Traditional Irish Cottage Pie

Recipe Pin
2 hours 40 minutes
8 servings

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Irish shepherd’s pie has a close cousin made with ground beef versus ground lamb, a delicious fare known as Traditional Irish Cottage Pie!

a casserole dish filled with meat pie and a mashed potato crust, with sweet potatoes and white potatoes

This 45-minute main dish ticks all the boxes that comfort is food known for, including perfectly seasoned ground meat in a hearty beef broth and red wine gravy. It’s also full of a colorful vegetable mixture and topped with creamy mashed potatoes baked until perfectly golden brown.

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I have ‘southernized’ this for me and mine, assembling a mashed potato crust of both sweet and russet potatoes AND with an optional and deliciously cheesy addition. It’s the perfect meal, and an oh so comforting dinner!

You need this insanely good cottage pie recipe in your life. Nothing is more comforting on a chilly evening than cozying up with a warm bowl of beefy goodness made all the better with thick gravy and a potato mash.

If it’s ground beef recipes you’re after, don’t miss my French Onion Salisbury SteakSwedish Meatballs, or my Wagyu Meatloaf!

The meat mixture is browned using olive oil, seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves and black pepper, and thickened with tomato paste and all-purpose flour. Just as in a traditional Shepherd’s Pie, the potato mash uses egg yolk to bind, allowing to a delicious dish to emerge straight from your oven.

Like most hearty Irish food, you can make an entire baking dish full of this savory beef mince in the same amount of time it would take you to heat up random leftovers. The added BONUS? I am betting you have most, if not all, the ingredients sitting in your pantry. You may just want to consider a double batch!

Irish Cottage Pie Ingredients

for the filling

  • olive oil
  • onion
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • lean ground beef
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • tomato paste or mushroom ketchup
  • all-purpose flour
  • fresh herbs in any combination; thyme, sage, marjoram, parsley, and rosemary
  • black pepper
  • dry red wine
  • beef broth or homemade beef stock if on hand
  • dried bay leaves

for the potato crust

  • 2 large or 3 medium russet potatoes – may substitute Yukon Gold
  • 2 large or 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • heavy cream
  • unsalted butter
  • fresh herbs in any combination; thyme, sage, marjoram, parsley, and rosemary
  • egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)
  • Kosher salt

optional

  • Double Gloucester cheese with Onion and Chives
  • caramelized onion cheese such as Boars Head Onion Jack or Trader Joe’s Cheddar Caramelized Onions
a white dinner plate with cottage pie and thick beef gravy on top, with lettuce salad

How to Make Cottage Pie

Before Beginning

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Set aside.

Spray an 11 x 7-inch casserole pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Make the Filling

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the oil shimmers, add onion and carrot.

Cook together for about 8 minutes until they have softened and browned slightly. Add chopped garlic and cook for one minute more.

Remove the veg to a bowl and set aside. Reduce to medium heat and add the beef, breaking it up as it cooks with a wooden spoon.

Once browned, create a well in the center of the skillet. Add Worcestershire and tomato paste (or mushroom ketchup) and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, slowly incorporating bits of beef into the paste mixture.

Adjust the heat to allow the paste to brown a bit but reducing the heat shy of burning it. Do not worry about sticking to the bottom of the pan as all the brown bits will all come up (rather deliciously!) during the deglaze.

Add the beef back to the skillet and sprinkle with the flour, the mixed herbs, and season with pepper. Keep the mixture moving in the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to rid the mixture of any flour taste.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add a glug of dry red wine. Use the back of the wooden spoon to scrape up any accumulation or fond from the bottom of the skillet.

Return to the heat, turning to the gentlest possible simmer, and add the beef broth and 2 bay leaves. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minute simmer, cut the heat and remove the lid. Allow the filling to cool for 20 minutes before adding it to the prepared baking dish.

Prepare the Potato Mash

In a saucepan over low heat, add heavy cream and butter and allow the cream to heat and the butter to melt. Whisk in the herbs and Kosher salt to taste. Keep warm.

