20 Festive Recipes for a Small Christmas Dinner

Dishes to make your intimate gathering merry and bright

French Baked Ham With Spiced Apples and Pears

The Spruce/Katarina Zunic

Whether you're hosting a little gathering or just want to make things festive for a smaller family, there are plenty of recipe ideas to make an intimate Christmas dinner feel special. These holiday recipes are designed to serve four to six people, without leaving too many leftovers. From soups and salads to start the meal, to traditional mains, to quick-cooking side dishes, even festive drinks and sweet desserts, your magical Christmas feast starts here.

  • 01 of 20

    Pear and Greens Salad

    Pear and greens salad

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Winter is the ideal season to add sweet, seasonal pears to a salad. Impress your Christmas dinner guests with this restaurant-style salad that is easy to toss together before the meal. You'll love the combination of tender and slightly bitter greens with a sweet celery seed dressing, tart and juicy pears, salty blue cheese, and toasted walnuts.

  • 02 of 20

    Vegetarian and Vegan Roasted Chestnut Soup

    Vegetarian and vegan roasted chestnut soup

    The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

    You won't give a thought to Jack Frost nipping at your nose when you tuck into this warming roasted chestnut soup. It's suitable for vegan and vegetarian guests and makes a great starter for the holiday meal. You can use prepared roasted and peeled chestnuts from the store, or roast your own and get the kids to help you peel them once they've cooled.

  • 03 of 20

    Smoked Salmon Crostini

    Smoked salmon crostini

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    Simple, bright, and salty smoked salmon crostini is an easy way to impress at holiday time. You need only a few ingredients for this beautiful appetizer that is a great way to use up a going-stale baguette. You can toast the bread slices and prep the ricotta mixture a few days ahead for last-minute assembly when you're ready to serve.

  • 04 of 20

    Simple Orange-Glazed Pork Roast

    Simple orange-glazed pork roast

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    This succulent, fork-tender orange-glazed pork loin is so easy to prepare for Christmas dinner. Just sprinkle on salt and pepper, brush with a simple glaze, and roast until done. You need just four ingredients for a savory pork roast that goes great with all your favorite holiday sides.

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  • 05 of 20

    French Baked Ham With Spiced Apples and Pears

    French baked ham with spiced apples and pears

    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

    Adorned with beautiful, caramelized orchard fruits, this maple-glazed, browned, baked ham with spiced apples and pears is the essence of Christmas food. The aroma of the sweet, smoky, salty, and spicy meat baking is truly intoxicating. You'll also get lots of yummy leftovers to use in sandwiches, ham and bean soup, and casseroles.

  • 06 of 20

    Roasted Rack of Lamb

    Traditional roasted rack of lamb

    The Spruce

    This roasted rack of lamb with a classic Dijon, herb, and breadcrumb crust is an impressive entrée for your holiday meal. It is also quick to cook and surprisingly easy to make at home. Ask your butcher for frenched lamb rib roasts, which you can sear whole to seal in juices before crusting and roasting them in the oven. Slice the meat at the table for a showstopping presentation.

  • 07 of 20

    Instant Pot Coq au Vin

    Instant Pot coq au vin

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Coq au vin is a comforting, French country-inspired entrée for your homey Christmas dinner. Use the Instant Pot to dramatically cut down on cooking time for this braised chicken dish, which cooks flavorful bone-in chicken legs and thighs in a red wine sauce with garlic, chopped onions, and cremini mushrooms.

  • 08 of 20

    Classic Holiday Green Bean Casserole

    Classic holiday green bean casserole

    The Spruce

    For many families, it wouldn't be Christmas dinner without a classic green bean casserole. You need only five ingredients for this popular creamy, saucy, tangy holiday side dish with a delectable french fried onion topping. Use fresh, canned, or thawed frozen green beans.

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  • 09 of 20

    Hasselback Butternut Squash

    Hasselback butternut squash

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    If looking for a showstopper, hasselback butternut squash is a gorgeous winter side dish for your holiday table. With only one pan and five ingredients, including squash, butter, brown sugar, and walnuts, it is much easier to make than it looks. It's also delicious proof that hasselbacking is not just for potatoes.

