You may not have heard of Woolton pie. This British savory pie was created by a London Savory chef during WWII as a simple and nutritious hot meal amid the strict rationing of 1940s England. It's packed with healthy veg baked under a mashed potato and wholemeal crust.
Woolton pie was created by the renowned French chef Francois Latry, the Maitre Chef de Cuisine at London's Savoy Hotel. This hearty, meat-free pie was the perfect wartime austerity dish that provided good nutrition with readily available produce.
The original recipe for this vegetarian-friendly pie was named after Frederick Marquis, the First Earl of Woolton, who served as the Minister of Food during the Second World War. He popularized the recipe among housewives during WWII, and enjoyed eating this pie. When the war ended, people were quick to abandon Woolton pie for more flavorful meat pies, such as steak and ale pie and chicken and mushroom pie.
Wondering what ingredients you need to make your own Woolton pie from scratch? Fortunately, since this is a 1940s wartime recipe, you don't need anything fancy. Let's talk about the key ingredients.
- Assorted Vegetables: A hearty mixture of potatoes, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, and spring onion is the basis of this vegetarian pie.
- Whole Wheat Flour: Since white flour was in short supply in WWII England, whole wheat flour was used for the pastry. It provides additional protein and fiber as well.
- Marmite: This yeast extract is made from leftover yeast in the brewing process, and is packed with B vitamins and a rich umami flavor. Adding a little Marmite (or Vegemite) to the cooking water adds extra vitamins and flavor.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Skip the wholemeal pastry and cover the pie with mashed potatoes instead (in the style of shepherd's pie).
- Toss the cooked veg in a brown gravy or white sauce for extra flavor before covering with pastry.
- Season with additional herbs or spices.
How to Make Woolton Pie
Pull out all the filling ingredients: potatoes, carrots, turnip, cauliflower, spring onions, oatmeal, fresh parsley, salt, and pepper.
- Peel and dice the potatoes, carrots, and turnip, and chop the cauliflower and spring onions. Add all the filling ingredients into a large pot and just barely cover the veggies with water. (image 1)
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then allow the veggies to cool. Thoroughly drain if desired. (image 2)
- Pour the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter and lard until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the mashed potatoes, salt, and baking powder. (image 3)
- Gradually add enough water to bring the ingredients together to form a smooth dough. Knead a few times, then use immediately or chill for later. (image 4)
- Place the veggies in a 6-cup (1.5 liter) enamel dish and sprinkle the fresh parsley on top. (image 5)
- Top the filling with the pastry and brush with beaten egg. Crimp the edges, decorate with scraps of pastry, and cut a few vent holes in the top. (image 6)
- Bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. (image 7)
- Serve with brown gravy and enjoy hot. (image 8)
It's a vegetarian dish created in England during war rationing in the 1940s, and was named after the current Minister of Food, Lord Woolton. Woolton pie traditionally contains a variety of garden vegetables, such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, cauliflower, and spring onions. It is usually topped with whole wheat pastry or dollops of mashed potatoes.
The strict wartime rationing forced the Ministry of Food to keep Woolton pie quite plain, without much seasoning or any extra ingredients for additional flavor. Although it contained a lot of healthy vitamins and fiber, the British public wasn't fond of its bland flavor. Here's some ways to make it taste better:
Pan-fry 2 large yellow onions in 2 tablespoons of butter until golden and add to the veggie filling. Season the veggies generously with salt, black pepper, and fresh thyme. Mix some rich gravy into the vegetable filling instead of serving the gravy separately.
For the pastry, cut the amount of mashed potatoes in half and add ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese. Use all-purpose flour in the pastry instead of whole wheat for a less earthy taste.
Woolton pie is typically served with brown gravy to pour over the veggies and to add flavor. Use the butter and flour roux technique from our turkey giblet gravy to make a plain brown gravy with chicken or beef stock, then season with salt, pepper, and a little Marmite for color.
- Want something different? Change the veggies as you desire, or add fresh herbs.
- Don't overcook the veggies, or they will be mushy.
- In a rush? Use store-bought pastry instead of the whole wheat one.
- Have leftovers? They'll keep for 3-5 days in the fridge as long as they're tightly covered.
Other British Savory Pies
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Woolton Pie Recipe
For the Filling
- 2 ½ cups russet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 5 cups bite-sized cauliflower florets
- 2 cups carrots, diced
- 2 cups turnip, peeled and diced
- ⅔ cup spring onion, sliced
- filtered water, to cover
- 1 tablespoon rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Marmite
- ¼ cup curly parsley, chopped
For the Crust
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon mashed potatoes
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 3 ½ tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cold water
- brown gravy, optional
Making the Filling
- Rinse the cauliflower, then cut into bite-sized florets. Slice the spring onions, then peel and dice the carrots, turnips, and potatoes.
- Dump the chopped veggies, oatmeal, salt, pepper, and Marmite into a large pot and barely cover with water. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Thoroughly drain the veggies in a large colander, reserving any leftover cooking liquid to use as vegetable stock. Allow to cool, then place the filling in a 6-cup (1.5 liter) enamel pie dish and sprinkle the fresh parsley on top.
Making the Pastry
- Pour the whole wheat flour into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Rub in the butter and lard until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the mashed potatoes, salt, and baking powder until well blended.
- Gradually add enough water to form a smooth dough, making sure all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough a few times.
Assembling & Baking the Pie
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thick. Cover the filling with the pastry, decorate with leftover scraps, and brush with beaten egg. Cut a few vent holes in the top.
- Bake at 400°F for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Let it cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving. Serve each slice with a generous amount of gravy made with the reserved vegetable cooking water.
- Change up the veggies based on your personal taste.
- Be careful not to over-boil the vegetables; it will make them mushy.
- This pie will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.