Are you looking for Christmas dinner menu ideas? There are countless variations of Christmas dinners around the globe, but no two menus look exactly alike. Some families prefer to serve their family and friends a buffet style meal, while others opt for a sit down. Regardless of whether you choose a formal or casual setting, you’ll want to plan ahead to ensure you’re holiday meal prep is stress-free.

Table of Contents
  1. What to make for Christmas Dinner
  2. Classic (Formal) Christmas Dinner
  3. Casual Christmas Dinner Recipes
  4. Buffet Christmas Dinner Menu
  5. Intimate Christmas Menu
  6. Vegetarian Christmas Menu
  7. Easy Christmas Recipes FAQs

What to make for Christmas Dinner

I’ve compiled a collection of over 30 delicious dishes for you to choose from for your Christmas dinner. All are easy to prepare, and many can be made ahead, too. I’ve included appetizers, cocktails, main courses, sides and desserts. They’re perfect for every occasion, from casual get-togethers to formal dinners. These time-tested, easy Christmas recipes will surely leave your friends and family both satisfied and impressed!

For easy planning, I’ve organized the recipes into five menus – 4 are based around the setting, 1 on diet:

  • Classic (Formal) Christmas Dinner
  • Casual Christmas Dinner Recipes
  • Buffet Christmas Dinner Menu
  • Intimate Christmas Menu
  • Vegetarian Christmas Menu

Enjoy!

Classic (Formal) Christmas Dinner

The holidays are a time for celebration, and sometimes that calls for a more formal, sit down dinner. While easy to prepare, these 7 distinctive recipes will set an elegant, festive tone and make your friends and family feel special.

rectangular white platter filled with 5 Shrimp Curry Bites; dip in a bowl in the background

Curry Shrimp Appetizer Recipe

Scrumptious Shrimp Curry Bites are not your everyday shrimp appetizer – and they’re the perfect new finger food to serve at your next gathering. These bite-size wonders are easy to prepare ahead, elegant, colorful on the plate, and bursting with flavor!

lemon ginger bourbon cocktail over ice in a glass, garnished with a lemon slice

Ginger Lemon Whiskey Drink

Bourbon cocktail mixed with a rosemary-infused honey simple syrup, lemon juice, and ginger. YUM!

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette pouring out of a white pitcher

Salad with Pear and Goat Cheese

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad is perfect for fall and winter months. Crisp, fresh greens are topped with slices of juicy, sweet pears, crumbles of tangy goat cheese, candied walnuts and dried cranberries. It’s finished off with a walnut vinaigrette that’s super quick to prepare with only 3 ingredients!

whole roasted beef tenderloin with a few slices in front and sauce on the side

Oven Roast Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish-Mustard Sauce

Slow roasted beef tenderloin is an elegant, impressive main dish that’s surprisingly easy to prepare. With a tender (cut-with-a-fork) buttery texture, beef tenderloin is a mild cut of beef with minimal fat. And, when slow roasted, it’s evenly cooked and moist inside with a slightly crispy crust. It pairs well with this Horseradish Mustard Sauce on the side.

Mashed Potatoes with Parsley and Chives

Mashed Potatoes with Chives and Parsley are comfort food at its best. Creamy, smooth and flavorful, with a bit of color, too.

Oval white dish filled with Lemon-Dijon Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

Lemon-Dijon Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

Lemon-Dijon Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots is an easy and impressive side dish that pairs with most entrées and is perfect for buffets, potlucks or picnics.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

Sticky Toffee Pudding is a scrumptious cake spiked with dates and served with an amazing toffee-flavored sauce. Easy to prepare, the cake can be prepared up to one month ahead, the sauce earlier the day of serving. Super delicious!!

Casual Christmas Dinner Recipes

A casual get together can be just as memorable as a formal dinner. For this menu I’m providing two different main dishes for you to pick from – one seafood, one meat. Again, all of these dishes can be prepared ahead and collectively they create a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Onion Parmesan Toasts on white platter

Onion Parmesan Toasts

Onion Parmesan Toasts are the perfect, from-your-pantry/frig appetizer to serve at your next gathering!

Perfect-sidecar-cocktail-recipe

Perfect Sidecar Drink Recipe

A Sidecar Martini are both delicious and deceptively easy to prepare, calling for only three ingredients. There are a few tricks to preparing them properly, including using top quality brandy and cointreau, as well as correctly balancing the sweet and sour aspects.

