20 Dishes for a Traditional British Christmas Dinner

Throw a Proper English Celebration

The Spruce

A classic British Christmas dinner is the highlight of the year. Every Christmas celebration features a few standards: Crackers filled with silly gifts, a tray of dates, bowls of nuts and oranges, and of course, the Queen's annual address. Throw a proper English celebration with these delightful recipes, no matter where you live.

  • 01 of 20

    Yorkshire Pudding

    Yorkshire pudding recipe

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

    Your family might be surprised to find out that Yorkshire pudding isn't what we consider a "pudding" in the more common British usage. But you really can't have a Christmas roast without one. This recipe makes a high, light Yorkshire that's so easy, you'll never need to buy one again. The secret is to pour well-rested, cool batter into smoking hot fat and stick it into a well-heated oven. Make sure you let the batter rest for best results.

  • 02 of 20

    Leek and Potato Soup

     Dennis Gottlieb

    This simple and festive soup will start your meal off right without weighing you down. It's hearty enough for a meal at any other time and the ingredients are incredibly affordable. If you've got a guest whose wallet is a bit on the lighter side, they can contribute this dish without breaking the bank. Sprinkle oyster crackers or crushed saltines over the top for a little crunch.

  • 03 of 20

    Scottish Smoked Salmon and Dill Sauce

    William Shaw -Getty

    Start with a fresh Scottish smoked salmon and dill sauce to pique your appetite before the main event. The delicious sauce has a tart, herb-forward flavor that beautifully complements the rich and creamy salmon. Because you can purchase smoked salmon and make the sauce ahead of time, you can set it out to feed guests while the rest of the meal comes together without adding to your workload.

  • 04 of 20

    Roast Beef

    Marinated rump roast

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    When you're throwing a traditional Sunday roast for Christmas, you've got to feature an impressive roast beef as the main course. Any of these roasts for Christmas dinner are perfect and if you've never chosen or cooked one before, here's a handy guide on how to get started. Don't skimp on the resting time; it allows the juices in the meat to redistribute, resulting in that juicy, tender beef that will really impress your guests.

    And of course, don't forget the gravy. No meat would be complete without a good ladle full of it!

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  • 05 of 20

    English Trifle

    Traditional English Trifle

    The Spruce

    The combination of fruit, sponge cake, whipped cream, pudding, and sometimes jelly makes a lovely crowning glory to end your meal. There are almost as many variations on English trifle as there are twee cottages in the Lake District, so you can take some liberties with yours—the type of fruits, custard, and even cake can all be varied to suit your tastes. If you don't have a trifle bowl, any large, glass bowl will still work. Just make sure to use a clear vessel to show off those pretty layers.

  • 06 of 20

    Roasted Parsnips

    Sweet Roasted Parsnips Recipe

     The Spruce

    If you've never tried roasted parsnips, you're in for a treat. When you slice them into finger-sized shapes, parboil, then toss them in fat and roast, these carrot-like root vegetables grow sweet and slightly caramelized. Be careful not to overcook them when you parboil. If they get too soft, the sugars won't crystallize and you'll be better off mashing them instead. If you'd like a more intense flavor, toss them with cinnamon, garam masala, or your favorite herbs.

  • 07 of 20

    Prawn Cocktail

    Prawn cocktail

    beyhanyazar / Getty Images

    It hardly gets easier than a fresh prawn cocktail, which is not only a nice fresh dish to serve but can come together hours in advance. Because the recipe has so few ingredients, it's very important to use high-quality shrimp and mayonnaise. You can even make your own for best results. Iceberg lettuce is traditional, but if you don't care for it, romaine works just fine.

  • 08 of 20

    Succulent Pigs in a Blanket

    Pigs in a blanket

    The Spruce 

    If you don't serve pigs in a blanket, also known as sausages wrapped in bacon, then you just don't have a full British Christmas dinner. Wrapping these is a fun activity to let the kids get their hands messy, so let the little helpers pull up a stool. Use a variety of sausages to mix up the flavor.

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    Mashed Potatoes

    Perfectly Creamy Mashed Potatoes

    The Spruce / Loren Runion

    Roast beef goes perfectly with these creamy mashed potatoes. They really couldn't be simpler: Just combine boiled potatoes, milk, butter, and you're in business. You can mash the potatoes with a fork, masher, or even a hand mixer or icer. The texture will vary depending on your tools; use a fork or a masher for chunkier potatoes and a mixer or ricer for creamier, smoother spuds. Vary the amount of butter and milk to control the richness and serve with extra pats of butter on the side.

