Mint tea. Mint candy. Mint chocolate ice cream. Thin Mints®. Lots of recipes call for mint flavoring. But what does that really mean? Does “mint” flavoring automatically mean peppermint? Are they interchangeable in recipes?
The term “mint” is an umbrella term for the Mentha plant family that includes spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, apple mint, pineapple mint and more. Mint is a perennial and wide-spreading herb. When planted in good soil, mint grows wild, and can overtake gardens and lawns, making it a popular container gardening herb. The plant has a wide variety of uses, from a breath freshener to a stomach-soother. Each variety of mint has its own distinct flavor, but the two most well-known are spearmint and peppermint.
Spearmint’s relatively mild flavor comes from the chemical ingredient carvone. It’s most widespread use is Wrigley’s® Spearmint Gum. Peppermint’s flavor is similar to spearmint, but it contains the ingredient menthol, making its flavor stronger and more pronounced. Both spearmint and peppermint have menthol in them but peppermint contains a higher menthol content (40% versus .05% in spearmint).
When on the extract aisle of the grocery store, there’s a difference as well. Mint extract is a mixture of spearmint and peppermint, whereas peppermint extract is just that.
Mint brings a bright, bold flavor to recipes. On the savory side, spearmint is usually the mint of choice, however when it comes to sweet, peppermint is the herb of choice as it pairs well with chocolate and citrus flavors. Below, we’ve shared some of our favorite mint recipes.
Grasshopper Torte – A light and fluffy mint cream/mousse is balanced beautifully with a chewy, deep chocolate brownie bottom.
Because mint has a cooling effect, it’s perfect for frozen recipes like this Mint Lemonade Sorbet and the refreshing Cucumber Mint Julep with Persian Mint Simple Syrup.
Speaking of beverages, you can’t help but think mojito when mint is mentioned. The combination of mint and lime is a fresh taste of spring and summer. We have numerous mojito recipes on our website, including a Champagne Mojito, a Watermelon Mojito and a virgin version that can be sipped every day. The lime-mint combination also amps up our melt-in-your-mouth Mini Mojito Cheescakes.
Peppermint is often relegated to the holiday season, but its energizing flavor should be enjoyed year-round. These Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes and Chocolate Almond Pound Cake with Peppermint Ganache recipes are sure to please any time of year.
For us, mint is a “must do” in any season. As a garnish or as a main event, it will please palates at the end of any meal.