These vegan stovies are a simple, hearty, and wholesome twist on a Scottish classic. Featuring a delicious mix of soft potatoes, mushy red lentils, and any veg you have leftover or lying around, the final product is so much better than the sum of its parts.
Growing up, my mum would often make stovies on a Monday night using the leftovers from a Sunday roast. It would always taste great, but I can tell you first-hand that it's not supposed to be a pretty-looking plate of food.
And while this recipe doesn't include the traditional meat, gravy, or leftover dripping, the principles of stovies still apply. It’s all about hearty flavours and chunks of fluffy potato that have been stewed to the point that they're almost turning to mash.
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What are stovies?
Stovies are a potato-based stew of Scottish origin. Taking their name from the Scots word 'stove' (meaning to slowly stew), the potatoes are traditionally cooked with leftovers including fat, meat, gravy, and other vegetables.
If you ask people in Scotland what their idea of stovies is, you're unlikely to get exactly the same answer twice. For me, it was always a simple yet tasty meal defined by the mushy texture of the potatoes.
Can stovies really be vegan or vegetarian?
For a while, I was reluctant to even post a recipe with this title for fear that a Scottish mob would hunt me down and tear me to shreds for my culinary blasphemy. But after getting away with my recipe for the ultimate vegan haggis, I have to assume I'm safe.
And I've actually discovered that meat-free stovies were already a thing. Known as 'barfit' (or barefoot) stovies, I suppose it's not that surprising when you consider that meat was a real luxury in times gone by.
At the end of the day, people were already pretty divided over their definition of this Scottish dish. What's the harm in throwing another plant-based version into the discussion?
So what's in vegan stovies?
Since stovies are traditionally flavoured by a meat-based stock or gravy, you have to take the flavours into your own hands with the vegan version.
To emulate the notes of a rich meaty gravy, I create a broth built around yeast extract, garlic powder, dried sage, smoked paprika, and bay leaves (similar to this vegan 'beef' stew recipe).
These may not sound like ingredients you'd find in a Scottish dish, but they bring a depth of flavour that works brilliantly with the potatoes and red lentils.
Why red lentils?
The great thing about red split lentils is that they cook quickly and really break down, adding to the traditional mushy texture of stovies. They also have a distinct flavour that I think works really well here, not to mention in lentil dal, sweet potato dal, and red pepper and lentil soup.
If using other dried lentils – such as green lentils or Puy lentils, which are 'meatier' and more robust than red split lentils – you may need to cook these for longer before adding the potatoes.
Want to find out more about lentils and other legumes? Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Pulses.
What else can I add to vegan stovies?
Stovies are traditionally all about leftovers, so throw in anything you have lying around. You could also add other ingredients like celery, turnip, parsnip, or even mushrooms.
If you want to add a meatier texture to your vegan stovies, try including meat substitutes such as plant-based sausages, mince, seitan, or leftover vegan pancetta.
Note: If you're completely replacing the red lentils with a meat substitute, you won't need as much liquid during cooking. I'd suggest starting with half the amount of stock and going from there.
Which potatoes are best for stovies?
Much like in my recipes for aloo palak and the ultimate vegan mash, I often use fluffy Maris Pipers in stovies as they break down easily. These are a great all-rounder and readily available in the UK, similar to Yukon Golds in North America.
Baking potatoes are a good choice, as well as red-skinned varieties such as Désirée, Mozart, or Laura. I’d avoid waxy varieties such as Charlotte and Jersey Royals, which hold their shape and are better simply boiled for use in things like salads (or a potato hash).
Are vegan stovies healthy?
Vegan stovies provide you with an incredibly healthy and nourishing meal. Packed full of fibre, vitamins, and plant-based protein, this dish is also very low in fat.
One serving of this recipe provides:
- Calories: 452 kcal
- Protein: 21 grams (42% of RDA)
- Fibre: 23 grams (96% of RDA)
- Vitamin C: 57 mg (69% of RDA)
Are vegan stovies gluten-free?
These stovies will be 100% gluten-free provided you use a yeast extract and vegan stock that are certified or labelled as such.
