Cowboy Skillet Pie

This recipe is inspired by my childhood next door neighbor, who used to host parties out of his garage. He would set up long folding tables, and everyone would come out with hot dishes, barbecue, warm rolls and amazing desserts. The adults would drink beer, and the kids would run around. I always loved that neighbor for bringing us all together. I also had a little girl crush on his son, but who could blame me? He looked like a young Paul Newman and was extremely charming.

These garage parties were the first place that I learned about baked beans. I felt like Toucan Sam just following my nose straight to the dish. If they tasted nearly as good as they smelled, they were going to be amazing. It had all my favorite little kid elements–bacon, a savory sauce and a touch of sweetness.

As an adult, I usually don’t like baked beans. Often, they taste overly sweet to me. So here, I try to take the best elements of baked beans and balance them into one savory, slightly sweet, and very hearty meal. Perfect for a grown Paul Newman (à la Butch Cassidy), cowboy or really anyone that is looking for a deeply satisfying, delicious meal. This meal takes time to bake, but wow, it smells (and tastes) so, so good!

A few notes…

If you don’t own a 12″ heavy cast iron skillet, you can still make this meal. Simply spoon the beans into a 9″ X 13″ casserole dish (or a casserole dish that will give you the thickness you want), top it with the mashed potatoes, and bake. It will likely need the same amount of time to bake, but keep an eye on it and adjust accordingly.

You may need a little more than 1/4 cup of vegan milk to make the mashed potatoes. Sometimes, it takes another tablespoon or two to get them the right consistency. You’re looking for “fluffy and light”, so if they are still lumpy and thick, add a bit more vegan milk and mash the potatoes more.

If you want to make this recipe gluten free, omit the 2 cups of seitan, and add a second drained and rinsed 15.5 ounce can of pinto beans. And use gluten free tamari instead of soy sauce. They are easy swaps.

Finally, I use red miso, because it has intense umami flavor. If you have a mellower miso on hand, like chickpea miso or white miso, you can use it. Just make sure to taste it and add more soy sauce (if needed), because it may not be intense enough.

Cowboy Skillet Pie

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 Tbsp vegan butter

1/4 cup vegan milk (note: you may need more milk) – see note above


1 large yellow onion, chopped into small pieces

2 tsp olive oil

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped (remove the seeds, if sensitive to heat)

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ancho chili powder

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp onion powder

2 cups seitan, cut into bite-size chunks (OR to make gluten free, see note above)

14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

15 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp red miso

1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce (or if gluten free, use tamari)

1/4 cup maple syrup

15.5 ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed

3 scallions, chopped

  1. 1. In a medium saucepan, add potatoes. Fill with water until potatoes are submerged, cover with a lid, and bring the pot to a boil. As soon as it starts boiling, lower the heat. Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain off the water, and remove the pot from the stove.
  2. 2. Add the vegan butter, vegan milk, and salt (to taste) to the pot of drained, boiled potatoes. Using a hand mixer, beat until fluffy and light. If it seems lumpy and thick, add more vegan milk (start with a Tbsp) and beat some more. Taste, and adjust salt, if needed. Set aside.

3. In a 12″ heavy cast iron skillet, add onion, olive oil and a dash of salt. Saute over medium heat for 7 minutes or until the onions are golden. Add the garlic, jalapeño, smoked paprika, ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano and onion powder. Saute another minute, then, stir in seitan. If the seitan is sticking a bit, add a little more oil. Saute for another 5 minutes–moving the seitan around.

4. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, dijon mustard, miso, soy sauce and maple syrup to the skillet. Over medium-low heat, stir until the miso has fully disintegrated into the sauce. Then, add the pinto beans. Taste, and make adjustments, if needed (more soy sauce? More maple syrup?). Remove the skillet from the stove.

5. Preheat the oven to 375º F. While the oven heats up, spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top of the filling inside the skillet. Once the mashed potatoes are in an even layer across the top, sprinkle it with a pinch of smoked paprika. Bake at 375º F for 40 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven. Top with scallions and serve.

Leave a Reply