This vegan lentil shepherd’s pie is so delicious with the addition of an extra creamy corn layer to the classic dish. Plus, it’s nutritious, freezer-friendly and a kid’s favorite.
As you probably know, I am from Quebec, Canada. This means I grew up eating lots of classic French Canadian dishes, often containing meat, like meat pies (tourtière), beef meatball stew, boeuf bourguignon, chicken pot pies, etc. I think us, people from Quebec, are pretty darn experts in very cozy comfort food!
So, to help me feel like I’m home, I work very hard on trying to reproduce those classic dishes in a healthy plant based way. Pâté chinois is a staple in our house so I wanted it to be one of my first recipes I share!
This dish has quite a funny French name though as it has no chinese flavor at all. Pâté chinois was a common dish that was made by chinese cooks for the Canadian workers that was building the North American railroads in the 19th. century. The Chinese cooks were instructed to prepare this meal as it was an inexpensive, filling and easy. The Canadian workers kept the recipe as a traditional meal that they brought back to their families and it is now a common dish French Canadian eat.
A pâté chinois looks a lot like a shepherd’s pie, but with an additional corn layer in between the base and the mashed potatoes.
There are a lot of vegetarian pâté chinois recipes out there, but this is my personal version I often make for my family. It’s always a hit when having guests over and kids love it!
What is in this vegan lentil shepherd’s pie
The beef bottom layer is often replaced by cooked lentils for a vegetarian version as it mimics well the crumbly texture of meat.
I like to also add mushrooms, chopped pretty small, for extra chewy feeling. Then, all sort of vegetables and spices can be added, but I prefer the classic onion-carrot-celery that often find its way in classic Quebec meat mixtures.
Well, what else could be better than creamy but also crispy sweet corn for this in between layer?
In Quebec, we eat corn by the dozen, as a single ingredient meal. Talk about easy meal planning! I still remember my sister when we were teenager who would eat 10 cobs in one meal. We also gather all together during what we call “Épluchette de blé d’inde”, then cook corn often outside in the yard in an enormous pot that is heated with fire. And thats usually all we eat (although more recently often combined with BBQ grilling). We are very simple people, you know.
Anyway, corn in this case is totally a star as it brings all the dish together. Let me tell you, the sweetness and unique texture of this middle layer will make all the shepherd’s pies in your future quite unexciting.
A classic creamy silky mashed potatoes is a must here. The idea is to make it as smooth as you can, using a mixer if you want. I like to use a bit of butter to make it extra decadent and a touch of nutritional yeast to get a tiny cheesy richness.
If you want to make this dish extra special, cover the potato layer with a homemade BBQ ketchup before putting the dish in the oven.
Can you freeze this Vegan lentil shepherd’s pie?
Yes! This meal freezes so well!
I almost always make double batch, cook both dishes in the oven, and freeze the second one in individual portions after it has cooled down. Then, I use it for lunches or quick dinners and it feels like I just made it.
I hope you will love this Vegan pâté chinois as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was.
Vegan lentil shepherd’s pie (Pâté chinois)
For the base:
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder (or corn starch)
- 1 cup green lentils (or french lentils) uncooked
- 1 onion diced
- 3 carrots peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 8 oz mushrooms roughly chopped
- 1 cup green peas frozen
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
For the middle layer:
- 16 oz frozen sweet yellow corn, separated thawed
- 1/4 cup water
For the top layer:
- 8 yukon potatoes peeled
- 2 tbsp nutritionnal yeast
- 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored non dairy milk or to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup vegan butter optional
For the base: (boil the potatoes while you make the base)
- In a small pot, combine the uncooked lentils with 3 cup of water, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat enough to keep it simmering for about 20 minutes. You want to cook the lentils through, but still keep them in their shape (avoid mushy texture). After cooked, drain the excess of water if necessary.
- In a small bowl or a mug, combine the broth, soy sauce and arrowroot powder. Mix gently until you don't see any clumps anymore. Set aside.
- In a large pan, cook the onion, carrots and celery on medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Use a bit of oil or water to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan.
- Add the mushroom and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the cooked lentils, frozen green peas and oregano to the pan and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
- Give a good whisk in the bowl with the broth mixture and add it to the pan with the vegetables. Mix well for 2 minutes until the mixture thickens. Adjust the seasoning.
- Remove from the heat and set aside.
For the middle layer:
- In a blender, combine about half of the corn with the water and blend until it becomes creamy.
- Mix the creamy corn with the whole kernel (the other half of the corn) in a small bowl and set aside.
For the top layer:
- Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water until they become tender but before they fall apart (about 20 minutes). Salt the water if desired.
- Drain in a colander and make sure to remove as much water as you can. Transfer the potatoes back to the pot.
- Add the vegan butter (if using), nutritional yeast, unflavored non dairy milk, salt and pepper and mash well until creamy.
Build the pâté chinois:
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- In the bottom of an oven safe dish (I like to use individual dish but a larger container works well too), distribute the base mixture on an even layer.
- Top with the corn mixture making sure to spread it around up to the corners.
- Top with the mashed potatoes, also spreading it to the edges.
You can cover the shepherd's pie with an easy to make homemade BBQ ketchup before putting the dish in the oven.
- Cook, uncovered, in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the dish is bubbling on the edges.
- You can freeze this meal: Simply cook it in the oven, transfer to a container and freeze up to 3 months. I like to freeze in individual portions for quick lunches to bring to work.