Christmas is a time to celebrate with your loved ones and enjoy a festive feast. But what are the best side dishes and desserts to serve with your main course?
Whether you’re cooking turkey, roast beef rib or something else, you’ll need some tasty trimmings to complete your meal.
Here are some menu ideas, popular recipes, and tips to help experienced cooks wanting to try something different and newbies too so they can make delicious Christmas dinner side dishes and desserts.
Christmas dinner side dishes
In many ways, the side dishes you serve up with your Christmas dinner will help complement the flavours and textures of the main dish.
- Roast potatoes: No Christmas dinner is complete without crispy roast potatoes. To make them extra crunchy, parboil them first, then shake them in a colander to roughen up the edges. Coat them with oil or goose fat and roast them in a hot oven for about an hour, turning them halfway through. For extra flavour, you can add some garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs or sea salt flakes.
Here’s our tried and tested recipe for rosemary roast potatoes
- Potatoes (Maris Piper or King Edward are excellent choices)
- Olive oil
- Fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan/gas mark 6).
- Peel and cut the potatoes into evenly sized chunks.
- Parboil the potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes until the edges start to soften.
- Drain the potatoes and let them sit for a few minutes to dry.
- Coat the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and chopped fresh rosemary.
- Roast in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, turning them occasionally until they are golden and crispy.
- Brussels sprouts: These little green gems are a classic accompaniment to any roast. To make them more appealing, you can jazz them up with some bacon, chestnuts or Parmesan cheese. You can also roast them in the oven with some honey and mustard or slice them thinly and make a crunchy slaw with some mayonnaise and lemon juice.
Use this recipe to liven your Brussels sprouts:
Brussels sprouts with bacon
Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Bacon strips, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Balsamic glaze (optional)
- Heat a frying pan or skillet over medium heat and add chopped bacon. Cook until it becomes crispy, then remove it from the pan and set it aside.
- In the same pan, add a bit of olive oil and the halved Brussels sprouts. Season with salt and pepper.
- Sauté the Brussels sprouts until they are tender and slightly caramelized, about 10-15 minutes.
- Mix in the cooked bacon and drizzle with balsamic glaze if desired before serving.
- Stuffing: Stuffing adds flavour and texture to your meal, and you can make it with various ingredients. Some popular options are sausage meat, sage and onion, chestnut and cranberry, or apricot and almond. You can either stuff it inside the bird or cook it separately in a baking dish or as balls. If you’re making it from scratch, use fresh breadcrumbs and herbs for the best results.
- Pigs in blankets: These are sausages wrapped in bacon, and they’re a favourite among kids and adults alike. They’re easy to make – just wrap a rasher of streaky bacon around each sausage and secure it with a cocktail stick. Then bake them in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. You can also make vegetarian versions with halloumi cheese or veggie sausages.
- Cranberry sauce: This sweet and tangy sauce is a must-have for turkey lovers. It adds a burst of colour and flavour to your plate, and it’s very simple to make at home. All you need are fresh or frozen cranberries, sugar, water, and some orange zest and juice. Simmer everything in a saucepan until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens. You can also add some spices like cinnamon or nutmeg for extra warmth.
Other side dishes you might want to try are honey-roasted carrots and parsnips, creamy cauliflower cheese, braised red cabbage, mashed potato, bread sauce, gravy and Yorkshire puddings.
We also have an article featuring 16 unusual side dishes for your feast.
And don’t forget that many people love crisp Yorkshire puddings for the big day – thankfully, we have an article offering nine cracking recipe ideas that work!
Top 5 Christmas dinner recipes! Donal Skehan
We love this video because there are some great ideas for Christmas dinner side dishes that are easy to make – and look great!
Donal does an impressive job with Brussels sprouts with bacon and pecan nuts, and roasted carrots with herby butter and parmesan parsnips.
He also dishes up cranberry sausage rolls and for dessert, there is a tasty chocolate trifle.
His main courses for the big day include roast turkey and cola Christmas ham. (You can try a similar offering from Nigella Lawson we feature here).
The parmesan parsnips are a sure-fire winner since they are coated in polenta to create a crispy coating.
Menu ideas for Christmas Day dinner meals
Sometimes it is difficult to picture what side dishes will work best with a particular main course. Here, the Christmas.co.uk team offer some great ideas!
For example, if you go down the traditional Christmas dinner choice of roast turkey with stuffing, then consider these side dishes:
- Roast potatoes with rosemary
- Brussels sprouts with bacon
- Honey-glazed carrots
- Creamy mashed potatoes
- Rich turkey gravy
- Dessert: Christmas pudding with brandy butter or custard.
If you haven’t done so already, check out our rosemary roast potatoes recipe above.
Alternatively, you may be opting for a vegetarian or vegan main course, or delivering one if there are a few vegan guests. You could consider:
- Main course: Stuffed butternut squash or Portobello mushrooms
- Herb-roasted root vegetables
- Garlic parmesan green beans
- Creamy spinach and mushroom gratin
- Wild mushroom gravy
Dessert – Vegan Chocolate Yule log
We love the Vegan Chocolate Yule log and below is our tried and tested creation: One of the big attractions is if you are catering for a wide range of culinary needs of dinner guests. You won’t have to make two separate desserts – a win-win for a busy host/hostess.
