Why Is It Called Mincemeat? Filling Explained, History & More!

From Meat To Sweet: History Of Mince Pies And Great Recipe For Them

mince pie broken in half with mincemeat filling seeping out

The delightfully sweet and fruity mince pies we enjoy today have a past that might surprise you.

So, Why Are Mince Pies Called Mince Pies?

Once upon a time these festive treats were filled with meat explaining the rather perplexing term "mincemeat".

Mince pies are popular during the festive season here at Villiers Hotel, so we figured we'd find out more about them!

Continue reading to learn more on the topic "Why Is It Called Mincemeat?" and unveil the history behind mince pies.

Mince Pie History

Back in the day mince pies were stuffed with meats like mutton, rabbit, and pork.

A peek into "A Forme of Cury" from 1390 reveals a pie filled with ground pork, saffron, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and sugar which is very different to the treats we indulge in today.

In the Tudor period (15th - 17th century) mince pies took on a rectangular shape symbolising a manger and a pastry baby Jesus was often placed on top. 

These pies were a main course dish as they were big in size and made with 13 ingredients representing Jesus and his 12 apostles. 

They used lamb or mutton to represent the shepherds and spices represented the gifts given by the three wise men.

Honey, meat and dried fruits were once considered luxuries so the pies were reserved for important events like Easter or Christmas. 

Other names used to refer to this treat included: mutton pie, Christmas pie and shrid pie.

stack of mince pies on a plate

Evolution Through Eras: The Sweet Transformation

Sometime in the mid-17th century it seems a connection was made between mince pies and Christmas and renowned figures like Samuel Pepys cherished these pies during this time. 

The precise moment when meat departed from the mince pie recipe remains uncertain.

However, in 1747, Hannah Glasse's cookbook presented a mince pie recipe without meat.

It wasn't until the Victorian era and early 20th century that mince pies became sweeter evolving to resemble the beloved treats we cherish today which are filled with a mixture of finely chopped dried fruits.

Modern-Day Mince Pie Filling

Mince pie features a delightful fusion of fruity mincemeat comprising of dried fruits such as raisins, currants, orange peel, prunes, and figs.

Aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg are used for flavour. 

And sometimes a touch of brandy is added for that extra touch of indulgence.

This is the favourite sweet treats we know and love today!

Mince pies aren't now made from 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and the 12 disciples, however they're still considered a festive delicacy.

Whether relished warm or cold, with a dollop of cream or ice cream, you can enjoy a taste of history and culture in every bite. 

Traditional "Meaty" Mince Pie Recipe

Watch the video below if you're interested in witnessing how the savoury mince pie with meaty filling was made.


For the modern-day recipe with fruit fillings check out BBC Good Food.

We hope you're now familiar with the answer to the question "Why Is It Called Mincemeat?". 

The name given to the filling makes sense as mince pies was originally actually contained meat. 

Here at Villiers Hotel we're happy that mince pies now doesn't have a meaty filling, meaning that they can enjoyed by all. 

For more foodie reads check out "Yorkshire Pudding History" and "Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea | What's The Difference?".


Frequently Asked Questions Related To: Why Is It Called Mincemeat?

Why is the filling in a mince pie called mincemeat?
Back in the day the mince pies were often made with a meat filling unlike its modern version today which features a blend of dried fruits, candied fruits, spices, sugar, and nuts.

What's in a mince pie?
A modern mince pie comprises a delightful blend of chopped up fruits flavoured with spices, all in a crumbly pastry crust.

Why doesn't mincemeat have meat?
The shift from meat-filled mince pies to fruity fillings began around the late Victorian period. 

Are mince pies illegal in the UK?
Eating mince pies on Christmas Day isn't illegal in the UK. However, going back to 1644 people were expected to fast on Christmas Day day by law. Another version of the story suggested that Oliver Cromwell aimed to crack down on gluttony in England and banned treats like mince pies. 

Why are mince pies only eaten at Christmas?
Back in middle ages it was tradition that consuming one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas would bring you happiness and luck for the next 12 months. Hence why mince pies became a festive treat! 

Can mince pies be eaten cold?
Mince pies can be enjoyed both warm and cold. Some people believe that eating mince pies cold is considered bad etiquette and is frowned upon, however we disagree! 

Does mincemeat pie actually have meat in it?
Mincemeat pie can be another name for the modern mince pie and there's no meat in that. However, there's different variations and sometimes bakers might add actual chopped or minced meat with the fruity filling along with nuts, beef suet or butter. 

mince pies