You are going to buy Gluten Free Mince Pies. Yes you are. But wait! Which should you buy in 2016? Relax. The answer is here. Trust our taste buds to ensure you buy the perfect pies for you!
A group of judges from the Gluten Free London Club, including a vegan and two ladies with professional baking experience gathered to sample 13 mince pies. 13! Whatever might be said about the virtues of the Free From Aisle it is surely tremendous that we now have such marvelous choice.
Our judging panel blind tasted each of the mince pies without knowing the brand. Notes were taken and scores were assigned on the pastry and filling. All the pies were tasted cold and without any embellishments from custard or cream. The best liked pies were selected for a second round to be served warm.
The panel was unimpressed by several pies which offered sweetness but otherwise had no strong character. Some pies have scores of only 4 out of 10. However even these pies would still make for a very pleasing treat alongside a cup of tea or coffee. They were *nice* and simply did not compare well against more charismatic pies that dared to be different nor against our charming Mince Pie ideal.
No mince pie was perfect. None scored higher than 8 out of 10. None really hit home with great pastry and fruity, zesty filling. Notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves were notably absent.
5 of 13 pies sampled 5 did not contain eggs or milk in the ingredients. These were Sainsbury (two varieties), Waitrose, Foods of Athenry and We Love Cake. Of these Sainsbury and We Love Cake did carry a ‘May Contain’ label for Egg.
2 Mince Pies were entirely nut free, meaning no nuts in the ingredients and no ‘May Contain’ label for nuts. &S. These were Marks & Spencer and Peace of Cake. All the rest either contained nuts or had a ‘May Contain’ label for nuts.
Below the pie by pie results is a summary of the allergens along with appropriate caveats.
Bring on the pies!
M&S Made Without Wheat Mince Pies – 8 / 10
Do not Contain: Egg Contains: Milk May Contain: N/A
Available: M&S in store only
- “Pastry buttery whilst eaten and leaves a buttery aftertaste too!”
- “Very very buttery pastry and fruity filling”
- “Equally good warmed and cold, pastry is the star of the show”
- “Filling provides lovely taste and texture, just a little more spice would be nice”
- “Higher butter content makes the pastry really distinctive and provides a long, lingering aftertaste, great if you like the butter flavor, I do!”
Not only the overall winner but also one of only two Mince Pies neither containing nuts nor a “May Contain” label for nuts. A special thanks to M&S for featuring on the packet this reassuring message :-)
“All our Made Without products are specifically created for special dietary requirements and are all made in controlled environments so you can trust that they’re safe for you to enjoy “.
Hale & Hearty Free From Mince Pies – 8 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk, Contains: Egg May Contain: Nuts, Milk!
- “Lovely buttery pastry”
- “Filling by itself very sweet but great in combination with the buttery pastry”
- “Crumbly pastry which has a floury flavour like a soft shortbread”
- “Perhaps too much pastry in the base but since it is nice, no complaint!”
- “The scanter filling is a nice compliment to the tasty, almost shortbread like pastry”
- “Delicious melt in the mouth pastry”
- “Nice to be able to taste the raisins, not too sweet”
So, lovely pastry? Yes. Of the pies without Milk or Egg in the ingredients this was our favourite.
However less positively, the box for features all of –
- “Milk Free”
- “Recipe is Milk Free”
- “Factory May Have Traces of Milk”
If Food Standards Agency guidance was followed the “May Contain” label would be applied only if the risk of milk being in the pies was significant. If the risk is significant then the Milk Free label is not justified. I have written to Hale & Hearty to offer this feedback and invite response. If one is received I will share it.
Waitrose Love Life Free From Mince Pies – 8 / 10
Do not Contain: Eggs, Milk Contains: Almonds May Contain: Other Nuts, Peanuts
- “Pleasingly crunchy, tasty pastry, approaching the consistency of a biscuit”
- “Light, crisp melt in the mouth pastry with mild notes of caramel when warmed”
- “Aromatic, spicy and generously fruity filling”
- “Notable vine fruit flavours from the whole fruit, chunky filling”
- “Moist, slightly fudgy filling with a mildly orangey aftertaste”
- “Filling offers pleasing spicy notes but still over-sweet, less added sugar please”
Bravo for another egg and milk free pie and remarkably the the pastry did not seem to suffer from their absence, in fact this was one of the best received pastries. Better yet, this pie could easily be bitten into without falling apart. Note that the presence of wheat glucose-fructose syrup in the ingredients list does not present any risk of gluten. It looks scary but fear not, Coeliac UK confirm it is safe.
Foods of Athenry Fruity, Starry Fruity Mince Pies – 7 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk, Eggs Contains: Almonds, Walnuts
- “Mildly nutty aroma and flavor, mmm, love it”
- “Lovely chunky, fruity filling, can absolutely taste the currants!”
