Red Dragon Piewho could resist this wonderful vegan shepherd’s pie, topped with mustardy mashed potato and baked in the oven for about 30 minutes until the topping is crispy and brown?

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Red Dragon Pie with salad on a white plate, alongside daffodils and the rest of the pie in a stoneware dish.

Why Is It Called Red Dragon Pie?

This tasty, savoury meat free shepherd’s pie is filled with leeks, carrots, kale and aduki beans in a herb and tomato savoury sauce and it has been a staple in our house for as long as I can remember.

The recipe it is based on can be found in the pages of our very battered copy of the fabulous Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen. When Mr TS arrived in my life back in 1988, armed with this book and an equally splattered copy of The Cranks Recipe Book, I suspected that he might be The One; 30 years later he’s still here and we’re still cooking 😉 Red Dragon Pie caught my eye as I leafed through his book and lounged around (for back then we had time to leaf and lounge) and, while I can’t remember when I first cooked it, it made its way onto our regular menu ideas list.

It is the aduki beans which give it its wonderful name.  According to Sarah Brown:

The Chinese call aduki beans ‘red dragon’ or ‘red wonder’ beans as they have found them to be so full of goodness…maybe you will have the power of the dragon after eating it!

You can imagine how well that idea goes down in a house full of children! One mouthful and you have super strength…fabulous! I’m just happy that they are packed with protein, fibre, potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6 – little packets of super powers!

Red Dragon Pie with a baked mashed potato topping.

Suggestions For Substitutions

Over the years the recipe has evolved and I doubt very much whether any one pie has been exactly the same as the previous one. So don’t feel you have to stick religiously to my recipe, for this comforting veggie dish is an accommodating beast!

You can swap the leeks for onions, chuck in some more seasonal veg as the wheel of the year turns (swede, turnip,  parsnip, pumpkin, courgettes (zucchini) all work well), swap the herbs around to suit your taste, put sliced potatoes on top instead of mash but never EVER leave out the aduki bans or you won’t get to be a dragon and that would be a terrible shame!

Fresh sliced leeks on a bamboo chopping board.

How To Trim Leeks 

I love leeks, they are one of my favourite veg, but it was only fairly recently that I found out how to trim leeks properly!

When we moved here I started growing my own in the back garden, pulling them up with glee and merrily swiping off the top half of them without a thought.  It was only when a friend asked me what on earth I thought I was doing that I realised my folly!

In my defence, I don’t remember ever seeing a leek until I was an adult cooking for myself. When I first bought them I probably bought those ready trimmed ones which have no top leaves to speak of.

Much like a spring onion lots of flavour is concentrated high up there in the top leaves and while they may be tougher that is no disadvantage in a slow cooked stew like this one. They have plenty of time to soften down and add their deliciousness to the dish.

Diced leek, showing a colour gradient from dark green to almost white.

How To Make Red Dragon Pie

Making this vegan shepherd’s pie is very simple and very satisfying. 

  • Begin with the leeks. Slice them up and pop them into a heavy bottomed pan with a good glug of oil, cover them and leave them to sizzle away on the lowest heat for a good fifteen minutes before adding anything else.
  • Check them every now and again and, if they look like they might be trying to go brown, add a tablespoonful of water and they behave themselves again.
  • Once the leeks are soft add the carrots, tomatoes and stock and simmer it all away for about 15 minutes before adding the aduki beans, thyme and kale.
  • The lid goes back on and it is all simmered for a further ten minutes (add a bit more water if it goes dry).
  • If you have time leave the filling to sit, covered and with the heat off for an hour or more. This allows all those lovely flavours to develop and meld and is well worth doing if you are organised enough to start this dish ahead of time – I’m usually not but I’m always glad when I am!

Red Dragon Pie in an enamel casserole dish.

  • While the filling is sitting (or while it’s bubbling away if you are in more of a hurry) boil and then mash the potatoes.  Don’t smooth your potato when you spoon it on, fluff it with a fork so you get all those little peaks just crying out to be beautifully browned in your hot oven!

I serve this all year round but it makes its gala appearance every St David’s Day – Mr TS is Welsh, we met in Wales and this pie has a Red Dragon in it – perfect.

Red Dragon Pie - Easy Vegan Shepherd's Pie in a stoneware dish.

If you make my recipe I’d love to hear how it turns out for you. Please leave a comment and a star rating below and share your pictures with me on social media. Tag me @thinlyspread and include the hashtag #thinlyspread so I can see them!

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Red Dragon Pie - a delicious savoury bean stew topped with potato this is the best vegan shepherd's pie

Red Dragon Pie

An easy recipe for Red Dragon Pie. This tasty, savoury meat free shepherd's pie is filled with leeks, carrots, kale and aduki beans in a herb and tomato savoury sauce.
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: English
Keyword: red dragon pie, vegan shepherd's pie
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 401kcal


  • 2 leeks washed and sliced
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
  • 350 g carrots chopped into large dice
  • 250 ml rich vegetable stock (I use vecon)
  • 400 g can of aduki beans drained and rinsed
  • 400 g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 75 g kale, stripped from the stem and chopped
  • 1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 500 g potatoes peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter or margarine
  • 1 generous tsp dijon mustard


  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/390F
  • Fry the leeks in the oil in a covered pan on the lowest heat for about 15 minutes or until really soft but not browned.
  • Add the garlic and carrot and fry for a further minute.
  • Add the stock and tomatoes and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes until the carrots are softening.
  • Add the aduki beans, thyme and kale and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the kale is just cooked. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Leave to cool a little and absorb flavours while you cook the potatoes.
  • Bring a large pan of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the potatoes. Simmer for about 10 - 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork soft. Drain well. Return to the dry pan add butter and mustard and mash until soft and fluffy.
  • Put the filling into an oven proof dish (I used a stoneware loaf pan), top with the mashed potato. Fluff the potato with a fork and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until browned and crisp on top. 


Nutritional information is only an approximate guideline. Calculations will vary according to the ingredients you use and your cooking methods.


Calories: 401kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 522mg | Potassium: 1488mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 17931IU | Vitamin C: 70mg | Calcium: 172mg | Iron: 5mg
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