How to Make Cottage Pie

The following is a guest post.

There are as many different variations of cottage pie as there are humans who eat it. As far back as the 1700s it was made with any leftover meat and a mashed potato topping and was very popular among the poor. These days it’s called Shepherd’s Pie when the meat is lamb and Cottage Pie only when beef is used.

Similar dishes can be found the world over, but some of the more popular versions around Britain include St. Stephen’s Day pie (turkey and ham), Cumberland pie (bread crumbs on top), Shepherdless Pie (vegetarian), and even fish pie.

Cottage pie is a traditional, rustic dish. While some recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, cheese, baked beans, and even cinnamon, I’ve found that it’s best when kept as simple as possible.

The following is my version, perfected over the years for my family:

6-8 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 dried bay leaves
½ C butter
½ C milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
6 mushrooms, chopped
½ C green peas
3 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 C beef stock
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Mash: Place potatoes, salt, and bay leaves in a large pot and cover
with cold water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain
the water off and remove the bay leaves. Add butter and mash
thoroughly with a mixer or potato masher, then add milk and stir well.

Meat mixture: Cook the ground beef, onion, garlic, carrot, mushrooms,
peas, salt, black pepper, in a large frying pan over medium heat,
stirring occasionally, just until meat is browned. Do not drain.
Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat the meat mixture. Add beef stock
and simmer until thickened.

Assembly: Spread the meat mixture on the bottom of an ungreased
casserole dish. Smooth the mashed potatoes over the top, like icing a
cake. Sprinkle with paprika for color. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit
for 30 minutes.

I would love to hear how you make it!

Sarah Bloom is a stay-at-home mom in Pennsylvania, USA, but in her heart she is British through and through. While especially enamored of the food, Sarah loves all aspects of UK. You can find her on Facebook at The British Appreciation Society and read more of her posts here.


  1. katze kew says

    this actually sounds a lot like the way i make it…. i make mashed potatoes seasoned with garlic, black pepper, and herbal salt or italian seasoning. then i brown a pound of hamburger or ground turkey in a skillet with garlic, onion, and black pepper — i add worcestershire sauce only if i’m using ground turkey, it helps mimic the flavor of beef — then add a half cup of water and some flour at the end to thicken it. i layer the meat on the bottom, a bag of frozen veggies in the middle, and the mashed potatoes on top. depending on who i’m cooking for, i’ll sometimes top with shredded cheddar cheese and / or parmesan.

  2. Cynnamon says

    All of these sound wonderful; cant wait to try them all! I used the recipe from Eating Royally and it was fantastic. I personally can’t have to much meat and potatoes!!

    Thank you Ladies :)

  3. Kristen says

    This looks lovely. Comfort food for winter’s last hurrah. I am going to use your recipe, with a couple of alterations to make it vegan. I bet no one will notice the difference as long as I get the seasoning right.
    I will be replacing the ground beef with “Light Life Original Smart Ground,” the beef stock with “Edward & Sons Not-Beef Buillon Cubes,” the butter with “Earth Balance spread,” and the milk with “Silk Soy or Almond Milk.”

  4. Kristen says

    I finally did it. I made a cottage pie. As i said, I was going to go vegetarian with it and I did. The recipe I used was a bit simpler than the one in the post. I ended up using Morningstar Farms crumbles instead of ground meat, one red onion, fresh carrots (sliced), peas and potatoes. I went the easy route with the seasonings and bought a packet of Coleman’s Sheherd’s Pie seasoning. The whole thing took about 15 minutes to prep and 30 minutes in a 400F oven. I recommend doing the last 5 minutes on broil to get the mashed potatoes nice and brown. Just keep an eye on it.

  5. marge says

    i would love to print these out,but it won’t let me how can i do this,my mom used to make these, but she passed before i could get the recipes.

  6. Timothy Groves says

    This is mine, adapted a bit from my mum’s way of doing it.
    Potatoes, just milk and butter mashed, sometimes I will add carrots to the mashed spuds.
    Beef, browned and add Worcestershire sauce to taste, also half a small tin of tomato puree.
    Layer beef, peas, carrots if not in with the mash, baked beans are optional, and mash. butter and cheese (optional) on top of mash, then cook for 30 mins in 375 degree oven.

  7. ddblue says

    I am vegetarian and have been making Shepherd’s pie for years with lentils. It’s hearty, flavorful and cruelty-free! :)

  8. Kettleman Ken says

    Made it with ground lamb using chicken stock and leftover green beans instead of peas. Fantastic. Thank you. I am older now and do not always remember proportions. So super to have this receive handy.