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! – Hungry now? Jump to Recipe

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 🙂

Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie Serving

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!

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

5 from 5 votes
Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie
Mum's Traditional Cottage Pie
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 5 mins
Total Time
1 hr 25 mins

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

Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: English
Keyword: Traditional Cottage Pie
Servings: 8
Calories: 693 kcal
Author: Chris
Beef Layer:
  • 2lbs / 1kg Beef Mince
  • 1 Large sized White Onion finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups / 150g Mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 medium sized Carrots peeled
  • 2 cloves of Garlic minced
  • 1 small glass of Red Wine
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 cups (500ml) Beef Stock
  • 1-2 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 handfuls Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • Generous helpings of Salt & Pepper
  • Cream or Milk (optional)
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

  3. 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.

  4. 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, Nutmeg and generous helpings of Salt & Pepper until a smooth but fluffy texture. Add cream/milk until desired texture if you are using it. Leave to one side and preheat oven to 220c (430f)

  5. 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.

Watch how to make it!

Recipe Notes

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. For a creamier mash also add milk, cream or creme fraiche until desired texture.


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*
Total Fat 27.93g 43%
Saturated Fat 13.239g 66%
Trans Fat 0.799g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.236g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.628g
Cholesterol 145mg 48%
Sodium 410mg 17%
Potassium 1992mg 57%
Total Carbohydrates 59.46g 20%
Dietary Fiber 6.3g 25%
Sugars 6.82g
Protein 46.52g 93%
Vitamin A 129%
Vitamin C 48%
Calcium 26%
Iron 34%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Love a good hearty home cooked meal? Check out my Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese!

Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese

If you loved this Traditional Cottage Pie recipe then be sure to Pin it for later! Already made it or got a question? Let me know in the comments below and pick up for free ecookbook on the way!

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


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  • 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 🙂

  • 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
    May 7, 2017 at 11:54 am


  • Reply
    January 18, 2018 at 3:24 pm

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

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Enjoy, Sara!! 🙂

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

    So savory and comforting! Love it 🙂

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! 🙂

  • 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
    January 18, 2018 at 4:57 pm

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

    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
    Baked Spaghetti Day – BRUT IMPERIAL ANTARCTICA
    January 23, 2018 at 3:06 am

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

    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.

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