Gift Ideas

27 Best and Worst Christmas Food

I unabashedly love everything about the holiday season. I deck my halls like Buddy the Elf, watch the same 10 Christmas movies every year and load up my plate (er, plates) with traditional Christmas foods like it’s my last meal. As soon as my local grocery store sets out their annual stock of Christmas goodies, you can find me filling my cart like Julia Child on Supermarket Sweep. And in the United States, we’ve definitely got our favorites. According to a 2020 survey, turkey’s the star for 73% of us, with prime rib (69%), roast beef (66%), steak (65%), chicken (64%), roast pork (64%) and ham (62%) also popular contenders. For sides, we love sweet potatoes (61%), macaroni and cheese (61%), scalloped potatoes (61%), green beans (58%) and of course, some kind of cheese (57%).

Christmas dinner traditions around the world often look a little different, in accordance with a rich variety of cultures. In Italy, seven fishes often grace their table and Puerto Rican and Filipino nochebuena celebrations often center around a whole roast suckling pig called lechon, while Sweden serves an array of pickled herring, cured salmon, meatballs, paté and sides called the julbord. And in Japan, the colonel comes to dinner with KFC fried chicken as a traditional merry meal. Venezuelans often wrap up hallecas, a sort of tamale nestled in banana leaves, which doubles as a family activity. And because it’s summer in Australia on Christmas, they’ll often throw some shrimp or other seafood on the barbie.

If you’re looking to fill your table with favorites this holiday season, allow me to share my highly opinionated, completely unscientific Christmas food list, in order from the treats I’ll pile high at the buffet table to those I’ll happily let the next person enjoy instead. When you’re done here, we’ve got lots more christmas ideas where these came from.

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1

Chocolate and Peppermint

Peppermint bark. Peppermint hot cocoa. Mint chocolate chip ice cream. If there’s a better combination than chocolate and peppermint, it’s never tickled my tastebuds. When you use this mint chocolate cookie dough recipe as the base for this year’s gingerbread house, you’ll finally understand the whole Hansel and Gretel situation.

Get the recipe for Mint Chocolate Cookie Dough »

2

Sugar Cookies

At my house, it just isn’t Christmas until we roll out my great grandma’s cut-out cookies. The recipe famously calls for “between 2 and 12 cups of flour, or until the dough looks right,” and I almost broke my mixer trying to recreate it one year. Don’t be like me: Use this Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen-approved recipe instead.

Get the recipe for Magical Sugar Cookies »

3

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Please, don’t bring me the figgy pudding. Sticky toffee is the real treat at my table. This British export consists of a warm, richly moist date cake drizzled with a decadent toffee-pecan sauce and topped with a big dollop of fresh whipped cream. Make like Charles Dickens and add this to your Christmas dessert table.

Get the recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding »

4

Brie Cheese

Baked brie is creamy, gooey, a little funky and tastes great with apples, pomegranates and spread on tiny toasts. At my house, I have to beat my not-so-little brother to the brie wheel or I won’t get any for myself. This simple, festive tart made with the star of the cheese tray at least attempts portion control.

Get the recipe for Brie and Apple Tart »

5

Gingerbread

The slightly sweet, spice-studded flavor of gingerbread tastes like the holiday season. But to me, biting the head off a man-shaped cookie is a little creepy for the most wonderful time of the year. These gingerbread wands are both easier than rolling and cutting and less reminiscent of cannibalism. You can also use this recipe for the classic shape cookie, if you like that sort of thing.

Get the recipe for Gingerbread Wands »

6

Roast Beef Tenderloin

At the end of The Grinch, the title character carves a many-limbed “roast beast” as the guest of honor. My mouth starts to salivate every time I watch him passing that platter. There’s just no more appropriate dish for a big holiday feast than a showstopper of a roast.

Get the recipe for Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin »

7

Chocolate Bark

Chocolate bark looks fancy but couldn’t be easier. That’s my kind of treat: Maximum reward, minimal effort. You can’t go wrong with the peppermint classic (see slide one), but switching it up with different chocolate flavors and mix-ins keeps things personalized. It also makes a great, affordable gift.

Get the recipe for Aztec Chocolate Granola Bark »

8

Sweet Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are great and all, but mashed sweet potatoes? That’s my carb choice, every time. They’ve got the creamy goodness of the traditional mash, with about a hundred times more flavor and nutrition. Add a little rosemary and sprinkle the whole shebang with roasted pecans and watch everyone head back for seconds.

Get the recipe for Rosemary-Pecan Mashed Sweet Potatoes »

9

Gingerbread Men

I love a gingerbread cookie, and we already know chocolate wins my heart every time. What I do not love is fiddly decoration. These mocha men solve that problem because they need nary a sprinkle; just a quick dunk in melted chocolate makes them ready for the ‘gram.

Get the recipe for Mocha Men and Star Cookies »

11

Stuffing

I wait all year for stuffing season, but it wasn’t until I began making my own that I really fell for the stuff. Ditch the box and really go for it: Tear your own bread, chop some veggies, toss some fresh herbs in there. Mine’s cornbread-based, but your mileage may (and should!) vary according to your whims. Some years, I’m tempted to skip the turkey altogether and fill up on this stuff.

