Keema Cottage Pie

published Nov 18, 2022
Keema Cottage Pie

This recipe combines Indian keema and British cottage pie into one super soothing dish.

Serves6 to 8

Prep40 minutes to 45 minutes

Cook1 hour 30 minutes

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corner of scooped out keema cottage pie
Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

This delectable mash-up combines North Indian-style keema with a pub favorite: cottage pie. Keema, or kheema, is a super-comforting dish found in parts of North India, as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, and throughout the South Asian diaspora. Ground meat (lamb is traditional, but you can also find keema made with beef) is simmered with a slew of aromatics like onions, garlic, ginger, and green chilies, plus lots of spices, creating tender bites of highly seasoned meat in a sumptuous, layered gravy. The spices vary from country to country, region to region, and even family to family. I like mine rich in cumin, turmeric, garam masala, and Kashmiri chili.

Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Here the keema serves as a base for pillowy swooshes of turmeric mashed potatoes, à la cottage pie. It’s dotted with butter and finished with a few cracks of black pepper before being baked to deep golden, bubbling deliciousness.

If you’re craving a keema shepherd’s pie, just switch out the ground beef for lamb. Either way, don’t forget to serve this with a nice dollop of tangy, plain yogurt on top — the acidity of the yogurt helps tame the spice of the keema and provides a nice foil for the richness of the meat and potatoes.

Keema Cottage Pie

This recipe combines Indian keema and British cottage pie into one super soothing dish.

Prep time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 2 pounds

    medium or large Yukon Gold potatoes

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    garam masala

  • 2 teaspoons

    Kashmiri chili powder

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    ground turmeric, divided

  • 2

    medium white or yellow onions

  • 5 cloves


  • 1 (2-inch) piece


  • 1 to 2

    serrano chiles

  • 3 tablespoons

    canola oil

  • 1/4

    tomato paste

  • 2 pounds

    lean ground beef

  • 1 1/2 cups


  • 3/4 cup

    whole milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups

    frozen peas

  • 1/3 medium bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • Plain, full-fat yogurt, for serving


  1. Peel and halve 2 pounds medium or large Yukon Gold potatoes. Place in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover and 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon garam masala, 2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the ground turmeric in a small bowl.

  2. Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and knife tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, dice 2 medium white or yellow onions (about 3 cups) and peel and mince 1 (2-inch) piece ginger until you have 2 tablespoons; place both in a medium bowl. Mince 5 garlic cloves (about 1 heaped tablespoon) and 1 to 2 serrano chiles (1 to 2 tablespoons), and place both in a small bowl.

  3. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Cover and keep warm.

  4. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil in a large, high-sided, oven-safe 12-inch regular or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. (Alternatively, use a Dutch oven or large frying pan for the filling, then transfer to a 9x13-inch baking dish for baking.) Add the onion mixture and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and start to turn golden around the edges, 8 to 12 minutes.

  5. Add the garlic mixture and 1/4 cup tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste turns a shade darker, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garam masala mixture and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.

  6. Add 2 pounds lean ground beef and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Stir to combine with the onion mixture. Increase the heat to medium high and continue to cook, breaking the meat up into crumbles, until the meat starts to lose some of its pink color, 3 to 5 minutes.

  7. Add 1 1/2 cups water, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until the meat is cooked through and a thick gravy starts to form and some of the fat from the beef starts to pool on the surface of the sauce (this is a sign of good keema!), 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the leaves and tender stems of 1/3 medium bunch fresh cilantro until you have 1/2 cup. Finish the potatoes.

  8. Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a medium bowl, or transfer into a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork into your desired consistency. Place 3/4 cup whole milk and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in the now-empty pot. Heat over medium heat until the milk is hot and just coming to a simmer.

  9. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter. Stir until the turmeric dissolves into the milk, about 1 minute. Pour over the potatoes and fold mixture together until fully incorporated. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed.

  10. When the keema is ready, if there are any big clumps of meat remaining, break them up into smaller pieces. Turn off the heat. Add 1 1/2 cups frozen peas and the cilantro and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. (Transfer to a 9x13-inch baking dish at this point if not using a 12-inch high-sided skillet.)

  11. Dollop the turmeric mashed potatoes on top of the keema and then spread the potatoes into an even layer, making sure as little sauce is showing as possible. Drag the tines of a fork across the surface in one direction, rotate the pan 90 degrees, and run the fork across the surface again to create a small diamond pattern.

  12. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter into 8 pieces and scatter over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  13. If using a skillet, place on a rimmed baking sheet (skip if using a baking dish). Bake until golden-brown on top and the sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes. If you want extra golden-brown potatoes, finish under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve out of the skillet with plain yogurt on the side.

Recipe Notes

Ground beef substitutes: Use ground lamb, ground turkey, or plant-based meat (like Impossible or Beyond Meat) instead of the ground beef.

Make ahead: The filling can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Bring back to a simmer before topping with the potatoes and baking. Alternatively, the cottage pie can be assembled up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated; add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.