25 Delicious and healthy holiday dishes from around the world. For many, the holiday season is a time for family and food. While most holiday food is quite decadent and not necessarily diet-friendly, it is possible to seek out dishes that fall on the healthier side of the spectrum. During the holiday festivities, practice moderation when it comes to all those decadent dishes and treats, and opt for some of these healthier choices. This holiday season, take inspiration from around the world with these global holiday dishes.
Ever wondered how other countries celebrate Christmas? What about the foods that they eat on the big day? From Australia to France, we’ve rounded up some of the most traditional treats served around the world during the festive period We’ve discovered some delicious Christmas recipes from around the world that are well worth adding to your Yuletide feast. From Australia to France, we’ve rounded up some best Christmas recipes from around the world. Everyone does it differently, and that’s what makes the holidays so special.
1. Puerto Rico: Pasteles
Pasteles are a classic Christmas dish in Puerto Rico. Making pasteles requires time and patience. The inner portion of the pasteles consists of a mixture of ground pork and an adobo blended spice sauce. The outer portion is made using a special masa dough made of grated green bananas, yautía, and spices. After allowing the dough to sit for a few hours, the masa is placed on banana leaves, the pork filling is added, and it’s wrapped. Traditional Puertorican pasteles are boiled in hot water and served with rice, meat, fish, pigeon peas, and hot sauce for a delicious holiday feast.
Pasteles are a type of tamal made with pork and adobo stuffing encased in a green plantain masa and wrapped in banana leaves. Although time-consuming and labor-intensive, these pasteles are worth the effort. Pasteles are delicious and the masa, made of a combination of yucca, taro, green banana, plantain, potato, and pumpkin. They are moist and slightly sweet, both a refreshing change if you’ve only tasted corn masa and a nice foil to the stewed pork it encloses.
Jansson’s temptation, or Janssons frestelse − known as a creamy potato and anchovy casserole. Who is Jansson? It’s not quite clear, but we certainly understand the temptation of this rich potato casserole, usually made with spiced anchovies (or pickled sprats), onions and cream. As a staple at the Julbord, Sweden’s traditional Christmas smorgasbord, this rich dish is something to celebrate.
A traditional Swedish casserole, it is commonly included in a Swedish Christmas dinner table, but is often eaten on other occasions, including Easter. The dish is also common in Finland, where it is known as janssoninkiusaus. It can easily be made into a vegan dish and it is pure comfort food bliss, and is at the head of every Christmas table, though I’ve also seen it served at weddings, smorgasbords, and summer holidays.
Mince pies have been enjoyed in England at Christmastime since the 13th century, according to BBC America. Fighters returning from the Crusades brought back new and exotic spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon, and British cooks used them in a variety of dishes, including pies filled with mincemeat and dried fruits. Their size and the type of fillings used have changed somewhat over time, but for many centuries now, mince pies have been a beloved Christmas treat.
If you’re looking to recreate a traditional English Christmas feast, or just want to try your hand at something new, test out our recipe. Filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices called ‘mincemeat’, mince pie ingredients can be traced back to the 13th century. Returning crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes that contained meats, fruits and spices. However, the pies themselves are a British invention. Some pies are high in calories, saturated fat and sugar because of the pastry case, as well as the suet and sugar in the mincemeat filling. If you’re baking your own, only use pastry for the base and leave the top open, just add a small star of pastry or use a lower-fat pastry, such as filo. You can also use less sugar.
During Hanukkah, latkes are a delicious staple on most dinner plates. In Hebrew, the dish is known as Levivot. Fried in hot oil, latkes are symbolic of the oil that, according to a text that serves as the central source of Jewish religious law, lit the menorah for 8 days despite only having enough oil for 1 day. Made of the simplest of ingredients, you can make latkes with shredded potato and onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs or matzo.
Traditionally, they are fried in oil. For a healthier version, you can bake instead of fry them. Latkes are usually made with eggs, a little milk, flour or matzo meal and baking powder. Potato pancakes turn up in most European cultures, from Polish placki to Swedish rarakor, German kartoffelpuffer and Irish boxty.
Christmas in Sicily and Southern Italy means the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Traditionally, Roman Catholics in the region fast on Christmas Eve, so a feast of seven (or even more) seafood dishes at the end of the day is a true celebration of the area’s bounty. On the eves of special holidays, as well as on Fridays and during Lent, many observant Catholics refrain from eating meat or dairy, so these seafood dishes are usually fried or cooked in oil rather than butter.
