13 best mince pies
They’re a Christmas staple, but mince pies today come in many varieties. We tried vegan and gluten-free ones, as well as the classics
A quintessential part of any British Christmas, the mince pie is a divisive beast; some remain loyal to a classic mincemeat affair, while others embrace the more leftfield festive twists on the traditional which are magicked up each year.
We started Christmas early, loosened our belts and munched our way through a multitude of mince pies to find out which have pitch-perfect buttery pastry, the tangiest mincemeat, which to splash the cash on and which are the budget beauties to bring to your Christmas spread.
From straight-up classics to vegan, gluten-free, and out-there options (and even something for those who don’t like mince pies), here are the best of the lot.
Iceland Luxury Mince Pies: £1.89 for 6 pies, Iceland
Iceland has made headlines this year with its hard-hitting festive advert, which highlights the impact of the palm oil industry.
And, orangutan-lovers will be pleased to hear that their no-palm-oil mince pies stack up on the taste front; topped with a pretty cutout star, the pastry was just-so buttery and not too crumbly, and pies generously filled with punchy spiced citrusy filling and just the right gentle boozy kick (they contain a touch of brandy and cider).
Our firm favourite among the supermarket brands, the good news is they won’t break the bank either.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All-butter Mince Pies: £2 for 6 pies, Sainsbury’s
Decorated with a snowflake and a sugar dusting giving them a “just-snowed” look, the presentation of Sainsbury’s luxe pies went down well.
A combination of buttery pastry (baked by shortbread specialists, Walkers) and not scrimped-on filling – with strong hints of nutmeg and clementine coming through, particularly when served warm – made these another popular supermarket choice.
Asda Extra Special All-butter Mince Pies: £1.50 for 6 pies, Asda
The zingy mincemeat with a warming port-and-brandy kick and plenty of citrus peel meant these Asda pies were a real hit flavour-wise.
Pastry, however, wasn’t quite as melt-in-the-mouth as we’d hoped, and given there’s a full lid and snowflake decoration layer there’s quite a lot of it, but, given the price point and punchy filling, they’re still a good all-rounder.
Asda Mince Pies; £0.97 for 6 pies, Asda
When it comes to mince pies for vegans, there aren’t that many choices out there, but these budget pies from Asda got the thumbs up from vegans and non-vegans alike.
The sweet pastry was a shade more crumbly than traditional pastry, but still tasted good, and the ultra-fruity mincemeat filling was packed with raisins and sultanas, making them a strong option for those entertaining vegans this Christmas.
Konditor & Cook Mince Pies: £12 for 6 pies, Konditor & Cook
If we had to pick a Mary Poppins of mince pies – practically perfect in every way – it’d be these, from artisan bakery Konditor & Cook.
They don’t come cheap at £2 a pop, and are small and compact compared to some of the other pies, but they deliver on every front – rustic-look scalloped-edge tops, melt-in-the-mouth buttery pastry with just a hint of crumbliness, and a moreish, sticky filling packed with fruit and orange oil giving it an extra-special kick. Plus they’re suitable for vegetarians, too.
Order a box for guests, then keep one back for yourself to indulge in after they’ve left.
Waitrose Christmas Gluten-Free Mince Pies: £2.50 for 4 pies, Waitrose
Despite the pastry being ever-so-slightly on the crumbly side (a problem in all the gluten-free pies we tasted), these were the best of the lot.
Rich pastry with a biscuity taste, kept thin (this stops it from getting too messy), and a chunky, treacly mincemeat, packed with flavourful vine fruits (particularly heavy on the sultanas and raisins) add up to a lovely, luxe option for coeliacs and those on a gluten-free diet which won’t leave them feeling cheated.
Duchy Organic All-butter Pastry Mince Pies: £2.50 for 4 pies, Waitrose
It’s not surprising that the hands-down best organic mince pie we tasted comes from royalty-approved Duchy Organics, the all-organic luxury brand set up by Prince Charles.
Some of the other organic pies’ pastry crumbled as soon as they were picked up, making a real mess – not so Duchy’s pastry, which had a slightly shortbread-like buttery taste, and a hint of shortbread texture on the lid. The filling was moist, spices well-balanced, and mincemeat with candied orange, lemon peel, cranberries and a slug of brandy gave a classic Christmassy taste.
