Gardener’s Pie- the Comfort Food Formerly Known as Shepherd’s Pie

February 26, 2021.  Dear Daughters– Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie was an early childhood favorite for the both of you.  It seems like a dish I should have grown up eating, with my Scottish-Irish heritage, but I dinna (Scottish for “did not”).  Still, once I learned of it, my ancestral instincts kicked in and I was hooked!  As you may realize, Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, which has some gaminess to it that I like, but is off putting to others- like everyone else in our family.  So, with that in mind, our family meat pie became the catch all, “Cottage Pie”, filled with ground beef, chicken or turkey.  Dad Trivia- this was the first recipe someone asked me for as a Dad.

Since you now won’t consume any of the aforementioned critters, it’s time to update this classic to a plant based version, “Gardener’s Pie” (Get it?), that delivers the same comfort and savory goodness as the original, while sparing animals and environment in the process. I’m partial to the plant based, Impossible Burger since it tastes and chews the most like animal meat to this Dad, but I’ve also tried out brown or green lentils, bulgur wheat and toasted walnuts, al dente farro and toasted cashews, ground firm tofu or just a whole bunch of diced root vegetables, so go with what you like for your animal meat substitute.

Prep Time: Pie:  20 minutes  Mashed: 15 minutes

Cook Time:  Pie: 40-50 minutes  Mashed: 25 minutes

Servings: 6-8


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter or butter substitute
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large carrot, diced
  • 2 large celery stalks, diced
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 24 ounces Impossible Burger or other meat alternative
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, optional
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional
  • 2 cups frozen corn, slightly thawed and broken up
  • 6-8 cups mashed potatoes, leftover or freshly made (InstaRecipe follows),
  • 1/4-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, optional
  • 1/4 cup minced chives or parsley, optional


In recognition of all the sheep we are saving with this recipe, let’s look to the land down under, and the country with the second most sheep in the world, and give a listen to Australian pop icon, Kylie Minogue’s, “Confide In Me” as you cook your sheepless pie. Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!

  1. Mashed Potatoes.  If you don’t have leftover mashed, get your potatoes peeled, cut and on the fire as directed in Mashed Potato InstaRecipe below.
  2. The Mince.  Preheat a large pot, like a Dutch Oven, or large, deep skillet over medium heat and then add canola oil, butter, onions, salt and thyme.  Once onions begin to sweat, add carrot, celery and mushrooms and cook until onion and mushrooms start to brown- 10 to 15 minutes. You want a nice brown on the veg and bottom of the pot (see browning on pot in picture below) for savory flavor.
  3. Where’s The Beef?  Add Impossible Burger to the Mince, stirring from time to time, until that starts to brown- 5-10 minutes.
  4. Toasting and Not Burning.  Stir in tomato paste and flour and toast both for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic for a hot minute and then add wine, if using, to cook off for a few minutes.  Add broth and scrape all the lovely bits of brown off the bottom of the pot.  Adjust heat for a simmer and cook until gravy thickens to desired consistency- 15-20 minutes. As the simmer starts, set up a middle rack in the oven, preheated to 375 degrees. Once sauce starts to thicken add half of the soy sauce and nutritional yeast. Once gravy is thickened to your satisfaction, taste and finish seasoning with kosher salt, fresh pepper and remaining soy and Nooch until it’s delicious.
  5. Build That Pie.  Hopefully, your potatoes are ready to go by the time your gravy is thickened, but if not, turn down the mince to a low simmer, adding more broth if necessary.  Once the Mashed and Mince are ready, there are a few ways to go for a cooking vessel- you can save time and dishes by using the pot in which you cooked the Mince or pour the Mince into a large, oven proof, casserole dish or oven proof, individual serving dishes to be topped with the corn, mashed potatoes and cheese, if using.  After you spread corn evenly over the Mince, dollop 1/2 cup portion of potatoes to cover most of the mince.  Smooth mashed evenly and decoratively over Mince until it’s nicely covered.  You will most certainly get some gravy streaking through the mashed as you start to spread it out, but just add a top layer of mashed and all will be well.  If using, sprinkle cheese evenly over Mashed.  Bake the pie on a sheet pan in the 375 degree oven until top is nicely brown and gravy is bubbling (I love seeing the gravy bubble!)-15-20 minutes. A bit of minced chives or parsley would look and taste nice sprinkled on top.

Mashed Potato InstaRecipe.   Makes about 8 cups of mashed.  Peel 5 pounds of russet potatoes, cut into even pieces and place in a large pot of water.  Bring to boil and cook until easily pierced with a knife.  Drain potatoes, place pack in pot over low heat and mash in 4-6 tablespoons butter or butter substitute, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste, and enough milk or milk substitute to make everything nice and smooth- about 2 cups.  

Individual Serving Option


Peas vs. Corn.  Peas are a bit more traditional in the savory pie than corn, but since I’ve never been a fan of peas (too mushy and drab color when cooked in a casserole) I’ve always added corn to my pies.  I used canned “creamed” corn for the longest time, but I switched to fresh, frozen corn once I realized the “cream” in the canned cream corn was really just starch, sugar and water.  With that being said; however, if you like peas, go ahead and use peas in place of corn (you know- give peas a chance, joked The Dad) or go crazy and use both!

Fork vs. Piping Bag.  This is a rustic dish and you kids have better things to do with your time, like studying, than to load mashed potatoes into a piping bag to make a fancy topping for your pie.  All you really need to do is dollop 1/2 cup portions of mashed to cover most of the pie, and smooth it out with decorative fork “swirls”, until you get the look you like. PS- 8 cups is a good amount of mashed potatoes for the amount of Mince in the recipe, but I really like mashed potatoes!

Cheese vs. No Cheese.  You certainly don’t need to top the pie with cheese, but a little cheese goes a long way in making it look and taste good.  Finish it under the broiler for the last few minutes for a really nice look.

Fork vs. Spoon.  I prefer to eat this dish with a spoon to better control the Mince and gravy to mashed potatoes ratio as I eat, but, unless I set the table, that’s not how it goes down.  I’ll leave it up to you as to how you should set your table, but I know at least one of you is really into food ratios, ever since you routinely criticized the peanut butter to jelly ratio in the PB&J sandwiches I would sometimes pack in your school lunch!

Keywords: vegetarian, vegan option, casserole, comfort food, British Food, Feed A Crowd

© 2021 All rights reserved.  Dad’s Dinner Diary LLC

5 thoughts on “Gardener’s Pie- the Comfort Food Formerly Known as Shepherd’s Pie

    1. Hi Dorothy- thanks for the like/comment. I just saw your post and I smiled to see that we share a similar view on this dish- especially that you favor corn as an addition. I think your mix of cauliflower is a great idea to cut carbs, but I just can’t pass up the potatoes!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Grandma Maggie would be glad to see you making this, although I do believe she would want you to throw in a baby lamb or two.


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