquid to surround the onions and lentils. Add more vegetable stock if necessary.
  • Remove the bay leaf from the pot and allow the French onion base to cool slightly before transferring to a large (12-inch), oven-safe skillet or other baking dish. Set aside.
  • Make the creamy cauliflower potato mash. Pour the water into a large soup pot and bring it up to a boil. Pop the smashed garlic cloves in the water. Place the potatoes and cauliflower either directly into the pot or in a steamer insert. Keep the water at a strong simmer and close a lid on top of the pot. Steam the cauliflower and potatoes until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Drain the vegetables and return them to the pot. You can keep the garlic or toss it, your choice! Add the vegan butter, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, and lots of salt and pepper. Using a hand masher, mash the cauliflower and potatoes until smooth and creamy. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Smooth the French onion and lentil base out. Then, dollop the creamy cauliflower and potato mash on top. Carefully spread the mash out over the surface of the French onion and lentil base. Drizzle the top of the mash with olive oil and some extra pinches of salt and pepper.
  • Bake the French onion shepherd’s pie for 25 minutes, or until bubbly and totally heated through. You can broil the top for extra browning if you like. Remove the pie from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving in shallow bowls.

Notes

  • Depending on sides, this recipe serves 6-8 people.
  • You could do an all cauliflower mash if you’re avoiding potatoes. Just substitute another 4 cups of chopped florets and start with only half the amount of non-dairy milk. Add more as needed until you reach a creamy consistency.
  • To make ahead: thoroughly cool the French onion/lentil base in your serving dish. Once cooled, cover the dish and store it in the fridge. Make the cauliflower potato mash and let it cool before storing in a separate sealable container in the fridge. On the day that you’re serving, evenly spread the cauliflower potato mash over the French onion filling. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Show Hide 67 comments

  • Anne

    Hi Laura
    Could you freeze the mixture without the toppings to use later?Reply

    • Laura

      Hi Anne,
      Yes you could definitely freeze the French onion and lentil base. Then, totally thaw it to room temperature, make the cauliflower potato mash, and proceed with the recipe as written!
      -LReply

  • Nancy Glover

    Holy cow does this look amazing! I can’t wait to try it. I’ve learned so much from your blog and Cookbook. Thanks for the inspiration. Love and light to you.Reply

  • Dana

    holy carbs that looks good.Reply

  • lisa

    Seems like maybe this could be adapted to serve in a slow cooker? what are your thoughts on making in advance and then adding the layers in a Crock-Pot the day of serving to keep them warm. as the only vegan showing up at Thanksgiving I’m always looking for something hearty that’s easy to keep warm and bring along. Thanks! PS we love your cookbook!Reply

    • Laura

      Hi Lisa!
      I think that you definitely could serve this in a slow cooker. One thing to consider though: the final baking step really “sets” the mashed cauliflower and potatoes and gives it that slight golden crust–which is what differentiates it texturally from the stew. I guess my answer is: if you can bake the whole thing in your slow cooker insert to get the crusty top and then keep it on low with the lid of the slow cooker slightly askew (so that the topping doesn’t get gummy/moist again), then yes! Long answer, but hopefully helpful for you 🙂
      -LReply

  • Donata Thomas

    I can’t wait to make this!! It looks beautiful and delicious! Thank you for the inspo!Reply

  • Marcy youker

    love you recipes, can’t wait to make this one. Thank youReply

  • Maude

    Ok, I know what we’re gonna eat next weekend! MUST give it a try before Christmas if I eventually want to cook this for non-vegans. Thanks for sharing!Reply

  • c

    It took quite some time to do the onions but it’s totally worth it. It tasted amazingly sweet and delicious. Thank you so much for the recipe.Reply

  • Judith Lipton

    Wonderful recipe, thanks! But why All-Clad? I use cast iron or Le Creuset. In the past, I used some scan pans. As I understand it, any substance that adheres to a pot can volatilize with high temperatures. In support of this, people who keep parrots are advised never to use non-stick cookware because parrots are exceptionally sensitive to volatiles. Good old fashioned cast iron does not emit anything. Le Creuset is ridiculously expensive but becomes an heirloom. Why use any nonstick pans? Do you have scientific evidence that puts All Clad any safer than Scan Pans or ?
    Take care,
    JudithReply

  • Helen

    This recipe is next level! Noutrious, nourishing and hearty. Even all non vegans loved it.Reply