Peel all of the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch chunks. Boil them together or separately in salted water until tender, then drain. I boil mine together and separate them after the boil.

The pieces are large enough to where separating them is not hard. Also, it will not matter very much if you end up with some sweet potatoes in the white mash, or some white potatoes in the sweet potato mash.

Place potatoes respectively into two separate bowls and break them up separately using a hand-held potato masher or a fork. Add half the cream mixture to each bowl and continue to mash to a smooth purée. Add an egg yolk to each and stir to combine well.

Optional: if you plan to use an onion cheese and a Double Gloucester cheese in your potato crust, add one cheese to each potato mash (it does not matter which cheese you add to which potato), and mix to combine. Again, this is purely optional, but very, very TASTY!

Assembly

Remove the bay leaves from the thick beef mixture. If the mixture appears too thick, add some additional beef broth or stock to thin it out slightly.

You should have it at a consistency to where it can be poured into an even layer in an 11 x 7-inch baking pan. Also, to avoid the mash ‘sinking’ during the bake, cool the filling before loading it up with the mash.

When ready, and starting at one corner, spoon one of the mashed potato mixtures to the opposite corner in as straight a line as you are able and filling in behind it. Repeat the process with the other potato, levelling everything off as you go.

If desired, use the tines of a fork to create a pattern on the top of the potato crust. Creating the peaks and valleys with a fork is a great way to “pretty it up” if serving this dish for company, and it takes only but a minute.

a baked potato crust atop a casserole of beef mince
The “peaks and valleys” of the potato crust are made using the tines of a fork.

Bake

Place the casserole dish atop the lined baking sheet and load into the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The savory gravy beneath the potatoes will begin to bubble up along the sides and in the corners, so it’s important to place the baker atop a lined tray to catch any drips.

At the end of the baking time, turn your oven’s broil feature on. DO NOT WALK AWAY! Leave the meat pie beneath the broiler for several minutes allowing the peaks of the potato crust to deeply brown.

Once the tops of the mash are golden, remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before digging in. This delicious Irish dish will be HOT, HOT, HOT! Spoon individual servings into wide, shallow bowls being sure to offer some of each flavor of mash to each person.

Modifying the Norm to Make It Not Entirely Average

  • To increase the good carb intake, load the beef mixture with plenty of finely chopped kale.
  • Replace the potato mash (or half of it) with mashed turnips.
  • Create a mixture of shaved parmesan cheese and fresh minced herbs to sprinkle over the top of the potatoes just before going into the oven.
featured image for Cottage Pie with beef mince and thick beef gravy

Cottage Pie

Jenny DeRemer
Traditional Irish shepherd's pie has a close cousin assembled with ground beef versus ground lamb, delicious fare known as Irish cottage pie!
4.95 from 52 votes
Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Resting Time 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 8 servings
Calories 639 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
 

for the filling

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium Vidalia onions finely chopped
  • 3 large carrots peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 ¾ pounds lean ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste may substitute mushroom ketchup in equal measure
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons thyme, sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary finely chopped and in any combination
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper to taste
  • 1 ¼ cups dry red wine
  • 3 ½ cups beef broth more if it becomes necessary to thin the filling; may substitute with homemade beef stock
  • 2 dried bay leaves

for the potato crust

  • 2-3 medium russet potatoes peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks; may substitute Yukon Gold
  • 2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary finely chopped and in any combination
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Kosher salt to taste

optional cheese addition to the potato mash

  • ½ cup Double Gloucester cheese with Onion and Chives grated/shredded
  • ½ cup caramelized onion cheese such as Boars Head Onion Jack or Trader Joe's Cheddar Caramelized Onions grated/shredded

