Comforting, mouthwatering, vegan shepheard's pie so umami packed you'll never miss the meat. Sea Island Red peas and my home made vegan umami broth make a satisfying plant based filling and garlic mashed potatoes top it off for the dish my husband asked me to put on repeat.

What Are Sea Island Red Peas?

Sea Island Red Peas
Steeped in history, these heirloom field peas are a more flavorful and diminutive cousin to black eyed peas and are grown only on the Carolina Sea Islands. Introduced from Africa by enslaved people, they became a staple of the Gullah Geechee kitchen, typically paired with Carolina Gold Rice. During the depression, cultivation came to a stop and the Sea Island Red Pea nearly went extinct. Thankfully due to a few small farms they are making a comeback. Sea Island Red Peas are the original ingredient for Hoppin' John, a Low Country New Years tradition served with collard greens and said to bring good luck all year. They are meaty and slightly sweet, but unlike the store bought black eyed peas you may have tried in the past they are packed with deep, rich flavor that can be described as "meaty." 


The Umami Broth Delivers Flavor

You can use regular veggie broth but the depth of flavor in this dish comes from the broth. In the way a good bone broth elevates a dish, this broth gives you all of the deeply complex flavors and umami of bone broth without all the..well...meat. Let's face it, store bought veggie broth sucks. It's like lightly flavored water with some salt. Sure I doctor it sometimes by adding kombu (which is a total ninja move by the way) but it still just doesn't hold a candle to the depth of flavor and complexity of a good bone broth. I make this recipe in big batches and freeze it for later. It's easy but does take some time so I like to do this on a weekend when I'm home doing projects around the house. I used as many umami filled veggies as I could, but feel free to add or substitute based on what's in your fridge. GET THE RECIPE. (Make this ahead). In a pinch? Take store bought veggie broth and add a 4 inch strip of Kombu and 2 teaspoons of vegan worchester sauce and simmer on the stove for 20 minutes. It's not the same, but a step above just the broth alone.

Don't Skip The Kombu!

The secret weapon of chefs around the world is also happens to be as delicious as it is sustainable. Kombu, also known as sugar kelp, adds incredible umami to everything from stocks to a pot of beans. With its natural gultimates it's mother nature's MSG, enhancing the flavor or anything it is paired with but not imparting a "seaweed flavor." It's like a kitchen ninja, adding flavor without calling attention to itself. Kombu not only brings a rich umami flavor to plant-based dishes but also imparts a depth and complexity that elevates the entire culinary experience. Its versatility extends beyond just enhancing broths and soups; Kombu can be used to infuse savory notes into grains, beans, and stews. This sea vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, offering a wealth of minerals and vitamins, making it a fantastic addition to a balanced vegan diet.


  • 5-6 russet potatoes peeled and cut into 2" chunks
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 4 tablespoons butter (vegan optional)
  • 1 medium sized onion peeled and diced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large carrots diced 
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 container sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 can Guinness Stout (optional)
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tablespoon worchestershire
  • 1 cup Sea Island Red Peas
  • 3 1/2 cups umami broth or veggie broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the top off of the garlic head to expose the cloves. drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. While the garlic is roasting, start the stew. Saute the onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes in a small dutch oven or thick bottom pot. Add the carrots and saute a few more minutes then saute the mushrooms until they give off their juice. Add half a can of guinness stout and turn the heat to high and boil until the beer has almost evaporated. You can skip this step, or use a NA beer if you prefer.

6. Add the broth, thyme, worchestershire and the sea island red peas to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the red peas are tender. (about 30 minutes). As an alternative you can cook the stew in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. 

7. ** maken a roux.  Add tomato paste, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Take out the thyme stems, add frozen peas and transfer to a baking dish.

8. While the red peas are cooking, start the potatoes. In a large sauce pan add the potatoes and enough water to cover them by several inches. Add a good size pinch of salt and bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are soft when a fork is inserted. (about 30 minutes). 

9. With a slotted spoon transfer the cooked potatoes to a bowl, retaining the water. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the bulbs into the bowl of potatoes. Add to the bowl 2 tablespoons of cold vegan butter and 1 tablespoon of the cooking water. mash the potatoes with a potato masher, adding water one teaspoon at a time as needed to get the consistency you are looking for. Whip the potatoes with the masher until they are smooth and fluffy but be careful not to overwork the potatoes or they will get a gluey texture. If you want to get fancy you can transfer them to a piping back with a star tip.

** potatoes fell into the stew very hard to spread.

10. Either pipe or spoon the potatoes over the stew. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes get lightly toasted on top. 

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