Christmas taste test: where to buy the best mince pies

Giffords performers juggling mince pies
Getting the right balance of pastry to filling is a real juggling act – so which supplier gets top marks this year? Credit: Jane Hilton

The chances are, the first mince pie of the year has already passed your lips. Buttery pastry with a pleasing crumble, a filling of mincemeat that's generous and aromatic with citrus notes and festive spices, and a warmth from arriving not long from the oven.

Those are the characteristics of a top-notch pie (joined, with luck, by big, fat vine fruits and a lid dusted with sugar).

But how many of the high-street's offerings get full marks for taste and presentation? Which of them deserve to be served with a dollop of brandy butter or cream, or passed round with a hot toddy or glass of something sweet?

We put this year's contenders to the test, scoring them out of five, to find out.

Co-op Irresistible all butter

£2 for four

You could probably pass these off as homemade, such is the appeal of the star top design, and the filling floods out, smelling of citrus and spice. There’s just something a bit fake-tasting in the flavours.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 5

M&S The Collection all butter

£2.50 for six

All oranges and lemons, cutting through intense vine fruit (each distinct in taste and texture) and melt-in-your-mouth pastry. The most festive mouthful by far.

SCORE: 5 out of 5

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference all butter 

£2 for six

Mincemeat peeks through the single star lid in an attractive way, but its slightly fake-lemon tang lingers. Redeemed by pleasingly melty pastry.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

Morrisons The Best

£2 for six

These are whoppers, weighty with a thick pastry case (perhaps a little clumsy). If only there were more of 
a true butter taste, but there’s huge fruit and peel. Chunky all round.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

Tesco Finest all butter 

£2 for six

Packed full with mincemeat that’s gloriously glossy and fiercely sweet, finishing with 
a sharp orange note. The pastry is firm and finished nicely with a sprinkle of sugar.

SCORE: 4 out of 5

Waitrose 1 all butter

£2.50 
for six (£1.25 until 20 Nov)

The pastry – golden, short and extremely buttery – is better than the filling here, which is 
a bit jammy in consistency.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

Aldi Specially Selected 

£1.35 for six

Smells of mulled wine and Christmas cheer, with potent spices and orange, evident 
in large pieces of peel. Nicely balanced, with mincemeat that is festive and glinting.

SCORE: 5 out of 5

Lidl Luxury chocolate orange

£1.79 for six

The most successful ‘alternative’ pie this year (there are some shockers out there), these are celebratory and generous in their filling, 
with citrus peel and dried fruits, and a strong cocoa flavour. Burnished pastry and jolly delicious.

SCORE: 4 out of 5

Asda Extra Special all butter

£1.50 for six

Oh dear, where is the mincemeat?! Sadly Scrooge-like quantities within bland pastry, it’s like biting into a gaping hole.

SCORE: 1.5 out of 5

Bettys Classic all butter

£10 for 12

Pretty and precise, if slightly underbaked in colour and a bit mealy-textured. The fruit is soaked in sherry and there’s a good crunch of nuts through the filling.

SCORE: 3 out of 5

Best gluten-free

Waitrose Free From gluten-free

£2.50 for two

These palm-sized tarts should satisfy all the family, free-from or no. The pastry is crisp and moreish, the mincemeat sharp with cranberries and sweet, releasing a citrus scent. Hard to tell they are gluten-free.

SCORE: 5 out of 5