FRENCH ONION SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH LENTILS & CREAMY CAULIFLOWER POTATO MASH

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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!

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FRENCH ONION SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH LENTILS & CREAMY CAULIFLOWER POTATO MASH

Print the recipe here!
SERVES: 8-10
NOTES:
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.

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, room temperature
½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a large (preferably nonstick) 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. Saute 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, oven-safe skillet or other baking dish. I used an All-Clad Essentials Nonstick 12-inch round skillet. Set aside.

Make the creamy cauliflower potato mash! Pour the water into a large soup pot (I used the All-Clad Essentials stock pot with steamer insert) 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 degrees F.

Transfer the French onion and lentil base to an oven-safe skillet or other baking dish. I’ve used an All-Clad Essentials nonstick 12-inch skillet that is also oven-safe. 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.

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  • Anne13/11/2019 - 6:13 am

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

    • Laura13/11/2019 - 8:00 am

      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!
      -LReplyCancel

  • Nancy Glover13/11/2019 - 9:24 am

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Dana13/11/2019 - 10:09 am

    holy carbs that looks good.ReplyCancel

  • lisa13/11/2019 - 10:49 am

    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!ReplyCancel

    • Laura13/11/2019 - 11:52 am

      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 :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • Donata Thomas13/11/2019 - 11:52 am

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

  • Marcy youker13/11/2019 - 5:12 pm

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

  • Maude13/11/2019 - 5:45 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • c14/11/2019 - 1:28 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Judith Lipton15/11/2019 - 4:59 pm

    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,
    JudithReplyCancel

  • Helen16/11/2019 - 4:41 pm

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

  • samantha16/11/2019 - 7:48 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/11/2019 - 5:03 pm

      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.
      -LReplyCancel

  • Lisa18/11/2019 - 10:55 am

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Andrea Gow18/11/2019 - 9:15 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/11/2019 - 5:04 pm

      Love the idea of using celery root in the mash! Thanks for this suggestion, Andrea :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • mary18/11/2019 - 11:00 pm

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

  • Sara Graham25/11/2019 - 11:26 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Joshua Howard26/11/2019 - 5:14 am

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

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