19 Christmas Foods Around the World That Are Equal Parts Festive and Fascinating (2024)

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19 Christmas Foods Around the World That Are Equal Parts Festive and Fascinating (1)

By Taryn Pire

Published Nov 13, 2021

Christmas in the United States usually calls for glazed ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sugar cookies and lots of hot cocoa and eggnog to wash it all down. But internationally speaking, the menu can include a much wider range of food and drinks. We’re talking mince pie, carrot casserole, rum cake and even pickled fish. Read on for 19 Christmas foods around the world that will make you want to mix up your menu.

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1. Coquito In Puerto Rico

Aka eggnog’s Latin cousin. Where the two Christmas drinks differ is in their base: Coquito is made with mostly coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk, while eggnog is primarily made from milk, cream and eggs. Coquito is also spiked with rum, cinnamon and sometimes vanilla and nutmeg. Similar variations can be found in other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, like ponche de crème in Trinidad and Tobago, ron ponche in Panama and cola de mono in Chile.

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2. Jamaican Christmas Cake In Jamaica

Also called Jamaican black cake, this confection is among the most popular desserts on the island. Commonly eaten on Christmas and at weddings, the cake is thought to be a descendant of British figgy pudding, since both contain warm spices, breadcrumbs and dried fruit, but black cake calls for soaking the fruit in red wine and Jamaican rum instead of traditional brandy. Browning and burnt sugar are also used to turn the cake’s color black.

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3. Stollen (christollen) In Germany

Before the notorious fruitcake came stollen, a dense, heavy bread invented in Dresden, Germany in the late 1500s. Like Italy’s panettone, stollen is made from enriched yeast dough made with butter and sugar. Both breads contain citrus peel and dried fruit, but stollen is also dotted with marzipan and almond paste, then finished with a dusting of powdered sugar. We’d wash it down with plenty of glühwein, a mulled wine made with fruit and spices.

4. Rabanadas In Brazil

This treat is sort of like deep-fried French toast rolled in cinnamon sugar, and it’s commonly served on Christmas morning in Brazil. It’s a descendant of Spanish torrijas and came to Brazil via Portuguese imperialism. In Portugal, rabanadas are topped with port syrup drizzle and eaten for dessert instead of breakfast.

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5. Saffron Buns (lussebulle) In Sweden

Swedes kick things off early for Saint Lucy’s Day on December 13, a holiday that honors St. Lucia, the patron saint of light. The ceremony ends with ginger cookies, coffee and saffron buns, which are yeast-leavened sweet buns flavored with saffron and raisins. (They’re also eaten in Finland, Norway, Cornwall and the Netherlands.) On Christmas Eve, they indulge in a buffet-style julbord, which stars smoked and pickled fish, jam, sausage, potatoes, cabbage and meatballs.

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6. Guinness And Mince Pie In Ireland

In the U.S., we leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus to nosh on after he drops off presents. In Ireland, he prefers a mince pie (a pastry stuffed with dried fruits and spices) and a tall glass of Guinness stout. Irish families also commonly nosh on cakes made with caraway seeds, Irish pudding, turkey and spiced beef on the big day.

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7. Tourtière (french-canadian Meat Pie) In Canada

Residents of Quebec serve this hearty dish as a side for roast beef, stuffed turkey and cranberry sauce. Think layers of pastry dough stuffed with sliced pork, potato and onion. It can also be made with minced beef, lamb, duck or veal instead of pork. It’s part of the Christmas Réveillon, a long dinner that’s hosted on Christmas Eve, but it’s also sold in Canadian grocery stores year-round.

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8. Puto Bumbóng In The Philippines

This purple rice cake is sold as street food during the Christmas season. Puto is a Tagalog term for steamed rice cakes; bumbóng refers to the bamboo tube they’re steamed in. While some modern versions of the dish call on ube, or purple yam, for color, the traditional recipe is made with a type of dark purple glutinous rice called pirurutong. It’s commonly served on banana leaves as a snack or as breakfast with butter, sugar and coconut.

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9. Hallacas In Venezuela

Think of these as Venezuelan tamales. The main difference is in the ratio of dough to filling: Hallacas are all about the meaty middle while tamales have more masa. Cornmeal dough is packed with a meat stew called guiso (it often includes beef, pork and/or chicken) along with capers, olives and raisins, ingredients representative of Spanish and European influence. They’re wrapped and boiled for Christmas Eve dinner.