  • samantha

    I made the lentil/onion base and simmered with the lid on. There is quite a bit of liquid after simmering for 30 min. Is there supposed to be liquid still or is the liquid supposed to be absorbed.Reply

    • Laura

      Sorry for the delay with my reply! There should only be a small amount of liquid for the onions and lentils to slosh around in. For future (and others reading this), just keep simmering/boiling until there’s just enough liquid for the lentils and onions to swim around in.
      -LReply

  • Lisa

    Super disappointing. A too-wet, too big-half-moons-of-onion heavy dish with none of the comfort or umami of most vegetarian shepherds pie recipes.Reply

    • KC

      Sounds like you didn’t actually caramelize the onions like the recipe calls for.Reply

  • Andrea Gow

    this is AMAZING! such the flavours of fall/winter and hibernation! If anyone is looking to substitute potato I used celeriac and it turned out incredible. I also blended the mash in the vitamix for a smoother mash. MUST try and WILL repeat.Reply

    • Laura

      Love the idea of using celery root in the mash! Thanks for this suggestion, Andrea 🙂
      -LReply

  • mary

    I LOVE a vegan shepherd’s pie but I’ve never made it with a cauliflower topping – SO lovely – looks delicious 🙂Reply

  • Sara Graham

    This was simply amazing. I made it yesterday and I reheated it today. The family loved it and said to make it again. This is by far the best shepherds pie recipe we have ever had.Reply

  • Joshua Howard

    This is my go-to recipe for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie! My family loves it! Very easy and versatile for every taste.Reply

  • Lindsey

    This was delicious! Very flavourful. I added a bit of Parmesan cheese on top as I am not vegan and that turned out well too. Thanks for the recipe!Reply

  • KB

    I made this for dinner tonight and, although I was slightly pressed for time, the dish came out delicious! I’m looking forward to trying more of your recipes in the future. (And probably making this one again too.) 🙂Reply

  • Anne

    WOW. I just made this recipe and was blown away! The complexity of flavor with the savory/sweet/umami is off the charts. I rarely enjoy eating lentils but couldn’t stop myself from going back for more. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!!Reply

  • Cyndi

    Ok, it’s been 2 hours and my onions still aren’t carmelized. Any one else have this problem?Reply

    • Danieru

      I always use a cast iron pot when caramelising. I find that when they’re crowded, the onion juice extracted by the heat actually breaks down the onions instead of evaporating as it does when using skillet/frypan. If you’re poor on time, a little cheat is add a pinch or two of baking powder after the onions have become translucent.Reply

  • Cyndi

    So, I tried to caramelize my onions for 2 hours and it didn’t work. Did anyone else have this problem? Why was my first post rejected?Reply

  • Jodie

    Cyndi,
    Try turning up the heat a bit? Onions can take a LONG time to caramelize, especially if you are cooking at a low heat.Reply

  • Amanda

    This is so good! The onions make the lentil base beautifully comforting and slightly sweet. I made the topping with celeriac and potato and could have just eaten that on its own from the pan! I love this dish: made it twice now and both times the only downside was that I didn’t have enough room to eat more. Thank you.Reply

  • Anita

    I made this tonight, it was so delicious. I’m not vegan so broiled the top with gruyère…delicious. I added crimini mushrooms to the lentils because I love mushrooms and it worked great. My lentils took awhile to cook and it the end it was quite soupy more like a stew so it was hard to spread the mashed potatoes over them . I ended up just having a few mounds of mashed potatoes which was fine. I think next time I’ll try making the lentil mixture in the instant pot to speed it up a bit. I’d have to reduce the liquid though. Overall amazing cozy savoury meal perfect for a cold winters night.Reply

  • Dawn Solomon

    What is a good vegan better sub?Reply

    • Laura

      Olive oil is fine here.
      -LReply

  • Lauren Cartmell

    Made this last night and WOW. Absolutely fabulous!!! What a great vegan entree!

    Only modifications I made were whipping/mashing the potato cauliflower mix in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer to get it a bit smoother and eliminating the oil and butter (replacing with a little cooking spray and almond milk, respectively) to lighten up the dish and both worked great.

    I think I didn’t let quite enough liquid cook off of the lentil mixture because it was fairly wet and started to flow over the potato/cauliflower mash when they were in the pot together, but it still tasted delicious.

