There is something particularly special about offering someone a homemade mince pie at Christmas. And of course, if you make your own healthy mince pies you know exactly what is in them.
This recipe uses a delicious, fruity, healthy mincemeat mixture. It takes just minutes to make, and is very easy. The recipe includes grated apple which makes this lighter than traditional mincemeat. There’s also sufficient sweetness from the dried fruits and spices, without the need for further added sugar.
The pastry for these healthy mince pies contains the same amount of fat as most other shortcrust pastry. But personally I’d prefer to be eating butter to cheap palm oil, which is what many brands of mince pie contain. And you’re going to eat less of the pastry by rolling it out thinly, which will also allow it to crisp up. You could also reduce the pastry a little by topping the mince pies with stars rather than making a whole lid. They’ll look especially festive and pretty that way. If you do want to cut down on the level of fat further, use bought filo pastry instead of the shortcrust that I’ve used here. Filo pastry contains significantly lower levels of fat, but make sure that you follow the pack instructions carefully as it can dry out. (Note, if you switch out the shortcrust for flaky pastry, you'll be eating a lot more fat.)
The mincemeat for these low sugar mince pies takes only a few minutes. You just need to briefly simmer the fruits and spices along with the fruit juice. The fruits will swell, and absorb all of the rich Christmassy flavours. Leave to cool for a few minutes, and you're ready to make your pies.
In addition to being lower in sugar, this healthy mincemeat recipe is low fat. A traditional mincemeat contains suet, which is an animal product high in saturated fat. A number of manufacturers have now switched to vegan suet in their mincemeat, but this is made from palm oil, sunflower oil and rice flour. That doesn't sound very delicious, or healthy! In this recipe, I've just added a small knob of butter to add a little richness and extra flavour, but you can omit it if you prefer, or replace it with coconut oil for a vegan mincemeat recipe.
Optional ingredients for healthy mince pies
Of course, if you like, feel free to add a splash of Christmas spirit. Brandy or rum would be great options which you could switch in instead of the clementine juice. If you'd like the flavour without the alcohol content, you can easily boil the alcohol off in the pan. Add other dried fruits if you prefer: apricots, prunes, dried cranberries... You could also vary the spices, by adding cardamom, or ginger. Or simply use a teaspoon of mixed spice. The egg wash is also optional, but does make the pies look prettier:)
Why homemade mince pies are healthier
Bought mince pies seem to have changed over the years. Am I imagining it, or is the pastry becoming thicker and sweeter? And many mince pies now are iced. According to the nutritional information on the packaging, 2 mince pies from a well known supermarket brand would take you over the recommended daily limit for sugar for an adult (children should have less). And on the range that I looked at, the gluten free and organic pies contained even higher levels of sugar. If you decide to go for an iced mince pie, that’s nearly your entire sugar ‘allowance’ for the day in one small pie. In addition, a number of brands use cheap oils in the pastry to keep the costs of production down. That hardly sounds like a Christmas celebration!
(To find out more about the recommended allowance of sugar, click here to see the NHS guidelines.)
Healthy Mince Pies
- 150 g mixed dried fruit
- ½ large apple, grated
- finely grated rind and juice of 1 clementine
- 15 g butter
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp allspice
- grated nutmeg or use ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 100 g plain flour
- 50 g butter, cut into cubes
- pinch salt
- water to mix
- 1 egg optional, for eggwash
- Add the flour, butter and salt to the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Then carefully add some cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and blitz briefly until the mixture holds together. I used 50ml water, but that could vary depending on the temperature and your flour. Take care not to over process otherwise the pastry will be tough. If you don't want to use a food processor, place butter, salt and flour in a bowl and rub together between your thumb and fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the water as above, mixing with a fork, and bring the whole together into a ball with your hands. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Add the dried fruits, grated apple, spices, butter, clementine rind and juice to a pan. Simmer on a low heat for a few minutes until the apple has softened. Leave to cool
- Roll out the pastry thinly. You are aiming for an even thickness of less than a £1. Cut 12 circles for the base of each pie with a cutter which is just a little bigger than the holes in the tin. Place in the tin. Add a couple of teaspoons of filling in each. You want them to be sufficiently full without boiling over, so don't overfill. Cut 12 smaller circles (or stars) for the tops. Moisten the edges, and top each pie. Add a couple of small slits to the top of each.
- If you like, you can brush the pastry before cooking with egg wash. This will make them look lovely by adding a golden sheen. Just beat the egg with a splash of water and brush onto the lids before baking. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 for 20 mins. If necessary, turn the tray around part way through the cooking time. If you have left any mincemeat exposed (by using stars rather than full lids), take extra care that the dried fruit does not burn.
Please note nutritional information is for guidance only