What would Christmas dinner be without roast turkey or ham? And who can forget the festive pudding?
These classic British dishes are often served at family gatherings during the holiday season, alongside a wide array of other classic Christmas must-haves.
Wondering which are the top traditional British Christmas foods? We put together the ultimate list to whet your appetite and get you in the festive mood – read on to learn more!
1. Roast Turkey
Turkey is one of the most popular meats eaten around the world for Christmas Day dinners and is a real staple of a British Christmas dinner table. It’s also a great source of protein that will keep you full until lunchtime.
The best way to cook it is to stuff it with stuffing before roasting it – this will help retain its moisture and make sure it doesn’t dry out too much.
To cook your turkey, you will need to preheat your oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Then place the bird breast side down into a large roasting tin. Cover the tin with foil and bake for 20 minutes per kilo.
Remove the foil and continue cooking for another 90 minutes.
You should check if the turkey has cooked by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.
If the temperature registers 70°C/160°F, and the juices run clear, then the turkey is done. Let the turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
2. Bread Sauce
Bread sauce is another classic dish that makes an appearance at many British Christmas tables.
This tasty addition is usually made from leftover bread, milk, onion, and spices, and can be traced back to the medieval period when bread sauce was traditionally used as a way to make sure that leftovers were totally used up by their owners, and used by cooks who were seeking to thicken sauces using bread.
These days, bread sauce is a firm favorite in British households over Christmas because it’s so versatile: it goes well with just about everything else in the meal and tastes delicious hot or cold.
To make your bread sauce, you will need:
- 600ml milk
- 50g butter
- 1 chopped onion
- 6 Peppercorns
- A bay leaf
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 4 tbsp cream
- Grated nutmeg
Add milk, onions, butter, cloves, peppercorns, herbs and garlic to a pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain, return the liquid and add breadcrumbs. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes, add cream and nutmeg and serve.
3. Mince Pies
Mince pies are a quintessential part of any British Christmas dinner menu, and are the perfect after-dinner treat.
They’re filled with mincemeat (a mixture of dried fruits and nuts), suet, and lots of butter, and they’re then topped off with lashings of thick cream.
Mince pies have been enjoyed since the Middle Ages, but they didn’t become associated with Christmas until Victorian times.
Today, there are two main varieties of mince pie available: the shortcrust variety, which has a flaky pastry base; and the open-top variety, which uses a sweetened fruit filling instead.
Mince pies can be purchased pre-made, or baked in just a few simple steps – all you need is some puff pastry, mincemeat, and icing sugar.
To make your mince pies, you will need to roll out your pastry dough, cut out circles, and fill them with mincemeat.
Next, fold the edges of the circle over the filling, brush the edge with egg wash, and seal the edges with a fork. Bake the pies for 10 to 12 minutes at 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar and serve.
Red cabbage is a traditional accompaniment to Christmas meals in Britain, and the key to success is to ensure that it stays crunchy while still retaining its color and flavor.
To do this, boil it first, then reduce the heat and simmer it gently for 30 minutes.
The flavors of red cabbage can also be enhanced with additions such as pepper, butter, and vinegar.
Christmas cake is another essential element of a British Christmas dinner and is almost always baked in a Bundt shape. It’s made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and lemon juice, and is flavored with citrus peel and cinnamon.
The origins of Christmas cake are in England derived from plum pudding – a dessert originally made with currants, raisins, almonds, apples, and brandy.
However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the recipe evolved into what we know today.
To make your own Christmas cake, you will need:
- 500g of mixed dried fruit
- 60g glace cherries
- 85ml cooking brandy or cold tea
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 175g butter
- 175g dark brown sugar
- 1tbsp black treacle
- 3 eggs
- 175g self-raising flour
- 50g ground almonds
- 60g whole almonds, walnuts or pecans (optional)
- 1tsp ground mixed spice
First, mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Then, beat the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Finally, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir well.
Pour the batter into a greased tin and bake for about 45 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.
A traditional British Christmas pudding is made from currants, raisins, sultanas, candied peel, dates, glacé cherries, almonds, mixed spice, and rum. It’s cooked in a cloth bag and served steamed or boiled.
Christmas pudding is a key element of any British Christmas dinner, and its inclusion in the main meal can be dated back to the 14th century when it was referred to as “frumenty”.
Then, it was made of mutton, beef, raisins, currants, wine, and spices. At this time, it was
also eaten in the run-up to Christmas, rather than being reserved for the big day itself.
A simple Christmas pudding is made by mixing all the ingredients together, putting them in a cloth bag, tying it closed, and boiling it for 3 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes!
Roasting potatoes is one of the most popular ways to cook them, and it’s something that people enjoy doing all year round – but particularly during the festive period.
The best way to roast potatoes is by putting them into a roasting tin, sprinkling salt on top, adding oil, and shaking the tin around to coat the potatoes in oil.
The resulting potatoes can then be enjoyed as a side dish, or seasoned with herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, or garlic before serving.