This is an easy dessert to make and will hit the spot after a lively Christmas dinner!
- 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more), chopped
- 150g caster sugar
- 4 tbsp aquafaba (chickpea brine) – (Aquafaba is made mainly from chickpea water and resembles egg whites because of its colour. It can also be a liquid from cooking legumes or from tins containing legumes such as peas, lentils and beans).
- 100g plain flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 300g dairy-free chocolate ganache (made from dark chocolate and coconut milk)
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan/gas mark 4) and use parchment paper for lining a baking tray.
- Use a microwave or a heatproof bowl over simmering water for melting the dark chocolate. Let it cool slightly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the aquafaba until it forms stiff peaks.
- Gradually add the sugar to the aquafaba, continuing to whisk until glossy.
- Gently fold in the melted chocolate.
- Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder, then fold them into the mixture.
- Pour the batter onto the prepared baking tray and spread it evenly.
- Bake for about 12-15 minutes until the cake is firm but still springy to the touch.
- While the cake is still warm, roll it up with a clean tea towel and let it cool completely.
- Unroll the cake, spread a layer of chocolate ganache over it, then roll it up again.
- Decorate with more ganache and any festive decorations you like.
Traditional Christmas dinner desserts
Everyone loves a tasty treat at the end of their meal. Even if you are several courses into your Christmas dinner, a tried and tested dessert will round things off nicely. Here are some ideas for you to consider.
- Christmas pudding: This is a rich and fruity steamed pudding that’s traditionally served on Christmas Day. It’s made with dried fruits, nuts, spices, suet, breadcrumbs, eggs and brandy. It’s usually prepared weeks or months in advance and stored in a cool place until ready to reheat and serve. To serve it, you can pour some brandy over it and set it alight for a dramatic effect. Then top it with some custard, cream or brandy butter.
This Christmas.co.uk Christmas pudding offering is a tasty treat – and easy to create:
- 175g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 175g suet (vegetable or beef)
- 175g soft dark brown sugar
- 175g breadcrumbs
- 175g mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- 150ml milk
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
- A splash of brandy (optional)
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, mixed spice, suet, sugar, breadcrumbs, and dried fruit.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, treacle, milk, zest, and juice.
- Combine the wet and dry mixtures, adding a splash of brandy if desired.
- Grease a pudding basin and fill it with the mixture.
- Cover with a double layer of greased parchment paper and aluminium foil, securing it with string.
- Steam the pudding for 4-6 hours.
- To serve, reheat the pudding by steaming for an additional 1-2 hours and serve with brandy butter or custard.
- Trifle: This is a layered dessert that consists of sponge cake soaked in sherry or fruit juice, custard, whipped cream, and fruit or jelly. You can make it with shop-bought ingredients or make your own from scratch. You can also vary the flavours according to your preference. Some popular combinations are chocolate and cherry, raspberry and almond, or tropical fruits.
Yule log: This is a chocolate sponge cake rolled up with whipped cream or buttercream filling and covered with chocolate ganache or frosting. It’s shaped and decorated to look like a log of wood, complete with a bark-like texture and dusted with icing sugar for snow. You can also add some meringue mushrooms, holly leaves, or berries for extra festive decoration. See the recipe above to create your own version.
- Mince pies: These are small pastry cases filled with mincemeat, which is a mixture of dried fruits, spices, suet, sugar and brandy. They’re usually baked in muffin tins and topped with pastry lids or stars. They’re best served warm with some cream or ice cream.
Christmas.co.uk top tip: We would recommend mince pies – but the deep filled ones from a bakery and not a supermarket for your after-dinner delight. With a spoon or two of luxury ice cream, this dessert might just hit the spot!
Other desserts you might want to try are pavlova, chocolate tart, cheesecake, gingerbread cake or the trusted staple, apple pie.
Great tips for Christmas dinner side dishes and desserts
If you’re new to cooking Christmas dinner side dishes and desserts, here are some tips to help you out:
- Plan ahead: Make a list of all the dishes you want to make and the ingredients you need. Check what you already have in your food cupboards and fridge and buy the rest in advance. You can also prepare some dishes ahead of time and freeze them or leave them in the fridge until needed. For example, you can make the stuffing, cranberry sauce and desserts a few days before and reheat or assemble them on the day.
- Use shortcuts: If you don’t have the time or energy to make everything from scratch, you can use some ready-made ingredients or products. For example, you can buy frozen roast potatoes, pre-prepared vegetables, ready-made pastry or cake mixes. You can also use some kitchen gadgets like a microwave, slow cooker or air fryer to speed up the cooking process.
- Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family or friends. You can delegate some tasks to them, such as peeling potatoes, chopping vegetables, stirring sauces, or setting the table. You can also ask them to bring some dishes or drinks to share the load.
- Don’t overcomplicate: While it’s tempting to go all out, remember that simplicity can be just as impressive. Choose a few side dishes and desserts that you’re confident in making and that will complement your main course.
- Have fun: Cooking Christmas dinner side dishes and desserts can be a lot of fun if you enjoy the process and don’t stress too much about the outcome. Play some festive music, sip some wine, and chat with your loved ones while you cook. Remember that it’s not about perfection, but about sharing a delicious meal with the people you care about.