Baccalà, or salted codfish, fried smelt, and calamari are all popular choices, but the healthier shrimp and cod dishes below, each bursting with classic Italian flavors, would fit in at any holiday table. You’ll find delicious versions of a variety of seafood stews, and more. They’re all perfect for this traditional Italian-American feast that’s served on Christmas Eve and features seven (or more) fish dishes. Hope you’re hungry!
Beef bourguignon, also called beef Burgundy, and bœuf à la Bourguignonne, is a beef stew braised in red wine, often red Burgundy, and beef stock. This is typically flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, and a bouquet garni, and garnished with pearl onions, and mushrooms.
This slow-cooked beef stew is the ultimate comfort food and will warm you up during the holidays. There are so many recipes out there for classic boeuf bourguignon or beef Burgundy; this traditional version has a long list of ingredients but is easy to prepare. The combination of beef, wine, vegetables, herbs, and spices makes for a delicious bowl to cozy up with over the days of Christmas.
Christmas is a major affair in Greece, and there are many ways in which people celebrate. Many religious Greeks fast before Christmas. When feast day finally arrives, it’s a time to go all out. One traditional sweet that still has a place at festive holiday tables is melomakarona, a sweet, honey-soaked cookie topped with ground walnuts and eaten on Christmas Day after breaking fast.
If you don’t have the time or skill to prepare traditional melomakarona, try a simpler recipe, which uses the same beloved flavors. For a healthier version you can substitute flour for gluten-free flour, honey for agave syrup, and a bit of tehini instead of eggs. This recipe is so healthy and won’t disappoint and can be great for a person with diabetes.
One of several popular holiday desserts in Poland is babka. It is a kind of sweet bread, and is ubiquitous during the Christmas season. Other treats, like cookies made with honey and poppy seeds, are also common. But bread is essential to the Christmas meal in Poland. Traditionally this festive meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, starting with breaking bread after a long day of fasting.
Many Polish families set an extra place for a lone wanderer who might happen to pass through during this special dinner, which is usually meatless and composed of other staples like beet soup, boiled potatoes, and herring with sour cream. Deliciously sweet and irresistible brioche dough swirled with chocolate and topped with buttery cinnamon crumbles. Make it using half the sugar and include apples and cinnamon.
On December 13, the official start of the Christmas season in many Nordic countries, citizens of Sweden and other Scandinavian nations celebrate St. Lucia’s Day. Tradition dictates that the eldest daughter dress in a white gown tied with a red sash and a crown of lit candles, then wake her parents with hot coffee and a tray of saffron buns, like those pictured here. Swedes also elect a national Lucia every year, and many towns and villages across the country choose a Lucia to represent them as well.
To give your holiday some true Swedish flavor, try our recipe for saffron buns this season. A saffron bun, Cornish tea treat bun or revel bun, is a rich, spiced yeast-leavened sweet bun that is flavoured with saffron and contains dried fruit including currants and raisins similar to a teacake. The main ingredients are plain flour, butter, yeast, caster sugar, currants and raisins. Substitute plain flour for whole wheat flour, butter for olive oil, and agave syrup for sugar.
In Ukraine, adherents of the Ukrainian Orthodox church must stick to a strict diet during the Christmas holiday that excludes many items indulged in around the world, like those containing fat, sugar, and meat. Holiday dinner must adhere to those guidelines, including special foods like kutya (pictured), which is sweetened with honey and includes ingredients like wheat, poppy seeds, and nuts. The dish cannot be enjoyed until the first star appears in the night sky.
To put a Ukranian-inspired twist on your holiday meal, try a recipe for wheat berries, and add your favorite combination of natural sweeteners, nuts, and dried or fresh fruits. Kutia or kutya is a ceremonial grain dish with sweet gravy traditionally served by Eastern Orthodox Christians in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia during the Christmas – Feast of Jordan holiday season and/or as part of a funeral feast.is an old Slavic dish known since pre-historic times. It is the main of twelve dishes served for Sviata Vecheria (twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper) during Winter Holidays (Ukrainian Christmas).
Brazil is a largely Catholic nation, but its inhabitants come from many different countries and cultures. A true melting pot, and its cuisine reflects that. Though Brazil produces a large percentage of the world’s beef, turkey is often the main course served on Christmas. Yet in such a huge nation there are bound to be regional differences, and in certain places fish or pork may be more prevalent.
Colored rice is a popular side dish, no matter where in the country you are, and Brazil nuts are also usually served. Dessert is all over the map — everything from Italian panettone to Portuguese rabanada (fried bread sprinkled with sugar) could make an appearance on the holiday table.
