This French Onion Cottage Pie is one of the most comforting dishes I've ever made. Combining two universal favourites: French Onion Soup and Cottage Pie has got to be one of the best partnerships of all time. It's layered with a gorgeous beef mince sauce, glossy French onions, the most incredible mashed potato, and topped with cubes of melted gruyère and thyme.
My Granny used to make us Cottage Pie all the time when we were little, and growing up in France, we'd eat SO much French Onion Soup. So, for this recipe, I've combined two of my favourite childhood recipes into one French Onion Cottage Pie.
It's such a great recipe to make for friends and family on a cold winter's day. With a gorgeous beef mince sauce, fried French onions, and the most incredible mashed potato, it's a simple and satisfying meal to make for everyone!
If you're a vegetarian or vegan, I've provided some recipe alternatives further down the blog! So check them out if you're wanting to make a more inclusive dish.
WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE
- NOSTALGIC - Cottage pie and French onion soup are both very nostalgic recipes to me. My Granny would always make both shepherds and cottage pie whenever we visited and because we grew up in France, we ate an abundance of French onion soup! So, the combination of these two recipes fills me with joy, and I hope it does for you too!
- GREAT FOR FEAST - This recipe is only for two people, but simply double up the recipe to make it for more! It's a great one to make in advance and just pop in the oven when your guests have arrived! I guarantee that you'll get lots of "mmmmmms" and "yuuuuums" if you make this for them!
- FREEZABLE - Also a great recipe to make and then freeze for later. My family always used to make cottage pie and then put it in the freezer for another day. It's great as an emergency feast!
If you love pies, then why not try out my Marry Me Chicken Pie!
FRENCH ONION COTTAGE PIE INGREDIENTS
White Onions: White onions one of the star ingredient in French Onion Cottage Pie. When thinly sliced and caramelised with butter, salt, and a touch of balsamic vinegar, they create the rich, sweet, and savoury base of the dish. Caramelising the onions brings out their natural sugars, enhancing the overall flavour of the pie.
Butter: Butter adds richness and a velvety texture to both the caramelised onions and the mashed potatoes on top. It contributes to the deep, comforting flavours of the dish.
Salt: Salt is a fundamental seasoning that enhances the natural sweetness of the onions, balances flavours, and brings out the richness of the beef. It's used both in caramelising the onions and seasoning the beef filling and mashed potatoes.
Balsamic Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar lends a subtle tang and depth to the caramelised onions. Its sweet and acidic notes enhance the overall complexity of the onion layer. You could also use a bit of red wine if you fancied deepening the flavour of the onions.
Garlic: Minced garlic adds aromatic depth and savoury undertones to both the caramelised onions and the beef filling. It infuses the dish with a rich, savoury aroma. If you don't have raw garlic, you can use garlic powder.
Thyme: Thyme provides an earthy and herby flavour, complementing the sweetness of the caramelised onions and adding complexity to the dish. I always use fresh thyme, but feel free to use dried thyme too.
Brown Sugar: A touch of brown sugar is added to the caramelised onions to enhance their sweetness and deepen the caramelisation, creating a rich, flavourful base for the pie.
Beef Mince: Beef mince serves as the hearty protein component of the filling. When cooked with the aromatic vegetables and seasoned well, it becomes a flavourful, comforting base for the cottage pie. The higher the percentage of fat you use, the juicier and more flavoursome the pie will be. If you'd rather use a different type of minced meat, you could do lamb to make a shepherds pie version, or pork mince.
Carrot: Finely diced carrots add natural sweetness and a pleasant crunch to the beef filling. They balance the richness of the meat and add a pop of colour and nutrition.
Tomato Puree: Tomato puree provides a deep, umami-rich base for the beef filling. Its concentrated flavour enhances the overall savoury profile of the dish.
Beef Stock: Beef stock adds moisture, depth, and richness to the filling. It infuses the beef mince with savoury flavours, making the filling juicy and flavourful. I've just used a stock cube for this and mixed it with water. You could use vegetable stock if you don't have any beef stock near you!
Flour: A small amount of flour is used to thicken the beef filling, creating a luscious, gravy-like consistency that binds the ingredients together and adds a silky texture to the dish.
Potatoes: Potatoes are boiled and mashed to create a creamy, fluffy topping for the pie. They provide a comforting layer that complements the rich flavours of the beef filling.
Milk: Milk is added to the mashed potatoes to create a smooth and creamy texture. It adds a touch of richness and helps achieve the desired consistency for the mashed potato layer.
Gruyere Cheese: Gruyere cheese is cubed and scattered over the mashed potato layer. When baked, it melts into a gooey, golden crust, adding a decadent layer of flavour and texture to the dish.
COTTAGE PIE WITH FRENCH ONIONS RECIPE VARIATIONS
Vegan French Onion Cottage Pie:
Replace Beef Mince with Lentils: Instead of beef mince, use cooked green or brown lentils as the protein base. Lentils provide a meaty texture and absorb the flavours well, making them an excellent vegan alternative.
Vegan Butter and Plant-Based Milk: Substitute dairy butter with vegan butter and regular milk with plant-based alternatives like almond, soy, or oat milk when preparing the mashed potato topping. These alternatives ensure a creamy and dairy-free mashed potato layer.
Replace the Beef Stock with Veggie stock: Instead of using beef stock, simply use a vegetable stock cube and replace accordingly.
Vegan Cheese or Nutritional Yeast: For a cheesy topping, you can use vegan cheese slices or shred vegan cheese on top of the mashed potatoes. Alternatively, sprinkle nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour without dairy.
