Beef/ Hearty Dinners/ Potato

Mum’s Traditional Cottage Pie

October 9, 2017 (Last Updated: June 30, 2019) by Chris Collins

A comforting and simple cottage pie recipe. Once you try Mum’s Traditional Cottage Pie you won’t have it any other way!

A good traditional cottage pie (not to be confused with a traditional shepherd’s pie) was, is and always will be one of my favourite dinners. Ugh, just the smell of it sends me back to being a young piglet, staring in the oven waiting to devour it.

Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie Fresh Out The Oven

First things first, before we get into anything, let’s address the elephant in the room.

What is the difference between shepherds pie and cottage pie?

Traditional in Briton a Cottage Pie referred to a beef layer topped with slices of potato (recreating the tiles of a cottage) and a shepherds pie referred to a lamb layer with mash on top. In recent times the difference has become slightly blurred, where cottage and shepherds just simply distinguishes whether the meat is beef or lamb, regardless of the type of potato on top. Now through personal experience, those in the US don’t use the term ‘cottage pie’ and refer to it as a shepherds pie.

And now you’re more confused than before right? 😂

Still to this day, the ingredients for cottage pie make it in my weekly shopping basket. It’s just one of those easy rotation dinners that you know is going to leave everyone hobbling away from the table because they’re so full. Which is usually my aim with anything I make, but cottage pie is the perfect dish to do that.

A layer of rich and saucy minced beef, topped with some smooth and creamy mash finished with a layer of cheese? I don’t know who came up with this idea but wherever you are, whoever you are, I love you and everything you stand for.

And besides this dish being so freakin’ delish, the real selling point is how easy it is to make.

Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie Process Shots

How to make Cottage Pie

  1. Beef layer – the heart and soul of a cottage pie is a rich and flavoursome ground beef layer. Fry up the veg, fry up the beef, add in the seasoning and liquids, then simmer away until thickened. Easy!
  2. Potato layer – yup, mashed potato plonked straight on top of the beef. I usually get going on this when the meat is simmering.
  3. Bake away – sprinkle on infinite amounts of cheese then chuck it in the oven until the top is golden and crispy. The smell at this point, I can’t even begin to tell you.

How do I stop the mash sinking into the beef?

Firstly ensure your potatoes dry out a little before you mash them. Let some of that moisture escape, otherwise it’ll sink into the beef whilst cooking. The other tip is to let the beef layer cool before you top it with mash. Because no steam can escape when it’s baking (as it’s hidden under the mash) whatever the thickness of the beef before the oven will be the same on the other end. So, to avoid a watery base and in turn a sloppy mess, let the mince thicken before you top it with mash.

Can I freeze cottage pie?

If there was an ambassador of freezing leftovers, it would be this. It’s the way I like to meal prep 😂

Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie being served with spoon

‘So what makes your mum’s cottage pie so damn special ey!?’

I mean it’s a valid question given you have no idea who my mother is. It’s also an interesting question which kinda got my brain ticking for a little while. Like, I know this cottage pie is damn special, but unfortunately the answer ‘because it’s mum’s homemade cottage pie, that’s why!’ doesn’t really cut the mustard. But here’s a few contributing factors that I think could be the reason.

Tips for the perfect Cottage Pie

  • Gravy granules – I see so many recipes out there that thicken the mince layer with flour and it makes me want to cry. Not only will gravy granules help along with the thickening, but they’re going to turn the mince layer into a beautifully rich gravy as well. Win win!
  • Depth of flavour – Alongside the gravy granules, a good helping of Worcestershire sauce and red wine gives this cottage pie a delicious depth of flavour, enhancing those gorgeous beefy flavours.
  • Time – ‘Is it ready yet?’ ‘how much longer?’ ‘I’m hungry!’. Yep, you’re gonna hear a lot of that, but boy it’ll be worth it. Remember, there’s no such thing as a quick cottage pie!

Keep those 3 tips in mind and you won’t go wrong 🙂

The other perfect thing about cottage pie is that if there is any leftovers, it heats up perfectly the next day for lunch. Or even freeze them in portions for whenever the craving hits again (literally the only thing close to meal prepping I do is freezing leftovers).

Perfect if you’re a small family or aren’t big eaters. Heck, even if it’s just a one man show fear not, it won’t go to waste!

Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie Serving

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How to make a Traditional Cottage Pie (Full Recipe & Video)

cottage pie fresh out the oven with beef dripping down edges of white casserole dish

Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie

A comforting and simple cottage pie recipe. Once you try Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie you won't have it any other way!
5 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: English
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 8
Calories: 693kcal

Ingredients (check list):

Beef Layer:

  • 2lbs / 1kg Beef Mince
  • 1 large White Onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups / 150g Mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 medium Carrots, peeled & finely diced
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, finely diced
  • 1 small glass of Red Wine
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 cups / 500ml cups Beef Stock
  • 2 tbsp Gravy Granules
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp dried Rosemary
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Mashed Potato Layer:

  • 4.4lbs / 2kg White Potatoes peeled
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp Butter
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 large handfuls Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • Generous helpings of Salt & Pepper
  • Cream or Milk, as needed (approx 1/2cup / 125ml)


  • In a suitably sized pot/pan, saute your Onions, Garlic, Carrot and Mushrooms in Olive Oil over medium heat until they begin to soften. Add your Mince, break it up and continue to fry over medium heat until brown all the way through.
  • Now it's Wine time. Pour in your Red Wine and leave to simmer for around 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol and allow the Mince to soak up the flavour. 
  • After, add your Beef Stock, Gravy Granules, Worcestershire Sauce, Tomato Puree, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf, Salt & Pepper (to taste) and leave to simmer over low heat for a good 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point it will look like you've got way too much liquid but it will naturally thicken, so fear not.
  • Whilst your Mince is simmering, get started on the mash. Whack your peeled Potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water for around 15mins or until soft enough to comfortably slice. Drain (don't rinse) and place back in the pot. Mash with your Butter, half your Cheese, Nutmeg and generous helpings of Salt & Pepper until a smooth but fluffy texture. Add cream/milk until desired texture. Leave to one side and preheat oven to 220c (430f).
  • In a tin or baking dish, firstly pour in your Mince (removing Bay Leaf), top the Mince with your mash and finish with a layer of Cheese. Pop in the oven for around 20mins or until golden and crispy on top. Leave to sit for a few minutes to retain shape and then serve.

Quick 1 min demo!


a) Gravy granules - Whilst the gravy granules are a key part of this recipe for both flavour and thickening of the mince, make sure it's a reputable brand. Here in the UK we do gravy granules pretty well, but I have bought some very questionable gravy granules from around the world. If you can't find any decent gravy granules I would consider leaving them out all together and allow the mince the thicken naturally. Whilst this may take a little more time, it's not worth your cottage pie tasting like perfume.
b) Seasoned Mash - Seasoning your mashed potato is absolutely key. There is nothing worse than bland mash taking away from the gorgeous flavours of the mince underneath it. Adding cream/milk is not in the recipe video, but is in the recipe. My bad!
c) How do I stop the mash sinking into the beef? - Firstly ensure your potatoes dry out a little before you mash them. Let some of that moisture escape, otherwise it'll sink into the beef whilst cooking. The other tip is to let the beef layer cool before you top it with mash. Because no steam can escape when it's baking (as it's hidden under the mash) whatever the thickness of the beef before the oven will be the same on the other end. So, to avoid a watery base and in turn a sloppy mess, let the mince thicken before you top it with mash.
d) Calories - based on using 1 tsp of olive oil for frying, 90% lean ground beef and no added cream/milk.


Nutrition Facts
Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie
Amount Per Serving
Calories 693 Calories from Fat 251
% Daily Value*
Fat 27.93g43%
Saturated Fat 13.239g66%
Trans Fat 0.799g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.236g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.628g
Cholesterol 145mg48%
Sodium 410mg17%
Potassium 1992mg57%
Carbohydrates 59.46g20%
Fiber 6.3g25%
Sugar 6.82g8%
Protein 46.52g93%
Vitamin A 6450IU129%
Vitamin C 39.6mg48%
Calcium 260mg26%
Iron 6.1mg34%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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Love a good hearty home cooked meal? Check out my Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese!

Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese

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  • Reply
    Melissa J
    March 15, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    5 stars
    We’re following the #socialdistancing mantra and have been home bound for a few days now with our kids. We’re trying to be creative and have fun with our meals/ movie nights, which has turned into the highlight of our day. We’ve been watching Lord of the Rings and just started The Hobbit trilogy and I wanted something worthy of the Shire. This recipe is outstanding. Hands down the best cottage pie I have ever tasted. I made a few modification- I didn’t have tomato paste or worcestershire, so subbed in pizza sauce and a soy sauce, sugar, hot sauce combo, but it turned out beautifully. I put a layer of cheddar cheese in between the mash and mince and it was perfection. I also baked them in individual Apilco Lion’s Head soup bowls so everyone had their own yummy portion. Thank you for the awesome tips and amazing recipe. This one will be on rotation at our house!!! Cheers!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 16, 2020 at 9:42 am

