You know that scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba rattles on and on about his love of shrimp and all the different ways to eat them? That’s me when it comes to potatoes. There’s never been a potato dish that I didn’t love. My favorite of all? Mashed potatoes and gravy.
Growing up, Thanksgiving was the grand poobah of holidays, if only for the excuse to OD on a mountain of creamy, fluffy mashed potatoes with savory gravy oozing down its sides and seeping into every nook and cranny. I do recall one Thanksgiving when I left a little room on my plate for turkey, too, but I blame the extra dinner guests who showed up unexpectedly and the ensuing shortage of mashed potatoes.
Forty-something years later, nothing’s changed. Ok, I take that back. One thing has changed — I don’t eat meat products anymore, which means no more turkey gravy to go with my mashed potatoes. But that doesn’t mean having to settle for plain, lackluster spuds. It only means coming up with a plant-based gravy that’s every bit as flavorful as gravy made from animal proteins.
Thanks to mushrooms, this is not only entirely possible but a piece of cake, too. The day I tried my first mouthful of mashed potatoes ladled with mushroom gravy was the day I forgot that turkey gravy ever existed. But for holidays or special occasions, or when I just feel like elevating my mashed potatoes to the platinum level, my go-to dish is shepherd’s pie.
For just a little bit more time and a few more ingredients, a shepherd’s pie delivers the same perfect combination of mashed potatoes and gravy but also gives you a nice mix of veggies and ground meat to go with it. Everything gets tucked nice and neat in one dish and comes out of the oven as a gorgeous casserole.
The beauty of a shepherd’s pie is that you can customize it to suit your own level of potato love. Personally, I like about a one to one ratio of “meat” filling to mashed potatoes. If I happen to have a lot of spuds in my pantry, I might even go heavier on the mash. If you’re not quite as into potatoes as I am, or if you want to go easy on the carbs, just reduce the number of potatoes (or use smaller ones) and use a little less milk than what the recipe calls for.
On the other hand, if you’re an even bigger spud lover than I am, (highly doubtful!), feel free to cook up an extra potato and add a little more of the non-dairy milk and butter. It’s all up to you.
Table of Contents
- A. Mashed Potatoes
- Step 1. Fill a large stockpot ¾ full with water and place potatoes inside.
- Step 2. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Step 3. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to the mixing bowl, reserving the potato cooking water.
- Step 4. Add vegan butter.
- Step 5. Add non-dairy milk a little at a time, mixing potatoes in between with a fork or whisk.
- Step 6. Salt to taste.
- Step 7. Set aside.
- B. Ground “Meat” Filling
- Step 1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
- Step 2. Add oil to a large non-stick saute pan and place over medium heat until oil shimmers.
- Step 3. Add onion, mushrooms, and carrots.
- Step 4. Add garlic.
- Step 5. Add “meat” and use your wooden spoon or spatula to break the meat down into small clumps.
- Step 6. Add flour.
- Step 7. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable broth, soy sauce, red wine, rosemary, and thyme.
- Step 8. Simmer gently until sauce thickens a bit, about 8-10 minutes.
- Step 9. Remove from heat.
- Step 10. Salt to taste.
- Step 11. Transfer to casserole baking dish and let cool.
- C. Assembling the Pie
A. Mashed Potatoes
- 3 large red or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I like to use coconut milk with my mashed potatoes, but any plant-based milk will work just as well)
- Salt to taste
- Garlic powder to taste (optional)
Step 1. Fill a large stockpot ¾ full with water and place potatoes inside.
Step 2. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.
Step 3. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to the mixing bowl, reserving the potato cooking water.
Step 4. Add vegan butter.
Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. A fork works, too.
Step 5. Add non-dairy milk a little at a time, mixing potatoes in between with a fork or whisk.
If the potatoes are too thick for your liking, add some reserved potato cooking water a little at a time, mixing as you go, until you get the consistency you want.
Step 6. Salt to taste.
For a garlicky flavor, add garlic powder to taste and mix.
B. Ground “Meat” Filling
- Oven-safe casserole dish, 8 or 9-inch round or square
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ onion, diced
- 8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, quartered or small chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ½ pound of plant-based ground “meat” (my favorite is Beyond Meat—it tastes great and the texture is pretty close to the real thing)
- 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (available at most grocery stores)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ½ cup of frozen corn
- Salt to taste
Step 1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
Step 2. Add oil to a large non-stick saute pan and place over medium heat until oil shimmers.
Step 3. Add onion, mushrooms, and carrots.
Cook while stirring frequently until onion is translucent and juices from mushroom cook-off, about 3-4 minutes.
Step 4. Add garlic.
Cook while stirring frequently for an additional minute.
Step 5. Add “meat” and use your wooden spoon or spatula to break the meat down into small clumps.
Step 6. Add flour.
Step 7. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable broth, soy sauce, red wine, rosemary, and thyme.
Cook while stirring frequently, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low.
Step 8. Simmer gently until sauce thickens a bit, about 8-10 minutes.
Step 9. Remove from heat.
Step 10. Salt to taste.
(Some vegetable broths are pretty salty, to begin with. Same with Worcestershire sauce and of course, soy sauce. I find that I never really need to add salt at the end, but feel free to add some to your own liking).
Step 11. Transfer to casserole baking dish and let cool.
C. Assembling the Pie
Step 1. Top the filling with mashed potatoes and spread evenly across the “meat” filling.
Make sure that the mashed potatoes go all the way to the edges of the dish to prevent the sauce from leaking out. (I say that, but if I’m going, to be honest, I’ve never managed to make a shepherd’s pie without having some of the sauce bubbles out from the sides during the bake. If you can pull off this feat, consider yourself my shepherd’s pie hero). Feel free to sculpt the potatoes with any decorative design you want.
Step 2. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the potatoes get some color, about 20-25 minutes.
Step 3. Remove from the oven.
Alice Mesa is an environmental scientist turned foodie. She followed her heart away from a 10-year career in the water quality industry and into the kitchen, where she spent the next few years as the owner and operator of a handcrafted vegan chocolates business. Alice combines her passion for cooking with her vegan lifestyle by creating and writing about dishes that are not only delicious, but plant-based as well.