Need Christmas dinner or dessert ideas? Here's your guide to 45+ holiday recipes

·17 min read

It's the most wonderful time of the year! And as much as we all love the traditional foods served each year on Christmas, why not shake things up and try something new this year? Take a look at some of our favorite Christmas recipes from our extensive recipe archive and see if anything looks good enough to try. (We think you'll want to try them all, really!).

So put a pin on the holidays this year and perhaps one of these recipes will become your new tradition.

Happy Holidays!

Christmas dinner ideas and recipes

Varanese restaurant owner and executive chef John Varanese's turducken gravy is made with all three turducken bones (turkey, duck and chicken) that have been cooked for hours in an oven then the juices are thickened with flour to make a brown roux.
November 14, 2018
Varanese restaurant owner and executive chef John Varanese's turducken gravy is made with all three turducken bones (turkey, duck and chicken) that have been cooked for hours in an oven then the juices are thickened with flour to make a brown roux. November 14, 2018

Turducken, which is a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey, has become a popular Varanese holiday offering at 2106 Frankfort Ave.

“People usually associate turkey with Thanksgiving, but Turducken is a great dish for Christmas or another holiday dinner. One reason it’s a good choice is because it’s pretty hard to overcook and it doesn’t dry out," owner John Varanese previously said. "It’s almost foolproof. Just set the oven at the right temperature and you’re good to go. And the best part is that you don’t have to cut around bones."

Turducken is fun to prepare even though it’s rather time-consuming. Removing the bones from the birds and keeping everything together can be challenging but the presentation and taste may wow your guests — even if they’re a jaded crew.

Follow this recipe below, including the accompanying gravy, sausage dressing, and cornbread dressing, for the ultimate Christmas meal this year.

Turducken

Varanese restaurant owner and executive chef John Varanese's turducken. The combination foul is made by placing a stuffed chicken inside a duck and then stuffing a turkey with the duck.
November 14, 2018
Varanese restaurant owner and executive chef John Varanese's turducken. The combination foul is made by placing a stuffed chicken inside a duck and then stuffing a turkey with the duck. November 14, 2018

Courtesy of John Varanese, owner of Varanese, River House and Levee Bourbon Lounge. Serves 16

  • 1 5-pound duck

  • 1 3-pound chicken

  • 1 14-pound turkey

  • Sausage dressing

  • Cornbread dressing

Marinade

Bone the duck and chicken by first cutting off the wings. Choose a side of the breast and follow the breast bone to the wing joint. Cut along the hip joint and carefully cut through it. The back skin needs to stay intact. Repeat for the other side. Begin to slice the skin underneath from neck to tail off the backbone to leave the whole bird intact. Chop the feet off, then working from the thigh bone inside, cut the meat away from the bone to the leg joint. Cut around it and then work down the leg bone and remove the bone. Save all the bones for the gravy.

For the turkey, do not cut off the wings. Repeat the procedure as for the duck and chicken, except the second and third wing joint will be left intact and only the thigh bone is removed, leaving the leg bone.

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Spread out the chicken, skin side down. Cover the chicken with about half the cornbread dressing, pressing so that the dressing is about a half-inch thick. Roll the bird over to close tightly, kind of like a little “football,” keeping the seam toward the back. Spread out the duck and cover with all the sausage dressing. Wrap the duck around the chicken “football.” Repeat the procedure with the turkey, using the remaining cornbread dressing, totally wrapping the turkey around the duck. Using the trussing method, tie the turkey back together. First, tie the legs and then work from neck back. You will need one person to hold the bird and another to tie it. It will take some patience. Rub with the marinade. Place in a roasting pan. Cover with foil. Bake at 225° for 12 hours. Let rest before cutting and serving.

Turkey Marinade

  • ⅓ cup dried thyme

  • ¼ cup minced garlic

  • 4 ounces blended oil

  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt

  • 1 tablespoon cracked pepper

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients.

Gravy

  • Duck and chicken bones

  • 2 cups chopped onion

  • 1 cup chopped carrots

  • 1 cup chopped celery

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 pound butter

  • 1 ¼ pounds flour

  • Salt and pepper

Method: Roast bones in the oven until golden brown. In a stock pot, place the bones, onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves, and enough water to cover them. Simmer for at least six hours. Strain. Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the flour. Simmer until it emits a nutty aroma. Thicken the gravy using a little roux at a time. Season with salt and pepper. (You will have roux left over for another use.)