    Highly recommend this recipe!!Reply

  • antoine

    it was very good, but i change a few things
    i changed the lentils for meat and added some corn in the middle
    it was very better
    it very taste like “Pate chinois” (Vive le Québec libre)Reply

    • Rachel

      Pate chinois is shepherd’s pie. It’s the same dish. This is just a meat/dairy-free versionReply

  • April

    I admit I changed this recipe to fit our tastes (ok, mostly my husband’s tastes–I would’ve been fine with it in its original form). I don’t like to spring too much new stuff on him at one time though.
    I used 1 can of lentils so I reduced the broth to 2 1/2 or 3 cups for simmering. I browned extra-lean ground beef and simmered that with the lentils and the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, and thyme (extra thyme because I’m obsessed with it!).
    I made extra onions because I loooove caramelized onions and I caramelized them a LOT–it took a couple of hours. I have a terrible tendency to eat them out of the pot though so may I didn’t wind up with as many extra as I’m thinking I did.
    And I only used mashed potatoes–hubby isn’t fond of cauliflower. I’ll work on him.
    When the lentils and meat simmered down, then I added the onions to mix the filling together before putting in the casserole dish. I added a little more balsamic. It was DELICIOUS.
    I’m thinking of subbing the lentils for frozen (thawed) peas and/or adding spinach to this dish, but we shall see. Either way it’s fabulous. I’m sure in its original form it’s even better!Reply

  • Amy

    Make this dish! Incredible. Made it tonight and my absolutely husband loved it. Savory, umami, heavenly.  He told me to please keep this recipe. I had two 15oz cans of cooked lentils so I used them and 1/2 -3/4 ? cups of veggie broth instead and it was perfect. I made the lentil mixture in a Dutch oven so I just put the potato mash over the top and put the same pan in oven. Then hubby turned broiler on for a few minutes. Wow! Thank you for this!!Reply

  • Paula

    5 stars
    I made this tonight for American Thanksgiving and it was amazing! Definitely a keeper! We’ll be making this again 🙂 Reply

  • Christine

    5 stars
    Made this as part of a belated Thanksgiving meal with my (omnivore) parents and it was a hit! Really flavorsome, comforting, and satiating; served with a kale salad on the side. One of the first recipes I’ve tried from your site but looking forward to exploring more! Reply

  • MK

    5 stars
    This was SO GOOD!!! The flavors are amazing and I’m so glad I tried this! I served this with your mushroom gravy and it is such a warm, comforting combo. Can’t wait to make it again. Reply

  • tracy

    5 stars
    this recipe is A++. the base alone is oh, so yummyReply

  • Estelle

    5 stars
    This recipe is SO DAMN GOOD. I tried it last week-end (I made few arrangements but) it was delicious. I’ll make it again this eveing as there was some beautifl cauliflowers in the shop yesterday 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂 Reply

  • Anya

    5 stars
    I made this shepherds pie for Christmas dinner and I can’t even put into words how delicious it is. It was well worth the effort. Such a rich flavor and yet still feels kinda healthy, and it’s a great vegan twist on a classic. Even my lentil-hating sister said it was good. Thank you for this amazing recipe!Reply

  • Candice

    I’ve been vegan 2 years now. This is the best recipe.I have made to date. I made it for Christmas dinner and all the omnis said it was the best dish on their plate. It does take time and patience but worth it. It took over an hour to carmelize the onions. I also added to additional tablespoons of oil part way through. Make sure you hear a slight sizzle. I also only added 4 cups of vege stock. I let that reduce til almost gone but still moist. I also added 2 additional tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce to cut some of the sweetness. I added 3 more tablespoons of nutritional yeast to cauli mash. I put all in seasoned cast iron pan and into the oven. Wow! Was incredible. All of it was gone. I’ll make this again for sure! Thank you for all the great recipes.Reply

    • Candice

      5 stars
      Posted this too fast. I meant to give this 5 stars. I’d give it more if I could!Reply

  • Candice

    5 stars
    Sorry adding my rating :)!Reply

  • Candice

    5 stars
    Adding my rating posted to fast! Reply

  • Lynn

    5 stars
    Fantastic recipe – everyone in the family loved it. I’m adding it to my favorite recipe section. Reply

  • Talia

    5 stars
    I’ve been making this dish all winter long. It’s so delicious and the perfect comfort food for wintery nights. I will never get over this cauliflower-potato mash. So so good!Reply

  • Elaine

    Would love to make this but can’t find French lentils anywhere. Where are they hiding or what kind of lentils could I use instead? ThxReply

    • Laura

      Hi Elaine,
      I get all of my lentils from a Canadian online shop called Flourist. They reliably have French lentils! You could also use brown lentils if you have them.
      -LReply

