Looking for nontraditional Christmas dinner ideas? You’ve come to the right place. I took this assignment very seriously and rounded up 70 recipes that will surprise—and satisfy—your guests (promise). There’s something for everyone, including plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. From appetizers to main courses and sides, plus plenty of sweet finishers, these holiday dishes make the expected, unexpected.
If you’re hosting an intimate Christmas dinner, cook short ribs in an Instant Pot. The multi-cooker makes prepping dinner a breeze, so you can actually spend time in the living room enjoying the company of your guests. A crunchy seaweed breadcrumb topping makes this preparation of short ribs a little less than traditional, but entirely comforting and special.
Want to know the secret to cooking a delicious Christmas dinner? A slow-cooker! Why? Because you can set it in the morning or early afternoon, throw everything in a pot, and away you go, back to the present opening. This sweet and smoky pork shoulder is ready to serve a crowd, and pairs best with a comforting side dish like polenta, roasted butternut squash, or not-boring green beans.
This isn’t stromboli, but it’s stromboli-inspired, which is reason enough to serve it for Christmas. Oh, and it’s vegetarian too! Start by making the dough, which is made with a combination of semolina and all-purpose flour; once it’s fully mixed, kneaded, and has risen, roll it out into a rectangle and fill it with tomato sauce, thinly sliced white onion, provolone cheese, and fresh basil.
Lasagna is a traditional Christmas dinner recipe (or, in my family, Christmas Eve) but what makes it less-traditional for a holiday meal is adding layers of homemade pesto with any greens that you have on hand (Kale! Swiss chard! Basil! Parsley!) and white beans in place of a ground meat blend.
Some people like sweets for dessert, and others prefer a nice glass of port with a selection of cheeses. This cheesier-than-ever cheesecake offers the best of both worlds for a not-so-traditional Christmas dessert.
There are a couple things that make this green bean casserole recipe less than traditional. For starters, you may want to serve this as a side dish for a holiday dinner that isn’t Thanksgiving (the audacity!). But there’s also a dairy-free cream of mushroom soup that’s entirely made from scratch using cashew cream and mixed ’shrooms .
These are not not traditional, but they’re no Parker House Dinner Rolls. There’s garlic powder in the dough and both fresh and powdered garlic in the herb butter.
Quick-pickled red onions, crumbled feta, sautéed broccoli, and smashed castelvetrano olives are a surefire way to get your guests to care about a farro side dish.
Pasta is not just for weeknight dinners (say it louder for the people in the back). When you combine a pasta shape as special as garganelli with poached lobster and a creamy fennel sauce, it instantly becomes worthy of a holiday meal.
Even if you want to serve a non-traditional dinner menu, we know that you don’t really want to forgo serving mashed potatoes, just for the sake of being different. So why not make the side dish that everyone knows and loves but with a snack food twist?
Move aside apple crisp! Come November and on, we’re all about consuming cranberries in every form, particularly if they’re baked with an equal amount of brown sugar streusel topping.
Fork-tender pot roast for Christmas isn’t all that exciting or inventive. But pot roast with 40 cloves of garlic inspired by the classic chicken dish—now that’s something to talk about!
Surprise guests with deviled eggs that are far from the same old, same old. For starters, the whipped yolk filling is made with Greek yogurt instead of mayo and a whole host of earthy spices like caraway, cumin, and coriander seeds. A smoky tomato jam (which you can make in advance!) is the unexpected final flourish.
14. Lobster Diavolo
Lobster and plump Roma tomatoes sound like the soundtrack to summer, which is maybe why I, and recipe developer Merilll Stubbs, adore serving it in December for a holiday dish.
There’s no real cheese in these friendly bars; just lots and lots and lots of real coconut flavor (and a little bit of maple syrup for good measure, too. After all, it is the holidays!).
Is this the most “out there” Christmas side dish on this list? No. But is it the most delicious? Quite possibly, yes!
Somewhere in between bolognese sauce and pulled pork is this absolutely perfect (pork-fect?) ragu that we love to serve with a bold pasta noodle like pappardelle for an impressive Christmas main course that won’t have you begging for mercy from the kitchen gods.
What makes this side dish stand out among more traditional casseroles and gratins is, yes, the use of broccoli rabe, but also the fact that the recipe only calls for three ingredients total (plus salt and pepper).
For dessert, or a quick hostess gift, homemade chocolate bark has some serious heat.
Whether you drink it on its own, or use it as a replacement for oat or almond milk in coffee, this subtly spiced beverage is a delicious addition to any holiday spread.
21. Corn Cake
“Think of it as a cross between buttered cornbread and yellow layer cake—perfect for a birthday or just-because party or bad day,” writes Emma Laperruque. As an ode to everyone’s favorite holiday side dish—corn bread—we also think it’s quite lovely as a Christmas dessert, too.