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10. Dukra Maas (pork Bafat) In India

This spicy pork curry is a Sunday tradition in numerous Indian Catholic homes, and it’s made with onions, garlic, ginger, garam masala, tamarind water and a ton of garlic cloves and hot chiles. Bafat powder, a spice mixture made primarily of dried red chiles and cinnamon, is used to further season the pork. It’s typically the main dish on many Christmas menus in Mangalore—an Indian city that’s home to numerous Catholic sites—and served with sannas, or steamed rice cakes.

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11. Bacalao Navideño In Mexico

Christmas Eve is incomplete without this codfish entrée on the table. Bacalao is dried, salted and available year-round, but it’s most commonly eaten during the holidays in the form of bacalao a la Viscaina (or Basque-style codfish stew), a Spanish dish made with tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, green olives and olive oil. Some other recipes call for raisins, cinnamon, almonds and wine as well.

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12. Porkkanalaatikko In Finland

Finnish observers usually celebrate Christmas with some sort of root vegetable casserole, but the most famous is this spiced carrot number. The carrots are mashed with rice or barley and liquid—sometimes cream or milk, sometimes pure carrot juice. Butter is mixed in along with spices and sugar. Once it’s assembled in the casserole dish, the whole mash is baked until golden. You can even buy it premade at some Finnish grocery stores.

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13. Malva Pudding In South Africa

This South African dessert is essentially a sponge cake oozing with apricot jam. It has a caramelized flavor, which is only made more delicious by a buttery cream sauce that’s poured over the cake while it’s hot. It’s typically served warm with custard or à la mode. There are also chocolate variations out there to indulge in.

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14. Vitello Tonnato In Italy

The Feast of the Seven Fishes may be what first comes to mind, but it turns out that that’s mostly an Italian-American tradition. In Italy, namely the northwest region of Piemonte, vitello tonnato is far more common. Think cold, sliced veal doused in tuna-spiked mayonnaise sauce and finished with capers. The dish is also popular in Argentina for Christmas.

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15. Bûche De Noël In France

Also known as a Yule log, this dessert is served in many European countries and French colonies. It’s a rolled sponge cake made to look like a miniature Yule log, which is a special log burned at Christmastime in parts of Europe and North America (though the tradition is likely rooted in Germanic paganism). Most recipes call for yellow cake and chocolate buttercream, as well as mushrooms, branches and berries sculpted from meringue or marzipan.

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16. Pryaniki In Russia

They’re colloquially known as Russian gingerbread cookies, and if you know Russian, the secret to their appeal is all in the name, since pryaniki translates to “well-spiced.” Not only are they spiced with ingredients like nutmeg, cardamom and clove, but they’re also topped with a sweet glaze and stuffed with plum jam. Pryaniki are similar to medenjaki (Slovenian honey biscuits) and lebkuchen (German gingerbread).

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17. Kfc In Japan

People brave hour-long lines for a $40 fried chicken dinner with the Colonel on Christmas. Since turkey is impossible to find in Japan, a 1974 KFC marketing campaign suggested eating fried chicken in its place for the holiday. The appeal was largely its Americanness rather than any religious reason, so it explains why it’s so popular despite only about 1 percent of the Japanese population being Christian. The meal now includes fried chicken, salad, cake and Champagne.

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18. Ollibollen In Curaçao

Brought to the island by way of Dutch imperialism, an oliebol is a large dumpling that’s deep-fried in oil and studded with raisins, sort of like a doughnut. The dough is rounded in an ice cream scoop and dropped in oil. Once fried, it’s dusted with powdered sugar. Ham di Pasku, which is a ham marinated in honey mustard and baked with pineapple slices and cherries, and ayaka, a tamale-like cornmeal dough stuffed with meat, raisins and olives, are also popular during Christmas.

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19. Guavaberry Rum In St. Maarten

Guavaberry rum, a liquor made from oak-aged rum, cane sugar and hand-picked guava berries, is popular year-round in St. Maarten. But it’s a holiday tradition on the island that when carolers show up to sing at your door, you give them a shot of the spirit as a token of your appreciation.

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19 Christmas Foods Around the World That Are Equal Parts Festive and Fascinating (21)

Taryn Pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...