In Peru, spiced hot chocolate is a Christmas tradition. In December, churches around the country take donations to make massive quantities of it, as well as panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread. The bread and hot, sweet, spicy drink are served to the less fortunate in the weeks leading up to Christmas. On December 24, also called Noche Beuna, Peruvians have their big holiday meal, often featuring tamales or a roast turkey (as in Brazil), and many families celebrate with a champagne toast.
If you think you know how to make the best hot chocolate, you may want to give Peru’s spiced hot chocolate a try. This creamy hot chocolate with a kick is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, and nutmeg. In fact, this beverage is so popular that it has its own event known as la Chocolatadas, during which people gather and serve spiced hot chocolate with a popular cake known as panetón.
During the holiday season, bibingka is a common breakfast item in the Philippines. Bibingka consists of rice flour or sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and water wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Eggs, cheese, and coconut flakes are sometimes added as a garnish.
This dish is usually served for breakfast or after Simbáng Gabi — a nine-day series of Filipino Catholic masses leading up to Christmas. In fact, it’s common to have food stations set up outside of church for churchgoers to buy bibingka and other popular sweets, such as steamed rice cakes known as puto bumbong. Many enjoy these treats with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
In Italy, New Year’s Eve is known as “La Festa di San Silvestro,” or St. Sylvester’s Feast. The celebration centers around a massive meal with family and friends, and one of the traditional items at the table is a big pot of lentils. Legumes are thought to symbolize money and prosperity, so Italians eat lots of them in hopes of bringing themselves wealth and success in the coming year.
For an Italian twist on your New Year’s Eve celebration, cook up a big pot of our lentil stew on December 31. Many Italians celebrate the end of the old year and the start of New Year’s Day with fireworks. Many people celebrate a New Year’s dinner with dishes that include: Risotto in bianco (white risotto). Lentils (symbolizing wealth/good fortune).
Kimchi is a popular food in Korea at any time of year, but it’s impossible to image a holiday feast without it. The New Year, or Soll, is also one of the biggest times of celebration in Korea, as it is in countries across Asia that follow the Chinese calendar. Kimchi is usually made with cabbage, but one of these more modern takes, made with cucumbers or turnips, could also be a fun way to mix a bit of the old with the new.
The perfect theme for a New Year’s celebration. For a fully festive Korean meal, serve it with rice cake soup (dduk gook) and an array of vegetable sides. Korean New Year, Solnal, is greeted with steaming bowls of rice cake soup called duk gook – “comfort food,” Make this warm, soothing bowl of rice cake soup with dumplings for your New Year celebration!
One of the most important foods consumed during New Year’s (or Tết) celebrations in Vietnam, bahn chung is a large rice cake with layers of pork, mung bean, and other ingredients encased in a thick layer of soft, sticky rice. The whole packet is usually wrapped in the leaves of a giant type of bamboo called lá dong, though banana leaves might also work well. Banh chung are square in shape to represent the earth. Bánh dày is a similar type of rice cake eaten during the holidays, but it is round in shape to represent the sky.
Often you’ll find them served at New Year’s celebrations with assorted pickled vegetables, like daikon or shallots. For a different take on a traditional food, try our Crisp Sushi-Rice Cakes as a side or an appetizer in your New Year’s meal. “Banh Chung” (square glutinous rice cake) is a traditional cake of Vietnamese people in Tet holidays. For the Vietnamese, making Banh Chung is an ideal way to express gratitude to their ancestors and homeland In the ancient conception, the Earth is square, hence Banh Chung has square shape to reflect the Earth.
While most countries celebrate Christmas on December 25th, Russia is one of the few countries that celebrates this holiday on January 7th in accordance with the Orthodox Julian calendar. Colloquially known as “herring under a fur coat,” shuba is a popular dish served during the holiday season in Russia.
Its main ingredients include pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and grated vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, and onions. The dish gets its name from its top layer, which is usually made of mayonnaise or a beet dressing that resembles a warm winter coat. While this may seem like an unconventional dish, it’s an excellent source of protein, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and B.
Similarly to Ethiopia’s national dish, doro wat (chicken stew), yebeg wot is a popular lamb stew served during the holiday season. Weeks prior to the holidays, farmers feed lambs a high calorie diet. This leads to fatty, tender meat, which is added to a stew made of onions, tomatoes, garlic, kibbeh (Ethiopian butter), berbere spice mix, and various spices. Many serve yebeg wot with injera, a popular flatbread. This dish is a rich source of protein, carbs, and antioxidants.
Ethiopia (and especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) celebrates Christmas on January 7th, not December 25th. The Ethiopian Calendar has different months – and Christmas in on the 29th of Tahsas. Many other orthodox churches around the world also celebrate Christmas on the 7th January.
