Sweet and Tangy Mint Sauce for Lamb

Plate with lamb, mint sauce, and potatoes

The Spruce

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Steep Time: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
168 Calories
0g Fat
38g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 168
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 4mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 37g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 17mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The tradition of serving mint sauce with lamb comes from England, and it dates back to a time when lamb was significantly more gamy and fatty as compared with today.

Let's just say that what was served as lamb a couple of hundred years ago bears little resemblance to the lean, delicately flavored meat we're accustomed to.

In any case, the lamb was generally slaughtered in the spring, which is when mint proliferates, and a sweet, tangy, minty sauce was just the thing to provide some relief from the heavy, muttony meat that graced people's tables in days gone by.

Nevertheless, mint and lamb go hand in hand—whether because of tradition or because it really does provide a refreshing flavor contrast. Although that contrast is milder than it was 100 years ago, lamb still has a distinctive flavor (especially the grass-fed kind) and benefits from accompaniments.

In any case, this mint sauce is a perfect accompaniment for a roast leg of lamb. You can make it in minutes, but for best results plan on letting it sit for 1 hour or so to allow the mint flavor to fully infuse the sauce.

The base of the sauce is a white wine vinegar that will you reduce by half. So the better quality of vinegar you start with, the better your mint sauce will be. But whatever you do, don't use plain distilled vinegar.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 cups white wine vinegar

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves 

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for mint sauce for lamb
    The Spruce
  2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and vinegar.​

    Sugar and vinegar in a saucepan
    The Spruce
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, around 10 to 12 minutes. It should have a thick, syrupy consistency.​

    Reduced sweetened white wine vinegar in a pot, with. mint
    The Spruce
  4. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool for 5 minutes before adding the mint leaves. Give it a stir.

    Mint leaves added to a pot of vinegar syrup
    The Spruce
  5. Pour it into a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let it steep for about 1 hour so the flavor of the mint can infuse the sauce, much like what happens when you're steeping a cup of tea.​

    Mint steeping in vinegary syrup in a pot covered with plastic wrap for mint sauce with lamb
    The Spruce
  6. Serve at room temperature with lamb.

    Lamb with mint sauce on a plate.
    The Spruce

Is Mint Sauce the Same As Mint Jelly?

These are not the same thing. But how we got from mint sauce to mint jelly is another story. Mint jelly was popularized in the mid-20th century in the United States, likely in response to the large number of U.S. servicemen returning home after being stationed in the United Kingdom and, where during the course of their four-year sojourns they'd been exposed to life-altering quantities of mutton served with its now-indispensable mint sauce.

Jelly is comparatively shelf-stable, which companies to produce and distribute jars of mint jelly to meet the demand for some sort of minty condiment to serve with lamb. The reason for the Day-Glo color we commonly associate with mint jelly? Well, your guess is as good as ours.

Recipe Variations

  • You can transform this mint sauce recipe into a mint jelly recipe by decreasing the vinegar to about 3 tablespoons and adding 2 cups of water along, with about 1/4 ounce of powdered pectin. Simmer for about 1 minute, then cool and chill overnight.
  • You could also add 1 to 2 drops of green food coloring if you prefer a greener jelly. In fact, you could do this even if you're preparing this recipe as a sauce.