Mint sauce is the classic British accompaniment to roast lamb.
Fresh and vibrant, sharp and sweet, homemade mint sauce is the easiest of recipes and will give your Sunday lunch a real lift.
Reading: how to make mince sauce
Homemade Mint Sauce – A British Classic
Mint sauce is a British classic and it pairs perfectly with roast lamb, for a classic British Sunday roast.
Lamb is a fatty meat. Less so than in years gone by due to modern farming methods, but it still needs a little astringency and our grandmothers knew what they were doing. The sharpness of mint sauce cuts through it perfectly.
The combination of the sweet lamb with fresh herby tang of the mint, sour vinegar and a little sugar all produce one of those wonderous culinary effects that is greater than the sum of its parts.
It is very easy and so much better when it’s fresh, and homemade mint sauce couldn’t be easier to make.
Making mint sauce at home also avoid the strange dyes and preservatives added to some of the bought versions, so do try making your own.
The secret to good mint sauce is to keep some texture in the mint, whilst extracting as much flavour as you can. In this mint sauce recipe, I’ve got a couple of helpful tricks to do this, taught to me by my mother.
The British Love Lamb!
We eat lots of lamb here in the UK and it always surprises me that in North America it hardly seems to feature at all. But sheep farming is a traditional way of life here, especially in the exposed hilly regions of Wales and the far north of England, and lamb is essential to our food heritage.
A roast is probably my favourite way to serve. New season spring lamb, slowly roasted, is the classic Easter lunch. Easter without lamb would be like Christmas without turkey and Easter lamb without mint sauce would be all wrong.
Once past its first flush of youth, lamb responds well to long slow cooking which tenderises and brings out the flavour.
Many of our traditional British dishes use lamb or mutton that has been slowly cooked, warming, comforting, “rib sticking”, affordable food, perfect for the long dark cold winter nights. Dishes like Lancashire hot pot, lamb stews, shepherd’s pie…
Of course, lamb (or goat) is also key to the food of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Indian subcontinent, so it fills our imported takeaway menus too. There, the mint sauce is made with yogurt and chilli rather than vinegar, but we still can’t get enough of it!
Mint Sauce Recipe – Ingredients
- Fresh Mint – You want regular common garden mint (mentha spicata) for this, not fierce peppermint or the fancy varieties that are supposed to taste of chocolate or pineapple. There are lots of subspecies so don’t worry if your garden mint looks darker and pointier than mine!
Mint is remarkably easy and fast to grow and spreads like wildfire. Plant some, but keep it in a container so it doesn’t take over in the garden. Keep cutting it to keep the fresh, soft leaves coming, and cut it right back at the end of autumn for fresh growth in spring.
- Sugar – I use plain white granulated sugar. You can use caster sugar, but everyday sugar is just fine.
- Vinegar – I usually use white wine vinegar, because it is sharp enough to stand out against the sugar, but not too astringent. I prefer a white vinegar as it doesn’t make your mint sauce a murky colour (You can also use a cider vinegar). Malt vinegar is just too strong and sharp and will overpower the flavour of the mint. Some people like to give an Italian note and add a splash of balsamic, but I’m not convinced.
How to Make Mint Sauce – Recipe Step-by-Step
Step One – Grab the ingredients. If you are using freshly cut mint rather than supermarket leaves, pick the mint over thoroughly.
Step Two – Strip all the leaves off the stalks.
Step Three – Put the mint leaves on a chopping board, sprinkle the sugar over, and then chop finely. The sugar adds some abrasion and makes it easier to get a fine cut, as well as starting to release the flavour.
You can also pack the leaves and sugar into a mug and use a pair of scissors to chop (the mug holds it all together nicely and makes the chopping a breeze). I use regular kitchen scissors. I have tried those multi-bladed herb scissors and found them to be a waste of time, money and drawer space.
Step Four – Once chopped, transfer to a small bowl or jug. Pour a little boiling water over and give the mint a good bash with the end of a wooden spoon. This will help to bring out the flavour and to dissolve the sugar.
Step Five – Stir in the vinegar and let the sauce sit for the flavours to develop and meld before serving with roast lamb.
Can I Use a Blender or Food Processor?
NO!!!! Blending or using a food processor will pulp the mint. You want small pieces of mint floating in the vinegar.
Mint Sauce Hints & Tips
- Use regular ingredients, not the fancy versions – common garden mint, and regular granulated sugar.
- Chop the mint finely, but do not puree it.
- Give that mint a good pounding to extract the flavour.
- Use white wine vinegar or, at a pinch, cider vinegar. Malt or pickling vinegar is far too powerful and will overwhelm the mint.
- Make your sauce a good hour in advance, to allow the flavours to develop and serve at room temperature.
When to Serve Mint Sauce
- Homemade mint sauce is delicious with roast lamb.
- It’s equally delicious with leftover cold lamb, or other cold cuts.
- Leftover mint sauce can be used on the next day’s new potatoes, or as a salad dressing. It is especially good with chickpeas or shredded courgettes.
- Mix it with marrowfat peas to make minty mushy peas.
- Mix into natural yogurt to make a cooling dip for Indian food, or add a little chilli too for something spicy.
- You can also use this mint sauce in my kebab shop chilli sauce.
More great sauce recipes
If you like this recipe, here are more great sauce ideas:
- Chilli sauce
- Garlic sauce
- Peri peri sauce
- Allioli – Catalan garlic sauce
- Blue cheese sauce for steak
- Chinese curry sauce