Cottage Pie is a rustic, savory pie of ground beef in a flavorful gravy, vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes and cheese. An easy comfort food favorite!
I have to confess I love a one dish meal, especially in the winter.
Inspired by St. Patrick’s Day, this Irish recipe is for a classic: savory Cottage Pie.
Cottage Pie is a dish with peasant roots featuring meat, vegetables and potatoes that combine to be quintessential comfort food.
What is Cottage Pie?
Cottage Pie is an easy recipe combining ground beef in a savory sauce or gravy, with vegetables.
Onion, carrot and peas are typically added to the meat then added to a baking dish.
The cottage pie is topped with mashed potatoes and cheese.
How Cottage Pie Got Its Name
Truly a dish of Great Britain, not just Ireland, the name was derived from the country folk who lived in cottages, credited with devising the savory Cottage Pie.
A British friend who lives in England always rakes the top of her cottage pie with the tines of a fork to make the potatoes have the texture of a thatched roof of a rustic cottage.
The Difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie
In the United States, Shepherd’s Pie is probably more well known.
Classic Shepherd’s Pie would use mutton or lamb for the protein though beef is tolerated as a swap out.
It’s such an easy recipe I make a Southwestern Turkey Shepherd’s Pie to use Thanksgiving leftovers.
The name ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ is derived from those who tend the sheep since that is the meat in the dish.
Cottage Pie actually predates Shepherd’s Pie back to the 1700’s. It originated as a dish intended to use up roast meat adding a potato crust on the top.
In Ireland potatoes were very affordable offering them a starring role in most classic Irish recipes of the time.
Ingredients in Cottage Pie
The core of the traditional Cottage Pie remains the same today:
Minced or ground beef cooked with onions, carrots, garlic and often peas, into a gravy-like sauce
Baked with the topping of mashed potatoes and usually cheese
The ingredients are divided between the main components and the ingredients for the irresistible sauce:
- Ground Beef
- Olive Oil
- Yellow Onion
- Garlic Cloves
- Flour (gluten-free or regular depending on your preference/needs)
- Red Wine
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Beef Stock
- Tamari (gluten-free) or low-sodium Soy Sauce (gluten)
- Bay Leaf
- dried Thyme
- frozen Peas
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Yukon Gold Potatoes
- Kosher Salt and fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Don’t let the length of the ingredient list scare you!
There is very little preparation of the ingredients and the majority of the list are added into the sauce.
In my recipe adaptation, I used Yukon Gold potatoes which tend to be creamy when mashed and have a beautiful golden hue.
How Long Does Cottage Pie Cook?
The assembled Cottage Pie recipe cooks in aproximately 20 minutes.
Each component (the ground beef, vegetables, gravy and mashed potatoes) is cooked before the Cottage Pie is assembled.
So the final cooking time is to warm the Cottage Pie through.
Total cooking time is aproximately 85 minutes for all recipe steps.
How to Make Cottage Pie – Step by Step:
Cottage pie is an easy recipe and makes a complete meal in one casserole!
It is a relaxed, filling dish with rustic flavors and presentation.
For detailed instructions please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this blog post.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.
- Add the ground beef and cook just until the pink color has disappeared (photo 1; not yet fully cooked). Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet and add the onion, carrots, shallots and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are soft (15-20 minutes). (photo 2)
- Add the beef back to the skillet and stir to fully combine.
- Dust the flour over the skillet mixture; add the ketchup. Stir.
- Add the wine and vinegar. Bring to a low boil.
- Add the beef stock, soy sauce/tamari, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a sturdy simmer and cook until the liquid is absorbed (45 minutes). (photo 3)
- While the beef mixture is simmering, prepare the Mashed Potatoes. (photo 4)
- Stir the frozen peas into the beef mixture and discard the bay leaf.
- Spoon into a 2 1/2 or 3 quart baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bakes for 20 minutes until heated through.
Can Cooked Cottage Pie Be Frozen?
Yes! It can be kept in the freezer for 4-6 months.
How to Freeze and Reheat Cottage Pie:
- Prepare the recipe as directed without the grated cheese on top.
- Allow to fully cool.
- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap followed by foil.
- Place in freezer.
- Remove the Cottage Pie from the freezer the night before serving to allow to fully defrost in the refrigerator.
- (The day of serving) Remove the plastic wrap and foil.
- Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
- Cook in a 350 degree oven until heated through (20-30 minutes).
More International Recipes You’ll Love:
- 10 Authentic Irish Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day
- Mexican Lasagna with Hatch Chilies
- Seychelles-Style Coconut Chicken Curry
Savory Cottage Pie
Cottage Pie is a rustic savory pie with roots in Great Britain extending back to the 1700's. Minced or ground beef combined with hearty vegetables cooked to form a creamy gravy, baked topped with mashed potatoes and cheese.
- 2 pounds lean Ground Beef
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 medium Yellow Onion , chopped
- 2 large Carrots , scrubbed and chopped (yield about 1 ½ cups chopped)
- 2 large Shallots , chopped
- 2 large Garlic Cloves
- 3 tablespoons Flour (gluten-free or regular depending on your preference/needs)
- 1 tablespoon Ketchup
- 4 ounces Red Wine
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
- 28 ounces Beef Stock
- 3 tablespoons Tamari (gluten-free) or low-sodium Soy Sauce (gluten)
- 1 Bay Leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried Thyme
- 1 cup frozen Peas
- 1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese , grated
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes peeled
- ¼ cup Milk , room temperature or warmed slightly in a microwave
- 4 tablespoons Butter
- Kosher Salt and fresh Ground Pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook just until the pink color has disappeared. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Add the ground beef and cook just until the pink color has disappeared. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet and add the onion, carrots, shallots and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft; 15-20 minutes.
Add the beef back to the skillet and stir to fully combine.
Dust the flour over the skillet mixture and add the ketchup; stir to combine.
Add the wine and vinegar. Bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to medium.
Add the beef stock, soy sauce/tamari, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a sturdy simmer and allow to cook for 45 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. NOTE: The mixture should have formed a gravy with the ground meat and vegetables making the mixture somewhat creamy.
Making the Mashed Potatoes
While the beef mixture is simmering, prepare the Mashed Potatoes: steam the potatoes for 25 minutes or until soft.
When done, discard the water from the pan.
Put the potatoes through a ricer back into the warm cooking pan.
Add the milk and butter and stir to combine into creamy mashed potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Assembling and Baking the Cottage Pie
Stir the frozen peas into the beef mixture and discard the bay leaf.
Spoon into a 2 1/2 or 3 quart baking dish.
Top with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes until heated through.
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food
This recipe is typically cooked in a baking dish or pan. I used a 2.5 quart volume 8-inch by 11-inch by 2.5 high deep dish casserole so it would be brimming to the top. A 3 quart casserole or baking dish would give it a bit more room.
Originally published March 9, 2015; updated March 2019.