      So glad this went down well, the cheese layer between the mash and mince is genius! I’ll have to try that next time. Thanks for popping back and leaving a review 🙂 Chris.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2020 at 3:53 am

    5 stars
    I made this tonight. It was fabulous! My husband had THREE servings and said this recipe is a keeper. The perfect meal for a cold night.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      February 16, 2020 at 11:11 am

      That’s awesome to hear! So glad it went down well 🙂

  • Reply
    January 6, 2020 at 9:45 am

    5 stars
    Hi Chris. Just wanted to say a huge thanks for this recipe. Definitely the best cottage pie recipe out there. I pre-made this, froze it and took it to Cornwall for our family Boxing Day meal (as my Mum was cooking on Christmas Day so I thought I’d let her put her feet up on Boxing Day!). It went down an absolute storm – not a morsel left on anyone’s plate! Love your recipes and I always tell friends and family about your blog! All the best mate 😀

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      January 6, 2020 at 2:08 pm

      Hey Adrian! That’s awesome to hear the cottage pie went down well! That’s also very kind about speaking well of my blog, thanks so much for following along 🙂 Chris.

      P.s. Cottage pie on Boxing Day in Cornwall sounds like one hell of a combo!!

  • Reply
    Seng, Matthias
    January 2, 2020 at 9:31 am

    5 stars
    Hi Chris. Made this for our new year party, we all love it!!
    I´ve changed two ingredients: no gravy granules – in my mind you don´t need that for a good sauce – but used a bit of patato starch. Also I did it without vine, instead I´ve used half a bottle of malty black beer as an good tasting alternative.

    Best regards for the new year and – please – excuse my bad english… I´ve learned it 45years ago..

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      January 2, 2020 at 11:39 am

      That’s so awesome to hear you loved it! Glad it went down well 🙂 Thanks for popping back and sharing your feedback! P.s your English is great 🙂

  • Reply
    September 8, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    I find the Cosco gravy works well for thickening in Cottage Pie. Also Oxo low salt granules for beef stock.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      September 9, 2019 at 11:47 am

      Yup, Oxo is great! Thanks for the Cosco recommendation, Sylvia 🙂

  • Reply
    August 25, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    5 stars
    My family decided to have a “British night” for one of our family dinners. This was a hit! The pan was licked clean by the end of the night. What would be typical British sides to serve with this?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 26, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      So glad it went down well, Janna! Any sort of simple veg is the usual, in my household it’s always been green beans 🙂

  • Reply
    April 4, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Hey Chris! Can you subsitute beef with lamb to have Shepherd’s pie instead, and the rest remains the same?

    • Reply
      April 4, 2019 at 5:33 pm

      Hey Tina! Yep, that would totally work 🙂

      • Reply
        April 5, 2019 at 5:33 am

        By the way, I have made this cottage pie twice already and it’s definitely the best! Really authentic and traditional. Thank you so much!

        • Reply
          April 5, 2019 at 10:45 am

          Ah that’s so awesome to hear! It’s always my go-to comfort food. Never fails! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sherry Marie
    November 9, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Hi! This looks delicious and I’m wanting to make it, but can’t for the life of me find gravy granules here in the US. If you didn’t have them, would you use cornstarch or flour to thicken? Thank you so much! Can’t wait to try this.

    • Reply
      November 9, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Sherry! I would sub with 2 tbsp flour and mix it in after the mince is cooked, just before you add the liquids. Fry it off for a few mins to get rid of any floury taste and ensure you stir the liquids in slowly to avoid lumps 🙂

  • Reply
    October 23, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    5 stars
    Just made it! Amazing. Cheese is definitely an added dimension. I now have a go to recipe for shepherds (cottage pie) looking forward to the leftovers

    • Reply
      October 23, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      That’s awesome news, Liz! Thanks for coming back and sharing your feedback. Enjoy leftovers 🙂

    • Reply
      March 8, 2019 at 8:04 pm

      I always thought mine was the perfect cottage pie but since I never use a recipe and I needed to teach Huckleberry (my son) how to cook before he heads off to UNI. . . We used your mum’s recipe. Huck says they taste about the same. . . Only thing we changed was the wine. . . We added Guinness. And Huck followed a recipe. Great job to you both. You make your mums proud.

