What's the difference between cottage pie and shepherd's pie?

These savoury pies look very similar but there's a simple difference. Find out what sets them apart and get some great cottage pie and shepherd's pie recipes.

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Cottage pie vs Shepherd's pie

These meaty, mince-filled and mash potato-topped pies are very similar, the difference comes down to the filling. Cottage pie is usually made with beef, whereas shepherd’s pie is made with lamb. You can also add vegetables and aromats to the filling, such as onions, garlic, carrot, zucchini and rosemary. This makes it a handy recipe for sneaking vegetables onto a fussy child’s plate.
It’s easy to see why these dishes are popular; they’re easy, comforting, hearty and budget-friendly!
Why is it called cottage pie or shepherd's pie?
The term cottage pie originated in England in the 18th Century to refer to a peasant food dish. It was a meal usually eaten by poorer people living in small cottages because the ingredients were affordable. Over time, it became more popular and was crowned cottage pie.
Shepherd’s pie was attributed to a similar Scottish dish that used lamb or mutton rather than beef. Shepherd’s herded sheep, hence the name. The textured, mash potato topping also resembles the woolly fleece of a sheep.
Does cottage pie have pastry?
No. What makes these pies unique is that they’re both topped with mashed potato. It can be either white or sweet potatoes. If you’re partial to pastry, you could make a pie with shortcrust pastry as the base and keep the mash potato topping.
Can you make cottage pie with pork mince?
Yes. You can use any mince, including chicken or turkey, but it will be drier so add a little extra liquid or fat in the sauce to put moisture back into your pie.
Does the meat have to be mince?
No, we associate it with mince but these are old dishes and back in the day the meat would have been chopped or shredded. These dishes are also great ways to repurpose leftovers. A Sunday roast lamb can easily become Monday night’s shepherd’s pie, just shred or chop the meat, add in your flavourings, top with mash, bake and dinner’s sorted.
What is a Cumberland pie?
It’s a cottage or shepherd’s pie sprinkled with breadcrumbs, which gives a crunchy topping to your mash potatoes.
Pie recipes
Now you're an expert on the difference between these delicious meat pies, get some great recipes below and enjoy them for yourself.
Play Video: Potato Gem Shepherd's Pie
This shepherd's pie skips the mash and instead gets topped with delicious potato gems! The saucy filling is the real star though, with tomato soup as the secret ingredient.
Play Video: Easy Family Shepherd's Pie with Cheesy Mash
Top this classic pie with plenty of cheese for a flavour hit that will have the whole family asking for seconds.
Play Video: Bangers and Sweet Potato Mash Pie
Skip the mince completely and use sausages instead! This twist on cottage pie and bangers and mash is the best of both worlds.
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