Beef Wellington is an iconic British Christmas dish, originating in the 19th century. It consists of thin slices of meat encased in puff pastry and is usually accompanied by a rich gravy.
It’s said that the original recipe came about in celebration of the namesake of the dish – the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesy, following his victory at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th, 1815.
The dish has been adapted over the years, with a number of chefs adding their own spark to the classic, but the basic idea remains the same – and the significance of beef wellington in a British Christmas dinner remains consistent.
Cranberries have long been used in British cuisine, dating back centuries; however, they were often added to stews and soups.
In the 20th century, cranberries began to appear more frequently in desserts, and nowadays, they’re commonly found in sauces and jams.
These sweet treats have now become so synonymous with Christmas that many associate them with the festive season.
They form the key ingredient in a number of must-have British dishes, including cranberry sauce, brie and cranberry sandwiches, and cranberry jelly.
10. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts originated in northern Europe during the 5th century and gained their name from the Brussels region of Belgium.
Their popularity continued to grow and expand and, over time, they spread across Europe, and eventually made their way to Britain.
These tiny vegetables have become a real staple of the British roast dinner, and this includes the British Christmas dinner, where sprouts form a centerpiece for many a household.
The vegetable is typically roasted until tender and then dressed with butter, olive oil, vinegar, pepper, and other ingredients to bring out and enhance the natural flavor.
Ploughman’s lunches are considered quintessential British food.
This hearty lunch consists of a sandwich filled with cheese, pickle, potato crisps, and a cold slice of meat, and was originally intended as a working man’s lunch, popular amongst laborers.
Today, ploughman’s lunches are eaten throughout the country, and are a common sight at British Christmas dinners, and are served alongside roast turkey or ham.
Yorkshire pudding is a traditional English side consisting of batter cooked in a pan. It’s traditionally served with roast meats, but the combination of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding also forms part of the iconic British Christmas dinner.
The classic Yorkshire puddings are made by mixing flour, milk, eggs, and seasoning together, before pouring them into a dish, and cooking in a hot oven.
13. Roast Beef
Roast beef is another quintessential British Christmas dinner mainstay. It’s usually accompanied by roast potatoes and vegetables, gravy, stuffing, and peas.
Roast beef is prepared using a method called ‘rolling’, which involves wrapping the beef tightly in foil, before roasting it.
This process helps retain moisture inside the beef, making it juicier than if it had simply been left uncovered, and results in a more flavorful end product.
Parsnips are a type of root vegetable, originating in the Mediterranean area, and making their way across the globe.
In recent times, however, parsnips have become increasingly popular, especially among chefs, who often incorporate them into their cooking.
They are commonly found in soups, stews, casseroles, and mash, and are often served roasted as part of a traditional Christmas dinner.
Chestnuts are native to central Asia and were first cultivated in China around 2200 BC. Over time, chestnut cultivation began spreading across Europe, and by the Middle Ages, they’d reached England.
The nuts were initially used as a food source for livestock, but as people became more familiar with them, they started eating them directly. By the 18th century, chestnuts were being sold on street corners in London.
Since then, roasted chestnuts have become synonymous with Christmas and the festive period, and are often included in mince pies, cakes, and other desserts, as well as being enjoyed as they are.
Stuffing is a mixture of breadcrumbs, dried fruit, herbs, and seasonings that is typically made from stale bread and is stuffed under the skin of poultry, game birds, or sometimes even pork loins.
Stuffing is usually served alongside roast turkey, goose, duck, or chicken, and is considered a must-have at any decent British Christmas dinner.
Stuffing is made by soaking breadcrumbs in water, draining out the excess liquid, and adding dried fruits, herbs, salt, pepper, and spices. The mixture is then packed into the bird, and cooked in a slow oven until golden brown.
17. Mulled Wine
Mulled wine is a hot drink made from red wine, spices, sugar, and water. The name comes from the word mull, meaning “to mix”. Mulled wine is traditionally served during winter months, and is particularly associated with Christmas dinners.
18. Pigs In Blankets
A traditional English Christmas treat, pigs in blankets are basically sausages wrapped in bacon, and cooked until crispy. They’re then served warm, sometimes with gravy for an added delicious twist.
Gravy is essentially just a thickened sauce and is generally served over meat dishes, such as roast beef, lamb, pork, and veal.
Gravy can be made from pre-prepared granules, or you can make your own by simmering stock, flour, and seasoning together.
You can also buy ready-made gravies, which come in different flavors, including mushroom, tomato, and Worcestershire sauce.
20. Yule Log
A yule log, sometimes referred to as a chocolate log, is essentially a large bar of chocolate cake that has been shaped like a log, and covered in icing.
Yule logs are traditionally eaten during the Christmas holidays and are often decorated with colorful sprinkles.
To make a yule log, start off by making a sponge cake batter, and baking it in the shape of a log. Once baked, cover the cake in dark chocolate ganache, and decorate it with sprinkles for a festive vibe.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of traditional British Christmas foods, so get ready to enjoy some great meals this holiday season!