Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie: from Moosewood

For St Patrick’s Day I requested F make something he has previously from the Sundays at Moosewood Cookbook, courtesy of Moosewood Restaurant in New York:  a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. This is the same cookbook that also gave us the recipe for the previously shared Transylvanian Eggplant Casserole.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Essentially, this dish is a casserole with a hearty minced meat stew layer at the bottom and then a mashed potato layer. So, while the list of ingredients seems long, it is pretty straightforward to prepare. This dish has been around since the 18th century- the minced meat layer was a way to use up leftover meat. The name Shepherd’s Pie comes from the fact the meat in the minced meat layer is usually lamb- if it is beef it is called Cottage Pie.

This version here switches out the minced meat for  a mix of tofu and bit of walnut to add “gristle” chewiness topped with a mushroom gravy layer, which is why I like it in comparison to other vegetarian shepherd pie versions that are more mushroom and vegetable stew based.

There is a lot of variation you can use based on your personal tastes for the mashed potato layer, adding veggies like diced carrots or peas to the tofu mince layer, or your desire for a crispy or cheesy top to the dish. You can also add in a stout (Irish stout anyone?)  for a boost of more flavor in the mushroom gravy. Moosewood’s original version uses less walnuts (1/2 cup), but I added more because I wanted more “gristle”.

Serves four.


  • Tofu Mince
    • 1 block of extra firm tofu that has been frozen, then thawed, and shredded to the appearance of ground meat
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon of thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander seeds
    • freshly ground pepper to taste
    • 3/4 cup of walnuts, toasted and chopped
    • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • Mashed Potatoes
    • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed. They don’t have to be uniform since it will all be mashed, just at a size to fit in your pot or pan
    • 3 tablespoons of butter
    • 1/2 cup of milk
    • Enough water (with a pinch or so of salt) to cover the potatoes in a pot or pan
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    • Optional: a touch of cream, or horseradish, or garlic, sprinkle of cheese or breadcrumb/panko or whatever you’d like to add to the mashed potato layer
  • Mushroom Gravy
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1/2 pound of sliced crimini mushrooms
    • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
    • 1 1/2 cups of water left over from the potatoes
    • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup of water
    • freshly ground pepper to taste
    • Optional: instead of using the water left over from the potatoes, add in a stout beer


  1. One of the unique tricks of this dish is usage of the frozen extra firm tofu. You want to drain any liquid the tofu may be packaged with by discarding the liquid and pressing it on paper towels with a pan or heavy book to get more liquid out. Then freeze the tofu at least a day or so ahead of time, and then put it in the fridge the day of or thaw for a few hours beforehand. This technique is going to give a different texture to the tofu that makes it more chunky and chewy, and of course also removes a lot of moisture so it will also soak up flavor even more than before. When you shred the tofu, you are turning it into the ground lamb/beef substitute so use the smallest hole grates.
    Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie, tofu mince
  2. In a small pot or large saucepan with a good edge and lid, place the cubed potatoes in with enough water to cover them. Sprinkle in some salt and let come to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer the potatoes until they are soft.
  3. Meanwhile, in a pan, sauté the chopped onion in the oil with the thyme, coriander, and black pepper until the onions are translucent. Stir in the chopped toasted walnuts, and the shredded tofu. When tofu has warmed, add in the lemon juice and soy sauce and stir until it is incorporated, remove all from heat.
    Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie, tofu mince
  4. The potatoes should be done by now as well- remove the water (reserving 1 1/2 cups for the gravy) and in a bowl, mash the potatoes with the butter and milk. If you’d like to add a touch of cream or chives or garlic for your mashed potato layer, feel free…
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet pan. Add in the mushrooms and soy sauce and ground the fresh pepper. After those are sweating (stir just occasionally), add in the 1 1/2 cups of potato water. Add this to the mushroom mixture and bring the whole contents of the pan to a boil. Lower the heat and add in the 1/2 water with dissolved cornstarch, then watching as the gravy should become thick.
    Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray with cooking spray (or butter or oil a casserole dish (I used a 13×9). Layer in first the tofu mixture layer, then top with the mushroom gravy, and then the mashed potato. You can dot the top with butter, or sprinkle if you’d like cheese or breadcrumbs/panko.
    Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
  7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes until the top looks golden.
    Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

It doesn’t hurt that the leftovers are fantastic the next day either, and this hearty dish would work well as a main vegetarian dish at a pot luck, and it has made an appearance at our Thanksgiving as well as a side of corn niblets in butter. And, it looks pretty meaty for tofu and mushrooms eh?

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

I had non-veggie friends over, so I was able to go all out for this St Patrick’s day with Corned Beef and Cabbage too (they brought these latter two dishes).

St Patricks Day food: corned beef, cabbage, Vegetarian Shepherd's PieSt Patricks Day food: corned beef, cabbage, Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie St Patricks Day food: corned beef, cabbage, Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie



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