Scoop of crab and shrimp lasagna above dish

Seafood Lasagna

Seafood Lasagna – creamy, cheesy deliciousness that’s super easy to prepare with no-boil lasagna noodles. Cooked shrimp and crabmeat are combined with a mushroom and vermouth spiked sauce, layered with a ricotta-cream cheese mixture and lasagna noodles, and baked. Super flavorful, super delicious!

blue pie dish filled with Tourtiere

Tourtière – Meat and Potato Pie

Sautéed pork, onions, turkey and mashed potatoes flavored with garlic, thyme, sage and spices are the flavorful filling in this delicious double-crust pie. Comfort food at its best!

Lemon Dijon Dressed Baby Spinach Salad Recipe

Prepared with eggs and fresh herbs, this Baby Spinach Salad is a light, easy to prepare starter or side dish. A tangy Lemon Dijon Dressing keeps it bright and fresh.

Pecan Chocolate Toffee Bars

From “Fresh Tastes from A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®” by Lee Clayton Roper

green ruffled plate filled with Grandma Clayton's Sand Tarts

Pecan Snowball Cookies (Inspired by Grandma Clayton’s Sand Tarts)

These cookies are the perfect dessert for any outdoor BBQ or picnic because you won’t have to worry about them melting the second they’re outside.

close up of a martini glass holding a portion of Frozen Brandy Alexander cocktail

Frozen Brandy Alexander with Ice Cream

Frozen Brandy Alexanders with Ice Cream are a memorable, fun and elegant dessert that I’ve been making for years. Traditional brandy Alexander ingredients of brandy and creme de cacao are turned into into a frosty milkshake by swapping out the cream for ice cream.

Buffet Christmas Dinner Menu

If you’re having more than 8 guests, I recommend serving dinner buffet-style (vs plating it in the kitchen). This is what my mom always did and it works beautifully. Start with cocktails and an appetizer (see recommendations in the menu), then set up a buffet for the main course. Our Rum Pumpkin Pots de Crème are the perfect dessert to end this memorable meal.

Blue bowl filled with Mushroom Pâté, with toasted baguette slices on the side

Luxurious Mushroom Pâté

Earthy and savory, luxurious Mushroom Pâté will soon be part of your regular recipe rotation. Made with dense, meaty cremini (baby Portobello) mushrooms, it’s easy to prepare, too! And, it’s so full of deep umami flavors, even your meat-eating friends will love it.

Robert’s Perfect Manhattan Drink

My husband Robert’s Perfect Manhattan cocktail is smoky and full-bodied, but isn’t as sweet as most – he uses rye instead of bourbon!

glass mason jar filled with Homemade Caesar Dressing, with a spoon inside of the jar

Homemade Caesar Dressing

This Homemade Caesar Dressing is thick, creamy and full of tangy, salty flavors. Our version of this classic dressing has been successfully prepared many times, by many people, making it both time and taste tested.

Spinach Farfalle Bolognese

Mom’s recipe for Spinach Farfalle Bolognese is a crowd pleaser, can be made ahead and expands easily. Sophisticated comfort food at its best!

White ceramiv bowl filled with Italian Popovers

Italian Popovers

Popovers are a light, flavorful and impressive side dish, but require a special pan. Not these popovers! Mom’s delicious Italian Popovers can be baked in in muffin tins.

Red and white pots de creme filled with Rum Pumpkin filling

Rum Pumpkin Pots de Crème

Rum Pumpkin Pots de Crème are basically a deconstructed pumpkin pie with crystallized ginger and rum added. They are fluffy and mousse-like, light and full of flavor. If you don’t have pots de crème, use wine glasses or ramekins.

Intimate Christmas Menu

If your gathering is with fewer people, then this intimate Christmas menu is for you. Easy to prepare (and the Shrimp and Crab au Gratin can be prepared up to 1 month ahead and frozen), these sophisticated dishes will set a loving and caring tone for the evening.

platter holding two bite Tomato, Pesto and Goat Cheese Crostini

Tomatoes and Pesto with Goat Cheese Crostini

Quick and easy to prepare with only 6 ingredients, these vibrant and scrumptious Goat Cheese, Pesto and Tomato Crostini are a family favorite. When short on time, serve as a layered dip with toasted bread on the side.

martini glasses filled with Vodka Martini with a Twist

Vodka Martini with a Twist

With my husband Robert’s unique Vodka Martini recipe, you can surprise and wow your friends and family at your next gathering. He’s become known far and wide for his super popular dry martinis, which call for a special ingredient and no vermouth. They are easy to make – and you can even whip up a batch ahead of time!

Shell shaped dish holding an individual serving of Shrimp and Crab Gratin

Shrimp and Crab Au Gratin – Seafood Main Dish

Shrimp and Crab Au Gratin is a luxuriant, elegant and impressive main dish that can be prepared earlier in the day (or up to 1 month ahead and frozen), making it ideal for a make ahead dinner. This scrumptious seafood au gratin is also flexible – you can use various shellfish (only shrimp, only crab, or lobster or crawfish), and cheeses, to your taste. Plus, bake it in either individual dishes or as one casserole!