Sausage Dressing

  • ½ cup diced onion

  • ½ cup diced celery

  • Blended oil

  • ½ pound sausage

  • 4 cups day-old bread

  • Your favorite recipe for chicken/turkey stock

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and celery a bit of blended oil until translucent. Add the sausage and brown. In a bowl, add sausage mixture and bread. Mix together. Add enough stock to make the dressing moist. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cornbread Dressing

  • 6 cups crumbled cornbread

  • ½ cup diced onion

  • ½ cup diced celery

  • Blended oil

  • 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped sage

  • Your favorite recipe for chicken/turkey stock

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and celery in a bit of oil until translucent. In a bowl, add the onion/celery and cornbread. Mix together. Add enough stock to make the dressing moist. Salt and pepper to taste.

Check out more Christmas dinner ideas from Varanese, including various side dishes.

Christmas side dish ideas and recipes

It has been almost a quarter-century since Annemarie and Michael Greipel opened Gasthaus, located on Brownsboro Road. But Annemarie’s childhood memories from her native Germany are so vivid she can taste them.

The holiday meal would often feature roasted goose (Weihnachtsgans) with chestnut stuffing, potato dumplings (Kartoffelknödel) and red cabbage although chicken, roast beef or rabbit would sometimes take the place of the goose. There was also an ample supply of glühwein — a warm wine made with cinnamon, cloves and brandy.

Potato dumplings are one of the most popular sides at Gasthaus not only at Christmas but throughout the year. They can be paired with Gasthaus’ perennial favorites such as sauerbraten (beef marinated in herbs, spices and wine vinegar), Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal in cream sauce) and Jäger Schnitzel (breaded pork loin in brown bacon and onion sauce).

Potato Dumplings

Makes 6 to 8 3-ounce dumplings

  • 1 ½ pounds raw potatoes

  • 1 pound potatoes, boiled in their skins

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • Beef or chicken stock (optional)

Peel raw potatoes; grate them on a cheese grater. Place the potatoes in a clean cloth; squeeze to remove any excess liquid. While boiled potatoes are still warm, peel and mash. Place all ingredients, except stock, in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Divide mixture into six to eight balls. In a large saucepan bring water to a boil. For added flavor, add some beef or chicken broth. Add the dumplings. When dumplings float to the top of the water, reduce heat and simmer for five to 10 minutes. Remove, drain and serve.

Das ist gut! Gasthaus serves up 100% authentic German deliciousness in Louisville

Red Cabbage

Side dishes, red cabbage, top , and sauerkraut, bottom, at Gasthaus Restaurant. Sept. 25, 2019.
Side dishes, red cabbage, top , and sauerkraut, bottom, at Gasthaus Restaurant. Sept. 25, 2019.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 large head red cabbage

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar

  • Pinch of sugar

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 7 cloves

  • 7 juniper berries

  • 4 bay leaves

  • ¼ pounds diced bacon

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 medium onion

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 2 cups applesauce

  • 5 beef bouillon cubes

  • Salt and pepper

  • Cornstarch

Remove all limp and green leaves until you have a solid head of cabbage. Quarter cabbage and cut out the white stalks. Shred the quarters on a mandolin. Put shredded cabbage in a plastic container.

For the marinade, mix together the water, vinegar, pinch of sugar and salt. Pour over the red cabbage.

For a bouquet garni, wrap cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries and bay leaves in cheesecloth. Tie the cloth and place in the marinade. Cover container and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours.

Place bacon in a large saucepan. Add vegetable oil. Cook bacon until slightly brown. Add onions and brown sugar. Cook until golden brown. Add the marinated red cabbage, applesauce and bullion cubes. Mix well. Cook on low heat up to 2 hours, depending on how crunchy you want your cabbage to be. When cabbage is cooked, remove bouquet garni. Drain excess liquid, if any. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To thicken the cabbage and to give it a nice glossy shine, dissolve some cornstarch in water. Stir into the cooked cabbage.

Check out even more German-inspired Christmas recipe ideas.

If you're looking for something a bit more traditional, try this recipe from celebrity chef Damaris Phillips for a sweet potato casserole.

"These are updated versions that are totally made from scratch and that makes all the difference," Phillips said previously. "... What I try to do with all my recipes is take something people are familiar with and make the best version they've ever had."

Sweet potato casserole

Serves 6 to 8

  • 5 sweet potatoes (9 to 10 ounces/255 to 280 g each)

  • Coconut oil cooking spray

  • 1/2 cup (112 g) mascarpone cheese

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 kosher salt

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out

  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) caramel sauce

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature (this is important; cold egg whites don't whip as nicely)

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pierce the skin of the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, spray with cooking spray and place in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender, about 1 hour. Let the sweet potatoes cool enough to handle, then cut each in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh.

Put the sweet potato flesh, mascarpone, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the vanilla bean seeds and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Smash on medium speed until combined. Scrape the mixture into a casserole dish and drizzle the top with the caramel sauce. Set aside.