  • 10 of 20

    Crispy Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

    Crispy brussels sprouts with bacon


    kellyvandellen / Getty Images 

    Haven't had enough meat yet? Toss shredded Brussels sprouts with bacon or pancetta, garlic, and crunchy pine nuts for a decadent side that will convert even avowed Brussels-haters. Shredding the sprouts gives them a refreshing leafy texture that will make a nice change from eating them whole. If pine nuts aren't available, use walnuts, pecans, or even slivered almonds instead.

  • 11 of 20

    Fresh Cranberry Relish

    cranberry sauce

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    While Americans usually serve cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, it's also wonderful alongside a Christmas roast. If you've never tried the homemade version, this will be a delight. Simmering the berries in sugar and orange juice gives them a tart sweetness that's wonderful when paired with hearty meat and potatoes. Add half of the sugar while cooking and sweeten it to taste at the end, to avoid accidentally over-sweetening.

  • 12 of 20

    Yule Log

    chocolate cream Yule log

     The Spruce

    Yes, this centerpiece-worthy yule log is a bit difficult to put together, but it's well worth the effort. This large chocolate roll with cream filling makes an ideal partner for a traditional Christmas pudding or a smattering of cookies. Get some friends or family together to help out, and it won't seem as much of a chore. Once you taste its rich chocolate and sweet cream, you'll forget all about the effort.

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  • 13 of 20

    Braised Red Cabbage

    Braised red cabbage

    GRECLAURENTIU / Getty Images

    All of the richness of a British Christmas dinner needs something tart and crisp to cut through it and this braised red cabbage will do the trick. It uses apple juice for sweetness and mustard seeds for a sprightly zip that tastes much more lively than your usual muted cabbage sides. You can also use whole-grain mustard if you don't have mustard seeds, but the flavor won't be as strong.

  • 14 of 20

    Make-Ahead Christmas Pudding

    Traditional Christmas pudding

    The Spruce

    No holiday dinner is complete without a classic Christmas pudding. The pudding does need to be made ahead to give it structural integrity and allow the flavors to meld. Many people make it at the beginning of Advent, and arrange an entire day around it. Give yours plenty of time to mature for the tastiest presentation. Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients; the pudding isn't hard to put together but does require quite an array to create that signature festive flavor.

  • 15 of 20

    British Bread Sauce

    Bread sauce

    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

    Bread sauce is one of the oldest British recipes, dating back to medieval times. And once you try it, you won't wonder why it's lasted through the ages. It goes perfectly alongside your Christmas roast and its warm, comforting texture contrasts beautifully with tart cranberry sauce. Try it with pork or poultry at other times of the year, for a slightly different side dish.

  • 16 of 20

    Traditional Scottish Cranachan

    Scottish Cranachan Recipe

    The Spruce

    If you need an additional pudding for dessert, or you don't feel like the traditional trifle, try a Scottish twist. This easy Cranachan uses steel-cut oatmeal and raspberries for a fresh, fruity flavor that will offset the richness of Christmas dinner perfectly. If you can't find Scottish raspberries, regular will work just fine. Use high-quality malt whiskey for the best flavor.

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    Beef Wellington

    Classic Beef Wellington Recipe

    The Spruce 

    This impressive beef Wellington is a traditional boeuf en croute, or beef wrapped in pastry. It will make an impressive centerpiece for your holiday table that tastes as amazing as it looks. While beef Wellington has a reputation for being challenging, this recipe will show that you can make it relatively easily.

  • 18 of 20

    Festive Game Pie

    Festive game pie


    Diana Miller / Getty Images 

    Pies don't have to be sweet, like this festive British game pie. Use a mixture of fresh or frozen game meats for the best flavor. If you can't find a butcher who sells game in your area, you can also purchase them online. Other jellies will also work if you don't have red currant.

  • 19 of 20

    Simple Ploughman's Platter

    Ploughman's platter lunch


    Neil Langan Uk / Getty Images 

    While a Ploughman's platter is typically served as a light, but filling lunch in the UK, you can also use it as an easy cold appetizer for your Christmas dinner. The ingredients can vary depending on your tastes, but high-quality British cheeses, crusty bread, and sweet chutney are all musts.

  • 20 of 20

    Roast Chicken

    Roast chicken


    Neil Langan Uk / Getty Images 

    Want to bring out a Christmas roast with all the trimmings, but don't eat red meat? Never fear! This succulent roast chicken will make an excellent substitute. With this guide, you can't help but make a fantastic bird with drums that are as juicy as the breast. Everyone will be fighting over the last slices.