How to make vegan stovies
In a large pan with a lid, heat the oil on low/medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, salt, and pepper and gently soften for around 6-8 minutes or until the onion starts to turn a very light brown.
Next, add the vegan stock, Marmite, garlic powder, dried sage, smoked paprika, bay leaves, and red lentils. Mix everything well, cover with a lid, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, stir in the potatoes and top up with enough water to just cover them (usually around 200-300 ml for me). Cover with a lid, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook on a low heat for 40-50 minutes.
From time to time, give the mix a stir to stop the lentils from sticking to the bottom. I know that stirring stovies is considered unconventional, but I promise the final results will be great! If it's looking dry, add a little extra stock or water.
After 40-50 minutes, you should have a hearty mix of mushy lentils and soft potato chunks that are starting to turn to mash. Adjust the seasoning and serve warm.
Serving suggestions for vegan stovies
Stovies are great as they are or with simple sides such as oatcakes, crusty bread, or pickled beetroot. I like to add fresh chives and vegan Worcestershire sauce, which you could substitute with vegan brown sauce or other relishes.
Variations/tips for vegan stovies
- Quantity: This recipe should provide four decent portions with simple sides such as oatcakes, but you can stretch it out with more lentils and/or potatoes (don't forget to match this with additional liquid).
- Cooking time: This will vary slightly depending on how large your potato chunks/slices are and how soft you want them.
- Other additions: Remember – stovies are traditionally all about leftovers, so feel free to throw in anything else you have lying around.
- Potato skins: I'll often leave the skins on in other recipes, but in stovies I like the potatoes without them. It's totally up to you.
- Herbs: I think dried sage works really well in savoury recipes like this, but I'm sure herbs like rosemary or thyme would also work well.
How to store meat-free stovies
You can store these stovies in the fridge for up to four days. The mix turns quite thick once cooled down, but you can easily loosen it up with a splash of water.
Can you freeze vegan stovies?
You can freeze these stovies in sealed containers or resealable bags for up to six months. Defrost thoroughly before reheating with a splash of water to loosen up the mix.
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More vegan recipe ideas
If you liked this recipe, you may also enjoy:
- Vegan Scotch Broth
- Vegan Cranachan (Scottish Dessert)
- Red Wine Braised Tofu
- Jackfruit 'Beef' Stew
- Neeps (Mashed Swede)
- Vegan Goulash (Hungarian Stew)
- Quinoa Stew with Sweet Potato, Broccoli & Lime
- Lemony Butter Bean Stew
Easy Vegan Stovies (Scottish Potato Stew)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or plant-based butter
- 2 onions, sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
- 1 litre vegan stock
- 2 tablespoons Marmite (or other yeast extract)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 200 g dried red split lentils, rinsed
- 1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into thick chunks or slices
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh chives or parsley, to serve (optional)
- In a large pan with a lid, heat the oil on low/medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, salt, and pepper and gently soften for around 6-8 minutes or until the onion starts to turn a very light brown.
- Next, add the vegan stock, Marmite, garlic powder, dried sage, smoked paprika, bay leaves, and red lentils. Mix everything well, cover with a lid, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, stir in the potatoes and top up with enough water to just cover them (usually around 200-300 ml for me). Cover with a lid and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Cook on a low heat for 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and starting to break down. From time to time, give the mix a stir to stop the lentils from sticking to the bottom (I know that stirring stovies is considered unconventional, but I'd highly recommend it here and I promise the final results will be great!). If it's looking dry, add a little extra stock or water.
- After 40-50 minutes, you should have a hearty mix of mushy lentils and soft potato chunks that are starting to turn to mash. Adjust the seasoning and serve warm.
- Ultimate Vegan Haggis
- Vegan Scotch Broth
- Vegan Cranachan (Scottish Dessert)
- Smoky Mushroom & Red Lentil Pâté
- Vegan Breakfast Hash
- Vegan Cottage Pie
- Lemony Butter Bean Stew
- Vegan Sausage Casserole
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