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I never knew the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie until recently; I found out, Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb and Cottage Pie uses beef.

To my knowledge, both are classic British fare, and decidedly wonderful comfort food. The kind of food that makes you want to pull up a chair to a rustic wooden table in front of a crackling fire in a cozy pub and stay a good long while as you thoroughly enjoy your meal.

It’s also the kind of meal you can easily whip up the day after Thanksgiving using all kinds of fabulous leftovers, and then enjoy at the end of the day after you’ve braved the craziness of Black Friday. (Because anyone heading out into the crowds on that day is certain to need comfort!)


Don’t be shy about customizing this dish to make it your own, because it should will work well with just about any meat and veggies you have on hand. Feel free to use lean ground turkey instead of ground beef; use any vegetable medley you have instead of onion, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic; or use mashed sweet potatoes (or even mashed white potatoes for a more traditional dish) instead of butternut squash puree.

If you want to use leftover turkey meat from Thanksgiving dinner, instead of the tomato-based sauce for the filling, I’d recommend making a quick béchamel. To do so, heat a couple tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in a couple tablespoons of flour and let it cook for a minute, and then whisk in about a cup of milk. Bring it up to a gentle simmer (stirring constantly), and your béchamel is ready to use. (It really is that easy!) Skip the tomato paste and stock in the recipe below.

Although a Cottage Pie couldn’t be easier to make, there is one trick to getting it to turn out perfectly: make sure you cook the filling long enough to let the liquid evaporate out. Otherwise your Cottage Pie will be soupy…and no one likes that (and don’t forget, the veggies will give off more liquid as the pie bakes in the oven). I think a drier filling might be more traditional than my recipe below, but a very thick stew-like filling is perfect for me, and I’m not saying this Cottage Pie is a traditional recipe; it sure is delicious though! To keep this dish grain-free, I use tomato paste to help thicken the filling instead of flour.

Whip this up with your Thanksgiving leftovers and hopefully, with any luck, it’ll be raining or snowing so you can enjoy the maximum comfort food effect.

And doesn’t this dish make you want to watch The Holiday? :)


Butternut Squash-Topped Cottage Pie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 servings
Vegetable-Beef Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb (450 g) lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium-large carrots, diced
  • ½ lb (225 g) button mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons (65 g) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1¼ cups (300 ml) low-sodium beef stock
Butternut Topping:
  • 1 cup (250 g) butternut squash puree (or leftover mashed sweet potatoes; if they’re stiff, thin them out with a little milk)
  • 2 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Butter, to grease the dish
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 400F and grease a 1.5-liter casserole dish with butter.
  2. To make the filling, add the oil to a large, deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef, onion, carrot, and mushroom and cook (covered) 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic during the last 1 minute of cooking.
  3. Add the thyme, bay leaves, tomato paste, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook (uncovered) until the liquid is evaporated, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir together all ingredients for the butternut topping.
  5. Once the vegetable-beef mixture is thickened, spread it in an even layer in the prepared casserole dish and spread the butternut topping evenly on top.
  6. Bake until the casserole is warm throughout and bubbling in the center, about 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the parsley on top and serve.
Make-Ahead: To make this dish up to 3 days ahead, prepare it up until the point where it’s ready to go into the oven. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days, then cook it in a 400F oven until warm throughout, about 30 minutes. (It can go right from the fridge to the oven – there is no need to bring it to room temperature before baking it.)

To Stretch This Meal: Serve this meal with a green salad and some crusty bread, and you should be able to get another serving out of it.

Paleo Version: Omit the Worcestershire sauce in the filling and add additional salt to taste. Omit the cheese in the topping and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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  1. So gorgeous!! I love the mushroom and beef filling and the butternut squash is so much better than potatoes in my mind! I am in love with your photos and recipe, Faith!!

  2. Ash-foodfashionparty says:

    A perfect way to use up leftovers. A yummy dish no matter what it’s called.
    Looks so beautiful.

  3. Aunt Gretchen says:

    Apparently, the British don’t know the difference either, because your English uncle calls it Shepherd’s Pie regardless of what I make it with, LOL.
    We’ll have to try this, it sounds lovely.

  4. Definitely perfect with thanksgiving leftovers! I really like the idea of the butternut squash on top. I didn’t know that was the difference between the two!

  5. Faith, this is a nice change from white potatoes. I think it would be nice with lamb too or even well seasoned ground turky

  6. I did not know the difference between a Shepherds Pie and Cottage Pie, either! This looks delicious with the butternut squash on top.

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