- “Charming rustic looks and darker colouring but pie falls apart quickly – use a spoon and a plate!”
- “Generously filled filling which notable fruity taste, not just sweetness”
- “Not too sweet, very palatable, juicy mincemeat and an aftertaste to savour”
- “Delicious filling and soft, tasty pastry but very crumbly”
Great Taste Award 2016 winner Foods of Athenry Mince Pies came within lovely packaging and the Pies looked almost as pretty as those from Peace of Cake, with an open top and a light dusting of icing over the pastry.
Some marks were deducted for the extreme level of crumbliness demonstrated by these pies. They fell apart quickly and probably could not be eaten by hand. One of the best to savour though.
Baked To Taste Mince Pies – 7 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk, Contains: Eggs May Contain: Nuts
Available: Online direct from Baked to Taste for £2.46 (£ per 100g)
- “Golden, rustic, homemade appearance”
- “Pastry is almost like puff pastry, very soft”
- “Flaky pastry, pleasingly dense and chewy, a contrast to the more shortbread like pastry”
- “Soft and chewy pastry, very different to all others”
- “Jammy, fruity filling”
We liked the look of these. More than any others they have a home baked look. One of our judges really enjoyed the pastry which was softer and on a spectrum from biscuit to bread tending towards the softness of bread in texture.
Definite winner of the ‘serve these if want to credibly pretend that you made them yourself’ award ;-)
Aldi Foodie Market Mince Pies – 6 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk Contains: Almonds, May Contain: Egg, Peanuts, Other Nuts
Available: In store only in *some* Aldi stores
- “Crisp but still buttery and crumbly pastry”
- “Good proportion of pastry and filling, pastry could potentially be great with more butter”
- “Nice ratio of pastry to filling, not too sweet, but more spice please!”
- “Not much taste other than sweetness”
Note that judges commented on butteriness yet these pies are milk free. They just had the quality and flavour associated with butter, impressive! Of the lower cost pies these were the best received.
I visited two Aldi stores without success trying to source these and a fellow judge found them in a third. They may or may not be an ongoing product. If you find them, congratulations!
We Love Cake Mince Pies – 5 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk, Contains: Almond May Contain: Other Nuts, Egg
Available: Iceland for £1.79 (£0.81 per 100g)
- “Nicest of the milk and egg free pastries”(from our vegan judge)
- “Pastry offers a nice crunch but taste is bland”
- “Lovely pastry with mild crunch, fruity filling, only missing spices”
- “Almost crunchy pastry but overall too sweet due to the filling”
- “Chunky filling but very sweet with no other flavor notes”
- “Chunky fruit filled mincemeat filling but very sweet”
Just needed to dial down the sweetness and added sugar and add spices!
Sainsbury Deliciously Free From Mince Pies – 5 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk Contains: Almond May Contain: Eggs, Other Nuts, Peanuts
Available: Sainsbury for £2.25 (£0.98 per 100g)
- “Perfectly uniform appearance”
- “Pastry quite dense and lacks any taste of its own”
- “Robust pastry, easy to eat the pie without it falling apart”
- “Taste dominated by a very sweet filling”
- “Bland filling, no notable fruity flavours, prefer more spice”
Peace of Cake Mince Pies – 5 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk Contains: Eggs May Contain: N/A
Available: Selfridges for £5.99 for 6 (£? per 100g)
- “Powerfully zesty taste from the filling”
- “Looks lovely and homemade, especially with the dusting of icing sugar”
- “Zesty taste is very strong”
- “Tangy, sour flavor, almost grapefruit like”
Along with M&S, one of only two Mince Pies that do not contain nuts and also do not feature a “May Contain” for nuts or peanuts. I checked with Peace of Cake who confirmed that although they do produce products containing nuts they have robust procedures which they confident eliminate risk of cross contamination and therefore their Mince Pies do not need any “May Contain” warning for nuts.
Absolutely beautiful, with different pastry shapes on top of each icing dusted pie. Peace of Cake make the best pre-packed gluten free scones I have enjoyed along with lovely Abricotines and Viennese Shortbread.
These pies did not wow us however. They had a distinct sourness or tanginess that we found puzzling rather than delightful. Perhaps this was because we had consumed so many pies that emphasised sugary sweetness and our tastebuds were not ready for the contrast. They were certainly distinctive and interesting and I would be willing to try them again.
Lovemore Gluten Free Luxury Mince Pies – 4 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk Contains: Egg May Contain: Nuts & Peanuts
- “Filling overly sweet, lack of any fruit or spice flavors”
- “Very thick pastry all around, tending towards soft shortbread texture”
- “Filling very sweet, no spice notes”
- “Pastry and filling both lack any distinctive character”
- “Not terrible, but not memorable either, nothing to commend it”
We suspect that the pies from Lovemore, Asda and Tesco come from a common source – the same producer making pies for rebranding. We know this is widespread. Remember the gluten free recall apocalypse from 2015?
