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front view of cottage pie on fork

Classic Cottage Pie

Classic Cottage Pie - this simple English comfort food is one of my all time favorite meals and is a serious crowd pleaser - I get asked for the recipe every time I serve it! It can be made ahead and tastes amazing left over!
Course Dinner
Cuisine British
Keyword comfort food, cottage pie
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 6


For the Mashed Potatoes

  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes (Russets are more traditional in England, but I prefer the flavor of Gold potatoes)
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • up to 1/2 cup milk or cream (as needed )

For the Meat and Vegetable Mixture

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp flour (optional - adds a thicker gravy like consistency to the meat mixture - can omit or sub with arrowroot powder for gluten free/grain free)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium high and continue to boil until potatoes are soft (about 10 minutes).
  • While the potatoes are boiling, heat the butter over medium high heat in a large skillet or dutch oven. Add the chopped onion, garlic, celery, carrots, ground beef, salt, and pepper, stirring often until vegetables are soft and meat is browned. 
  • Reduce heat to medium and sprinkle flour evenly over the surface of the cooked vegetable-meat mixture and stir to mix. Continue to heat a few more minutes until the mixture starts to thicken slightly.  Transfer to a medium casserole dish and set aside. (Mine is 11x8", which makes a nice, thick pie. But 13x9" is fine too)
  • Drain the cooked potatoes, add the butter and salt, and use a potato masher or electric mixer to mash. If you're using an electric mixer, start on low speed and progress to medium - don't overmix them or they'll become gummy! Add milk/cream to the potatoes if needed. 
  • Spoon mashed potatoes on top of the meat-vegetable mixture in the casserole dish and use a spatula to spread evenly across the surface. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or the mixture is heated through and the surface begins to firm slightly. 
  • I usually add a minute or two under the broiler at the end to get that  golden brown crisp on the surface!


  • Any type of potatoes can be used for this recipe. Russets are more common in England, but I prefer the buttery taste of Gold potatoes more!
  • Peeling the potatoes is optional. I tend to leave the peels on for added nutritional value, especially if I'm using the thinner skinned Gold potatoes.
  • The flour can be omitted or swapped out for arrowroot powder for a grain free/gluten free option. 
  •  If you're using an electric mixer for the mashed potatoes, start on low speed and progress to medium - don't overmix them or they'll become gummy!
  • I find that Gold potatoes don't need much milk/cream, but drier varieties like Russet need more. 
  • A variety of veggies can be added - English peas and parsnips are both good options. 
  • This dish can be assembled in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to cook. 
  • Makes GREAT leftovers!