You know the festive season is here when you start to see mince pies in the shops. And when it comes to mince pies, everyone seems to have an opinion on where to get the best ones.
We decided to see for ourselves and find out where to buy the best mince pies in South Africa.
We got mince pies from Woolworths, Checkers, PnP, Spar and Fournos and set up an office taste test. We take mince pies very seriously, so to make sure we didn’t introduce bias, we did a blind tasting and used a delicious gulp of tea in between as a palette cleanser, because we are classy like that.
Checkers Star Fruit Mince Pies, R32.99 for 6
These dainty mince pies from Checkers are good value for money and they are really well presented. There were lots of comments on the cute packaging and the pretty star topping.
Tasters agreed that the filling wasn’t too sweet, and there was more pastry than filling. Some tasters liked this and some didn’t (if there’s one thing we learned from this taste test, it’s that people have VERY strong opinions on what makes a good mince pie). The pastry is deliciously soft and allows the flavour of the filling to shine through. These mince pies strike a good flavour balance and aren’t very spicy. They were also the least sweet of the lot.
Good for: People who like a very pretty mince pie that’s more pastry than filling.
Spar Bakery Fruit Mince Pies, R26.99 for 6
We admit that when we saw these mince pies we thought they looked a bit ordinary, but it turns out you shouldn’t judge a mince pie by its cover (or something like that).
Spar’s mince pies are very generously filled and the filling was noticeably spicier than any of the other mince pies we tasted. Most tasters thought they had just the right amount of pastry to filling ratio, and a bit of a kick in the best Christmas spice way possible. If you take your mince pie spice seriously, then this is the mince pie for you and everyone in our taste test loved them.
Good for: People on a budget who like spicy mince pies with lots of filling.
Woolworths Christmas Fruit Mince Pies, R35.99 for 6
If you’re looking for crisp pastry, a nice mix of textures in the filling and a lightly spiced flavour, these are the mince pies for you. Our tasters rated them as perfect ‘starter mince pies’. In case you don’t know, a starter mince pie is a mince pie that’s perfect for someone who hasn’t developed strong mince pie tastes yet.
These have an almost even filling to pastry ratio, so they’re great if you like less filling.
Good for: People who don’t want any surprises from their mince pies – a solid crowd pleaser.
Fournos Mince Pies, R40 for 6
Initially, we thought R40 was a bit steep for 6 mince pies, but after tasting Fournos’ mince pies, we realise that the price is worth it. Made with real butter, the pastry is much softer than other mince pie pastry and you can really taste the rich, buttery goodness.
They are very generously filled, and the filling is slightly tart (we suspect there is a lot of apple in the filling, which most people loved). The hit of salt from the butter and the tartness in the filling also made this a very well-balanced mince pie from a flavour perspective. Tasters agreed they are lightly spiced and not too sweet. These also contain no preservatives or additives, which is nice if that’s what you’re after.
Good for: People looking for a very special mince pie that’s hearty and packed with flavour.
PicknPay Deep Filled Mince Pies, R35.99 for 6
These mince pies tasted noticeably different from the others we tasted. The filling was spicy in an unfamiliar way, with almost all of our tasters commenting on the quite peppery flavours.
The pastry has a great texture, providing a good balance between soft and crisp.
Good for: People who like way more filling than pastry and an unconventional flavour.
The Great South African Mince Pie Taste Test of 2018: Conclusion
You’d think after tasting so many different mince pies there would be a clear winner, but honestly, they were all good in different ways. The best mince pie really depends on what you like: whether it’s a lot of fruit filling, crispy or soft pastry and level of spice.
We recommend tasting them all and then reporting back to us!
Author’s note: Also, I never thought I’d say this, but there is such a thing as having too many mince pies. We ate a lot of mince pies…
*Disclaimer: We bought mince pies from Spar (Olivedale), PicknPay (Fourways Crossing), Woolworths (Craighall) and Fournos (Craighall). Checkers sent us a pack of their regular and blueberry mince pies. The Spar and Fournos mince pies are baked in-house, so mince pies may vary by outlet.
Written by Jade Brennan & Claire Sebastiao