In a clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and 1/8 teaspoon salt on medium speed until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat until the whites form stiff peaks, 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t overwhip or you will deflate the egg whites.

Spread the meringue over the sweet potato mixture and bake until the topping is brown and the center is hot, 30 to 35 minutes.

Try these Christmas side recipes and ideas from Damaris Phillips.

Christmas cookie ideas and recipes

Michelle Herberger saved the last springerle cookie her mother, Helen Miller, ever made.
Michelle Herberger saved the last springerle cookie her mother, Helen Miller, ever made.

Coming home to the scent of cookies baking was a sure sign Christmas was coming when Michelle Herberger was little.

Her mother would start baking the family's springerle cookies a few weeks before Christmas, while the kids were at school. The recipe, passed down through the family for 70 years, makes four dozen white, anise-flavored cookies, each pressed with an intricate design.

"It was something that was part of our family gatherings," Herberger said. "Those cookies were always there. It's one way we come together as family and have those memories again."

Springerles

Submitted by Michelle Herberger. Makes 48 cookies

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 pound confectioners sugar

  • ½ teaspoon anise oil

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 4 cups flour

  • cookie sheets

  • springerle press

Lightly grease cookie sheets. In a large bowl, beat eggs at high speed for 10 minutes, until lemony yellow and thick. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in anise oil.

Add flour, baking powder and salt that have been sift together. (The less flour you can use, the more tender the springerles.) Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for one hour or more for easier handling.

On a well-floured surface using a regular rolling pin, roll dough to ½-inch thick. Press floured mold (a springerle press) firmly into the dough so the designs will be imprinted on the dough. Cut cookies along design lines. Lightly brush off extra flour from the top of springerles. Place on greased cookie sheets.

Let stand in cool place overnight, to dry out and set the design. (This takes from 12 to 24 hours.)

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Bake in a 300-degree oven for 20-25 minutes until set but not brown. Immediately remove from baking sheets. Store in a tightly covered container. Cookies are better served after eight hours but are best if stored a couple of weeks before serving.

If that's not quite your speed, you try this Kolachi recipe from Tamara Yohannes.

In Slovakia, the traditional Christmas recipe is kolachi: a leavened sweet roll-log filled with finely chopped, sweetened walnuts. The recipe in Yohannes' family was handed down by grandmother Anna Kranisky Dunay, who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 2 from Slovakia in 1902.

She knew the recipe so well she made it by throwing ingredients into a bowl and mixing it by feel without timing anything, Yohannes said. It's lucky her daughter followed along one year, carefully measuring everything and documenting every step to share the recipe with the rest of the family.

"I'm the carrier of the tradition now," Yohannes said.

Kolachi

Submitted by Tamara Yohannes. Makes 8 rolls.

This Slovakian kolachi recipe has been in Tamara Yohannes' family for more than 100 years.
This Slovakian kolachi recipe has been in Tamara Yohannes' family for more than 100 years.

For the dough:

  • 8 ½ to 9 cups sifted flour

  • 1pound unsalted butter or margarine (room temperature)

  • 2 cups warmed sweet milk

  • 6 egg yolks

  • ½ cup sugar

  • 1 large rounded Tablespoon of yeast

  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

For the filling:

  • 2 pounds shelled walnuts

  • 1 cup milk

  • 2 cups sugar

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 6 egg whites, beaten

Make the dough: Separate eggs and beat yolks slightly. Set whites aside. Dissolve yeast in warm milk and set aside. Sift and measure flour. Add sugar and salt. With hands, cut butter into the flour until crumbly. Add eggs and milk/yeast mixture.

Work until dough pulls away from the bowl (may add more flour if needed). Knead on floured board until smooth. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise two hours. Divide into eight balls. Allow to rise one hour, covered.

Make the filling: Grind the nuts very fine — so fine that the pieces clump when you squeeze them in your hand. Put milk, sugar and butter into a large kettle and warm until sugar dissolves. Add nuts and vanilla. Allow mixture to cool. Beat the six egg whites left from making the dough, and fold into the nut mixture.

Combine: Grease baking sheets. Roll out each ball of dough to 1/4-inch thickness and spread with filling. (A trick is to divide the filling equally into eight bowls to make sure you don’t run out). Roll as a jelly roll. Poke in the ends of roll (like halupki or ‘stuffed cabbage’). Put on cookie sheet seam down. Prick top 6-8 times with a fork.

Allow to rise for a half-hour (or longer to avoid cracking). Brush with beaten egg. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees and start checking for the browned bottom. Cool in pan on wire rack first, then off pan.

Check out these Christmas cookie recipes from Courier Journal readers, including Pizafrit and Butterscotch tarts. Or try even more cookie recipes, including Russian Tea Cookies and Ting-A-Lings.