Easy Lemon Rice Side Dish

Lemon Rice is bright, creamy and easy enough for everyday, while elegant enough for entertaining. Long grain white rice and lemon zest are briefly sautéed in a bit of butter, then simmered in flavorful chicken broth. Five minutes before serving, lemon juice and cream are added. So easy, so delicious!

blue plate holding a serving of Easy Spinach Salad with wine glasses, forks and plates in the background

Easy Spinach Salad Recipe with Lemon Pine Nut Dressing

This Spinach Salad with Pine Nut Dressing is an excellent side dish to have in your recipe files. Why? Well, because sometimes you need an uncomplicated dish to pair with a more complex main dish – one that will add color and flavor to the plate, but not compete with the star. This spinach salad does all that, plus it’s quick and easy to prepare. And, the Lemon Dressing is bright and fresh, with an unusual ingredient – nutmeg!

Light blue cake stand holding a Sticky Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake

Intensely flavorful and super moist, Sticky Ginger Cake isn’t your typical gingerbread – and it’s super easy to prepare, too. The warm, earthy flavor of ginger is combined with molasses, cinnamon and allspice, resulting in a deeply spiced, scrumptious cake. A two-ingredient lemon-sugar glaze is the perfect finish!

Vegetarian Christmas Menu

There are plenty of options for vegetarians who want to enjoy their favorite foods at holiday time. This Vegetarian Christmas Menu is very flexible and can be served for a sit down dinner or a buffet.

portions of 3 bruschetta topped with bean puree, on a blue plate

White Bean Bruschetta

Slices of toasted ciabatta bread are spread with a rustic purée of cannellini beans, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, then topped with chopped toasted walnuts and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Pomegranate Martini Recipe with Vodka

My Pomegranate Martini (or Red Carpet Martini) is elegant, colorful, delicious – and perfect for Oscar night viewing! It’s also easy to prepare, calling for only 4 ingredients.

small red dish with broccoli,mushroom, spinach and cheese pasta with larger pot in the background

Veggie Casserole with Broccoli, Mushroom, Spinach, and Cheese Pasta

Broccoli, Mushroom, Spinach and Cheese Pasta is a sophisticated and healthier vegetarian version of macaroni and cheese, using Fontina and Parmesan instead of Cheddar cheese. It’s easy to prepare ahead of time, too!

Plate holding a simple mixed green salad with a carafe of Dijon Vinaigrette alongside, along with small salt and pepper shakers

Mixed Green Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

This Mixed Green Salad is crisp and light while still full of bright, tangy flavors. It’s the perfect side to serve with more complicated main dishes. Make the dressing a week ahead, then store it in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before tossing your salad.

overhead shot of Rum Pumpkin Tart with a slice on the side

Rum Pumpkin Tart

Rum Pumpkin Tart is lighter, fluffier and more flavorful than a traditional pumpkin pie. The crust is comprised of gingersnap cookie crumbs, butter and rum. In addition to traditional pumpkin pie ingredients, the filling includes crystallized ginger – and more rum!

Easy Christmas Recipes FAQs

What is the most popular meat served for Christmas?

According to a survey conducted in 2020 by Yougov.com, the most popular meat to serve on Christmas is turkey (73%), followed by prime rib (69%).

What time should you have Christmas dinner?

What time you choose to serve dinner is a personal choice. Some families serve it on Christmas eve. Others choose to gather family and friends for Christmas dinner on the actual day. In terms of time of day, it can be served anywhere from noon through the evening.

What dishes are traditional for Christmas?

Believe it or not, the traditional dishes served on Christmas in the US are virtually the same as what’s served on Thanksgiving – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc.

What can I cook before Christmas Day?

There are many, many Christmas dishes you can prepare ahead of time. Of the recipes I’ve included above in my suggested menus, all of them except the Lemon Rice can be prepared ahead!

What can I make for a small Christmas dinner?

My Intimate Christmas Dinner Menu (above) would be perfect for a small gathering. You can easily scale it up or down to fit the number of people you are serving.

Photo collage of 6 recipes that are for Christmas dinner menus

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About the author

Hi, I'm Lee.

I am inspired by my mother, Sally’s, love of cooking and entertaining to gather friends and family together over great meals and conversation. In fact, I held my first dinner party at the age of 16. Throughout the years, I haves provided recipes, menu advice and cooking tips to friends seeking uncomplicated and delicious ideas for home entertaining.


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