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19 Christmas Foods Around the World That Are Equal Parts Festive and Fascinating (2024)

FAQs

What are some traditional Christmas foods around the world? ›

Best Traditional Christmas Dishes Around the World
  • Philippines: Bibingka.
  • Goa: Sorpotel.
  • Russia: Sochivo.
  • Sweden: Julbord and Julskinka.
  • Denmark: Ris á la mande.
  • South Africa: Malva pudding.
  • Iceland: Hangikjot.
  • Poland: Borscht.
Dec 22, 2022

What are festive foods? ›

Every family in every part of the world serves their own traditional Christmas foods, but in the U.S., some are enjoyed nationwide:
  • Turkey.
  • Prime Rib.
  • Baked Ham.
  • Mashed Potatoes & Gravy.
  • Stuffing.
  • Green Bean Casserole.
  • Candied Sweet Potatoes.
  • Roasted Vegetables.
Dec 19, 2022

What foods are important to Christmas? ›

Traditional Christmas Foods
  • 01 of 12. Roast Goose. The Spruce Eats / Anfisa Strizh. ...
  • 02 of 12. Turkey. The Spruce Eats/Diana Rattray. ...
  • 03 of 12. Glazed Ham. The Spruce. ...
  • 04 of 12. Panettone. Panettone - Italian Christmas Cake. ...
  • 05 of 12. Gingerbread Houses. ...
  • 06 of 12. Plum Christmas Pudding. ...
  • 07 of 12. Buche de Noel. ...
  • 08 of 12. Fruitcake.
Aug 28, 2020

What are 5 Christmas foods? ›

Candy Cane can be hung as edible decorations.
  • White Christmas, a sweet slice made of copha and mixed fruit.
  • Cold ham and cold turkey.
  • Seafood and salads.
  • Roast chicken, ham and turkey.
  • Stuffing.
  • Christmas cake or Christmas pudding.
  • Custard.
  • Gingerbread in Christmas shapes.

What is the least popular Christmas food? ›

Across all states, their findings showed that the least popular Christmas foods are persimmon pudding (13%) and fruitcake (25%). The most popular foods were roasted potatoes (91%), scalloped potatoes (83%), roast beef (77%), red velvet cake (76%), ham (76%) and Christmas nuts (76%).

What do Italians eat for Christmas? ›

In Southern and Central Italy, baked pasta is a must. In Northern Italy, Lasagne Bolognese and filled pasta like manicotti and ravioli are traditional Christmas fare. Next comes the main event, the meat. Roasted veal, baked chicken, sausages or braised beef are common Natale entrées worth celebrating.

What is the 12 course Christmas dinner? ›

The bread is broken by the head of the household and begins the meal, which consists of 12 courses including sauerkraut with gravy, pierogi, halupki made with mushrooms and rice, fish, dry fruit, beans , peas, honey and other dishes.

What do Americans eat at Christmas? ›

Roast turkey and ham are popular for Christmas dinner throughout the country, but depending on the region, so are tamales, roast goose with red cabbage, crawfish jambalaya, roast pork or “seven fishes” seafood salad.

What is the most popular food at Christmas in the USA? ›

The Most Popular Christmas Foods
  • Roasted potatoes (91%)
  • Scalloped potatoes (83%)
  • Roast beef (77%)
  • Red velvet cake (76%)
  • Ham (76%)
  • Christmas nuts (76%)
Aug 1, 2023

What is the most popular meat for Christmas? ›

1. Turkey. Let's admit it, a whole turkey is the best and most traditional meat for Christmas dinners. Originally gracing our plates in the 16th century, popular history tells of King Henry VIII being the first English monarch to have turkey for Christmas.

What is around the world in 12 dishes? ›

Around the World in 12 Dishes is a collection of tasty recipes and stories of small food-producers. Let's celebrate diversity and build a more intimate relationship with our food and its sources.

What is Japan's traditional Christmas dinner? ›

And in Japan, Christmas means KFC. On December 25th every year, you'll find millions of Japanese people sitting down to a hearty meal of KFC fried chicken, with orders placed with the restaurant months in advance.

What do Italians eat at Christmas? ›

In Southern and Central Italy, baked pasta is a must. In Northern Italy, Lasagne Bolognese and filled pasta like manicotti and ravioli are traditional Christmas fare. Next comes the main event, the meat. Roasted veal, baked chicken, sausages or braised beef are common Natale entrées worth celebrating.

What is the most popular Christmas fruit worldwide? ›

Apples, cranberries, pumpkins, and butternut squash have all been at the heart of the traditional holiday feast for countless generations. These scrumptious harvests can enrich your holiday celebration with endless recipes and decorating ideas.

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