The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

The mince pie taste test: from Greggs to Fortnum & Mason

The mince pie taste test: from Greggs to Fortnum & Mason
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The number of different mince pies available in 2021 is staggering – more mince pies, frankly, than you could shake a stick at. And with all of them boasting about their vine-ripened fruits, their rich pastry, and the myriad boozed, how do you navigate the groaning supermarket shelves? We’ve tasted and tested until we had mincemeat coming out of our ears in order to bring you our guide to the best.

Harvey Nichols Mini Traditional Rich Fruit Mince Pies, 12 for £9.95

What they say: Our decadently buttery Harvey Nichols Mince Pies are jam-packed with Christmas spices and rich fruit soaked in brandy and rum.

What we say: These are a well-sized mince pie, with a good ratio of pastry to filling. The filling is boozy and sweet, while the pastry is notably soft, which some of our testers loved, and others thought tasted slightly underbaked. The caster sugar on top is a welcome flourish.

Waitrose Christmas Cherry & Almond Mince pies, 4 for £2.25

What they say: Butter-enriched pastry, filled with sweet cherry and amaretto mincemeat. Topped with almond frangipane and flaked almonds for a festive twist on a cherry Bakewell.

What we say: These are lovely little pies, well-sized, with good, rich pastry, and a wonderful soft frangipane top. But are they really a mince pie? The mincemeat layer is quite thin, and dominated by the cherry and almond – delicious, but it doesn’t scream Christmas. Perhaps a good choice for your mincemeat-avoiding relative.

Greggs, Sweet Mince Pies, 6 for £1.75

What they say: Made from crumbly shortcrust pastry, filled with a sweet mincemeat made from vine fruits, Bramley apple, candied orange & lemon peel, perfectly finished with a light dusting of icing sugar.

What we say: These pies have the twin recommendations of being freshly baked, and vegan. They’re also keenly priced, which makes them a particularly good high street option. If we’re being picky, they’re quite shallow, and the mincemeat is pretty wet, but the flavours are good, and they’re robust enough to eat as soon as you head out of Greggs’ door.

Betty’s Classic Mince Pies, 12 for £13.75

What they say: Year after year, our Mince Pies are judged winners in magazine taste tests. The secret to their success starts with all-butter pastry and our own special mincemeat recipe, with vine fruits, golden cherries, almonds and seasonal spices all soaked in brandy and matured to perfection.

What we say: A lovely buttery pastry encasing a classic, jammy mincemeat, packed full of plump fruit, with a pretty star-shaped design on top.

*Joint winner*: Marks and Spencer M&S Collection Mince Pies, 6 for £2.50

What they say: Melt-in-the-mouth all-butter shortcrust pastry, deep filled with mincemeat containing dried vine fruits, glacé cherries, cranberries, brandy, cider, clementine juice and Cognac. Topped with a shortcrust pastry star and a sweet dusting.

What we say: These are a top tier mince pie: a proper hit of booze, which melds with the other ingredients, and the clementine and cranberry additions come through well. The pastry is great: short, sweet, rich, just as it should be. We were immediately ready to go back for a second, even in the face of mince-pie-testing-fatigue.

Morrisons Bake at Home Short Crust Mince Pies, 6 for £2.50

What they say: Rich and fruity mincemeat in a crumbly shortcrust pastry case.

What we say: Ok, bake-at-home mince pies have an advantage over ready-baked mince pies: frozen pastry is sturdy, so can be shorter than the fresh stuff without shattering into crumbs before you get it home. But these are an excellent example of why mince pies from the freezer aisle can be so rewarding. These pies might look unassuming (some of the tops were wonky on the batch we tried), but the pastry was fantastic, and the filling a treat – plus, as you pull them from the oven, you can convince your guests that they’re homemade.

Co-op Irresistible All Butter Pastry Luxury Mince Pies, 6 for £2

What they say: All butter pastry filled with mincemeat made with vine fruits, apple, brandy and port and topped with a sweet dusting.

What we say: The pastry design – a snowflake – is intricate and attractive, the pastry itself is lovely, and its butter content is obvious. The mincemeat is more syrupy than a lot of their supermarket competitors, but not in a bad way, with a noticeable and welcome hit of booze.

Sainsbury's Mince Pies with All Butter Pastry, Taste the Difference, 6 for £1.50

What they say: Our melt in the mouth all butter pastry mince pies are packed with a festive blend of luscious fruit, aromatic peel and warming spices, infused with a generous nip of brandy. Baked to perfection at a family owned bakery with four generations of baking expertise... that's why you can taste the difference.

What we say: A classic mince pie: one you’ll enjoy while eating, but won’t remember a couple of weeks later. Short pastry, sweet mincemeat; enjoyable but not exceptional.

*Runner-up*: Booths Mince Pies, 6 for £2.85

What they say: Freshly baked to order each day, and never frozen, all of our Booths mince pies are made for us by Bells of Lazonby near our Penrith store in Cumbria. Each mince pie is lovingly put into the oven and sugar dusted by hand.

What we say: These mince pies look and taste like the platonic homemade mince pie: simple, but neat, with no fancy pattern on top, just excellent pastry. They are clearly handmade, but by someone with more finesse than me, and the mincemeat (which has a good hum of spice) is the right amount of juicy without being wet. An excellent mince pie.

Tesco Finest Mini Mince Pies, 12 for £2

What they say: Rich, crumbly all butter pastry packed with a delicious mix of plump vine fruits and Napoleon glace cherries. Infused with French brandy & ruby port, with a refreshing twist of lemon zest, tangerine oil and festive spices. Finished with a gentle dusting of sugar.

What we say: These are adorable little bite size pies, perfect for a party, with a pretty star-shaped design on top. There is a generous amount of filling, which is particularly impressive in such a small pie. ‘Delicious’ was the unanimous opinion of our testers.

*Joint winner*: Fortnum and Mason, Christmas traditional mince pies, 6 for £12.95

What they say: Vine-ripened fruits, subtle spices and our very own cognac-infused mincemeat are encased in our Christmas Traditional Mince Pies. A decadent, crumbly treat, the hand-crafted, all-butter short crust pastry will make a merry match for our classic Cream Sherry or Cognac Butter.

What we say: A stand-out mince pie. The spices, cognac and fruit are perfectly balanced, with a Goldilocks texture of not-too-dry and not-too-wet. The pastry is textbook: crumbly when eaten, but sturdy enough to hold, short and sweet.

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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