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Sweet potato cottage pie has a savory vegetable beef filling with a rich, creamy sweet potato topping, and is finished off with a bit of sharp cheddar. It’s the perfect cozy casserole when you want a meal that’s as healthy as it is hearty.

plate of cottage pie with sweet potato topping partially eaten

What is Cottage Pie?

Hailing from the United Kingdom (but also popular in Ireland), cottage pie is a savory pie made with a mixture of beef mince (aka ground beef) and gravy that’s topped with mashed potatoes. The meaty filling frequently contains a variety of vegetables, herbs, and seasonings.

Cottage pie is baked as a type of casserole so that the mashed potato topping (which sometimes contains cheese) turns golden and acts as a crust.

overhead view of baked sweet potato cottage pie before serving

Sweet Potato Cottage Pie Ingredients and Substitutions

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

Sweet Potato Layer Ingredients (Topping)

sweet potato topping ingredients
  • Sweet potatoes – If you don’t like sweet potato, you can use any type of potato you fancy.
  • Unsalted butter – Or you can use salted butter and reduce the added salt to 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Whole milk – We use a little bit of milk to mash the sweet potatoes.
  • Salt and black pepper – These pantry-staple spices add a ton of flavor.
  • Nutmeg – This is optional. A little bit of freshly-grated nutmeg adds depth to both the flavor and aroma of the mashed potato layer. I like to add nutmeg when I make cottage pie or shepherd’s pie with sweet potato, but I leave it out when I use regular potatoes.

Meat Layer (Bottom Layer/Filling)

cottage pie ingredients
  • Olive oil – We brown lean ground beef in a little bit of olive oil. If you want, you can use beef tallow, duck fat, or even vegetable oil instead.
  • Lean ground beef – In this rustic, cozy savory pie, we’re using ground beef (instead of lamb), which makes it a cottage pie. Use a lean ground beef here, such as 90% lean or leaner, otherwise you may want to drain off the excess fat after the meat is browned.
  • Onion, carrot, and celery – Onion and carrot are classic vegetables in cottage pie. Onion adds savory depth of flavor, and carrot adds earthy sweetness. I also include celery to get in another vegetable. If you like mushrooms, feel free to add sliced mushrooms as well.
  • Garlic – Garlic adds savory complexity to this dish.
  • Fresh thyme – Woodsy rosemary is also a great herb to use here. Or you can use a mixture of both rosemary and thyme.
  • Tomato paste – We use a touch of tomato paste here not only for a subtle back layer of flavor, but also to slightly thicken our gravy without adding starch (such as flour or cornstarch). The tomato paste helps the gravy thicken up a touch, and gives it a velvety smooth mouthfeel.
  • Beef stock – We use a little beef stock to make the gravy right in with the meat and vegetables.
  • Worcestershire sauce – Worcestershire sauce is a savory fermented condiment that’s popular in English cuisine. It adds complexity and umami flavor, and I find that it pairs well with recipes that contain beef.
  • Salt and black pepper – Go light on the salt because of the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce. Once the meat and vegetable mixture is cooked, taste it before you assemble the pie so you can add more salt and/or black pepper if you want.
  • Frozen green peas – Green peas are another traditional vegetable added to cottage pie (or served along with the pie). Make sure you thaw and drain the frozen peas well.
  • Fresh lemon juice – Just a splash of fresh lemon juices adds a subtly tart flavor to balance everything else. It really wakes up the whole dish!

Other Ingredients

  • Butter – We use a little butter to grease the dish. You can use any type of oil or fat you typically have on hand.
  • Sharp white cheddar cheese – This is a great time to use your favorite English cheddar! We add a little sharp white cheddar on top of the mashed potato, which bumps up the flavor even more, and helps the casserole turn a gorgeous golden brown. However, the cheese is optional here.

Instructions

Make the Mashed Sweet Potato Topping

how to make mashed sweet potatoes
  1. Rinse and dry the sweet potatoes. Poke a few holes in each. Place the potatoes on a foil-lined baking tray.
  2. Roast until a paring knife inserted in the center of the largest potato slides right out, about 1 hour at 400F. Cool the potatoes until they’re not too hot to touch.
  3. Slice open each potato; scoop out the flesh into a large bowl and discard the potato skins. Mash the sweet potato with the butter, milk, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg.
  4. Mash until the sweet potato mixture is smooth and creamy (you can puree it in a food processor if you want it perfectly smooth).

