Since I posted my suggestions for Thanksgiving menu planning last month, I have had several requests for a similar post for Christmas dinner ideas. I’m certainly happy to provide some inspiration, but Christmas Eve and Christmas day menus vary far more widely from family to family. Some have a very traditional holiday meal with a spread similar to Thanksgiving. If that’s the case for you, I’ll simply refer you back to that Thanksgiving post. If you are looking for something a bit different, I’ve put together a handful of menu suggestions.

The menu pictured above is pretty similar to what we will be having this year. Cabernet braised short ribs with orecchiette are a perfect splurge of a main dish, and have the added bonus of making your house smell absolutely incredible. We made this last year for Christmas Eve and it will likely be our traditional meal for many years to come. The rest of the menu is simple and can be mostly made ahead: sparkling cranberry brie bites, massaged kale Caesar salad, and caramel toffee cheesecake bars for dessert.

Scallops are one of my go-to special occasion meals, so the using them for a special holiday meal is a natural choice. These seared scallops with garlic chili butter are wonderful, but these caramelized scallops are equally fabulous. Start out with a minimalistic cheese board including pear riesling compote and crackers. Serve with garlic rice pilaf and baked spinach, and finish with glazed cranberry lemon cake for dessert.

With the cold weather holidays, my mind always goes straight to comfort food. This menu is comfort food central, featuring baked chicken parmesan meatballs in a tomato cream sauce. (Skillet eggplant parmesan would be a similar option if you are looking for a meatless meal.) Start out with a crostini trio, serve alongside classic Caesar salad, and finish with a stunning chocolate candy cane cake for dessert.

Pot pie is another one of those foods that feels both comforting yet slightly celebratory to me. Veggie pot pies with feta scallion biscuits are pictured above, but chicken pot pie with biscuit crumble topping is another great option. Since pot pie is so filling, I usually keep sides minimal. I recommend a simple dip and assorted veggies, such as this kale pesto white bean dip. Sticky toffee pudding is the ultimate dessert of the comfort food genre for me and always a wonderful way to end a meal.

In my family, Christmas has never been much of a food holiday. We do not have a fancy, organized meal. I love the idea of an uber casual pizza party with a simple yet irresistible parmesan crusted goat cheese with basil oil to start and brownies for dessert (salted caramel are my fave but peppermint brownies would be a perfect seasonal option for all you mint lovers out there.) Choose a few different topping options for the pies – my personal favorite is fancified pizza margherita but there are just so many possibilities to choose from!

In our family, brunch is the big meal of Christmas day and I love it that way. I’m not including a comprehensive brunch menu but instead sharing a few of my favorite items to contribute to a brunch. These include cranberry orange cinnamon rolls, gingerbread doughnut muffins, sweet potato scones with maple cinnamon butter, apple cinnamon baked oatmeal, chocolate swirl buns, and baked eggnog french toast.

I hope you find this useful in your menu planning this week. I’d love to hear what you will be making or what your family food traditions are.

  • Melissa Brooker

    i love this post! I come from a family where Christmas dinner is almost the same as Thanksgiving, the usual turkey, green bean casserole (i now use your recipe) etc..spent with my Dad’s side of the family. Christmas Eve is spent with my mom’s side and is an informal party, everyone contributes a snack type food, and there is lots of wine, laughing and fun. so for me, there’s not much planning to do,but i love all of your suggestions!

    I always love hearing about other people’s holiday traditions!

  • Amber

    Aah! I’m so excited you posted this– I was hoping you would to give me some inspiration in what to make! We have made it a tradition to have your eggnog casserole as a brunch (I serve it with blackberry sauce) dish, along with sausage and fruit, and later on in the day we celebrate Christmas and Christ’s birth with your candy cane (birthday) cake! But this year, I’m having company for two meals and needed to figure out what else to serve! So thankful for your ideas! Merry Christmas, Annie!

  • Diana

    I love hearing about others’ traditions too! We always do a big dinner with my immediate family but always the weekend before or after Christmas. We are just now starting to have Christmas mornings at home with just my husband, son (21 mos), and myself. This year we’re doing cinnamon rolls, sausage, and baked apples and I think that basic menu will be a Christmas morning tradition. I’d like to do a Christmas dinner for us to but with naptime and stopping at both sets of parents’ houses…I don’t think it’s realistic for us yet!

    Thanks for putting this all together! Merry Christmas!

  • Joni Woods

    Thank you! This is perfect!

  • Emily @ Life on Food

    Oh my goodness I want each and every one of them.

  • Keeta

    Great post! Nice idea to combine into suggested meals. I’ve made the chicken parm meatballs and they are indeed delicious and very moist. Those brownies look so good too.

    My mom still does Christmas dinner, but the past few years my husband and I have taken to roasting a leg of lamb for friends the week before Christmas. The best part normally ends up being the root vegetables that roast underneath the lamb and get covered in delicious lamb drippings… yum.

  • Melissa Vasquez

    Typical Italian seafood feast- crab sauce pasta, fresh crab, fried shrimp and squid, oysters. Yum.

  • Kristin

    I was thrilled to see this as I needed a few more ideas to finish my meal planning for the week. We made the short ribs yesterday…delicious! Thank you so much!!

  • Cheryl Duss

    I’ve just realized one important thing about your website, Annie. Your pictures are so fantastic that one should never view these on an empty stomach (for instance, first thing in the morning while sipping my coffee), because these pictures look so scrumptious that you want to eat them all, and they make you very hungry. Everything looks so yummy!

  • Natalie Webster

    I totally agree, Christmas menus do seem to vary a lot from family to family. For us, what we make tends to vary quite a bit with the exception of two absolute staples: homemade yeast cinnamon rolls in the morning and lobster stuffed beef tenderloin during the big meal. What decadence. So perfect for Christmas. Merry Christmas, Annie!

  • annieseats

    Cheryl, thank you so so much for this sweet comment. I work hard to take good photos of the food because we eat with our eyes first and I want to be sure that the photos do the recipes justice. So happy to hear you think I am succeeding in this!

  • freya gamlen

    Coming from the UK it’s so weird to think you’d have anything other than roast dinner on Christmas day! We’ll be having roast turkey, roast potatoes, roasted carrots and parnsips, braised red cabbage, steamed green cabbage and brussel sprouts, all covered with plenty of gravy! And going off piste with sticky toffee pudding as well as Christmas pudding for pudding! I can’t imagine anything else, but all these menus look beautiful. Have a very Merry Christmas :)

  • I think I’m just going to make all of these menus all winter long and keep the celebratory Christmas spirit alive!