Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie

Cottage pie or Shepherd's pie, find out the difference and get a wonderful gluten free recipe - A Stray Kitchen

Cottage Pie or Shepherds pie? What’s the difference?

Well, it turns out I’ve never actually had Shepherds pie and had been calling Cottage pie the wrong name all my life.

The difference is the meat used.  Cottage pie uses Beef while Shepherds pie uses Lamb.

Growing up I never really got to eat lamb. My parents never cared for the taste and honestly? It’s expensive when compared to other meats. Now as an adult I love lamb and will happily eat it whenever the chance arises. But I’ve still never made Shepherds pie with it.

I’d actually love to add Sheep to our homestead just so we can have lamb in the freezer.

Cottage pie or Shepherd's pie, find out the difference and get a wonderful gluten free recipe - A Stray Kitchen

So technically this is a recipe for Cottage pie, that is what’s pictured, but I would make it the same way if I were using lamb so I felt they could go together in one post. It seems silly to have two recipes posts where the only difference is 1 ingredient.

Cottage pie is my favorite comfort food. It’s like stew and mashed potatoes all in one. It’s always hearty and flavorful and worth all the time prepping it (though that is why I make so much and freeze half).

What’s not to love about it? You can even modify it to be dairy free and Paleo friendly (I will post that version this winter). It’s just warm comfort food. The top has a beautiful  thin crust of cheese and potato, then the potato is silky smooth and gives way to gravy drenched meat and veggies. It’s made will all things I love.

Cottage pie or Shepherd's pie, find out the difference and get a wonderful gluten free recipe - A Stray Kitchen

P.S. It’s hard to take pictures of the gravy filling, especially when you’re hungry while photographing lunch…


Cottage Pie Or Shepherds Pie

Chunks of meat and veggies are smothered in robust gravy and topped with silky mashed potatoes and cheese.

  • Author: Alycia Louise
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: American


Units Scale

The filling and gravy

  • 1 to 2 TBS Oil
  • 2 Lbs Cubed stew meat (Use beef for cottage pie or lamb for shepherds pie)
  • 1 Yellow onion (Minced)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
  • 1/2 cup Red Wine
  • 3 Stalks Celery (Diced)
  • 2 Carrots (Peeled and diced)
  • 2 TBS Tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Mushroom Powder (Optional)
  • 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary (Minced (roughly 1/2tsp))
  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (Minced (roughly 1/2 tsp))
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 tsp Beef Broth base
  • 1 cup Beef (or lamb) broth
  • 2 TBS Butter (Softened )
  • 1/4 cup Corn Starch

The mashed potatoes

  • 8 Potatoes (Peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 1/3 cup Butter (If unsalted add a pinch of salt)
  • 1/4 cup Cream cheese

Optional topping

  • 1 cup Parmesan or Aged Cheddar cheese


The filling

  1. Heat a cast iron pot over medium heat. Add 1 tsp of oil and a enough meat to cover most of the bottom without overcrowding.  Stir occasionally till all the meat is browned. Remove the meat from the pot and place in a clean bowl- then set aside.  Repeat with another tsp of oil and meat till all the the meat is browned.
  2. Once the last of the meat is removed add any remaining oil and the onion. Saute this until the onion begins to soften, then add in the garlic. Saute for a minute and then de-glaze the  pot with the red wine. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to scrape away the brown bits from the walls of the pot.
  3. Now add the celery, carrots, tomato paste, mushroom powder, rosemary, thyme, beef broth base, beef broth, Salt and pepper. Mix everything thoroughly.
  4. Mix the soft butter and corn starch together to form a paste. Make sure the paste is smooth then add it to the pot.  Creating the paste insures the corn starch will evenly make gravy without forming lumps.  

The Mashed Potatoes

  1. Place cubed potatoes into a pot and fill with water till the water is about an inch above the potatoes. Bring this to a boil over med-high heat and boil until fork tender (about 20 minutes). Then remove from heat and drain out the water.
  2.  For truly silky mashed potatoes run the cooked potatoes through a ricer (see notes). Otherwise use a  handheld masher. Place potatoes in a bowl and add the butter and cream cheese and mix/mash until combined. 

Bringing the pie together.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  2. Grab your chosen casserole dish or pie plate. This recipe will fill 1 large casserole dish or several small ones. I like to make mine in two smaller square baking dishes, I cook one and I freeze the other (see notes).
  3. Divide out the filling between the dishes- make sure they cover the entire bottom and are at least 1 inch deep when filled. Now carefully scoop or pipe the mashed potatoes on top. You can easily pipe them on by placing the potatoes in a plastic bag and cutting off 1 corner of the bag to allow the potatoes out. You want the potatoes to be smooth and cover the filling completely. Be careful when you are smoothing the potatoes out. You don’t want to push any filling up.
  4. Sprinkle with grated cheese and cake for 30 minute if fresh or 45-60 minutes if cooking from thawed/frozen.


A potato ricer is a little bit of an extra step, but it is great for making silky smooth mashed potatoes without whipping them into glue.

A note on freezing… If you are making this with the idea to freeze some (or all of it) I suggest allowing the filling to cool completely before assembling the pies.  Even chilling the filling before piping the warm potatoes on will allow the pie to cool sooner once assembled (the potatoes still need to be warm or they will not spread properly). I also suggest placing the assembled pie the refrigerator overnight before putting it in the freezer.  You don’t want to place the luke warm pie in the freezer.

When you are ready to cook the frozen pie simply place it in the fridge overnight and cook the next day as directed.

Keywords: Cottage pie, Gluten free, Shepherds pie

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Alycia Louise
Alycia has worked in the food industry for over 10 years. She lives in the PNW with her husband and three dogs. Her likes include coffee, rainy days and horror movies.
Articles: 251

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