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Traditional English Cottage Pie Recipe

by Benjamin Sauerborn
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Cottage pie is the ultimate comfort food that you’ll find at almost any of the many pubs scattered across England. It’s delicious, easy to make, and gives you a warm, full feeling especially in those fall and winter months. Throughout history, as you can read in many old English cookbooks, cottage pie was most commonly made from leftover roasted meats. Unsurprisingly cottage pie is one of the UK’s favorite dishes.

Freshly baked cottage pie

Cottage Pie vs Shepards Pie

What is the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie? The two are very often confused with one another. There is one main difference that stands out between the two. Shepard’s pie (as in a person who tends, herds, feeds, or guards herds of sheep) is made from ground lamb. Shepard’s pie is also an old Irish specialty while as you read in the previous paragraph, cottage pie is English.

My childhood favourite is mum’s shepherd’s pie, Yorkshire pudding and roasted potatoes. I remember coming home from school and going to the kitchen to help her. It’s because of her that I discovered my love for cooking. – Gordon Ramsay

The Filling

The mixture of ground beef and fresh vegetables makes this such a wholesome meal. Diced onion, carrots, and celery (or meirpox in french culinary lingo) is most traditional to a cottage pie. Some other heart editions could be mushrooms, peas, leek, and corn (although you’d never find that in any traditional English meat pies).

The ground beef is browned, added to the sauteed garlic and vegetables, simmered in stock for up to an hour, then flour is added as a thicker and to bring the meaty filling together. Season with salt and ground black pepper and fresh herbs like parsley and thyme.

Cottage pie with a slice take out of it exposing the filling

Mashed Potato Topping

Mashed potatoes are best made with starchy potatoes, mashed with things like butter and cream or milk for a beautifully smooth, and creamy texture. Boil them until they’re soft and tender and season with minced garlic, salt, and black pepper, and fresh nutmeg. Use an electric mixer for maximum efficiency and smoothness but if you don’t have one use a hand masher. Sharp cheddar cheese is also classically English, but feel free to settle for a milder cheddar if you don’t prefer the strong flavor.


A classic characteristic of cottage pie (with or without cheese) is the browned mashed potatoes peaks or melted and charred cheese. Preheat the oven to fan 400°F and bake the pie to 25-30 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it cool and rest on the counter before serving.

A close up of the pie filling

Cottage Pie Recipe

Cottage pie is the ultimate comfort food that you’ll find at almost any of… Recipes Traditional English Cottage Pie Recipe English Print This
Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )


  • Mashed potatoes:
  • 2.2 lbs Starchy potatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • A splash of whole Milk
  • Filling:
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb Ground beef
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 small celery stalks
  • ¼ of a large Leek
  • 1 cup of Beef stock
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh thyme


  1. Start by making the mashed potatoes by peeling and boiling the potatoes until their easily mashable with a fork. 
  2. Strain the water and roughly mash the potatoes with an electric mixer. 
  3. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and minced garlic then mash further. 
  4. Melt in the butter and gradually add the milk tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired creaminess. 


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Make the filling by adding olive oil to a hot and frying the onion and garlic. Add and brown the minced beef then set it aside in a bowl.
  2. Add a little bit more olive oil into the pan and add the carrots and celery. Sautee them for 4-5 minutes then add the peas and the meat mixture followed by the leeks.
  3. Slowly pour in the beef stock then add the flour and mix. 
  4. Cook the beef mixture until it thickens then add the fresh herbs and season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Add the beef mixture to a shallow baking dish and distribute it evenly.
  6. Spread the mashed potatoes over the beef evenly and top with grated cheese. 
  7. Bake for 15 minutes until the mashed potatoes have browned and the cheese is melted to your liking.

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