When we celebrate Christmas, one thing’s for sure: there’s always food and lots of it. This is true no matter where you go. Traditions and food are inseparable, and you probably know exactly which foods to expect on your table this Christmas.
But take a tour around the world, and discover different and delicious dishes. To get you started, here are 11 ways to spice up your Christmas spread with traditional foods from all over the world.
Costa Rica: Tamales
In Costa Rica, families enjoy tamales on Christmas. It’s a simple corn dough, stuffed with meats, like chicken, beef or pork.
Sometimes, the filling is also made up of garlic, onion, and potatoes. What’s the exact recipe? You might never know! Families like to have their own secret take on Christmas tamales.
But here’s one tamales recipe that comes pretty close to what you’d enjoy in a Costa Rica Christmas.
In many countries, Christmas Eve, not Christmas day, takes the cake when it comes to big celebrations. In Bulgaria, as well as in Russia, Poland, and other Eastern European countries, families start their Christmas Eve feasting with a humble dish, called Kolivo.
Kolivo is boiled wheat, sweetened and enriched with sugar and walnuts. Depending on the cook or country, Kolivo can also be made with other grains, honey or dried fruit.
Try this cozy, Kolivo recipe either on Christmas Eve or as a warm way to start off Christmas day.
This German tradition might sound like a world away, but it really just means “Christmas goose.” Even though it’s a tradition that goes back hundreds of years – all the way back to the Middle Ages – the Christmas goose is still going strong today.
Perhaps the best part is the stuffing, which can be made of sweets, like prunes, apples or chestnuts, or with more savory bits like marjoram and onions. If you typically roast a turkey for Christmas, try this German tradition instead.
Here’s a Roasted Goose recipe your family will love.
Typically, meat is the main course during Christmas celebrations, but in Mexico, a cod-based dish, called Bacalao, is what you’ll find. Back in the day, before we had refrigeration, people salted their fish and meat to preserve them. While salted cod might not be common in your grocery store, it’s still favored in Mexico.
And in Mexico for Christmas, they rehydrate and cook the salted cod for a dish called Bacalao – it’s a delicious mix of tomatoes, onions, olives, chiles and whatever else the cook decides.
This yummy Bacalao recipe makes a nice addition to a Christmas menu.
Sweden: Smörgåsbord or Julbord
In Sweden, as well as in Finland, something called Smörgåsbord, reigns supreme. What is Smörgåsbord? It’s a buffet-like spread, where all the typical dishes are laid out for you choose from.
What can you find on this delicious spread? Meats, like cold cut ham, Swedish meatballs, sausages, gravlax, or pickled herring. Another table might offer cabbage, beets, and cheeses.
Of course, there’s always room for dessert, with things like rice pudding, Saffron Buns, mulled wine and more.
If you’re already into the Scandi lifestyle, add this Swedish rice pudding to your Christmas dessert menu.
Puerto Rico: Roasted Pig
The national dish in Puerto Rico is lechón, or roasted big. This is a time-intensive job, and it usually takes all day to cook, with at least two people standing by. But don’t worry, they get to enjoy themselves with a Puerto Rican-style eggnog, or a champagne, mixed with fruit juices.
It might be difficult to roast your own entire pig for Christmas, but here’s a recipe for Coquito, or Puerto Rican Coconut Eggnog, that makes all your food prep so much more enjoyable.
Japan: Kentucky Fried Chicken
Without a doubt, this isn’t what you were expecting to come out of Japan at Christmas, but here’s why this Asian country enjoys American fast food.
Back in the 1970s, Kentucky Fried Chicken launched a campaign in Japan called “Christmas Chicken.” Needless to say, the campaign was a hit. 40 years later, KFCs throughout Japan take orders weeks before Christmas to meet the demands.
How do the Japanese enjoy Christmas Chicken? With a nice glass of champagne and some cake afterward.
You don’t really need a recipe for this one! Just order your own Christmas Chicken from KFC and raise a glass of bubbly to enjoy this holiday the Japanese way.
This is a far cry from Germany’s Christmas Goose or Puerto Rican’s roasted pig, but in the Land Down Under, Aussies like to head to the barbecue and cook up their Christmas Day dinner that way.
They tend to barbecue shrimp, prawns, fish, or meats. And don’t be surprised to see them barbecuing on the beach, too!
Here’s an Aussie Christmas BBQ recipe to try – even if it’s cold where you celebrate.
Christmas in China is becoming more and more popular, and this simple tradition is easy to incorporate into your own festivities. Why apples? In Chinese, the word for Christmas Eve, “Ping An Ye” sounds a lot like the word for apple, “Ping Guo.”
So, they brought the two seemingly unrelated things together. Now, giving apples as a gift on Christmas is a Chinese tradition.
For Christmas, try a delicious baked apple to honor this Chinese tradition.
France: Chestnut-stuffed turkey
The French enjoy a scrumptious Christmas dinner, that often includes oysters, foie gras and roasted birds, like goose, chicken or turkey. Their Chestnut-Stuffed turkey might sound like the typical Thanksgiving dinner in the U.S., but it’s something a bit more magical
After dinner? The yule log, or Bûche de Noël, is a beautiful dessert that almost looks too good to eat, but once you slice into it, you won’t regret it.
India: Curry and dumplings
While Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in India, those who do honor this holiday tend to enjoy a curry with sweet dumplings, called newrio. They’re usually filled with a tantalizing mix of palm sugar, coconut and sesame seeds.
If you usually make Christmas cookies, try making newrio, too.
Above all else, enjoy Christmas wherever you are and whatever you eat!