This traditional cottage pie is made with a rich savoury beef mince and a layer of creamy mashed potato and cooked until golden brown. It is the perfect homemade comfort food that the whole family will love!
Cottage pie is a traditional English dish, and chances are if you grew up in the UK or Australia, you also grew up with a version of this savoury mince dish that is topped with creamy mashed potato.
When looking for dairy free dinner ideas, this family favourite recipe is inexpensive, full of flavour and so very comforting that it really shines on cool, rainy days. But of course I happily eat this year round!
The most common confusion around this meal is whether it is a cottage pie or a shepherd’s pie and what the difference actually is? It really is much simpler than you might have thought. If the dish is made with beef (like I am using today) then it’s a cottage pie. If the dish is made with lamb, then it becomes a shepherd’s pie.
So if you want to turn this dish into a shepherd’s pie, simply sub lamb mince for the beef and continue with the instructions as written. It’s as easy as that!
Cottage pie is the kind of family dish that you serve hot from the oven in the middle of the dinner table and everyone messily scoops out their own portions. You leave the dish there because you know people are going to go back for seconds.
I will happily just serve the cottage pie on it’s own and enjoy it for the balanced meal it already is, containing both my serve of meat and vegetables in every bite. However if you are feeding a crowd or are just looking for a more well rounded meal, then serving it up with some green vegetables or a side salad will be perfect here.
How to make cottage pie
There are a few ingredients and steps involved here but don’t let that intimidate you. Here are some tips before you get started to ensure success:
- Read through the recipe thoroughly before starting so you know what to expect next.
- Have all the ingredients measured out and ready to go before cooking. This saves rushing around trying to find something while your pan sits on the heat.
- Start with a clean kitchen and tidy as you go. There are a few dishes that result from cooking this pie so rather than feeling overwhelmed at the end, try and put stuff away or pack your dishwasher as you go.
Ok now we start to make our cottage pie! These step by step images should help you visualise what to expect, but make sure you read the recipe card at the bottom for full instructions.
Start by heating a pan on the stove and frying off your beef mince. Break it all down with a wooden spoon and continue to cook it until brown and all water has been cooked out. This will help ensure you don’t end up with a soggy pie. Once this is done, remove the mince from the pan and set aside.
Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook down for a couple of minutes until starting to get soft. Add in the grated carrots and the garlic and cook down until everything is soft and cooked through. Add back in the mince and stir through.
Now it’s time to add in the flavour! Add in the fresh or dried thyme, worcestershire sauce and red wine and cook down for another few minutes to remove the alcohol taste. Add in the peas and stock and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and let simmer until the liquid has cooked out and the mixture is really thick. You’ll know it’s done when you scrape along the bottom of the pan and the mixture holds firm for a moment and you can’t see any excess liquid spill out.
Next make your mashed potatoes and preheat the oven.
Add the beef mixture to an oven safe casserole or pie dish and press down until flat.
Scoop on the mashed potatoes and carefully spread over the beef mixture in an even layer until it is covered to the edges. Use a fork to scrape lines into the top of the potato. Not only does this look pretty for serving but it gives some texture to the potatoes which allows little bits to get golden and crispy. If you want a little extra flavour and golden bits, sprinkle a little finely grated parmesan cheese over the top before baking.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the potato is golden brown and the gravy is bubbling out the sides.
This is the kind of recipe that you can 100% make ahead of time and either leave in the fridge before or after baking. It reheats wonderfully and you can freeze it either as the full pie or in individual servings.
This recipe is also quite flexible and you can add whatever veggies you have available if you are ok with it not being exactly traditional. Mushrooms or grated zucchini would be a great option! You could also use turkey or pork mince as a substitute and it will still be delicious. Just remember if you use lamb to call it a shepherds pie!
You can also use this recipe and make it in individual ramekins which would be great if you are serving it at a cosy winter dinner party. Cooking time may vary but just cook until the top is golden.
If you are wanting a warm, comforting dairy-free dinner recipes that everyone is going to love, then this recipe is going to be perfect. This cottage pie will find its way onto your weekly menu time and time again I am sure of it.
More cosy winter dinner ideas:
Dairy-Free Potato and Leek Soup with Bacon Crumb
Thai Red Curry with Baked Chicken Meatballs
One Pan Roast Chicken
Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
One Pot Sausage Casserole
One Pot Spicy Sausage Pasta
Beef Minestrone Soup
For the beef filling:
- 500 grams beef mince
- 1 brown onion
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large carrot grated
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- 1-2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups stock beef or chicken
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cup peas frozen
- salt and pepper to taste
For the mashed potato:
- 800 grams potatoes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup dairy-free milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese finely grated (optional)
- Heat a frying pan over high heat with a little bit of oil and add the beef mince. Cook the beef mince, breaking it down with a wooden spoon and continue cooking until it browns and all water that releases has been cooked out. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add in the grated carrot and minced garlic and continue to saute until soft.
- Add the beef mix back to the pan and mix through the onions and carrot mixture. Add in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, followed by the tomato paste. Add in the thyme, worcestershire sauce and red wine and cook down for another few minutes to remove the alcohol taste.
- Add in the peas and stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and let simmer until the liquid has cooked out and the mixture is thick. You’ll know it’s done when you scrape the bottom of the pan along the bottom of the pan and the mixture holds firm. Set aside to cool slightly.
- While the beef is simmering down, peel and chop the potatoes and add to a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them and bring to the boil. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes until soft. Drain all excess water from the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Add in the butter and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add in the milk a little at a time and mash until the potatoes are smooth and creamy.
- Assemble the pie by placing the cooked beef in a medium sized casserole dish and smooth out the top so that it is flat. Scoop on the mashed potatoes and then smooth down with the back of a spoon until all of the beef is covered. Score across the mashed potatoes with a fork and top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some extra thyme leaves if desired.
- Bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the gravy is bubbling out the sides. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.