For some reason, beef bourguignon never quite makes it to the center of the dinner table. Maybe you think it’s too fussy or too French (is there such a thing?) or too vintage (again, is there such a thing?). This year, we’re embracing the unconventional with one modern twist: cooking this classic beef stew in an Instant Pot!
Looking for an easy recipe to kick off your Christmas feast? Instead of the usual shrimp cocktail, cook this fiery scampi-inspired sauté, which comes together in just five minutes.
Think outside of the box this year! “This ice cream steals all the best flavors—molasses, ginger, punchy-warm spices—from holiday cakes and cookies,” writes Food Editor Emma Laperruque.
25. Potato Croutons
They’re the secret to a salad that everyone will actually want to eat.
This Eastern European dish is traditionally made with chicken, but for a new classic, swap in an entire head of cauliflower instead.
The very best of every Christmas pie is the filling. Here, halved fresh pears are roasted with maple syrup, apple cider, fresh lemon juice, and ground cardamom for a warm and cozy dessert.
"The cake crust is thick yet so soft it gives away easily as you sink your spoon inside. Underneath lies a pool of chocolate gold produced by what can only be called magic and is flecked with crumbly pieces of sesame halva–a dense Middle Eastern candy. This is best served as soon as it exits the oven, while the chocolate sauce is still swimming. And if you’ve had a really bad day, add a scoop of ice cream for good measure,” writes recipe developer Benjamina Ebuehi.
The things that make this cheesecake dessert non-traditional are the things that make it one of our favorite holiday recipes: it’s no-bake and is served in individual portions, making it easier than ever to entertain.
“Sauteed, roasted, mashed, casserole-d, marshmallow-topped—the possibilities are endless for these two ingredients,” writes Assigning Editor Rebecca Firkser. This time around, she let the flavor of in-season vegetables shine and only dressed them up with lemony tahini sauce.
Your new, go-to method for cooking roast chicken involves spatchcocking (it’s not as scandalous as it sounds). To do this, butterfly the bird and flatten its backbone; doing so will allow the meat to cook in half the time for an easier-than-ever Christmas meal.
You’ve heard of flourless cake, and you’ve surely heard of pecan pie. But have you ever heard of a three-ingredient cake that gives you two desserts in the form of one epic finish for your Christmas dinner?
“Sometimes, salads are just a way to eat more cheese. Bring on the feta crumbles, goat cheese blobs, and pecorino shards. This dressing cuts to the chase with lots of ground parmesan, chock-full of umami,” writes Food Editor Emma Laperruque of this winter-ready salad.
Listen, I love packaged crescent rolls as much as the next person but sometimes, you want a little something more. How about these savory dinner rolls, in which the dough is taken to the next level with cottage cheese and chopped chives?
The flavors of roast pork—fennel seeds, black pepper, chile flakes, oregano, rosemary, and garlic—are rubbed all over a spatchcocked chicken for a centerpiece-worthy bread.
This isn’t just a big bowl of greens. There’s wild rice, maple-glazed roasted sweet potatoes, toasted almonds, dried cranberries, thinly shaved cheddar, and a zesty balsamic vinaigrette.
No stand mixer here! This moist, nutty cake with a raspberry-rippled whipped cream is prepared in a food processor. Plus, the subtle green cake and pink-speckled cream are Christmasy.
A bowl of beef stew can take the chill off even the most wintery day. This one employs tangy Dijon mustard to unite all the other ingredients—beef chuck, onions, mushrooms, carrots, and tomatoes. Our editors recommend serving it with mashed potatoes or crusty bread, a green salad, and a bottle of full-bodied red wine, say our editors.
“Highlighting winter fruits like pomegranate and citrus, and warming spices ginger and cardamom, results in a bold-flavored and brightly colored compote that will add warmth and cheer to any grey winter day,” says recipe developer Amy Chaplin. Use it to top cheesecake, porridge, or even as an accoutrement to a roast turkey or pork tenderloin.
Frankly, I’m always team crisp or crumble over pie. You get all the same delicious spiced fruit flavors with way less fuss and precision.
With just as much meatiness and might as a beef stew, this vegan mushroom braise is cozy and satisfying. Oh, and its aroma will immediately invite your guests into the kitchen and say “what’s cooking, good looking?”
No one would expect to be served chicken wings on Christmas, even as an appetizer, but a pomegranate glaze makes them feel like just the thing your feast was missing all along.
Stuffing (or, technically dressing since it’s cooked outside the bird) doesn’t always need to be made with Italian sausage, apples, cranberries, and any other popular wintery mix-ins. Change it up with this umami-blasted version that gets a serious savory edge from roasted nori, nutritional yeast, a lot of garlic, and two kinds of mushrooms.
If there’s one holiday dessert that’s a total showstopper, it’s Croquembouche. But if there’s one holiday dessert guaranteed to cause you blood, sweat, and tears, it’s Croquembouche. This sheet-pan version is manageable enough that any home baker can tackle it for Christmas.
