Why Is Mince Pie Filling Called Mincemeat? [EXPLAINED]

The Truth Behind Mincemeat In Mince Pies, History & More!

mince pie cut open and oozing with sweet mincemeat filling

We all love munching on mince pies but have you ever wondered why their filling is called 'mincemeat' even though there's no meat in it?

This is because long ago mince pies actually did have meat in them. They went by different names like 'mutton pie,' 'shrid pie,' or 'Christmas pie.'

At Easthampstead Park we can't get enough of the sweet modern day mince pie, and they often feature on our festive menus.

Read on to delve deeper into the topic "Why Is Mince Pie Filling Called Mincemeat?" and join us as we uncover the fascinating history behind them.

History of Mince Pies

In the past mince pies were very different from what we enjoy today.

They were stuffed with meats like mutton, rabbit, and pork which is why the filling is known as "mincemeat."

Even as far back as 1390 a recipe in "A Forme of Cury" featured a pie filled with a mixture of ground pork, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, saffron, and sugar.

In 1615, another recipe included a whole leg of mutton and dried fruits.

Back then blending sweet-savory flavours together was common hence the meat and fruit combination. 

During the Tudor period (15th - 17th century) mince pies were made rectangular which symbolised a manger, with a pastry baby Jesus on top. 

It was typically a main course dish that was created using 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and the 12 disciples.

Mutton was a popular ingredient as it was used to represent the shepherds. And spices were used to represent the gifts given by the three wise men. 

Honey and dried fruits were luxuries so using them boasted wealth so mince pies became treats for important events.

mince pie with mulled wine

However by the mid-17th century it seems that a connection was made between mince pies and Christmas.

Notably, Samuel Pepys known for his historic diaries enjoyed mince pies at Christmas.

The exact time when meat was taken out of the mince pie recipe isn't clear.

However in 1747, Hannah Glasse's cookbook featured a meatless mince pie recipe.

By the Victorian era they became sweeter, resembling the modern mince pie we know and love today. 

Mince Pies Today

Mince pies have become a Christmas essential and are now not made from 13 ingredients. 

They're filled with a delightful blend of minced meat, suet, and an array of dried fruits such as raisins, currants, orange peel, prunes and figs. 

Spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg add that extra flavour and some come with a special touch of added brandy. 

Whether you prefer them warm or cold, with a dollop of cream or custard, each bite carries a taste of history and culture for you to savour. 

Mince Pie Recipe 

Watch the video below to discover a great mince pie recipe, without the meaty filling of course! 


We hope you found our article on "Why Is Mince Pie Filling Called Mincemeat?" informative.

Here at Easthampstead Park we are happy that mince pies have evolved to have no meat filling, meaning that they can enjoyed by everyone. 

For more food-related reads check out "What Is An Éclair?" and "Where In England Did Fish And Chips Originate?".


Frequently Asked Questions Related To: Why Is Mince Pie Filling Called Mincemeat?

Why is it called mincemeat when there's no meat in a mince pie?
The mincemeat filling we know and love today includes ingredients like finely chopped dried fruits, candied orange, spices, sugar and nuts. Its name dates back to 15th century England when mincemeat would actually contain meat, unlike today's version found in our beloved modern mince pies.

When did they stop putting meat in mincemeat?
The mince pie was originally filled with meat but it's believed that it wasn't until the late Victorian period and the early 20th century that mince pies shifted to a pie made from fruit fillings.

Is it still illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas day?
Eating mince pies on Christmas Day isn't illegal, although it was believed to be at one point. The tale dates back to Christmas Day in 1644 when it was declared a mandated fasting day by law. Consuming any food was prohibited on that day. Although mince pies weren't illegal eating them hinted at a covert celebration of Christmas, which was strictly forbidden. Another version of the story suggests that Oliver Cromwell aimed to crack down on gluttony in England and banned various treats,. 

What is the difference between mince pie and mincemeat pie?
Mince pie is the same as a mincemeat pie in that it shouldn't feature meat at all in any of the recipes. You can readily buy the fruity mincemeat filling from a shop or make your own homemade mincemeat, both are delicious!

Are mince pies a British thing?
Mince pies are certainly popular in Britain as well as other places like New Zealand. 

How many mince pies should you eat on the 12 days of Christmas?
Back in the day it was thought lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas. 

How many mince pies are eaten in the UK every Christmas?
According to Good Housekeeping nearly 800 million mince pies are eaten in the UK each year.

Can you eat a cold mince pie?
You can certainly eat a mince pie cold as well as warm. 

What's in a mince pie?
A modern day mince pie is filled with fruits and spices all in a delicious buttery pastry crust.

mince pies on a plate