Classic Cottage Pie Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 45 min. Bake: 20 min.
This homey cottage pie recipe features a savory ground beef filling and a rich homemade gravy. Top it off with fluffy mashed potatoes and melty cheddar cheese, and this dish becomes the ultimate comfort food.

Updated: Jan. 26, 2024

Cottage pie is a classic meat-and-potato pie that’s warm, rich and comforting. If you’ve never had it, you’ll find that it tastes similar to shepherd’s pie. Cottage pie features a rich gravy filling made with ground beef, spices, tomato paste, beef broth and red wine. The meat filling becomes deeply flavored and thickens as it simmers. It’s the perfect base for a cheesy mashed potato topping.

Our cottage pie recipe is a from-scratch recipe. This dish tastes best with homemade mashed potatoes, so we make them fresh. And the beefy filling becomes deeply nuanced as you cook and build layers of flavors in the gravy. Surprisingly enough, this recipe doesn’t take that much longer than the quick-and-easy versions. From start to finish, it’s just about an hour! Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t take shortcuts, as we do in our easy shepherd’s pie. Instant potatoes and packaged gravy mix are always an option if you need to get dinner on the table quickly.

Cottage Pie Ingredients

  • Ground beef or lamb: If you want to get technical, cottage pie is made with ground beef, whereas shepherd’s pie uses ground lamb. Both are delicious, so feel free to use either one in this cottage pie recipe.
  • Onions, carrots and peas: This combination is classic for cottage pie recipes. The vegetables add a tender texture and a burst of bright color.
  • Gravy: Part of the pie’s filling is a savory gravy made with parsley, Italian seasoning, tomato paste, brown sugar, beef broth and red wine.
  • Flour: The gravy is thickened with all-purpose flour. If you’re concerned with allergens, feel free to use a gluten-free thickener like cornstarch or arrowroot.
  • Mashed potato topping: This easy mashed potato topping gets a flavorful boost from cheddar cheese. You can use starchy potatoes (like russet or baking potatoes) or Yukon Gold potatoes (a type of potato with a naturally buttery flavor).
  • Cheddar cheese: Melty cheddar cheese adds creaminess to the mashed potatoes and gives the topping a bright-orange appearance.

Directions

Step 1: Cook the meat and vegetables

Mixing meat and vegetables in skilletTMB Studio

In a large skillet, cook the beef, carrots and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender. Drain any excess grease.

Step 2: Finish the meat filling

Adding liquid to meat mixtureTMB Studio

Stir in the flour, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper until blended. Add the tomato paste and brown sugar. Gradually add the broth and wine, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer the meat mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened. Stir in the peas.

Editor’s Tip: Simmering the meat mixture until it’s nice and thick ensures that cottage pie won’t turn out watery or runny. If it’s not thick enough for your liking, make a slurry of 1 tablespoon flour mixed with 1 tablespoon water or broth. Add it to the skillet before adding the peas, and simmer until thickened.

Step 3: Boil the potatoes

Boiling the potatoesTMB Studio

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, and cook, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender.

Step 4: Mash the potatoes

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Transfer the meat mixture to a greased 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Drain the potatoes. Mash them with the milk and butter. Stir in 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.

Mashing potatoes with cheeseTMB Studio

Editor’s Tip: The best way to mash potatoes for a very smooth topping is to use a food mill. Or use a handheld potato masher to create a topping with a rustic texture.

Step 5: Layer the cottage pie

Layering mashed potato over meat mixtureTMB Studio

Spread the mashed potato topping over the meat mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Editor’s Tip: Before you add the cheese, decide whether you want to give the cottage pie a smooth or a rustic look. You can smooth out the mashed potatoes with the back of a spoon for an even finish. Or, to give the topping craggy edges, drag a fork through the potatoes to create peaks and valleys.

Step 5: Bake the cottage pie

Cottage PieTMB Studio

Place the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Editor’s Tip: The pie plate will be very full. Placing it on a foil-lined baking sheet catches any drippings that might overflow as the cottage pie bakes.

Recipe Variations

  • Add ground sausage: Replace some (or all) of the ground meat with ground sausage. It boosts the flavor of the cottage pie and gives it an extra-savory edge.
  • Change up the potatoes: If you don’t have time to make mashed potatoes from scratch, you can use leftover mashed potatoes, store-bought refrigerated potatoes or instant potatoes. You can also switch up the topping with other pureed vegetables like mashed cauliflower or mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Make cottage pie baked potatoes: If you don’t want to mess with mashed potatoes, stuff the meaty filling into a baked potato to make baked potato shepherd’s pie.
  • Use another cheese: Most melting cheeses, such as Monterey Jack, Gruyere, Swiss and fontina, will work in this recipe.

Can you make cottage pie ahead of time?

To make cottage pie ahead of time, prepare the meat mixture and mashed potatoes the day before. Store each in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake the cottage pie, layer the ingredients, and bake as directed. The filling will be cold, so you may need to adjust the cooking time as needed to ensure the cottage pie heats through to an internal temperature of 165°.

How to Store Cottage Pie

Store cottage pie in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat the leftovers in a 350° oven or the microwave until they reach an internal temperature of 165°.

Can you freeze cottage pie?

To freeze cottage pie, let it cool completely. Transfer it to an airtight container, and store in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

Cottage Pie Tips

Cottage Pie TMB Studio

What’s the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie?

The major difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie is that cottage pie uses ground beef and a traditional shepherd’s pie recipe is made with ground lamb or mutton. Other than that, the two dishes are very similar. Each contains tender vegetables, rich gravy and a creamy mashed potato topping. You can easily turn this cottage pie recipe into a shepherd’s pie by using ground lamb.

How do you keep the mashed potato topping from sinking into cottage pie?

To stop the potatoes from sinking into the filling, cool the meat mixture before adding the potato topping. If the mashed potatoes do sink, it’s not the end of the world. The cottage pie will still taste great, but it won’t look as impressive.

What goes with cottage pie?

Cottage pie goes well with a side salad or vegetable side dishes like glazed carrots or sauteed green beans. Be sure to serve it with biscuits or crusty bread to sop up every last drop of the delicious gravy.

Classic Cottage Pie

Prep Time 45 min
Cook Time 20 min
Yield 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine or additional reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • TOPPING:
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, carrots and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink and vegetables are tender; drain. Stir in flour, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper until blended. Add tomato paste and brown sugar; gradually add broth and wine, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10-15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in peas.
  2. Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook 10-15 minutes or until tender.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°. Transfer meat mixture into a greased 9-in. deep-dish pie plate. Drain potatoes; mash with milk and butter. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese and the salt and pepper. Spread over meat mixture; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
  4. Place pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet (plate will be full). Bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Nutrition Facts

1 serving: 403 calories, 22g fat (11g saturated fat), 84mg cholesterol, 740mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 3g fiber), 21g protein.

Cottage pie is a combination of ground beef or lamb with mashed potatoes, topped with a bubbling layer of cheese is the perfect comfort food. It’s a good remedy for the winter chills.—Shannon Copley, Upper Arlington, Ohio