They looked identical, all all free from milk, all contain eggs. We could not tell the difference between them except that the Tesco pies appear to have a little more filling.
I enquired with Lovemore after tasting and received an odd “no comment” response despite emphasising in the enquiry that there was nothing untoward if the pies were coming from the same place. Odd because it is no secret that the parent company for Lovemore – Welsh Hills Bakery – supplies gluten free products to Supermarkets including Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose.
The 4/10 for these three pies does not mean they were not nice. They would surely be enjoyable along with a cup of tea or mug of coffee. So long as you do not look for too much from your mince pie, they are nice enough and offered at a good price point.
Asda Free From Mince Pies – 4 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk Contains: Eggs May Contain: Nuts
Available: Asda for £1.50 (£0.56 per 100g)
- “Pastry has nice firm texture but is bland in taste and the only taste from filling is of overwhelming sweetness”
- “Pastry almost powdery and otherwise bland”
- “Very sugary and thick pastry enclosure lacks any flavor of its own”
- “No fruity or spicy flavors”
I abandoned trying to find these in-store and asked for help. The attendant then proceeded to bellow at another worker 30 meters away “WHERE ARE THE GLUTEN MINCE PIES?”. I refrained from pointing out I really wanted the Gluten-Free Mince Pies instead. It worked out okay. I got the last box in store.
Tesco Deep Filled Free From Mince Pies – 4 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk Contains: Eggs May Contain: Nuts
Available: Tesco for £1.75 (£0.66 per 100g)
- “Pastry has a nice short texture but minimal taste”
- “Chunky fruity filling, not over sweet but also lacking distinctive tastes”
- “Pastry has pleasing texture and is surprisingly floury but taste is bland”
- “Filling just tastes sweet, nothing else”
- “Floury otherwise bland pastry but moist, generous filling”
Sainsbury Deliciously Free From Iced Mince Pies – 2 / 10
Do not Contain: Milk Contains: Almond May Contain: Eggs, Other Nuts, Peanuts
Available: Sainsbury for £2.25 (£1.00 per 100g)
- “Gold sparkles look pretty on top of the icing”
- “Scant filling and fearfully sweet”
- “Overly sweet filling, the sweetness kills everything else”
- “Sugar bomb!
- “Not a classic mince pie”
- “No flavor other than sweetness, not a mince pie”
Iced Mince Pies? Do Mince Pies benefit from additional sweetness? Bold move or crazy move from Sainsbury? Judge opinion is . . . crazy move.
The one and only thing we could taste whilst eating these Pies was sugar. Also, more sugar. With an aftertaste of sugar. None of the judges were impressed by this. We sought distinctive fruity flavor, or spices, or butteriness, or notable pastry. At just 35% these pies had the lowest mincemeat percentage by far, presumably to make way for more of the icing.
These are of course ideal for anyone with a really, really sweet tooth and just like M&S dare to be different with more butter in their pastry, this is Sainsbury daring to be different with more sugar. A pass from us though.
13 pies is rather a lot to test and we set out to cover almost all readily available. There are however others not tested available from the following. As I get these and taste them my opinions will appear!
Do not Contain: Milk, Egg, Nuts, Peanuts, Added Sugar, Emulsifiers! Contains: Awesomeness May Contain: Deliciousness
Available: Direct from Artisan Bread Organic for £5.25 for 6
Oh wow, these are what we needed in the taste test, they are very different! The pastry is made from tigernut and buckwheat flour and has no added sugar. It has no crunch, unlike those high in sugar, it is dark and dense and chewy instead with a mild nutty taste.The filling also has no added sugar at all, relying on the natural sweetness of the apples and raisins, complimented by, read on other Mince Pie makers, spices!
Gluten Free, Milk and Egg Free, Nut Free, Added Sugar Free!
Thanks to the subtle sweetness and absence of emulsifiers and preservatives these are my own personal favourite!
Naturbit – also making Mince Pies free from all 14 major allergens. No gluten, milk, egg, nuts or peanuts. I actually bought two boxes of these. They looked gorgeous and smelled delightful. Two work colleagues I treated to them said they were fantastic. Then I left them in a work fridge cleared at 5pm every Friday and forgot about them until after 5pm and tragedy, they were thrown out :-(
Wheat Free Bakery – Lots of coeliacs on Facebook people love this company. They are offering Mincemeat Pies. Not Mince. Mincemeat! A Pie by any other name . .
For convenience only! Check before buying and double check before eating. Be safe and enjoy the right pies!