Make the Vegetable Beef Filling

how to make cottage pie filling

While the sweet potatoes bake, make the beef filling.

  1. Add the oil to a large, deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef, onion, carrot, and celery, and cook (covered) for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper. Bring up to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook (uncovered) until the mixture is thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the peas and lemon juice.
  4. Note that the longer you let the filling cook, the more the liquid will evaporate off. I like to leave just a little bit of moisture to act as gravy.

Assemble and Bake the Savory Pie

how to make sweet potato cottage pie
  1. Grease a 1.5-liter (10.5 by 7.5-inch) casserole dish with butter. Spread the beef mixture into the bottom of the casserole dish.
  2. Spread the mashed sweet potato mixture evenly on top.
  3. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar evenly across the top.
  4. Bake until the casserole is warm throughout and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes (you can briefly broil it if you want to brown the top more). Let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh thyme and serve.

Tips

  • If you swap out the beef for lamb mince, you’ll have shepherd’s pie.
  • You aren’t limited to sweet potatoes here. Instead, you can use any type of potatoes you like.
  • If you’re trying to cut calories or if you forgot to pick up the cheddar, don’t worry because the cheese in the topping is completely optional. You can omit it entirely, or swap it out for another type of cheese (such as parmesan or goat cheese).
  • To avoid anything dripping in the oven, line a large baking tray with foil and place the casserole dish on top before baking.

Storage and Reheating

Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.

You can reheat this in the microwave or in the oven. To reheat cottage pie in the oven, preheat the oven to 350F. Put the amount you want to reheat in an oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Reheat until warm, about 15 to 20 minutes for a single serving, or 30 to 45 minutes for a whole pie.

Special Diet Friendly

As written, this recipe is gluten free and grain free.

Here are the changes to make this a paleo cottage pie:

  • Use ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil instead of butter.
  • Swap out the whole milk for canned unflavored light coconut milk.
  • Omit the Worcestershire sauce and use coconut aminos instead.
close up top view of plated serving of shepherds pie with beef

Cottage Pie with Sweet Potato FAQs

What’s the Difference Between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie?

Shepherd’s pie is similar to cottage pie, but contains lamb mince (aka ground lamb) instead of beef.

Another difference I’ve heard noted is that cottage pie sometimes has cheese added to the top, but shepherds pie doesn’t contain cheese.

Lastly, I’ve heard that traditional British cottage pie has boiled and sliced potato on the top instead of mashed potatoes. The sliced potatoes are arranged like shingles, and meant to look like the tiled roof of a cottage! (How absolutely clever is that?!)

Taking it one step closer towards a true pie with an actual crust, traditional cottage pie also contains a layer of sliced potato shingles on the bottom as well as the top. However, nowadays many cottage pie recipes skip sliced potatoes and just add a layer of mashed potatoes on top, thus further narrowing the gap between shepherd’s and cottage pies.

You can read more about cottage pie and shepherd’s pie on Masterclass and Britannica.

close up front view of slice of cheesy cottage pie slice on plate

What’s the Difference Between Cumberland Pie and Cottage Pie?

Cumberland pie is similar to both cottage and shepherd’s pie. It has a savory filling made with vegetables and either lamb or beef, and a mashed potato topping. However, Cumberland pie also has shredded cheese and sometimes breadcrumbs on top.

You can read more about Cumberland pie on Wikipedia and Foods of England.

Should I Boil or Bake Potatoes for Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie?

You can make the mashed potato topping for this recipe any way you’d normally make mashed potatoes!

Personally, I slightly prefer the flavor of mashed potato that’s made with roasted potatoes instead of boiled potatoes. I find that the potatoes’ flavor is a little bit more intense and caramelized (especially when using sweet potatoes instead of starchy potatoes, such as Russet).

However, it’s a bit faster to make mashed potatoes with boiled potatoes rather than baked potatoes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wash and peel the potatoes, then cut them into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Add the cubed potato to a 3-quart pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 to 3 inches.
  3. Bring to a boil, and then add a generous pinch of salt. Turn the heat down so it doesn’t boil over, and cook the potatoes until they’re fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Drain the potatoes, and then they’re ready to mash!
front view of cottage pie with sweet potato showing filling and topping

Can I Make a Thicker Gravy For the Filling?