Vegetarian French Onion Cottage Pie:
Replace Beef Mince with Quorn or TVP: Quorn (a mycoprotein-based meat substitute) or Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) can be used instead of beef mince for a vegetarian version. These options mimic the texture of meat and absorb the flavours of the onions and seasonings.
Add Mushrooms and Spinach: Enhance the filling with finely chopped mushrooms and fresh spinach. Mushrooms add a hearty, umami flavor, while spinach provides a burst of freshness and nutrients. Sauté these vegetables along with the onions for a well-rounded vegetarian filling.
Vegetarian Gravy: Prepare a flavourful vegetarian gravy using vegetable stock, flour, and herbs. Pour this vegetarian gravy over the filling to add moisture and a rich, savoury taste. The gravy complements the sweetness of the caramelised onions and adds depth to the dish.
Storage: After enjoying your French Onion Cottage Pie, transfer any remaining portions into airtight containers. You can keep it in the dish if you'd like and make sure to cover with cling film or an airtight cover. Refrigerate the leftovers, ensuring they are tightly sealed. Your cottage pie can last in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Heating: When reheating the leftovers, it's best to do so in an oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Cover the cottage pie with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Reheat for about 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). This gentle reheating method helps maintain the flavours and textures, ensuring your cottage pie tastes as delicious as when it was freshly baked. If you just want a quick reheat, feel free to place a portion of your French onion cottage pie in a loosely sealed container and place in the microwave for a few minutes or until piping hot.
Freezing: If you have more leftovers than you can enjoy within a few days, consider freezing them for future meals. To freeze, place the pie in individual containers and into the freezer. Label the containers with the date to keep track of freshness. Frozen French Onion Cottage Pie can last in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Reheating from Frozen: When you're ready to enjoy your frozen leftovers, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the frozen cottage pie in the oven, covered with aluminum foil, and bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until heated through. Check the internal temperature to ensure it reaches 165°F (74°C) before serving. Or, you can take the cottage pie out of the freezer and leave to defrost overnight. Then, follow the same reheating instructions as above.
Yes, you can either prepare the whole cottage pie, assemble it ahead of time, ready to place in the oven. Or you can prepare the components of the French Onion Cottage Pie ahead of time individually to save time on the day you plan to serve it. You can caramelise the onions, cook the beef filling, and prepare the mashed potato topping a day or two in advance. Store each component separately in airtight containers in the fridge. Assemble the pie just before baking to maintain its freshness and texture.
French Onion Cottage Pie is a hearty and comforting dish that pairs wonderfully with a variety of side dishes. For a balanced meal, consider serving it with a crisp green salad dressed in a light vinaigrette. Steamed or roasted vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, or green beans add colour and nutrition to the plate. Additionally, a side of crusty bread or garlic bread is perfect for sopping up the flavourful gravy. Choose side dishes based on your preferences to create a well-rounded dining experience.
The best potatoes for mashed potatoes are starchy varieties such as Russet, Idaho, or King Edward potatoes. These potatoes have a high starch content and low moisture, making them ideal for creating creamy, smooth, and fluffy mashed potatoes. Their fluffy texture allows them to absorb butter and milk well, resulting in a velvety consistency. Avoid waxy potatoes like red, fingerling, or baby potatoes, as they have a lower starch content and can result in a gluey or lumpy texture when mashed. Starchy potatoes, when boiled until tender and mashed with butter, milk, and seasoning, yield the perfect mashed potatoes that are loved for their light, airy, and creamy texture.
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French Onion Cottage Pie
For The French Onions
- 3 white onions finely sliced
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 pinch salt flaky salt is best
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
For The Cottage Pie Filling
- 400g beef mince
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon flaky salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 200ml beef stock
- 1 tablespoon flour
For The Cottage Pie Mashed Potato
- 3 large starchy potatoes I keep the skins on!
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon flaky salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 50g gruyere cheese, cut into small cubes
- Thyme for garnish
- For this recipe, you'll want to use three hobs (2 frying pans and 1 saucepan) at the same time to make this whole process move faster! So read the whole recipe first to get an idea of the steps and what you need! Also, preheat your oven to 180C (360F) fan.
For The French Onions
- First up, finely slice your onions.
- Place your frying pan on medium heat and add in your onions, butter, and salt. Fry for 10 minutes until soft.
- Next up, pour in your balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme, and brown sugar. Stir and fry for another 10 minutes until caramelised, soft, and sweet. Remove and set aside.
For The Cottage Pie Filling
- Meanwhile, in another frying pan, place it on medium heat with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Add in your beef mince, break it apart with a wooden spoon and fry until brown for around 10 minutes.
- Add in your carrots, tomato puree, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Stir and fry for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in your beef stock and flour. Give everything a good mix until glossy and saucy. Taste and season according to your preferences.
For The Mashed Potato
- Also meanwhile all of the above is cooking, place a saucepan of salted water on the heat and add in your chopped potatoes.
- Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes or until the potato is soft. Drain and then place back into the saucepan.
- Add in your butter, milk, salt, and black pepper, then get a hand blender and blend the mashed potato until smooth.
- Get your baking dish and add your beef mince layer on the bottom, spread it out evenly. Top with the French onion mix, and then finish with your mashed potato covering the whole dish. Top with gruyere and thyme, then place in the oven for 20 minutes until bubbling and golden.
- Remove from the oven, serve up and enjoy!