Cottage pie is a cozy, comforting casserole, made with ground beef and vegetables, topped with a delicious layer of cheesy mashed potatoes.
It’s the ultimate comfort food meal, and simple to make with this traditional English recipe.
There might not be any dish more cozy and comforting than a big pan filled with savory ground beef and gravy that is topped with a creamy mashed potato crust!
This Cottage Pie Recipe is a wonderful way to feed your family a homecooked, classic meal that is filling, nutritious and delicious.
Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie?
Wondering what the difference is? This potato-covered casserole recipe with ground beef is often called a shepherd’s pie, but the two are actually slightly different.
Shepherd’s pie is this exact same recipe, but it’s made with lamb rather than beef.
This beef casserole recipe will teach you the most common way to make a cottage pie, but you can replace the beef with any other meat you have. It’s a great way to use up leftovers.
You can even make a vegetarian version of this savory meat pie with my Lentil Cottage Pie recipe!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Amazing Flavors – Ground beef and vegetables are cooked and simmered with a rich and savory gravy that includes plenty of garlic, tomato paste, and the perfect blend of seasonings.
- Easy To Make – Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients here, I promise that the little bit of prep time is well worth the outcome. If you need to, you can even prepare this easy cottage pie ahead of time – I’ll share more details on that in a bit!
- Customizable – While I think that this cottage pie recipe is perfect, you can easily switch things up and add your own twists. Replace the ground beef with lamb (for a shepherd’s pie), ground turkey, or leftover pot roast. Include your family’s favorite veggies, leave out any that they don’t enjoy, or adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes.
Key Ingredients in Cottage Pie
Here’s what you need to make the best cottage pie recipe:
- Beef: Lean ground beef is my go-to when I’m making ground beef casserole recipes. Choose 90/10 beef for plenty of flavor and less extra fat.
- Potatoes: Mashed potatoes make up the top layer of the casserole! In the US, use Russet or Yukon gold potatoes. In the UK, use Maris Piper.
- Cheddar Cheese: Melty cheese makes everything more delicious! It’s technically optional, but I love the added flavor that cheddar gives the mashed potatoes.
- Aromatics: The savory gravy starts with onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.
- For the Sauce: Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, beef stock, and a couple of bay leaves make the gravy for your cottage pie amazingly flavorful.
- Peas: I know that not everyone is a big fan of peas in their casseroles, so you can leave them out if you like!
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
How To Make A Cottage Pie
This casserole is made with two distinct layers. First, we’ll make the creamy, fluffy potato layer. Then we’ll cook the meat and vegetables in their savory gravy.
To save time, start cooking the beef while the potatoes are boiling! You’ll also want your oven preheated to 350°F (180°C).
- Boil Potatoes: Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Add the potatoes to a large pot, cover with water, and add salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until fork-tender.
- Mash: Drain the potatoes and then return them to the pot. Add butter and milk and mash until smooth and creamy.
- Season: Stir in half of the cheddar cheese. Taste the potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. Set the potatoes aside.
- Saute Vegetables: Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until softened. Then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Cook the Beef: Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook until browned, breaking apart the meat as it cooks. Stir in the flour, and cook for 1 minute. This is what will make the gravy nice and thick.
- Simmer: Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to thicken, stirring every few minutes so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
- Add Peas: Lastly, add the frozen peas. Remove the bay leaves, taste the mixture, and adjust the seasonings if needed.
- Assemble the Casserole: Add the ground meat filling to a baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Then spoon the mashed potatoes over the top, spreading them out to completely cover the meat.
- Decorate: If desired, use a fork to create a pattern for decoration! Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the potato layer.
- Bake: Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the edges are bubbly.
Let the Cottage Pie rest for a few minutes before serving. This will allow the filling to set slightly and hold it’s shape when cut.
- Choose Your Baking Dish: This recipe works perfectly in a 9×13-inch rectangular casserole dish. You can also bake cottage pie in a 12-inch round baking dish or a large, deep, oven-proof skillet.
- Use Leftover Mashed Potatoes: This dish works perfectly with leftover mashed potatoes, or potatoes that you cooked ahead of time just for this purpose.
- Add Some Wine: Traditionally, a half cup of red wine is cooked with the beef after it’s been browned. Try this trick to add an even richer flavor to the dish.
- Make Ahead: This is an easy recipe to prep ahead of time! You can prepare the entire casserole up to the point of baking. Wrap it well and store it in the refrigerator overnight or up to 2 days in advance. Bake as directed, adding a few extra minutes as needed.
Store leftover cottage pie in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Leftover portions are easy to reheat in the microwave.
What To Serve With Cottage Pie
This hearty comfort dish with meat, vegetables, and potatoes is already a full meal!
Yes! Bake the casserole in a freezer-safe dish and let it cool. Wrap it well with plastic wrap and foil, and freeze for up to 2 months. You can bake it from frozen, but it will need 90 minutes or more in the oven. I suggest letting it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then baking as directed.
The flour in the recipe is used as a thickener. You can replace it with an all-purpose gluten-free flour, or thicken the sauce using a slurry of water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Add this to the sauce with the broth.
I actually don’t recommend using a mixer to mash potatoes. This can mash the potatoes too much, causing them to be sticky and starchy rather than light and fluffy. A hand-held potato masher is the best tool for the job.
Make sure to save this Cottage Pie Recipe! It’s truly the best, and I know that your family is going to rave about it and ask you to make it again and again.
- 2 lbs (900 g) potatoes peeled and cut into chunks – Yukon Gold or Russets in the US, in the UK use Maris Piper
- ¼ cup (56 g) unsalted butter
- ½ cup (120 ml) milk whole or 2%
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese divided
- 1 pound (450 g) ground beef lean
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil not extra virgin
- 1 large onion finely chopped, about 1 cup
- 2 carrots peeled and diced, about ¾ cup
- 2 celery stalks diced, about ¾ cup
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 2 ½ cups (600 ml) beef stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves dried or fresh
- ½ cup frozen peas no need to thaw
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
- To a large pot, add potato chunks, cover with water and add salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well, then return to the pot. Add the butter and milk, and mash until smooth and creamy. Stir in half of the shredded cheddar cheese, taste and adjust seasonings to your preference and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef to the skillet, season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, breaking it apart with a spoon as it cooks.
- Add the flour, and cook the mixture for 1 minute.
- Add tomato puree, worcestershire sauce, beef stock, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly. Stir every few minutes to make sure nothing gets stuck at the bottom.
- Stir in the peas, discard the bay leaves, remove from heat, taste the mixture and adjust seasonings to your preference.
- Transfer the meat and vegetable mixture to a baking dish (if not using an oven proof dish already), spreading it evenly. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top, spreading them out with a spatula to cover the mixture completely. If desired, use a fork to create a pattern for decoration.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the mashed potatoes.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden and the edges are bubbly.
- Allow the cottage pie to rest for a few minutes before serving, this will help it to hold its shape when cut.
- This recipe can serve up to 8 people, depending on the serving size. Otherwise, it makes six generous portions.
- This recipe works perfectly in a 9×13-inch rectangular casserole dish. You can also bake cottage pie in a 12-inch round baking dish or a large, deep, oven-proof skillet.
- Traditionally, a half cup of red wine is cooked with the beef after it’s been browned. Try this trick to add an even richer flavor to the dish.
- Storage: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
© Little Sunny Kitchen