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Here’s What Herbs and Spices to Add to Cottage Pie

What Herbs for Cottage Pie
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Cottage Pie is a dish very similar to Shepherd’s pie, though, they are made with different kinds of meat. By that, they taste very similar, and the rule says that herbs you use for Shepherd’s pie can also go in a Cottage pie. So what herbs do you use for Cottage pie, and what spices do you need? 

Cottage pie goes excellent with herbs such as basil, Italian mix, oregano, rosemary, mint, parsley, thyme, or bay leaves. Considering that its meaty flavor is not as expressed, it is good to bring out the beefy taste and aroma by combining several herbs. 

It took me some time and effort to learn the right herbs and combinations for Cottage pie, so now I will be sharing my wisdom in the following paragraphs. 

What Herbs Do You Need for Cottage Pie?

Cottage pie is a rustic dish that has an abundance of flavor as it is. However, all rustic dishes have one thing in common- they taste even better when combined with herbs. 

Throughout history, people had Cottage pie mainly during the winter and early spring months. Therefore they used herbs available at that time of the year. Considering that there wasn’t much of a selection of herbs during those months, they used dried. 

So, until this day, Cottage pie is combined with dried herbs, but fresh herbs are also welcome. However, the taste is more intense with dried herbs because they are mainly added during the cooking process and not afterward. 

Parsley adds freshness to Cottage pie and mellows down the beefy influence. Considering that you add parsley during the cooking of the beef, it is better to use it dried because that way, you will feel it more. 

Mint is also an excellent idea for your Cottage pie. It will make it somewhat sweeter, and it goes perfectly with the taste of beef. You can use fresh mint and dry, and you can combine it with thyme or basil. 

Basil can bring out the flavors and simultaneously tone them down. It is an excellent flavor-balancing herb. Adding basil to your Cottage pie will make it taste mild, elegant, and at the same time strong.

herbs for cottage pie

Rosemary goes astoundingly well with meat, especially pork and beef. Therefore using a few rosemary branches will incredibly enhance the flavor of your Cottage pie. Dried or fresh, it will garnish your dish just fine. 

Thyme is another great idea to enrich your Cottage pie. It has a very specific and somewhat strong flavor, so you will either love it or not like it at all. Therefore, I’d recommend using dried thyme in smaller amounts to see if you like it. 

Oregano and Italian mix would also fit very nicely in your Cottage pie. Oregano will give it some character, tone the strong flavor down, and add sweetness to your dish. 

On the other hand, Italian mix is a mix of several herbs, oregano, and basil to add a bit of everything to your Cottage pie. It is best to add the oregano or Italian mix while cooking the beef and using them to season the water where you will be boiling the potatoes. 

Bay leaves are a very gentle yet potent herb and cannot go unnoticed. They work amazingly as mashed potato seasoning and during the cooking of the beef. A word to the wise, though, bay leaves are very expressive, and they will dominate the dish, so if you don’t like them, don’t use them.

What Spices Do You Need for Cottage Pie?

Because Cottage pie originates from a long time ago, it has been designed to tolerate and go well with the classic spices. Salt, pepper, mixed and dried vegetables, pepper, and paprika are the safest spices to use. 

However, you can experiment and add curry, turmeric, or ginger to your Cottage pie. You can also go with dried onions or dried garlic to spice it up. 

What Is the Best Seasoning for Cottage Pie?

It’s all in the mince. Seasoning the mince will give a flavorful and unforgettable Cottage pie. Timing is essential to get the seasoning right, so never season initially. 

Let the beef sizzle and darken before you put anything inside. Adding pressed garlic, salt and pepper can go a long way with the mince if you like a simpler, classic, and rustic taste. 

However, if you want to go one step further, add tomato puree, red wine, thyme, parsley, and chicken broth to the beef mince. Cook until there’s no excess liquid and enjoy. 

If you are looking for a ready-made seasoning, Colman’s offers a good mix for the cottage pie.

Club House Shepherd’s Pie Seasoning is another spice mix that you can use for whatever meat pie you need.

Remember that you can modify this seasoning recipe, and feel free to add or remove whatever you want. 

What Is Traditional Cottage Pie Made Of?

Traditional Cottage pie is made of ground or minced beef, seasoned in rich gravy with fried onions and garlic, topped off with mashed potatoes and a layer of cheese. When everything is properly layered, the dish is baked until the ingredients bond. 

You can modify this traditional recipe by adding carrots, green peppers, or dried tomatoes to the beef. However, the beef, cheese, and potatoes remain as permanent and constitutive ingredients of Cottage pie.


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Why Is It Called Cottage Pie?

The etymology of the name is quite interesting. The term “cottage pie” initially appeared around the 18th century, when poor people started having potatoes in their everyday food. 

Cottage pie is a rustic dish and was reserved mainly for the country people who lived in cottages– hence the name. 

It is interesting that Cottage pie and Shepherd’s pie are very similar, whereby Shepherd’s pie contains lamb, and Cottage pie contains beef. The name Shepherd’s pie is precise because of the meat. 

The shepherds had sheep, and the lamb was more available for them, while Cottage pie was mainly consumed by cattlemen who had bovine animals and beef and had access to beef.

What Herbs for Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie With Spices

Author: Laura Bais
Because Cottage pie originates from a long time ago, it has been designed to tolerate and go well with the classic spices but you can experiment with not so classic as well.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 480 kcal


  • 16 oz ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cup peas
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 32 oz potato
  • 3 tbsp butter melted
  • cup milk warm
  • 1 cup cheddar shredded


  • Preheat oven to 400 °F.
  • Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Place in a large pot of cold salted water.
  • Bring the potatoes to a gentle boil and cook 13-16 minutes or until fork tender.
  • While potatoes are cooking, combine ground beef and onion in a large skillet, brown until no pink remains.
  • Add carrots and garlic to the ground beef mixture. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until slightly tender.
  • Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in beef broth, tomato paste, parsley, basil, rosemary, and bay leaf.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes or until the gravy has thickened. Remove bay leaf, add peas, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Drain the potatoes well and mash until smooth. Stir in the butter. Add warmed milk a little bit at a time until the potatoes are smooth and fluffy, you may not need all of the milk. Stir the cheese into the potatoes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Top the meat mixture with the potatoes and place in the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 480kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 23gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 89mgSodium: 606mgPotassium: 1033mgFiber: 5gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 2255IUVitamin C: 39mgCalcium: 202mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Cottage Pie, herbs, meat pie, seasoning

Before diving into the nutritional details, please review our Nutritional Disclaimer page for important context and clarifications.

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