  • Justina

    5 stars
    This was so so so delicious, leftovers were amazing too. A bit time consuming but not difficult at all. My kids ate it! I will definitely make again!Reply

  • Vanessa Riccio

    Hi did you use your own homemade vegetable broth? and which brand of vegan butter did you use?…thanks looks incredible Reply

    • Laura

      Hi Vanessa!
      I always try to use homemade vegetable stock when I can. This is my go-to recipe for that: https://thefirstmess.com/2014/12/04/garlic-pepper-soba-with-chili-roasted-tofu-recipe/. My favourite vegan butter brands are Miyoko’s or here in Canada, we have a vegan brand called Nuts For Cheese that also makes a great alternative butter.
      -LauraReply

  • Natalie

    5 stars
    Incredibly flavorful!  Absolutely loved this dish and will be making it again.  I changed nothing except I used an immersion blender to mix the potato-cauliflower mash instead of a hand masher.  Next time I will reduce the liquid a little, as the finished dish had more liquid than I would have liked.  Finally, I found this made more than 8 servings.  I had 10 generous servings from this dish. Thank you!!!Reply

  • Ruthie

    5 stars
    This. Was. Amazing. I made a few small changes used a mix of yellow onions and shallots, used red wine instead of sherry/balsamic cause that’s what I had, green lentils cause that’s what I had, and I added 2 pounds of portablello chunks. My hubby loved it and says it would be really good as a stew if I added carrot and celery and more broth.  While I was preparing he wasn’t to sure about it but ate seconds and declared the leftovers are his to take to work tomorrow. Thank you! It turned out perfectly following your recipe even with my above small changes. Reply

  • Molly

    Loved this recipe.. I made it today and it has turned out to be my favourite.. posting the picture on my page with credit.. hope that’s fine?Reply

    • Laura

      Hi Molly, I’m so glad that you liked the shepherd’s pie! Feel free to share–I’m flattered 🙂
      -LReply

  • Michele

    I look forward to making this recipe but I want to second your praise of All Clad. I have had a set for close to 30 years and they look almost new. And I cook a lot! I wouldn’t waste my money on anything else. I have your cookbook. I think it is time for another. Reply

  • Lizzie

    This is an amazing recipe — thank you!  The first time I made it, I realized too late that we didn’t have cauliflower OR potatoes.  However, we had falafel mix.  So, it’s safe to say that falafel mix over the lentil onion mixture is AMAZING.  I’m making it according to this recipe tonight, and I can’t wait to try it!Reply

  • Summer Yule

    5 stars
    So delicious! I followed the recipe directions exactly and it turned out perfectly. The only downside is it takes a bit of time to make- but I made it on a weeknight anyway because it sounded so good! No regrets 🙂Reply

  • Christine J Philio

    5 stars
    Made this for dinner last night, i did add some mushrooms but no other changes and it was delicious!  My daughter was eating it out of the pan and making plans to have it for lunch while putting the leftovers up.  Reply

  • Cate

    5 stars
    Soooo good! I made a few adjustments. I eliminated all oil and vegan butter (don’t need) and didn’t have tomato paste so used tomato sauce and doubled the amount. I doubled the nutritional yeast and added spoon of onion powder to the mash. I also used cooked French lentils so eliminated the water and used 4 cups of cooked lentils. I also added mushrooms. It really is divine! I can’t stop opening the fridge and nibbling on cold leftovers! Thank you!Reply

  • Sheila

    5 stars
    Wow! This dish is absolutely gorgeous and all the things, warm, comforting, fantastic flavours and SO delicious! A huge dinner party hit with the vegans and non vegans alike, will definitely 100% make again!Reply

  • Hannah Broussard

    Perfection! Everyone wants the recipe. We just added some Cajun spiced corn on the side and mixed it together. Will definitely make again.Reply

  • Cate

    5 stars
    TO DIE FOR! Reply

  • Yvonne

    3 stars
    The flavour of this dish is great and worth the time carmelising the onions but the consistency was another issue!  5 cups of liquid seems way too much and I ended up with French onion soup with my potato/cauli mash almost sinking.  I did put in just one cup of green lentils as I didn’t have French but even then I still had way too much liquid.  I had to add a tin of cannellini beans last minute but still ended up bailing out some liquid before baking.  I would make again but with less stock.  I make another vegan Shepherds Pie which looks just like your picture.Reply

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