If you’re looking for a Christmas menu that’s a little bit non-traditional (move over, turkey and ham), I’ve got some great ideas for you.
Turkey is a no-brainer when it comes to Thanksgiving, and ham or beef roasts are holiday mainstays, but I’ve always liked to experiment and get a little unconventional when it comes to our Christmas meal.
I know, I know…it runs contrary to most advice (including my own) to try a new recipe on a holiday, but Christmas dinner is the one chance I have each year to finally test out some of those slightly more involved recipes I’ve been tearing out, pinning, and bookmarking all year long; the ones that aren’t simple enough to make into my regular dinner rotation.
My only rule for a Christmas dinner entree is that it has to be special — something I wouldn’t normally make for our family dinner. That might mean it’s a little bit labor intensive, or requires a unique or expensive ingredient (like lobster) that I wouldn’t normally buy.
Yet I don’t want it to be over-complicated. I want my Christmas meal to say, “I love you, I’m glad you’re here, and I put effort into making this delicious, special meal for you,” but not, “I was trying so hard to be impressive and fancy that I completely stressed myself out and now I hate everyone.”
With that in mind, here are some recipes and menu ideas for some simple, yet special meals to consider for your holiday feast. Some of them I’ve already made personally for our Christmas dinner in years past. Whether you’re hosting a large sit-down or a casual gathering in your pjs, hopefully you’ll find something here you like (including vegetarian options).
Non-traditional Christmas Dinner Ideas:
Pasta might not seem like it would be special enough for a holiday, but when you spend hours simmering and stirring and perfecting your sauce like I did when I made pasta bolognese for Christmas last year, it definitely is. This recipe for Veal Bolognese from Deliciously Declassified is totally holiday-worthy.
Another great pasta option would be a from-scratch Homemade Lasagna. It’s a perfect dish to serve if you’re feeding a crowd, especially since you can make it ahead and reheat it when you’re ready to eat.
Menu idea: Serve these pasta dishes with hot garlic bread and a festive salad like this Pear, Pomegranate and Spinach Salad from Cooking Classy.
One of my husband’s favorite meals is lobster risotto. Risotto isn’t hard to make, but it’s time consuming because it requires adding liquid in small amounts and stirring constantly to get it just right. For that reason, I’ve only made it for him once (on his birthday), but I’d consider making it again for a holiday meal. This Lobster Risotto recipe looks like a winner!
Another thing that would be glorious on a Christmas dining table (and in your belly) would be a seafood stew or Cioppino. The gathering and prep of ingredients for this dish is where the difficulty lies; otherwise, the actual cooking is quite quick and simple.
Menu idea: As with the pasta dishes, you’ll definitely need some warm, crusty bread or garlic bread to sop up the sauces. Either of these entrees would also pair perfectly with my Chopped Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon.
Meatballs / Meatloaf
A few years ago, I made 1770 House Meatloaf for our Christmas dinner — a recipe originally shared by Ina Garten and beautifully replicated by Susan at The View From Great Island. Meatloaf might seem like a run-of-the-mill weeknight meal, but this meatloaf is special. It’s all about the garlic sauce, which is really easy to make and has delicious flavor (and it’s not super garlicky since the slow simmering of the garlic mellows it out quite a bit). It was a huge hit with everyone, including the kids!
I also think this recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Kirsten at Farm Fresh Feasts sounds amazing, and I love the story about her Swedish heritage that goes with it!
Menu idea: Both of these dishes would be delicious accompanied by some mashed potatoes and something green, like this Skinny Green Bean Casserole from A Nerd Cooks or these Green Beans with Mushrooms and Shallots from Everyday Eileen.
You don’t need to cook a large roast to have holiday-worthy beef for dinner. Short ribs are a great option because they cook low and slow, so you don’t need to worry about any mad dashes through the kitchen when it’s time to eat. I made Braised Short Ribs from Anne Burrell one year, and they were delicious and completely stress-free.
Or, you could try this yummy Braised Beef with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes recipe from Debi at Life Currents. It perfectly marries comfort food with elegance, and would look beautiful on any Christmas dining table.
I’m not a vegetarian, so it takes a lot to make me say “YUM” about a vegetarian recipe. But when I saw this recipe for Lentil and Potato Pot Pies on the Life Currents site, I was drooling. It looks rich and decadent, and I’m a sucker for any recipe that includes rosemary and potatoes. Plus, it’s all in one dish, so no need for a bunch of extra sides to go along with it.
The hearty Kale and Wild Rice Casserole from Half Baked Harvest also looks amazing. It’s intended as a side dish, but it could easily serve as a vegetarian entree, especially if accompanied by something like a simple Butternut Squash Soup.
Even if you don’t plan on changing out of your Mrs. Claus pajamas on Christmas Day, you can still give even the most casual food a little bit of festive flair. I love the idea for these Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Cranberry Sliders from Swanky Recipes. The cranberry sauce gives them that holiday flavor, while the slaw would add a perfect amount of crunch.
The sliders would be delicious alongside these Christmas Cheesy Potatoes from Tastes of Lizzy T’s. The Christmasy-ness comes from flecks of pimento and green pepper. Aren’t they pretty?
A big pot of hearty soup, like Minestrone or my own Pasta e Fagioli would be a perfect food for a casual gathering as well.
Christmas dinner doesn’t have to mean 10 different dishes or an elaborately prepared expensive cut of meat. All you need is good food made with love.
If you have any great Christmas dinner ideas to share, please do so in the comments. Wishing you all a wonderful, delicious and stress-free holiday!