It's been a tough year on us all and if there's one thing we all deserve, it's a mince pie. A good mince pie. One with short, buttery pastry, a generous fruit filling spiked with spices and citrus (not to mention booze!), and finished perhaps with a dusting of snowy icing sugar for a bit of festive flair.
Many of the pies stocked on this year's shelves fulfil this role to the letter; some even surprise with delicious add-ons like frangipane, florentine toppings and, er, a Percy Pig. Traditionalists and fans of a twist are well served.
But which of the new treats came out best overall by delivering flavour, texture and Christmassy aromas? Read on to find out...
Best mince pies for Christmas 2020
Specially Selected sloe gin mince tarts
£2.49 for six, Aldi
Aldi is not the only producer to turn out a sizeable, hockey-puck-shaped mince pie this year (see Heston's, below). The smell of these lattice-topped 'tarts' is overwhelmingly of almond extract and there's a cherry sweetness, too. The flavour is much the same – rather cloying and artificial rather than spicy and rich, which masks any taste of sloe gin.
Coop Irresistible all butter luxury mince pies
£2 for six, Co-op
Eaten cold, the filling in these pies feels heavy on the gluey syrup that holds it together, and light on the dried fruit. Unfortunately they don’t hold up well to heating: the pastry collapses with the lightest pressure and the filling, which is gloopy and lacking in a dominant flavour, oozes out.
Read more: Best mincemeat for homemade mince pies
Heston from Waitrose Night Before Christmas mince pies
£2.80 for six, Waitrose
The clock face decoration on the lid (which fully seals the pie) is a fun design, but the solid, hockey-puck shape and weight of the thing is less appetising. The pastry is thick, crisp and strongly spiked with caraway, but the ratio of pastry to filling is so weighted in favour of the former that it's hard to know what the mincemeat tastes like; there's carrot in the mix, but you wouldn't know. Not a traditional mince pie by any stretch (from Heston, that's no suprise), but as a filled biscuit, not bad.
Tesco finest* all butter pastry mince pies
£1.75 for six, Tesco
The buttery pastry is a little soft, and the filling is rather gloopy and non-descript, but it’s generously filled and well spiced, which boosts its score. A standard Christmas carol service pie – and that is meant that in a good way.
M&S Percy Pig Percymas pies
£2 for four, M&S
Let’s not beat around the bush; these are not mince pies (for one, they're filled with jam and sponge, not mincemeat), and they're certainly not a warm-in-the-oven-and-dollop-with-brandy-butter affair (one dreads to think what Percy would look like after a blast of heat). But they’re fun, they’re pink, and they’ll send your kids bouncing off the walls. What else is Christmas for?
Lidl Deluxe all butter mince pies
£1.49 for six, Lidl
Though the filling is rather runnier than some others, the flavour is spot on. Juicy, balanced and with a kick from cognac. The slightly pappy pastry can be forgiven, especially when teamed with a slick of brandy butter.
Read more: Best Christmas cakes for 2020
Waitrose plum, honey and ginger mince pies
£2 for four, Waitrose
Traditional in their construction, if a little dour-looking; a sprinkling of icing sugar would improve the overall appeal of these pies. Their saving grace is pastry that is perfectly buttery, crisp and filled to the rim with mincemeat. Though ginger is detectable, the plum and honey are lost in the spice.
Morrisons The Best florentine mince pies
£2 for six, Morrisons
Though Morrisons’ Black Forest mince pies prove a twist too far, these florentine mince pies are rather lovely. Instead of detracting from the flavour of the mincemeat, the topping of sticky flaked almonds and dried cherries are a nice textural addition – and it’s hard not to feel buoyed by a bit of edible glitter.
Booths all butter mince pies
£2.85 for six, Booths
These have a simple, home-made look to them, finished with a dusting of sugar. The fruit has a pleasant hit of citrus, though it would be nice for the filling to reach the top of the pie. The buttery crispness of the pastry makes up for this, though; a good teatime treat with a dollop of cream.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference frangipane mince pies
£2 for four, Sainsbury's
These have an invitingly almondy smell, with nice sandy-textured, crisp pastry. The frangipane topping is really lovely; it lightens the pie and tempers the sweetness of the filling. A delicious non-traditional option.
Read more: Food shopping checklist for Christmas
M&S Collection mince pies
£2.50 for six, M&S
Generously spiked with lemon zest and brandy, these pies are the real deal. The pastry is buttery, the filling is generous, and they’re even topped with a festive pastry star and a dusting of sugar. Pass the brandy butter, we have our winner.