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Set aside. Spray an 11 x 7-inch casserole pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

for the filling

  • Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the oil shimmers, add onion and carrot. Cook together for about 8 minutes until they have softened and browned slightly. Add chopped garlic and cook for one minute more. Remove the veg to a bowl and set aside.
  • Reduce to medium heat and add the beef, breaking it up as it cooks with a wooden spoon. Create a well in the center of the skillet. Add Worcestershire and tomato paste (or mushroom ketchup) and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, slowly incorporating bits of beef into the paste mixture. Adjust the heat to allow the paste to brown a bit but reducing the heat shy of burning it.
  • Add the beef back to the skillet and sprinkle with the flour, the mixed herbs, and season with pepper. Keep the mixture moving in the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to rid the mixture of any flour taste.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and add the red wine. Use the back of the wooden spoon to scrape up any accumulation or fond from the bottom of the skillet. Return to the heat, turning to the gentlest possible simmer, and add the beef broth and 2 bay leaves. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minute simmer, cut the heat and remove the lid. Allow the filling to cool for 20 minutes before adding it to the prepared baking dish.

for the potato crust

  • In a saucepan over low heat, add heavy cream and butter and allow the cream to heat and the butter to melt. Whisk in the herbs and Kosher salt to taste. Keep warm.
  • Peel all of the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch chunks. Boil them together or separately in salted water until tender, then drain. I boil mine together and separate them after the boil. The pieces are large enough to where separating them is not hard. Also, it will not matter very much if you end up with some sweet potatoes in the white mash, or some white potatoes in the sweet potato mash.
  • Place potatoes respectively into two separate bowls and break them up separately using a hand-held potato masher or a fork. Add half the cream mixture to each bowl and continue to mash to a smooth purée. Add an egg yolk to each and stir to combine well. Optional: if you plan to use an onion cheese and a Double Gloucester cheese in your potato crust, add one cheese to each potato mash (it does not matter which cheese you add to which potato), and mix to combine. Again, this is purely optional, but very, very TASTY!
  • Remove the bay leaves from the thick beef mixture. If the mixture appears too thick, add some additional beef broth or stock to thin it out slightly. You should have it at a consistency to where it can be poured into an even layer in an 11 x 7-inch baking pan. Also, to avoid the mash 'sinking' during the bake, cool the filling before loading it up with the mash.
  • Starting at one corner, spoon one of the mashed potato mixtures to the opposite corner in as straight a line as you are able and filling in behind it. Repeat the process with the other potato, levelling everything off as you go. If desired, use the tines of a fork to create a pattern on the top of the potato crust.
  • Place the casserole dish atop the lined baking sheet and load into the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The savory gravy beneath the potatoes will begin to bubble up along the sides and in the corners, so it's important to place the baker atop a lined tray to catch any drips. At the end of the baking time, turn your oven's broil feature on. DO NOT WALK AWAY! Leave the meat pie beneath the broiler for several minutes allowing the peaks of the potato crust to deeply brown.
  • Once the tops of the mash are golden, remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before digging in. This delicious Irish dish will be HOT, HOT, HOT! Spoon individual servings into wide, shallow bowls being sure to offer some of each flavor of mash to each person.

Notes

Please Note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not use table salt or iodized salt in any of the recipes you find on Not Entirely Average UNLESS specified otherwise.
Make Ahead by 24 hours and assemble casserole in full being sure to completely cool each part before assembling. Cover with heavy duty aluminum foil and refrigerate. Bake according to the directions in the recipe card. To Freeze the Cottage Pie line the 11 x 7-inch baking dish with 6-inch aluminum foil overhangs on both ends and 4-inch overhangs on both sides. Assemble the casserole in full being sure to completely cool each part before assembling. Fold the overhangs in to meet the opposite overhang. Freeze the casserole. Once fully frozen, remove from the freezer. Prepare a large freezer-safe zippered bag with the date and the contents noted. Pop the frozen casserole out of the baking pan and still wrapped in the foil. Place into the bag, foil and all, and seal. Freeze up to 3 months. To Thaw and Bake remove from the freezer, place into the original 11 x 7-inch baking dish, and place in refrigerator overnight. Pull back foil and bake according to the directions in the recipe card.
Variations:
  • Load the beef mixture with 1-cup of finely chopped kale pre-bake.
  • Replace the potato mash (or half of it) with mashed turnips.
  • In lieu of the cheese incorporated into the potato mash, create a mixture of shaved parmesan cheese and fresh minced herbs to sprinkle over the top of the potatoes just before going into the oven.