While a typical Canadian diet is similar to that of a typical U.S. diet, it has a few classic treats of its own. Butter tarts are a Canadian dessert that’s served during many holidays, but mostly during Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’re small pastries with a sweet filling made of butter, sugar, maple or corn syrup, eggs, and sometimes walnuts and raisins. Enjoy these tarts with a cup of coffee for the ultimate treat.
A butter tart is a type of small pastry tart highly regarded in Canadian cuisine and considered one of Canada’s quintessential treats. The sweet tart consists of a filling of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg, baked in a pastry shell until the filling is semi solid with a crunchy top.
Served during Christmas, hangikjöt is one of the most popular Icelandic holiday foods. It translates to “hung meat” and involves smoked lamb or mutton. Its name originates from the traditional practice of hanging smoked meats in a smoking shed for weeks to develop a smoky, salty flavor. Hangikjöt is commonly served with green beans, potatoes that are coated in a white béchamel sauce, and side of pickled red cabbage.
Iceland is a magical place in winter. Watch the Northern Lights, visit the ice caves, or go hiking on a glacier. These and other incredible experiences will make your winter trip to Iceland unforgettable, and Hangikjöt is all art of the experinece.
Eggnog isn’t a holiday treat around the world. In fact, it’s mostly enjoyed in the United States and Canada. This drink is made from milk, cream, whipped egg whites, egg yolks, and sugar, resulting in a creamy, smooth texture. Most people enjoy eggnog as an alcoholic beverage by adding rum, bourbon, or brandy. Throughout the United States, eggnog is traditionally consumed over the Christmas season, from late October until the end of the holiday season.
To make the healthy homemade eggnog: add almond milk, honey, egg yolks, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a blender and blend for approximately 1 minute or until smooth; pour the mixture from the blender into a saucepan and add cloves; cook the eggnog on medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
With the sun shining down under there’s only one thing to have on Christmas Day and that’s a BBQ. An Australian Christmas is usually spent around the barbie with plenty of family and friends for company. Not all Aussies opt for the BBQ though, some prefer a classic European roast – we can’t blame them!
Other than BBQ for dinner, dessert is the main focus on Christmas Day in New Zealand. Hot fruit pudding, fruit salad and ice cream are only a few of the desserts families feast on. Another favourite is a classic Pavlova topped with cream and heaps of fresh berries. It’s the showstopper often proudly displayed in the centre of the table – who could blame them?
A tradition which is becoming rather popular in China is the giving of apples on Christmas Eve. Most stores in China will sell apples wrapped in colourful paper so people can buy them and give them as gifts. The reason behind this?
The word for Christmas Eve in Chinese, ‘Ping An Ye’ sounds very similar to the Chinese word for apple, ‘Ping Guo’ and the two things were brought together. Why not turn your apples into a impressive dessert and serve on Christmas Eve?
A Stollen is a German fruit cake packed with dried fruit and marzipan. Dusted with icing, this impressive bake is usually eaten during the Christmas season in Germany. It is called ‘Weihnachtsstollen’ or ‘Christstollen’. The Stollen dates back from the 15th Century when it was given as a gift at Christmas.
Stollen is a fruit bread of nuts, spices, and dried or candied fruit, coated with powdered sugar or icing sugar. It is a traditional German bread eaten during the Christmas season. Stollen is a little sourdough-like in flavor with a dense, somewhat cakey crumb. Partly because it sits for at least two weeks before serving. Booze-soaked fruit and nuts are folded into the batter, along with some additional flavorings and spices, and there you have a colorful canvas of flavors.
Christmas cake is a popular dessert around the world. It’s a type of fruit cake made of flour, eggs, sugar, spices, candied cherries, dried fruit, and brandy. Traditional Christmas cake is made at least 2 months ahead to allow adequate time to slowly “feed” the cake with brandy every 2 weeks. Finally, it’s topped with a marzipan icing.
While it’s mostly known as a British dessert, many countries serve Christmas cake during the holiday season. In fact, South Koreans are well-known for their beautiful, artistic Christmas cake decorations. In the UK, fruitcakes come in many varieties, from extremely light to rich and moist. The traditional Christmas cake is a round fruitcake covered in marzipan and then in white royal icing or fondant icing. Historically fruitcake was referred to as ‘plum cake’ in England since around 1700.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
www.healthline.com www.goodto.com www.delish.com www.foodnetwork.com https://sweden.se/ https://sharonpalmer.com/ https://euholidaycookbook.org/ Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students, Lois Sinaiko Webb, April 12, 2011