The Good Food field guide to Australian meat pies

Carn the pies.
Carn the pies. Photo: Supplied

You would be hard pressed to find another country with the pie diversity of Australia. The United States has its roadhouse diner pies, sure, and England loves a Melton Mowbray, but there are more pie varieties in our wide brown-minced land than you can shake a sauce bottle at.

From cheese-clogged country bakery numbers to late night Tigers in Woolloomooloo, here's a field guide to Aussie pies. And if we've missed any, please add your pie thoughts in the comments below.

The Four'N Twenty footy classic

The Four'N Twenty footy classic Photo: Supplied

The footy pie

Four'N Twenty or Vili's. That is all. Any other pie brand is out of the question, unless you're at a district game and the local baker is on pastry duty. Standard mince too, please, with at least two sachets of tomato sauce. A footy pie tastes just as terrific straight from a pub's pie-warmer when watching an away game on the telly – especially if it's a Vili's. 

The finals edition footy pie

Commonly spotted at suburban bakeries with a local team in the finals. Can range from pastry lid food-dyed with the local team's colours to more elaborate creations involving (Sydney) swan toppers made from chicken wings.

Neil Perry's beef chuck and pea pot pie.

Neil Perry's beef and pea pot pie (RECIPE HERE) Photo: William Meppem

The pub pot pie

An deadset dice roll but an Aussie pub pot pie is a beautiful thing when properly done – perfect for a session on the punt with a couple of pints. Beef and red wine is a common operator (see also: beef and Guinness) fragrant with bay leaves and topped with flaky, buttery pastry. At its worst, a pub pot pie will be a bowl of microwaved stew (or even chunky canned soup) contained by a barely-fixed lid of soggy filo.

The Pie Shop, Brunswick East: There's nothing quite like a freshly cooked pie.

The Pie Shop, Brunswick East . Photo: Bonnie Savage


The independently-owned pie shop pie

A broad category that could be its own article. Any small business pie shop menu will include pie varieties such as chunky beef, plain mince, cheese (the greatest), cheese and bacon, chicken mornay, tomato, potato (not be confused with shepherd's pie), steak and kidney, curry, chilli con carne and mushroom. Apple turnovers are also encouraged.

Nothing flies off the table faster than party pies

Nothing flies off the table faster than party pies. Photo: Supplied

The party pie

You can put on a hors d'oeuvres spread of the most epic proportions – caviar blinis, foie gras toasts, pigs in blankets – but nothing will fly off the table faster than a tray of scalding hot party pies. Party pies the size of a 50-cent piece are now available in frozen food aisles, too. "They're like ravioli for blokes," says my mate, Morgan, who just spent a week touring NSW in search of the state's best pie. (His pick? The chunky steak at Mountain High Pies, Wentworth Falls.)

The floater

An Adelaide icon whereby a mince pie is "floated" in mushy pea soup. Delicious with tomato sauce and a splash of vinegar. Carn the Crows!

Harry's signature Tiger Pies at Harry's Cafe de Wheels.

The signature Tiger at Harry's Cafe de Wheels. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

The Tiger

A NSW relative of the floater available from Harry's Cafe de Wheels, the pie caravan that began life in Woolloomooloo in the 1930s. The cart's signature dish, named after founder Harry 'Tiger' Edwards, involves a pie topped with mashed potato, mushy peas and a ladle of gravy. In my opinion, the best Tiger is made on a curry pie with a pinch of Saxa white pepper stirred through the peas.

The native game pie

Crocodile, kangaroo, emu. Maybe possum.  A coat of arms pie is created when kangaroo and emu meats combine. They're not great.

The Ned Kelly

Also known as the breakfast pie or farmhouse pie, the Ned Kelly sees a classic mince pie fattened with cheese and bacon before a whole egg is cracked on top. A favourite of truck drivers from Cobar to Cairns.

Pure Pie in Port Melbourne.

Perfectly crimped pies from Pure Pie in Port Melbourne. Photo: Eddie Jim

The curried scallop pie

A Tasmanian native made from scallops suffocated in creamy white curry. The number of scallops (and their freshness) will vary as there are a few Tassie bakeries more interested in taking cash from tourists than creating a quality product. When they're good, they're great though, especially with a tart apple cider riding shotgun.

The pocket pie

Can be found warming the jackets of booze hounds leaving the pub at 4am in need of tasty snack. I have woken up more times than I can remember with pocket pie crumbs from Crispy Inn Newtown in my sheets.

Four 'N Twenty Party Pies

For hangover emergencies: the Traveller pie.  Photo: Supplied

The servo pie

Never buy your dinner from the same place you buy your petrol. Servo pies are bloated, brittle things best avoided except when suffering a severe hangover. The rectangular Traveller pie is the pinnacle of servo pies but you're probably better off smashing two party pies together when you get home.

The single gent's frozen pie

Data for how many Aussie bachelors have a four-pack of pies in the freezer is difficult to obtain but I'm pretty sure it's all of them. Blokes, have some self respect and heat these in the oven. A microwaved frozen pie is an even more depressing dinner than a can of Stagg chilli.

A family pie for Sunday lunch.

A family pie for Sunday lunch. Photo: William Meppem

The farmers' market family pie

Let's be honest – these are only feeding two people, not a whole family, but what a treat! Locally-made family pies from the farmers' market make a great weekend lunch with a side of whatever's in season and green. Chicken and leek, lamb and rosemary, beef and mushroom – classic family pies, all of them.

The Bruce pie at Matt Wilkinson's The Pie Shop in Melbourne. Pork-based spaghetti bolognese, spaghetti included, crowned with a lid of cheese.

The Bruce pie at the Pie Shop in Melbourne is filled with pork-based spag bol, spaghetti included, and crowned with a lid of cheese. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis

The spag bol pie

Not as common as a Ned Kelly, say, but the spaghetti bolognese pie is a regional gem that can be found with a bit of digging. It does exactly what it says on the box and is commonly heavier on the bol than the spag. Four'N Twenty released a spag bol Traveller pie a few years ago which was the most Australian thing ever, until Mick Fanning punched a shark.