The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.

Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 639kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 43gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 187mgSodium: 809mgPotassium: 1450mgFiber: 5gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 17354IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 199mgIron: 6mg
Did you love this recipe?Leave a comment and Let me know how it was!
What is the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie?

The only real difference between these two iconic dishes is that Cottage Pie is made using beef, while a Traditional Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb.

How do I keep the potato mash from sinking down into the meat mixture?

The secret to preventing the potato mash from dropping or sinking down into the beef filling is to let the beef filling mostly cool before adding the layer of mash. It helps to greatly give a picture-perfect appearance every time.

How long will homemade cottage pie last in the refrigerator?

Cottage Pie is certainly enjoyed the day it’s made, but even more so as a leftover! Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, otherwise freeze in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months.

Pinterest pin image for Cottage Pie with white potato mash and sweet potato mash

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Recipe Rating




18 Comments

  1. I made this recipe using only the white potatoes and a combination of ground venison and ground beef. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written. I will tell you it is now my go to recipe for this dish, family endorsed! I made this ahead and froze it for some expected company. It was a blessing to have it ready to put in the oven and be free to visit.
    Texture and taste was not compromised in the slightest. We all 4 had seconds threatening a helping of chocolate cake, (we managed to eat that as well).5 stars

    1. Penny! You flatter me! I am ticked this worked so well for you – it’s a favorite of mine, and it sounds like it’s possibly now a favorite of yours! xo Jenny

  2. This was one of my favorite shepherd’s pie I made for a long time. So flavorful and easy. My family all loved it. Thanks x5 stars

  3. Absolutely love the russet and sweet potato crust! It just adds different flavors and the fam loved that they can scoop servings out of the two crusts! So delicious!5 stars

  4. The kale and mashed turnips were a great addition. And the red wine gravy adds so much depth to the beef. My husband and I really enjoyed this recipe!5 stars

  5. I swapped potato mash with mashed turnips and it added a subtle earthiness to the dish. I also sprinkled a mixture of shaved parmesan cheese and fresh minced herbs and it really elevated the dish. A new favorite!5 stars

  6. The mashed potatoes were perfectly golden and creamy. I followed your tip and added plenty of chopped kale to the beef mixture and I loved the extra burst of flavor. Perfect for a chilly evening!5 stars

    1. Renee! Using both gives you ‘chef privilege!’ By this, you could go with roasted garlic white mashed, or even buttermilk ‘n chive. And on the sweet mash side, enhance that mash with pure maple syrup, pecan extract, or something fun. It makes the two sides entirely customizable! 🙂 🙂 🙂 x – Jenny

  7. After making many shepherds pies I am so looking forward to trying your recipe. Looks terrific and this old cook will be sure to comment after I try this.

    1. Leon, you be sure to come back with any and all modifications, tips, recommendations – lay it on me – it helps others who may consider making this dish to know what else ‘worked’ in addition to the tips in the recipe card. I can hardly wait, Leon! Get chopping, lol! 🙂 x – Jenny

  8. Loved it! The entire family just loves this cottage pie! My son and I made it together and my granddaughters couldn’t hardly wait. Will make again and again. Thanks, Jenny for sharing!5 stars

    1. Gena! Oh I am so glad to hear this! I got it out too late for St. Pat’s, but emailed to the masses as it’s still cold up north in places. A cottage pie just warms ya all over, inside and out 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to jump back on here and leave this kind comment. It helps others (and me!) so much! x – Jenny