Shepherd’s pie, a comforting and hearty dish, has long been a favorite among food enthusiasts. Traditionally made with ground meat and topped with mashed potatoes, it’s a dish that warms both the body and soul.
But what if we told you there’s a delicious plant-based alternative that offers a whole new dimension of flavors and benefits? Enter “Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie” – a delightful twist on the classic recipe that introduces the wholesome goodness of tempeh.
Tempeh, a traditional Indonesian soy-based product, has gained popularity worldwide for its incredible texture and nutritional value. Made by fermenting cooked soybeans, tempeh offers a nutty and slightly earthy flavor, making it a versatile ingredient in plant-based cooking.
By swapping the meat for tempeh in this shepherd’s pie recipe, we not only create a satisfying and mouthwatering dish but also contribute to a more sustainable and compassionate food culture.
I tried to use traditional Irish flavors such as garlic and rosemary. However, you can use whatever spices you have on hand to make the stew; it’ll still be good. You can also experiment with different protein sources, such as tofu, soy crumbles, Beyond Meat, or lentils.
I used plain Greek yogurt in the mashed potatoes to increase the protein and because I like it, but feel free to use your favorite mashed potato recipe to top off the pie. Overall, this is a pretty difficult recipe to screw up.
Tempeh is a soy food originating from Indonesia. It is made by fermenting soybeans with a fungus of the Rhizopus family that is common in the region.
There is some debate about whether or not tempeh actually pre-dates tofu, which is more frequently used in China and Japan.
Nowadays, you can find tempeh alongside tofu in the refrigerated section of the produce section. These products may or may not contain a grain in addition to the soybean and may be flavored for you.
Health Benefits of Tempeh
Compared to tofu, tempeh has more fiber and protein. Traditionally made tempeh actually has some vitamin B12, which is great for vegans. However, most of the tempeh found in our grocery stores are made differently, so B12 is not produced during the process.
Ingredients for Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie
For the filling, you will need:
- Olive oil
- Onion – preferably a sweet or yellow onion
- Garlic – I buy it minced in a jar
- Mushrooms – any would work, but I used cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
- Tempeh – whatever your preferred brand or is available at the grocery store. Tempeh is typically in a square or rectangular “cake.” You’ll crumble it by hand.
- Dry red wine – whatever you have already, no need to buy special wine. Just make sure it isn’t sweet. If you don’t want to use alcohol, make up the liquid with more vegetable or mushroom broth. I would also add a squeeze of tomato paste or some vinegar (red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar would probably work)
- Vegetable broth – mushroom broth would work too
- Fresh rosemary – you will simmer the sauce with the whole sprig, then remove before you assemble the pie
- Salt and pepper
- Peas and carrots – I used 1 bag of a frozen mix.
For the mashed potatoes:
- Potatoes – I used 3 medium-ish Russet potatoes, but use whatever you like
- Greek yogurt – I used plain 2% Greek yogurt.
- Sharp cheddar cheese – to sprinkle on top
- That’s it! – Note: these mashed potatoes will be pretty dry. That’s intentional. But if you have a recipe you prefer, go for it!
Preparing the Mashed Potato Topping
Salt some cold water.
Chop your (clean) potatoes. Try to make the pieces the same size as much as possible. Keep in mind that the smaller you make the pieces, the quicker they’ll cook.
Add the potatoes to cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until a potato piece “breaks” when a fork is inserted. If you didn’t get an even chop, make sure to test the biggest pieces. I started the filling when I turned on the heat.
Drain potatoes and mix in the Greek yogurt. Set aside
Preparing the Tempeh Filling
Add olive oil to a large skillet (bigger than you think you’ll need) and turn to medium heat. Dice your onion and add to the skillet. Saute onion until soft, 5-6 minutes. Keep an eye on your potatoes!
Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until the mushrooms release their water and are soft.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is reduced. You’re making a stew, but we do want it to be pretty thick.
If your stew is not reducing to your liking, you can mix a tablespoon or so of your mashed potatoes into the tempeh mixture to tighten it up.
Remove the rosemary stems from your stew. It’s totally fine that some of the leaves fell off.
Assembling and Baking Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie
This part is super easy!
Pour your stew into your pie dish. This should take up about 75% of the room in your dish. Mine is kind of shallow, so I put most in my pie dish and then made a second pie in one of my glass Pyrex containers.
Scoop your mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly. It’s okay if the potatoes are a bit higher than the top of the pie dish. Cover with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Switch to broil and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until cheese is slightly browned. This step is optional, of course, but it really amps up the pie. Do not walk off with the broiler on. The difference between awesome and totally charred is a very short window of time.
Variations of Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie
There are so many things you can do to customize your tempeh shepherd’s pie to your preferences. Consider:
- Different ground beef/lamb substitutes – you could use black beans, those “fake” meat products, or lentils. Try to pick something with some protein in it.
- Different veggies in the stew – peas and carrots are pretty classic, but we don’t always use them. I also have a Roasted Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie that I really like too.
- Different root vegetable on the top – I really like the Russet potato here. But if you want to be creative, I don’t see why you couldn’t use yukon gold potatoes, sweet potato, parsnips, or turnips instead.
Dairy-Free Shepherd’s Pie
To make this vegan, opt for a vegan mashed potato recipe instead. You could omit the cheese on top or choose a vegan alternative instead.
Just make sure you know how it will act under the broiler first!
