Arts & Culture

Everything you wanted to know about British Christmas dinner

There’s no better time to be British than Christmas Day, when the main event is a feast of roasted meats, mashed and crispy roast spuds, plus an array of vegetables and treats saved as an annual treat.

But what is about this dinner that we Brits cherish so much? And what can truly be considered the British Christmas dinner? Let’s answer those questions and a few more. You’ll certainly pick some tips to spruce up your British Christmas dinner.

What are the best British Christmas dinner foods?

Of course, we all have our different tastes, but there are plenty of Christmas treats that make a traditional Christmas dinner extra special.

The traditional dinner usually features turkey with stuffing, veggies like carrots, parsnips, turnips and sprouts with a hearty helping of mashed and roast potatoes. And, of course, we like a healthy dose of gravy. For dessert, the staples include apple or pumpkin pie, fruitcake and – of course – Christmas pudding. Some of our favourite Christmas dinner treats include:


There’s no tastier way to eat Turkey than with stuffing. Rather than cram an entire Turkey full of stuffing, put some sausage and chestnut in one end and sage and onion in the other. This avoids the risk of undercooking and results in a flavour that everybody will love.

Turkey soup

Turkey soup is a way to make the most of your leftover turkey. Simply boil the turkey – bones ‘n all – with a bit of barley and any vegetables you have to lie around. Keep the heat low and let the water simmer rather than scorch.

Christmas pudding

The Christmas pudding comes in many forms, with some families having recipes handed down through the generations. But these festive desserts usually consist of either raisins or plums with plain flour, eggs, butter, a hint of cognac or brandy, plus a variety of fruits. They’re available just about everywhere, and they never disappoint.

Bubble and squeak

Bubble and squeak can be enjoyed throughout the year, but Christmas presents a big opportunity to make it in abundance with the leftovers from the feast. Mash your leftover spuds and veggies into a burger-style patty and fry until it’s brown. Many people like to add a fried egg to the mix and enjoy it as a Boxing Day breakfast.

Is ham a traditional British Christmas dinner food?

Many Brits enjoy ham on Christmas Day, and many wholeheartedly agree that is a staple of the day’s meal. However, while many people love to accompany their meal with a joint of ham, the most popular meat is Turkey, debatably followed by pork (especially the yummy bacon-wrapped sausages we call ‘pigs in blankets’).

But it’s far from rare for the ham to be served alongside both, and the leftovers are often eaten cold as a Boxing Day treat.

Which vegetables should you use to make a traditional British Christmas dinner?

While every household has its take on what vegetables make a British Christmas dinner, most people serve the classics: plenty of roast and mashed potatoes (if you count them as veggies), boiled or roasted parsnips, carrots, cauliflower cheese, boiled new potatoes and peas.

Other common veggies in a Christmas dinner include broccoli and red cabbage. But one thing that features on just about every menu is brussels sprouts. Love them or hate them, brussels sprouts are not optional when it comes to the annual festivities in Britain. You can make sprouts tastier by adding blue cheese, bacon or chestnuts.

Can you make a traditional British Christmas dinner in a slow cooker?

You could make some ingredients for the traditional British Christmas dinner in a slow cooker. Turkeys and pot roasts, for example, can be cooked in a slow cooker, but the taste might not be quite to everybody’s expectations. You won’t get the crispy outer skin from a conventional oven.

You could also make sides such as brussels sprouts in a slow cooker, though most Brits would not consider it very traditional. If there’s one thing you can’t cook in a slow cooker, it’s the roasties. Roast potatoes need to be soft in the middle but as crispy as possible on the outside. A slow cooker simply can’t produce that staple of the dish.

All you really need to cook a traditional British Christmas dinner is an oven and a stove top, especially if you’re only catering to a few this year. Oven for the meat, roast potatoes and – if you like – Yorkshire puddings, and stove top for the mash, veggies and gravy.

How long does it take to make a Christmas pudding?

Some people make their Christmas puddings over two days, preparing the ingredients on the first day before chilling overnight and cooking for up to 12 hours on the next day. However, it’s possible to make a basic Christmas pudding within a few hours if you’re rushed off your feet. And one of the simplest methods doesn’t even require scales.

You’ll need a full cup of the following ingredients: raisins, sultanas, self-raising flour, grated butter, brown breadcrumbs, sugar, and chopped mixed nuts. Mix all that into a 1.5l pudding bowl with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a teaspoon of mixed spices, a large egg and a cup of milk.

Then, cover the bowl with foil, add a touch of water and steam for about two and a half hours. It’s a simple recipe that serves up to ten people, and you can chill the puddings overnight if you want to prepare them beforehand. Or, you can freeze them for up to three weeks.

Why do British people eat turkey on Christmas day?

It seems odd that Brits can go the entire year without eating roast turkey, but it’s expected on Christmas Day. The tradition of feasting on Turkey for the festive season became popularised during the 16th century, when – as rumour has it – monarchs like Henry VIII made it famous. Before the 16th century, most people ate goose, boar’s head, or even peacock on Christmas Day.

If you’d like to experience a real British Christmas for yourself, make sure you take a look at our Christmas and Boxing Day Tours. There’s tons of exciting stuff on there, so treat yourself to an early Christmas present.