The recipe involved dicing and cooking potatoes (or parsnips), cauliflower, carrots and possibly turnip. Other vegetables were added where available. Rolled oats and chopped spring onions were added to the thickened vegetable water which was poured over the vegetables themselves. The dish was topped with potato pastry and grated cheese and served with vegetable gravy. The content of the pie filling could easily be altered to include whatever vegetables were in season at the time.
Lord Woolton pie was devised in an attempt get people into eating more vegetables, and to think less about meat which was severely rationed at the time by the Ministry of Food. People realised that meat was in very scarce supply, but that still did not overcome traditions of meat pies. Woolton pie, entirely lacking meat, was not universally well received. An editorial in The Times commented:
When Woolton pie was being forced on somewhat reluctant tables, Lord Woolton performed a valuable service by submitting to the flashlight camera at public luncheons while eating, with every sign of enjoyment, the dish named after him. Professor John Fuller has noted that Woolton pie and similar wartime austerity dishes “were forgotten as quickly as possible when conditions returned to normal”.