Impossible Shepherd’s Pie
If you choose to use Impossible (or Beyond Meat) ground “beef,” I would treat this more like actual beef. Instead of adding the tempeh in after the mushrooms, I would brown it first, then drain it on a plate with a paper towel.
You can then proceed with the recipe as written, replacing the tempeh with the Impossible ground “beef.”
For a Multivore Family
By far, the easiest option here is to have everyone eat this as a vegetarian dish. However, if this isn’t possible for whatever reason, you have a couple of options. You could make two pies with the exact measurements, using beef or lamb instead of tempeh.
Alternatively, you could divide the recipe. Use a smaller skillet to make the protein you will be using in a smaller amount, then divide the ingredients evenly among them. You can use a smaller dish, such as my Pyrex mentioned above, to have the smaller portion option.
Side Dish for Shepherd’s Pie
I always serve a shepherd’s pie with a salad. You could serve it with other vegetables if you wanted, maybe some roasted Brussels sprouts or carrots.
If you chose to use a low-protein alternative to shepherd’s pie or didn’t use Greek yogurt and cheese for the potatoes, I would choose a protein option instead. Maybe you could have black bean soup with it.
Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie
- 1 glass pie dish
- 1 large saute pan
- 1 large pot
For the filling:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 8 oz mushrooms sliced
- 8 oz tempeh crumbled
- ¾ cup red wine
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary rinsed
- 1 bag frozen peas and carrots
For the potatoes
- 3 russet potatoes cubed
- 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup sharp shredded cheese shredded
- Add cubed potatoes to salted, cold water . Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until a fork easily mashes the cubes. Start the filling while the potatoes are cooking
- When done, mix potatoes with the Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper. You want the consistence of the mashed potatoes to by drier than you would make them to eat as a side dish.
- In a heated pan, add olive oil and onion. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, until soft.
- Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until soft.
- Add tempeh, frozen vegetable, red wine, vegetable broth, and the whole rosemary sprigs. Bring to boil, then simmer until sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. If a thick gravy does not form, you can add a small portion of your mashed potatoes to improve the texture.
- Remove the rosemary, and put tempeh mixture into bottom of a pie dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, then shredded cheddar cheese.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes.
- Switch oven to broil and leave for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese lightly browns.
- Allow pie to cool 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with chives or green onions for some color, and wait for some compliments!
*Nutrition Facts are an estimate only. Differences are expected when making substitutions for any ingredient or when different brands are used.
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How To Reheat Shepherd’s Pie
For the best results, put any leftover tempeh shepherd’s pie back in a 350 F oven for 20-25 minutes until the internal temp reaches 165 F.
You could also reheat the pie in the microwave. This will be significantly quicker but will heat the pie up unevenly and will potentially dry out the potatoes. You’ll also lose the crunchy/crisp of the cheese that was broiled.
Freezing Shepherd’s Pie
If you’re planning on making this ahead of time, trade the pie dish for a container more suited for freezing. I would probably use a foil pie or casserole dish instead. The best method for this is to make the potatoes and stew as directed above. Allow them to cool separately, then assemble the pie.
At this point, seal with plastic wrap, then cover with foil. Don’t forget to label it!
When it comes time to eat it, transfer the frozen pie to the fridge the night before. Then cook in a 350 F oven for 30-45 minutes, until a food thermometer inserted to the center reads 165 F; broil it if desired.
Whether you’re a plant-based eater looking to expand your recipe repertoire or simply curious about incorporating more sustainable and nutritious options into your diet, Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie is a fantastic choice.
With its rich and savory tempeh filling, topped with creamy mashed potatoes, it’s a dish that will satisfy even the most discerning palates.
But don’t stop here! Let this recipe serve as a gateway to exploring the incredible versatility of tempeh in vegetarian cooking. From stir-fries to sandwiches, tempeh’s unique texture and flavor lend themselves to a variety of dishes that will surprise and delight your taste buds.
We encourage you to browse through our other articles, where you’ll find more delicious plant-based recipes, insightful nutrition tips, and cooking techniques.
We’re passionate about sharing the joy of mindful and sustainable eating, and we’d love to hear about your experiences and thoughts on Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie or any other topics discussed in this blog post.
Leave a comment below and let us know how your culinary adventure unfolds. Did you add any personal twists to the recipe? Which other tempeh-based dishes have captured your interest? We’re eager to engage in conversation and learn from your unique perspectives.
Thank you for joining us on this flavorful journey. Embrace the goodness of tempeh, get creative in the kitchen, and keep exploring the vast world of plant-based delights. Bon appétit!
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You want to create a gravy consistency for the filling. Just putting all the ingredients in the pie pan, maybe without the liquid, won’t get you the stew consistency that gives shepherd’s pie different interesting textures. Also, when you don’t use the liquid, you’ll lose almost all umami ingredients, and end up with a pretty bland dish.
There doesn’t appear to be a clear consensus on this. From what I can tell, Shepherd’s pie is a variation of the earlier dish, called Cottage pie.
It seems that Shepherd’s pie switched from beef to lamb, and instead of a sliced potato crust on the bottom and the top, mashed potatoes were simply placed on top instead. One story reports that the mashed potatoes were meant to represent the sheep’s fleece.
Leftovers will last in the fridge for approximately 3 days. Put it in the freezer if it needs to last longer.
Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian, mom, wife, and vegetarian in North Texas. She has dedicated Dietitian Jenn to be a source of information, ideas, and inspiration for people like her, vegetarians that live with people with different dietary beliefs and/or needs in a multivore household.