Sweeten Up Rich Cottage Pie Filling With A Squeeze Of Ketchup

Sweet and savory pairings never go out of style. A fabulous way to juxtapose and enhance contrasting elements of flavors, this duo is the inspiration behind our latest hack to upgrade a lackluster cottage pie. Also known as shepherd's pie, this dish comes together quite easily and offers an abundance of hearty flavor. The only issue is that following the same old recipe can get boring, which is why we recommend making things more interesting by sweetening the umami-rich pie with a squeeze of ketchup.

Most recipes for cottage pie call for some sort of tomato element, whether that be puree or paste. Much like how both of these products offer their own unique expression of tomato flavor, the same can be said for ketchup. However, unlike mild and fresh puree or intense and zesty paste, ketchup instead offers a wonderfully sweet and sour  dimension that recalls tomatoes, just to a different degree. In fact, beyond its sugary nuance, ketchup contains a host of flavor-boosting spices that also work to make every bite of pie more intriguing.

Additionally, ketchup makes for a willing replacement for tomato-based products in a meaty cottage pie thanks to its ability to balance flavors. For instance, the saccharine quality of ketchup works especially well to counteract the dish's savoriness, meanwhile its prominent acidity cuts through the pie's decadence. All in all, this sweet swap goes a long way in improving the humble cottage pie.

How to properly incorporate ketchup into cottage pie

When it comes to sprucing up a cottage pie, any kind of ketchup can be used. That said, the ideal ketchup of choice should have a predominantly sweet, yet tangy flavor profile. While we recommend keeping things classic, you can experiment with flavored varieties like a smoky barbecue or sriracha-infused sauce to better round out flavors.

With a suitable ketchup selected, the next piece of the puzzle is determining how much to add. Generally, the amount of tomato puree or paste that's required in a recipe is minimal (think: a few tablespoons), which means that it can easily be swapped for an equal amount of ketchup. Otherwise, if this proves to be too sweet for your liking, you can reduce the amount or use a combination of ketchup and tomato puree or paste.

As for when to introduce the ketchup, it can be added once the ground meat has finished browning and the veggies have softened. Simply stir it in alongside spices and a sprinkle of flour, cooking everything down for a few minutes. Then, pour in some broth and let the mixture reduce slightly before transferring the resulting gravy into a casserole dish, topping with mashed potatoes, and baking. Once a wonderfully savory aroma fills your kitchen, your ketchup-laced cottage pie is ready to enjoy!