Holiday season is approaching, and you know what that means: mint, mint, and more mint. During the holidays, you're bound to be bombarded with all things mint: hot chocolate, candy canes, cookies, and peppermint bark. Some of these treats call for peppermint, while others call for spearmint and some don't even clarify. So, what's the difference? Will you ruin a recipe by using peppermint vs spearmint? 

Mint, surprisingly, is not all the same. With the help of my research, your Christmas Eve mojitos and holiday peppermint cupcakes won't suffer the consequences of a rookie mint mistake. So, peppermint vs spearmint? What's the difference?

What Is Peppermint?

To put it simply, peppermint belongs to the Mentha genus and the Piperita species. It's a cross between spearmint and water mint. Peppermint, which is a cooling ingredient, can actually change the temperature of the mouth and skin upon touch. Because of this, peppermint is mainly used for medicinal purposes (think relaxing muscles, soothing sore throats, and relieves stress). 

Additionally, the aroma of peppermint relieves stress and restores balance. Talk about a multitasker. It's the perfect addition to any chocolatey dessert. There's a reason why peppermint bark graces every store around the holidays.

#SpoonTip: Nothing spices up your hot chocolate like some peppermint extract (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). Try making it at home with some peppermint extract, homemade whipped cream, and cocoa powder to top it off.   

What Is Spearmint?

Spearmint, on the other hand, is part of the Spicata species and occurs naturally (it's not a plant hybrid). Unlike peppermint, spearmint only contains .05 percent menthol. The flavoring, instead, comes from Carvone, which has a much sweeter taste and significantly less strong cooling effect. Funny enough, this flavor pairs well with savory dishes. 

Spearmint also makes for the best addition to any cocktail (yes, mojito-lovers, I'm talking to you). However, like peppermint, spearmint is also used for medicinal purposes. It helps with nausea, hiccups, and even works as a mosquito repellent. Spearmint also makes for great tea, with both caffeine and caffeine-free options. 

So, spearmint vs peppermint? Both are used in cooking, have medicinal purposes, and make for great essential oils and tea. Both also have square stems and spear-shaped leaves.

However, when it comes down to it, spearmint is better in savory dishes while peppermint is better used for a chocolate dessert. Don't fret, you won't ruin a recipe by using the wrong mint, so if your grocery store only stocks one mint option you can still use it.