A standing rib roast always has a wow factor, but when it’s glazed with classic Korean ingredients like gochugaru (red pepper powder) and toasted sesame oil, it may very well become the best thing you ever made.
On the American Christmas dinner table, there’s often a sweet potato side dish (maybe it’s roasted, maybe it’s mashed, or maybe it’s puréed) and there’s spiked eggnog too. But you know what there never, ever is? A crowd-friendly dessert that combines the two into one treat. Until now, that is.
We are so over hearing that no one likes fruitcake. We know that isn’t true because you, our readers, voted this recipe the best holiday confection on Food52.
“Imagine your favorite potato chip flavor—sour cream & chive—meets an ultra silky, buttery take on mashed potatoes,” writes recipe developer Olivia Mack McCool. But then, it gets even better. They’re not mashed or riced or smashed—they’re blended!
A vegetarian gratin that doubles as a main dish or a side? We’re listening.
Start your morning with the spiced rolls that rival the satisfying sweetness of cinnamon rolls. You can make the dough on Christmas Eve (because you’ve got downtime, right?) and then shape and bake the rolls while the children are still nestled all snug in their beds.
For a non-traditional but entirely welcome take on the English classic, swap in mushrooms and lentils in place of the usual ground beef or lamb mixture.
Recipe developer Emanuelle Lee writes “marinating chicken in a mixture of Marmite, honey, vinegar, and olive oil makes for a delicious roast dinner, especially atop lemony crispy potatoes.”
A rosti is shredded potato pancake that’s a little bit like a giant latke, which is as good as it sounds. Instead of russets and onions, use sweet potatoes and apples for a nontraditional take. Put it down for an appetizer, turn your back for one minute to pour a mug of mulled cider, and when you turn around, it’ll be gone.
So you want to serve a salad, but once that feels special and doesn’t resemble a haphazard WFH lunch. This fantastically festive array of pickled radishes, endives, purple radicchio, watermelon radishes, and apples should do the trick.
“Featuring cooked and raw Brussels sprouts, bright and sweet pomegranate seeds, caramelized shallots, and toasted sweet and salty pepitas, this salad is a visually appealing and deeply flavorful side dish to serve at any Thanksgiving or holiday dinner,” writes recipe developer Murielle Banackissa.
Mahshi is the general term for stuffed vegetables and here, white onions are filled with a combination of dark ground chicken, basmati rice, pine nuts, spices, tomato paste, and pomegranate molasses.
Good-quality goat cheese doesn’t need much accessorizing, but it’s the holiday season so we’re going all out with crispy prosciutto, pomegranate seeds, and fresh thyme.
There’s a blast of flavor from gochugaru, pickled jalapeños, Mexican-style cheese, prepared kimchi, and anchovies in this revamped gratin.
Order up! This colorful, textural salad has every spicy, briny, creamy element you could imagine—there’s Castelvetrano olives, fennel salami, mortadella, provolone, pepperoncini, cucumbers, and Little Gem lettuce.
In my wildest dreams, I could never have created a dessert so beautiful and fragrant for the holidays. Of course, leave it to Martha to bake one.
If I had it my way, snowflakes would be made of Parmigiano Reggiano and we’d all be filling our bookshelves with cheese globes. Unfortunately, expectations are often different from reality, but this fennel dish topped with cheesy breadcrumbs is pretty close.
My fiancé's big Italian family will expect to see a huge antipasto spread for Christmas. In fact, it’s kind of a requirement. But we don’t think they’ll be too upset with this grain salad.
63. Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd’s pie isn’t exactly a traditional Christmas dinner, but it hits the spot on a cold December night (ideally with a backdrop of falling snow), so there’s really no reason not to serve it.
Brinda Ayer, Food52’s director of content, knows that there are plenty of home cooks in search of a meatless main course that carnivores will enjoy too. “The secret is in the flavor-rich filling: Meaty mushrooms meld with mellow miso and savory herbs, then splash around with a bit of white wine and vegetable stock,” she says.
No one will ever expect braised fennel to be the star of the show on Christmas Day (and they definitely won’t expect it to taste as good as it does).
No one—and we mean absolutely no one—will be upset to see that the usual chocolate crinkle cookies have gotten one very merry upgrade.
No one would be surprised to hear that there’s Brussels sprouts on the Christmas menu this year, but this time, they come in the form of a luxurious soup and are topped with more crispy sprouts and bacon.
What’s old is new again. Baked brie feels very '90s and honestly, we’re okay with that. Sweet-spiced apples and glazed pecans give it festive flair.
All of your Christmas cooking conundrums—what to feed for a crowd, I don’t have enough oven space, how do I time my meal properly—can be solved with a slow-cooker.
Out of all the recipes on Food52—all of them!—this one was voted your favorite recipe starring butter, so you know it’s going to be good.