      • Reply
        March 8, 2019 at 8:08 pm

        Lisa! That’s so fantastic to hear! I’ll have to try it with Guinness soon, I bet that gives such a gorgeous depth of flavour. Best of luck to Huck at uni 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Ann Coy
    April 11, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    5 stars
    Hi Chris Mary Ann from Boston, MA -USA again — the largest ethnic groups here are Italian & Irish. I only recently discovered the Traditional Shepherds Pie we eat here ( traditionally supposed to be made with lamb) but most dumb Americans use hamburger, is actually Traditional English Cottage
    Pie. I do want a definition of Gravy Granules? ?Beef bouillon? Or what. Using beef broth & red wine, instead of the ubitquitos Guiness Stout, sounds really tasty, l have broth concentrates for, beef,mushrooms, & onions they are LS & Vegan. I was wondering about using a slow-cooked brown butter roux. It has scads of flavor, bakes low & slow in the oven for 2° @ 225°F. Because it is so luscious, I would batch cook it then freeze in ice cube trays & stash cubes in a zipper freezer bag. It is simple to make. Equal amounts unsalted butter & flour( I use whole wheat) you can Sub some bacon cooking grease for some of the butter + opt garlic powder, onion powder, I would use some mushroom & onion soup base & some dried herbs. I batch cook & freeze. Justifies using the oven for 2 °. Comes out gorgeous brown, & very tasty. Convenient to have cubes in the freezer. Grab what you need when you need it . Takes about the same amount of time as your wonderful carmelized onions, no tending needed. Just set a timer so you don’t forget about it. I like to add thyme since I use baby Bella mushrooms & garlic in everything. You could also add fresh garlic then spread on bread, sprinkle with cheese for that American Appetizer Cheesy Garlic Bread. I note carrots & onions in the pie base, American’s add corn, peas +carrots & sometimes red bell peppers, no Idea why. Like the nutmeg in your real mashed potatoes(yum-Yum- YUM!!!) I use Plain.Soy Yogurt, strained in mine. I like adding a 16ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables to mine, always pushing as many vegetables as possible, cheese sounds incredible, the nutmeg makes me think Swiss. If I use garlic mashed, a Vermont Sharp Cheddar. Just found a typical American Shepherd’s Pie using
    Mashed Sweet Potatoes with brown sugar, or maple, or honey & Apple Pie or Pumpkin Pie or Allspice, or Gingerbread spice mix. With butter. On its own merits, I plan to try it, Nothing to lose.
    Your Mum’s Cottage pie sounds great, looks so yummy, ❤️❤️ that’s a high 5.

  • Reply
    Jeni @ Biscuits & Booze
    January 18, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    5 stars
    ohhhhh, this is drool worthy! It’s basically the perfect comfort food dish. I wish it were more common in the US. But then again, for the sake of my dress size, perhaps it is good that it is not lol!

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      Oooo I feel ya! It’s certainly not one for the light hearted, but damn it’s worth it sometimes!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    5 stars
    The perfect comfort food recipe! I’ve never heard of “cottage pie” before, but now I need to make it.

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      The perfect comfort food, you’re so right 🙂

  • Reply
    January 18, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    I have been so craving something like this for weeks, literally! I really need to slow down, print this recipe, hop in my kitchen, and make this beauty…YUMMMM! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Bookmarking and sharing as well!

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 5:42 pm

      Amazing!! Hope you enjoy, Traci 🙂

  • Reply
    Amanda Finks
    January 18, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    5 stars
    So savory and comforting! Love it 🙂

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! 🙂

  • Reply
    January 18, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    5 stars
    This is some amazing looking comfort food, can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Enjoy, Sara!! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 7, 2017 at 11:54 am


  • Reply
    Mark Muirhead
    January 11, 2017 at 3:48 am

    A “leftovers” version of this is great for the day after your friends didn’t turn up to the over catered dinner party!
    Mince every bit of cooked red meat you can find (secret ingredient is fresh corned beef, not tinned), the flavours combine well, add in your saute’d veges (to taste), and dig up that bottle of home-made tomato ketchup you pinched from grandma as your fluid mush it all together and top it as per above.
    You don’t need the herbs as the corned beef and the ketchup bring a sweet, tart, hot (lots of cayenne in the K) and pimento/mustard tomato profile. Sound boring but works a treat!

    Sorry for the waffle!

    • Reply
      January 16, 2017 at 6:12 am

      mmmmm that really sounds delicious Mark! If I ever try the leftovers addition I’ll certainly let you know 🙂

  • Reply
    Brian Lageose
    January 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    This looks and sounds delicious.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2017 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks Brian 🙂

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