Beany Shepherd’s Pie

Autumn has made a dramatic entrance, later than expected but definitely diva-like, first with an overnight temperature drop making it super chilly, and now seasonal storms bringing in wind and driving rain. This change in weather ushers in the arrival of a food season – comfort food!

With darker evenings, chilly cheeks and dripping noses, warming soups, stews and curries make a welcome return – if they ever really left this year as summer seemed to go AWOL 😉. I’ve made my yummy lentil shepherd’s pie a few times already as well as autumn squash stew (as they’re in season) and lentil and veg hotpot. All delicious for sure.

There is another comfort favourite though which I’ve not shared on the blog before – beany Shepherd’s pie. It’s one of recipes from my 5 week course and it attracted a lot of positive feedback. It also features in my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie and again I receive a lot of comments on how easy, tasty and family friendly it is. Because it’s ‘allergy friendly’ being fully plant-based, gluten free and nut free, it’s covers a lot of bases. Plus it’s super tasty, so even the non-veggie eaters enjoy it.

The one ingredient which is a potential problem for some people is of course the beans. If you suffer from IBS or have an unhealthy gut microbiome, beans can be a bit too perky and create a lot of gas. There are however a few things you can do to make them more tolerable and less gaseous.

  • If using tinned beans, make sure you rinse them well to remove the storage water and add them to the stew early on so they have extra cooking time
  • If cooking your own beans, soak for at least 8 hours, drain away the soaking water and rinse well. Cook until the beans are properly soft and again drain and rinse to remove the cooking water. If you have a pressure cooker, beans will take less time to get the right softness
  • You can soak your beans for a couple of days before hand, draining and rinsing every 12 hours. This allows the bean to start sprouting. It may seem like a lot of hassle, but sprouting releases even more healthful nutrients and changes the structure of the sugars (which is what causes the gas whilst being digested). Cook well before eating.
  • If you still get too much gas, lower the amount of beans in the recipe and increase the veg content. You’ll get less plant protein, but also less wind. Gradually build up the amount of beans you eat over time – this helps the bacteria in your gut to be less over-excited and used to having them.

Recreating traditional favourites like Shepherd’s pie can be challenging when it comes to flavour. In the meat version, minced beef and onion is fried and caramelises slightly to deepen the flavour. In whole-food plant-based recipes, there’s no beef and no frying! But there are ways to ensure deliciousness runs through it:

  • sweating the vegetables on a low heat with the lid on helps to develop flavours
  • deglazing the pan with a bit of water or veg stock so any bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan are incorporated – these often carry extra flavour
  • using a bay leaf adds a subtle savoury aroma
  • add umami flavours by splashing in a bit of tamari, Worcestershire sauce (make sure it’s vegan) or Henderson’s Relish

If you’re from the South of the UK, you may not have come across Henderson’s Relish. It’s Northern 😊. It says so on the label! Indeed, I only discovered it from watching The Great British Bake Off – a contestant used in in pie week. It’s similar to Worcestershire sauce, but also different, and doesn’t contain any animal ingredients so is naturally plant-based. I can’t say it’s whole-food though! But it does add a lovely savoury flavour; a little goes a long way.

For the topping, I like to use a combo of potatoes and the first parsnips of the season. You can mix it up though and use any root veg you like. Celeriac is good, as is carrot and swede. Each have their own magic flavours and chemical properties, and will vary in price depending on time of year. Check out what grows locally to you at markets and farm shops; produce is always cheaper when in season and abundant.

I hope you enjoy this super tasty recipe as much as we do. I’d love to hear what you think – especially if you serve it to non-veg eaters. Enjoy!

Beany Shepherd's Pie

A super tasty alternative to the traditional recipe full of comforting, healthful ingredients. A firm family favourite.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 6 moderate portions


  • Oven-proof saucepan (like Le Cruset) or a large saucepan and an oven-proof dish
  • Large saucepan to cook the mash


For the beany mix

  • 1 small onion, red or white finely chopped
  • 1 small leek trimmed, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 medium stick of celery rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 400 grams tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 500 grams cooked mixed beans equal to 2x400g tins drained
  • 1 tbsp tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce or Henderson's relish
  • 130 grams frozen peas slightly defrosted
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the mash

  • 3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium parsnips peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • glug of olive oil or cold pressed flaxseed oil optional


  • First, get the topping sorted. Peel and dice the potatoes and parsnips (or whichever root veg you are using). Place in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer with the lid on. When soft and mushy, turn off the heat and drain. Leave to cool until you're ready to use them.
  • Whilst the potatoes etc are cooking, place a couple of tablespoons in the base of a large oven-proof pan if you have one, or large saucepan if you don't. Add the chopped onion, leek, carrot, celery and the bay leaf. Sauté for 10 minutes on a low-medium heat, stirring from time to time. If needed, add a little extra water so the veg don't stick to the pan. You can pop the lid on and sweat the veg if you like - the flavours improve if you do.
  • Once the veggies have softened, add the dried herbs and stir well. Pour in the tomatoes and tamari or relish and stir well. You may need to add a little water to create a 'gravy' but not too much as the veggies will continue to release some fluid. Stir in the beans, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the peas and leave to simmer for a couple of minutes - don't over cook or the peas will loose their lovely vibrant green.
  • Turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf.
  • By now the topping will be draining on the side. Make sure the pan the veggies were cooked in is dry and return the veg to it. Mash together to get the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a little olive or flaxseed oil if desired.
  • If you have an oven-proof pan, carefully spoon the mash over the top. If you don't, transfer the mix to an oven-proof dish then spoon the mash over the top. Use a fork to fluff it up a little. If the mix is still piping hot, pop the dish under the grill to brown a little. Otherwise, place the dish in the oven and reheat for 15 minutes until the top is a little browned.
  • Serve piping hot with a green veg on the side. Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or can be frozen.
Keyword comfort food, family friendly, gut health, OMS friendly

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