Yes! It’s very easy to make a thicker gravy for this savory pie. And you have several different ways you could do it:

  • For a thicker pie filling without adding any starch: Simply let the filling cook until the liquid is evaporated, stirring frequently. Be careful not to dry it out too much though, it should be a touch juicy (because that’s when it’s the most flavorful).
  • For a thicker pie filling by adding starch: You can use a variety of thickeners if you want a more gravy-like filling, including all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and potato starch.
    • All-purpose flour: Stir 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour in along with the garlic, thyme, and tomato paste.
    • Cornstarch: Stir a cornstarch slurry of 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water in right before you stir in the peas and lemon juice and cook until thickened (it will take about 30 seconds).
    • Potato starch: When thickening this gravy with potato starch, use the same amount and method as cornstarch.

What Side Dishes Go with Shepherd’s Pie?

One of the great things about casserole recipes in general is that they’re usually a full meal built into one dish. And this traditional English casserole is no different!

With a meat and vegetable base and a mashed sweet potato topping, this is a hearty, filling meal in itself. However, if you like a little variety in your meal or if you want to stretch the casserole to feed more people, here are a few side dishes that pair well with cottage pie:

  • Green peas – I prefer frozen peas over canned peas; heat them up, top with a little butter and salt (or salted butter), and call it a day. Other green vegetables, such as green beans or broccoli florets, are also a good option; all you have to do is steam them.
  • Leafy green salad – A simple salad of baby greens dressed with lemon juice and olive oil is perfect here.
  • Creamed cabbage – If you want a home-cooked side dish, this is a good choice.

More Cozy Casserole Recipes to Try

english cottage pie on plate

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Sweet Potato Cottage Pie Recipe

Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Sweet potato cottage pie has a savory vegetable beef filling with a rich, creamy sweet potato topping, and is finished off with a bit of sharp cheddar. It's the perfect cozy casserole when you want a meal that's as healthy as it is hearty.

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Ingredients
 

Sweet Potato Layer (Top):

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg optional

Meat Layer (Bottom):

  • 2 tablespoons oil such as olive oil, or any oil you have on hand
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion diced (about 1 1/2 cups diced)
  • 3 medium carrots diced (about 1 1/2 cups diced)
  • 2 medium stalks celery diced (about 1 cup diced)
  • 4 large cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen green peas thawed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Other:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter to grease the dish
  • 3 ounces freshly-grated sharp white cheddar cheese aged English cheddar is great here, for topping

Instructions
 

For the Sweet Potato Layer:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a small baking tray with foil.
  • Rinse and dry the sweet potatoes. Poke a few holes in each. Place the potatoes on the prepared tray and roast until a paring knife inserted in the center of the largest potato slides right out, about 1 hour. Cool the potatoes until they’re not too hot to touch.
  • Slice open each potato; scoop out the flesh into a large bowl and discard the potato skins.
  • Mash the sweet potato with the butter, milk, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg until it’s smooth and creamy (you can puree it in a food processor if you want it perfectly smooth).

For the Meat Layer:

  • Make the meat layer while the sweet potatoes are baking.
  • Add the oil to a large, deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef, onion, carrot, and celery, and cook (covered) for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the garlic, thyme, and tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper. Bring up to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook (uncovered) until the mixture is thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the peas and lemon juice.

To Assemble and Bake the Casserole:

  • Grease a 1.5-liter casserole dish with butter (I use a 10.5-inch long by 7.5-inch wide by 2.5-inch deep casserole dish).
  • Spread the beef mixture into the bottom of the casserole dish, and spread the mashed sweet potato mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar evenly across the top.
  • To avoid anything dripping in the oven, line a large baking tray with foil and place the casserole dish on top. Bake until the casserole is warm throughout and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. You can briefly broil it if you want to brown the top more.

To Serve:

  • Let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh thyme and serve.

Notes

  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Reheating: You can reheat this in the microwave or in the oven. To reheat cottage pie in the oven, preheat the oven to 350F. Put the amount you want to reheat in an oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Reheat until warm, about 15 to 20 minutes for a single serving, or 30 to 45 minutes for a whole pie.
  • Paleo Version: Here are the changes to make this a paleo cottage pie:
    • Use ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil instead of butter.
    • Swap out the whole milk for canned unflavored light coconut milk.
    • Omit the Worcestershire sauce and use coconut aminos instead.

Nutrition

Calories: 458kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 778mg | Potassium: 1110mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 21974IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 206mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British
Keyword: Cottage Pie with Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato Cottage Pie, Sweet Potato Cottage Pie Recipe

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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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