Do you love or hate a mince pie? Let us know in the comments! I feel like they’re the most controversial Christmas treat, with some people cracking them out in November and others looking deeply offended at the mere mention. There are so many different mince pies on the market though that it’s no wonder some people love them and others hate them. Even in the same shop you can buy one mince pie brand that will make your day, and another that will make you wince.
This leads us to our conundrum - how do you know the tasty pastry morsel you unwrap for family dos or festive movie night is going to be worth the 85p (plus) that you spent on it? Will it melt in the mouth with a light buttery, brandy flavour, or go down like frosted pebbles?
*trumpets please* Do not fear! We are here to make mince pie buying easier this Christmas with our mince pie guide - a review of seven popular shop bought mince pies and our very own Devon Cookery School recipe. Fair warning - this isn’t a comprehensive list of every mince pie because… there are A LOT. We figure this is a long term mission that we take very seriously - and we intend to add to our guide every year from now on. We’d also love you to contribute - have you got a mince pie review we could feature on our blog or social media? DM us on Instagram if you think so!
More fair warning - to make this a fair (enough) taste test I reviewed our selection as well as a member of the team who hates mince pies and is plant based, and a member of the team who loves mince pies so much he could inhale 60 of them in less than 60 seconds. We didn’t blind test our pies, and I think our tasters had a bit too much fun doing it, so take these reviews as seriously as you like.
Now let’s get serious. What were our taste test rules? We weighed our mince pies against five critical criteria:
Appearance. Is the mince pie a treat for the eyes or could it be mistaken for a paperweight?
Pastry. Is the pastry light and flavoursome or able to knock out an intruder from ten paces?
Mince. Can we tell what fruit is in it, or are we suspicious it’s the other kind of mince?
Packaging. First impressions matter especially when you’re serving these to Nanna and Grandad.
Overall Impression. Sometimes something just doesn’t add up, other times you can’t tell what makes it a winner.
Let’s get started!
Vegan Waitrose mince pies
Both our mince pie lover and our mince pie hater (more of a dis-liker really) enjoyed this mince pie - our mince pie hater even went in for seconds. It isn’t as rich or buttery as a dairy based mince pie, but it is light, flavoursome and wholesome.
Appearance: A pretty but underwhelming star cutout adorns this mince pie, with an almost non existent dusting of sugar. Honestly that star cutout is a little ominous - more a black hole than a Christmas star. Pretty enough though and definitely didn’t make us giggle like some of these entries!
Pastry: Our plant based team member was especially pleased with this pastry - soft, moist crumbly pastry (it snows pastry flakes when you bite in) with a light un-buttery flavour.
Mince: The pie is well filled with a good ratio of pastry to filling, allowing both their time to shine with your tastebuds. The mince has a generous raisin component, is appropriately moist and without an alcohol flavour. There is a mild cinnamon spice but with no lingering aftertaste.
Packaging: The packaging was a little underwhelming and didn’t scream ‘delicious goodies inside’, which is a shame.
Overall impression: With a light fragrance and clearly fruity flavour, this mince pie was a winner especially for those with less of a sweet tooth.
Final verdict: 4/5
Plant Pioneers vegan mince pies
Our plant based eater is admittedly a little biased because these are planted based pies, but she thought these were another solid entry onto our list. Our omnivore tasters felt these were a bit bland.
Appearance: Despite a delicious looking golden brown pastry, the sugar dusting looked like an afterthought, and the pie was lopsided and undecorated
Pastry: The pastry is super soft and crumbly - almost to a fault because we covered the carpet in bits of pie! And it wasn’t our house. But it is light and not clinging in the mouth.
Mince: In comparison to the Waitrose mince pie, this mince is a bit of a rough texture. It’s moist, yes, but very orangey and chunky. One taster said it’s ‘not a great mouthfeel’. We aren’t sure what that is, but on trying one myself I agree.
Packaging: The packaging is like a cheerful Christmas jumper - bright and jolly and I would be happy to hand them over at a friend’s party.
Overall impression: These pies smell light and spicy and are definitely more-ish. But do they make it to 5*?
Final verdict: 3.5/5. That chunky mince meant they just weren’t a 4.
Appearance: These pretty pies have a good snowy dusting and a detailed snowflake pattern in pastry on the lid. With golden brown edges, these are a treat for the eyes as well as the tongue.
Pastry: With its dairy content, this pastry is denser and has a quality mouthfeel (should I stop using that phrase yet?) It also has a kind of creamy quality, and was surprisingly thinner than our vegan pies.
Mince: The mince is on the edge of being a little dryer, but nothing to make you have to reach for the mulled wine to get it down. It is citrusy and chunky with a good fill - overall makes you feel like you’re having a substantial bite rather than a light nibble.
Packaging: A reasonably pretty packet, I’d be happy to take these to my parents for afternoon tea and a mince pie.
Overall impression: The pastry has a delicious buttery smell like shortbread, and with overall butter and lemon flavours this is a more unusual mince pie that made us all want to reach for another.
Final verdict: 4/5
I don’t want to be mean to a single pie on this list. Some people will like what we dislike and loathe what we love. Having said that, this mince pie made us sad.