Get the recipe for Thyme-Roasted Turkey and Gravy »

12

Turkey and Gravy

Many households swear by ham, lamb or another protein for Christmas dinner since it follows Thanksgiving so closely. But I still love a turkey centerpiece. Others (like my husband) consider the majestic bird too boring. If your turkey is bland too, you clearly haven’t tried this one that has herbs for days.

Get the recipe for Thyme-Roasted Turkey and Gravy »

13

Pecan Pie

Sticky, tooth-achingly sweet and chock full o’ nuts, pecan pie is too rich to enjoy more than a few times a year. But when it rolls around, you bet I’m eating a large slice. This one combines the classic pecans with hazelnuts and walnuts for an even tastier twist. Serve it a la mode; you deserve it.

Get the recipe for Salted Caramel Mixed Nut Pie »

14

Thumbprint Cookies

As a kid, I couldn’t understand why my mom always resisted making thumbprint cookies. Rolling dough between your hands, sticking your thumb right in the center, dusting with powdered sugar – it made the best mess. Now that I have to clean my own kitchen, I understand why she didn’t want to still keep digging sugar out of the grout a week later. They’re not in my top five cookie choices, but still worth the cleanup.

Get the recipe for Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies »

15

Cranberry Sauce

In the cranberry category, nothing beats homemade. If your family serves cranberry sauce at Christmas as well as Thanksgiving, level up for the second round with this zippy orange-apricot cranberry compote. Or just go for the homemade version both times. It’s that much better and it doubles as a glorious kitchen aromatic.

Get the recipe for Orange-Apricot Cranberry Sauce »

17

Brussels Sprouts

The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint, so you’re going to need some nutrition in your diet. Adding browned butter to Brussels sprouts brings out their naturally nutty sweetness. Toss in some sliced almonds and golden raisins and it’s practically a dessert. Your body will thank you.

Get the recipe for Brown-Butter Brussels Sprouts »

18

Green Bean Casserole

For me, green bean casserole is like that one ornament that you made as a kid that looks a little rough. It’s not good exactly, but because it’s my grandma’s favorite, Christmas wouldn’t taste right without it. Our version adds cheddar and parmesan for a more modern (and in my opinion, way tastier) twist on ol’ reliable.

Get the recipe for Green Bean Cheddar Casserole »

19

Mashed Potatoes

You’ll rarely find me bad-mouthing potatoes, but like I said before, strategy matters. That said, it’s not every day you get to create a little crater in a mound of spuds and fill it with gravy like your own personal volcano. Really go all out with these easy, garlicky taters that will repel vampires while you’re at it.

Get the recipe for Creamy One-Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes »

20

Charcuterie Board

The charcuterie platter makes an appearance at many holiday gatherings, and here’s where you’ll find my one appeal to moderation. I love a snack dinner as much as the next person, but you’ve got to pace yourself. All those delectably salty meats and velvety cheeses will fill you up faster than you can say “Eat, papa! Eat!” Pace yourselves, revelers.

21

Dinner Rolls

As far as I’m concerned, dinner rolls serve one purpose: soaking up extra gravy. While that’s still an important role (sorry), there are more important items on the table. But if you can’t skip rolls entirely, go for these buttery rosemary rolls that blow the canned kind right out of the running.

Get the recipe for Buttery Rosemary Rolls »

22

Mixed Nuts

My family’s Christmas appetizer station has featured a wooden bowl of mixed nuts every holiday since time began, and I’m of two minds. Point: Cracking each one creates automatic portion control. Counterpoint: Who wants to waste time on plain nuts when there’s something much more exciting right over there? Adding a little spice solves that problem.

Get the recipe for Spicy Deviled Walnuts »

23

Eggnog

I love the festive, nutmeg-forward scent of eggnog. Splash a little rum or bourbon in there and we can all see how it became a classic. But a mug of eggs, cream, milk and sugar makes me feel like a long winter’s nap after just a couple sips. Every year, I end up tossing most of the carton. If your stomach has more stamina than mine, here’s a virtually foolproof method to make your own.

24

Fruitcake

Why the traditionally dense, brick-like fruitcake even still exists is totally beyond me. It requires superhuman strength to chew through, requires at least three cups of wassail to wash down and at this point, makes a better punchline than dessert. Instead, take the dried fruit you would use for baking that bludgeoning weapon and use it in these tasty slice-and-bake cookies instead.

Get the recipe for Fruitcake Cookies »

25

Assorted Box of Chocolates

Forrest Gump was right: Boxes of assorted chocolates aren’t for the faint of heart. Only some of them come with an answer key, and even those are a bit of a gamble. You could get a delicious peanut butter truffle, or end up with the ever-polarizing coconut creme. At least with the cookie tray, I know what I’m getting into.

26

Green Salad

Look, I love a salad for lunch during the work-week. I even toss one together when I’ve had a particularly decadent eating schedule lately. The day after Christmas, this vegan Caesar salad will be precisely what the doctor ordered. But on the day itself? I’m filling my platter with all of the decadent goodies.

Get the recipe for Vegan Caesar Salad »

27

Candy Canes

Candy canes make great ornaments for your tree. They look cute as a garnish for your drink. And the red-and-white stripes even work as a makeup trend or attire. But to me, they’re just not worth it. If it isn’t dipped in chocolate, I’m using it as a decoration instead.

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ScoopSky

Scoop Sky is a blog with all the enjoyable information on many subjects, including fitness and health, technology, fashion, entertainment, dating and relationships, beauty and make-up, sports and many more.

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