Christmas dessert ideas and recipes

It's the most wonderful time of the year and nothing says Christmas quite like homemade pies, cookies and cakes. We dipped into our extensive recipe archives from Louisville restaurants and pulled out some of our favorite dishes to hopefully inspire you to do a little baking this holiday season.

Triple Chocolate Pâté

Courtesy of Porcini, 2730 Frankfort Ave. Serves approximately 8, depending on size of slice

Dark chocolate ganache

  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely

  • 1 pound milk chocolate

  • 3 ounces heavy whipping cream

  • 3 ounces heavy whipping cream

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

  • 1 ounce Amaretto Di Saronno

White chocolate ganache

  • 1 pound white chocolate, chopped finely

  • 3 ounces heavy whipping cream

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

  • 1 ounce Amaretto Di Saronno

Milk chocolate ganache

  • 1 pound milk chocolate, chopped finely

  • 3 ounces heavy whipping cream

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

  • 1 ounce Amaretto Di Saronno

For each ganache, heat the cream to scalding. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth. Stir in butter and Amaretto. Pour into the dark chocolate ganache into a mold, lined with plastic wrap for easy removal. Freeze the mold for at least five minutes, allowing the chocolate to fully set and firm. Pour the white chocolate ganache on top of the dark chocolate ganache. Freeze for at least five minutes. Top with the milk chocolate ganache. Refrigerate overnight.

To serve: Remove from the refrigerator one hour before serving. Invert mold onto a cutting board. Remove plastic wrap. Slice layered pâté to desired thickness.

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*A standard terrine mold is about 8 inches long by about 3 inches wide and about ½ to 3 inches tall. You can also build the pâté in any loaf-size pan.

Serving suggestion: Serve with crème Anglaise and biscotti.

Check out these Christmas dessert recipes, from pumpkin pie to a Chocolate Guinness Cake.

Christmas fruitcake ideas and recipes

Dec. 27 is National Fruitcake Day — yes, there is a whole day dedicated to the traditional, much-resisted holiday treat. The food experts at Hormel Foods think the Fruitcake gets a bad rap and have come up with a twist on the holiday staple that will have you wanting to give this loaf a second chance.

Fruitcake Recipe

Makes: 12 servings

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

  • 1/3 cup orange juice

  • 1 cup applesauce

  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 11/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup butter softened

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 4 JUSTIN’S dark chocolate covered peanut butter cups, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 12-cup bundt cake pan

In a medium bowl, combine raisins and next six ingredients; cover and let stand 30 minutes.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, using paddle attachment add butter and beat at medium speed for 1 minute.

Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and next five ingredients. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternatively with raisin mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture, just until blended. Stir in chopped peanut butter cups. Transfer mixture to the prepared cake pan.

Bake on middle rack, 1 hour 10 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Let stand 10 minutes.

Turn the cake out onto the cake plate and let cool completely. Spoon Cream Cheese Glaze over cake and top with Candied Bacon

Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed and softened

  • 2 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoons milk

In large bowl, using electric mixer, combine cream cheese and remaining ingredients until smooth

Candied Bacon:

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 (16-ounce) package thick-cut bacon

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a shallow plate, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon. Dredge bacon slices in sugar mixture, pressing to adhere. Place slices on a lightly greased wire rack, side by side, over a jellyroll pan.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until crisp. Let cool completely and finely chop.

Try even more fruitcake recipes here.

Christmas leftover ideas and recipes

Louisville native and celebrity chef Damaris Phillips is not a fan of leftovers.

Since the holidays tend to generate a lot of uneaten food, Phillips previously teamed with Keebler and Townhouse Crackers to create a series of fun and simple recipes for your holiday food surplus.

Turkey Taco Casserole

Serves 8

  • 1 box Club Original crackers

  • 2 14-oz. cans of pinto beans, drained

  • 2 1/2 cups turkey, diced

  • 1 1-oz. pack of taco seasoning

  • 1 1/2 cups roasted salsa

  • 8-oz. sour cream

  • 1 can cream of corn soup

  • 8-oz. pepper jack cheese, grated (about 2 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line the bottom of a 9/13 inch baking dish with one layer of crackers.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, turkey, and taco seasoning. Cover crackers with the mixture.

Spoon the salsa onto the bean-turkey mixture evenly.

In another bowl, combine sour cream and soup. Dollop onto the salsa.

Sprinkle on half of the cheese and cover with remaining crackers to create a top crust.

Cover with remaining cheese.

Back until warmed through and cheese melted and golden bubble, about 25-30 minutes.

Check out more Christmas leftover recipes here.

Check out our complete archive of over 45 recipes here

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Reach Features Editor Kathryn Gregory at kgregory@courier-journal.com.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: 45+ best Christmas dinner and dessert ideas, recipes