Appearance: Well, they’re alright. The double star design in pastry was more decoration than Plant Pioneers could manage, but each pie looked a little drunk with lopsided tops and overcooked edges.
Pastry: Just picking this mince pie from its case you could tell it was dense. It’s un-reassuringly solid to the touch, and dry when you bite in. With little flavour, one of our testers said ‘it gives precious nothing to overall impression’. Ouch.
Mince: Sometimes where the pastry is lacking, the mince makes up for it, and vice versa. Unfortunately this mince pie looks as sad on the outside as it is on the inside. The mince is under flavoured, and sweet but weirdly grainy - and we couldn’t figure out what was so bitty about it. There’s also no real fruit impression - what was even in this pie?
Packaging: The plump looking mince pies filled with raisins on the packaging unfortunately doesn’t seem to be what’s inside the box - but it did make us want to buy them, so good work.
Overall impression: One is more than enough.
Final verdict: 1.5/5
These weren’t originally part of the review because I didn’t know they existed. A friend picked them up from a corner shop having heard I was writing this blog. It turns out they still aren’t part of this review because they are EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE TESCO CHEAPO! Reasonable in a pinch, but don’t really raise a smile.
Holly Lane from Aldi
Appearance: These pies look like they’re brimming with festive goodness. The lid of the pie is convex - suggesting candied fruits are just waiting to burst out - and the bright golden pastry is decorated with three stars.
Pastry: The pastry itself, especially the walls of the pie, are firm and waxy. You’d know what I mean if you saw it yourself. Perhaps it’s oil, butter fat, or a preservation thing, we don’t know. But it’s not particularly appealing. Unfortunately to eat, the pastry is thick, dry and flavourless.
Mince: Again, sadly underwhelming. The pleasant ratio meant the pastry wasn’t overwhelmed by the mince flavour - but as the pastry was tasteless that’s not really a win. The pie had less filling than others, and the filling is soft, jelly-ish, and gently flavoured. The most noticeable raisiny of all our pies.
Packaging: Mince pie packaging doesn’t seem to be a very competitive industry - with most of our brands following some kind of red boxing with pictures of mince pies on. Holly Lane is no different.
Overall impression: We’d sum it up by saying these are good for a work Christmas treat, to be left in the kitchen and enjoyed when emails get too much.
Final verdict: 3/5
Sainsburys 9 mini mince pies filled with brandy mince meat
This mince pie review is literally fresh from the horse’s mouth, because I’m eating one right now and it packs a mince-y punch!
Appearance: Adorable! What little cuties - these bitesize pies look tantalising even to our mince pie naysayer. Similar to the Tesco Finest, these are prettily decorated with a pastry snowflake and generous snow shower of sugar.
Pastry: The pastry holds together well - no danger of it disintegrating as soon as you take a bite. That said, it’s thin pastry and crumbles well in the mouth. There’s a distinct butteriness to it, but it is so thin that the mince quickly takes over the flavour profile.
Mince: Phew! This mince is flavoursome! Tangy, citrusy and with what I assume is a small brandy tickle (it says brandy on the box, and you can get a distinct whiff of something that could be brandy). It is a little dry - personally I’d like to see it moister.
Packaging: Sainsbury’s put good thought into their packaging, which is festive and more luxe than some of our other entries. I’d be very happy if someone gave me a box of these.
Overall impression: The most annoying thing about these mince pies is just how hard they are to get out of their silver foil prison.. sorry I mean casing. I’ve had more than one and each time struggled not to crush the pie whilst trying to get it free. But this by no means ruins them!
Final verdict: 4.5/5 These delicious little morsels have left their calling card with my tastebuds and I know there are still two left in the box…
And now for the final entry.. the Devon Cookery School Mince Pie
Well of course it’s a 5/5!
Let’s address the pink elephant wearing tinsel in the room shall we? We (the royal we - of course everyone at DCS) are biased. And we’re never ashamed to say it! Of course we love our own mince pie recipe - especially this speedy version you can whip up in time for unexpected guests, with kiddos, or at 9pm when you really really fancy something sweet. We always need some speedier standbys which are delicious, nutritious and home made, and this mince pie recipe ticks all those boxes.
Making your own pastry is therapeutic and 10 times more flavoursome than shop bought pastry. Many people always have a stock of basic pastry ingredients too - flour, butter and eggs. The pastry really gives a homemade mince pie its edge - and you can have fun cutting patterns in it for decoration too.
I’ve suggested a store bought mincemeat for this recipe as it’s just so handy to have a jar in the kitchen as soon as November rolls around. Mince meat isn’t super hard to make, but it is time intensive with soaking your fruits, baking and marinading, so not easy to whip up last minute. With store bought mince meat you can try different minces each time, and look for vegetarian mixes if you dig plant based. Mince meat is traditionally made with suet - an animal fat - for preservation and flavour.
The Devon Cookery School mince pie recipe includes a simple but buttery and decadent homemade pastry that is a real winner for pastry fans out there. You can roll your pastry as thick or thin as you want too - just be careful to keep an eye on your pies as baking time will change. The same goes for your filling too, add as much or as little as you like to get your perfect ratio. Have you baked them? Tag us in your Instagram pics.