  • 10 of 20

    Bread Stuffing

    Bread stuffing

    The Spruce

    You don't need to cook this holiday stuffing inside a turkey, making it ideal when you're not roasting a whole bird for Christmas. It bakes to perfection in a buttered casserole dish and is a great use for leftover stale bread. Feel free to tweak this basic dressing with your choice of sweet and savory ingredient additions, such as sausage, mushrooms, or apples.

  • 11 of 20

    Cheddar Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

    Cheddar cheese scalloped potatoes

    The Spruce

    You can't go wrong with a dish of rich and cheesy cheddar scalloped potatoes. Parboiling the potatoes before baking is a smart step that helps the spuds bake up faster and yields tender, delicious results. For a light garlic flavor, rub the baking dish with a cut clove of garlic before you butter it.

  • 12 of 20

    Maple-Glazed Roasted Parsnips

    Maple-glazed roasted parsnips

    The Spruce

    Maple-glazed roasted parsnips smell incredible while cooking and are a tasty accompaniment for roasted meats. For an extra-special holiday treat, try cooking them in duck fat instead of butter. If you like, you can sprinkle the roasted veggies with some sesame seeds or leave them plain for an easy, classic dish.

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  • 13 of 20

    Creamed Spinach With Parmesan Cheese

    Creamed spinach with parmesan cheese

    The Spruce / Chosen Posture

    Although it's a typical steakhouse side dish, creamed spinach is also a comforting accompaniment to a cozy Christmas meal. The healthy greens are mixed into a rich white sauce made of a roux, Parmesan cheese, a little garlic, and a hint of nutmeg. Prepare this dish just before mealtime, as it is best served immediately.

  • 14 of 20

    Cranberry Coulis

    Cranberry coulis

    The Spruce

    Pork and poultry are the perfect pairings for this tart-sweet cranberry coulis that gets a nice jolt from orange liqueur. Cook it up in 20 minutes, with only six ingredients needed, for an elegant alternative to canned cranberry sauce.

  • 15 of 20

    No Yeast Dinner Rolls

    No yeast dinner rolls

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

    No yeast? No problem. Even beginner bakers can pull off freshly baked dinner rolls made with just four simple ingredients and 20 minutes of your time (and no proofing and kneading). Slather the rolls with butter or use them to soak up gravies and sauces. The recipe makes a dozen rolls, halves easily, and freezes well, too.

  • 16 of 20

    Apple Cranberry Cobbler

    Apple cranberry cobbler

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Fewer guests often mean fewer desserts, so you need to choose wisely. This old-fashioned apple cranberry cobbler is warm and comforting and sure to please. No matter what type of apple you use, this recipe is a snap to prepare at the last minute and will be a welcome addition to your holiday table. 

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  • 17 of 20

    Gingerbread With Lemon Glaze

    Gingerbread with lemon glaze

    The Spruce

    This easy gingerbread cake may become your new favorite holiday dessert. Deeply flavored with dark molasses, nicely spiced with cinnamon and ginger, and topped with a simple lemon-sugar glaze, it is sure to disappear quickly. Serve it with a generous dollop of whipped cream for a memorable ending to the meal.

  • 18 of 20

    Classic Sugar Cookies

    Classic sugar cookies

    The Spruce

    Get the kids involved in making and decorating these easy holiday classic sugar cookies. They have all the light, delicate, and buttery flavor you remember from childhood, and they're fun to cut into shapes with cookie cutters and adorn with colorful royal icing.

  • 19 of 20

    Christmas Mule Cocktail

    Christmas mule cocktail

    The Spruce

    Make the cocktail hour merry and bright with the festive Christmas mule cocktail. This warm and inviting take on the popular vodka mule is filled with the flavors of pear, cinnamon, and ginger, making it a pleasing before-dinner sipper. Serve it in glass coffee mugs and garnish each drink with a cinnamon stick.

  • 20 of 20

    Nonalcoholic Holiday Eggnog

    Nonalcoholic holiday eggnog

    The Spruce

    Kids can enjoy this no-alcohol eggnog as much as the adults. The rich and creamy beverage is a beloved Christmas tradition that you will want to keep on hand all through the holiday season. For any adults who do prefer a spiked eggnog, you can add rum or brandy to individual mugs.