Daylesford Organic Mince Pies: £7.99 for 6 pies, Daylesford Organic
No brand sums up the rural British good life better than swish organic farm Daylesford.
Beautifully presented, these deep organic pies have rich pastry, which tastes a little less sweet than all the others we tasted.
Packed with a high quality filling (lots of peel, zest and ginger) it felt to us like it had more of a Christmas pudding-y texture and flavour, rather than a traditional mincemeat. Tasty, but perhaps not a top choice for purists.
Heston from Waitrose Chocolate and Sour Cherry Crumble Mince Pies: £3 for 6 pies, Waitrose
A mince pie alternative created by culinary whizz Heston Blumenthal, these super-sweet chocolate and sour cherry affairs have a divisive all-butter chocolate pastry, and are filled with a sour cherry mincemeat, laced with cherry bakewell vodka and topped with a chocolate crumble.
They’re much smaller and thinner than a normal mince pie, and when eaten cold have a satisfying crunch to them; when warmed, the filling goes wickedly gooey.
A fun alternative which will have chocolate-lovers reaching for another, and die-hard traditionalists moaning that “it’s not really a mince pie is it?”
Aldi Specially Selected Black Forest Mince Pies: £1.99 for 6 pies, Aldi
Another chocolate and cherry combination, but slightly cheaper, comes from Aldi.
Their twisted mince pie is much deeper than Heston’s, and the chocolate pastry a little drier and more crumbly. Inside, a moist, almost cake-like filling, with large chunks of chocolate and hunks of Morello cherry. It’s very sweet, so not one for the faint-hearted, and even our sweetest-toothed tasters felt the sugar dusting was overkill.
Overall, a fun one to have in the mix which won’t break the bank, and the Noel-embossed top was a nice touch.
Hotel Chocolat Alternative Mince Pies: £8 for 6 pralines, Hotel Chocolat
At every festive table, there’s bound to be someone who hates dried fruit.
Hotel Chocolat’s tongue-in-cheek alternative mince pies have mini “pastry” cases made from 40 per cent milk chocolate, filled with either hazelnut praline or caramel truffle. These bitesized chocolates are incredibly rich; the caramel truffle is mellow and creamy, the hazelnut praline more intense and nutty.
Without a sniff of dried fruit in sight, they’ll keep the mince pie haters happy, and we wager that the mince pie lovers will find room to squeeze one in too.
Bettys Speciality Mince Pies: £12.50 for 12 pies, Bettys
While we found some of the “twist on a mince pies” just a bit much (from cloying buttercream-topped affairs to those with a full-on caramel filling) those from acclaimed Harrogate tea rooms Bettys completely hit the mark.
Each box has an equal split of frangipane mince pies – with a caramelised flaked almond top – and ricciarelli mince pies – which are lidded with a swirl of the traditional almondy biscuit (a bit like an Italian macaron). The golden all-butter pastry is moreish, and sherry-soaked fruits make for moist mincemeat.
When heated, the almondy ricciarelli layer melts into a decadent goo. They look smart too, delivered in a festively illustrated box.
Co-op Irresistible Spiced Salted Caramel and Rum Mince Pies: £2 for 4 pies, The Co-op
Another pleasing mince-pie-with-a-twist, these Co-op salted caramel and rum mince pies are sweet, but manage to hit the right balance overall by having a thinner pastry case, and choosing to do away with the pastry top, instead plumping for a sprinkle of chopped nuts.
We couldn’t overly taste the salted caramel, but enjoyed the burst of rum; they’d go well with an evening nightcap.
Buy now (in store only)
The Verdict: Best mince pies
Iceland’s luxury mince pies were a real crowd-pleaser, delivering both great taste and at only £1.79, offering brilliant value for money making them our best buy of supermarket mince pies.
Asda’s own-brand vegan offering was also pleasantly surprising, and across-the-board, Waitrose has a strong range of offerings if you’ve a little more to spend and guests with different dietary requirements to cater for.
If you’re sparing no expense, then Konditor & Cook’s luxury pies simply can’t be beaten in terms of sheer deliciousness, while Bettys Speciality mince pies are a sound choice for a top-quality pie with something a little different that isn’t so out there it’ll scare traditionalists.
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