32 Classic Christmas Foods, Ranked from Ho-Ho-Horrible to Fa-La-La-Fabulous

Not this year, fruitcake

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classic christmas foods ranked universal
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If you ask us, the holidays can’t come soon enough. So, to usher in the most wonderful time of year ASAP, we’re dreaming of all the traditional Christmas foods we can. Specifically, these 32 dishes, ranked from basically intolerable to straight-up divine.

According to a 2020 survey by YouGov, Americans’ top five favorite Christmas foods are roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, turkey, bread or rolls and stuffing or dressing. At the bottom of the list, you'll find cabbage, goose, turnips, plantains and tofu. Holiday favorites vary from region to region and state to state; for instance, it’s not uncommon to find crab legs or tamales at Alaskan and Southwestern holiday parties, respectively. Taking all the traditional Christmas dishes into consideration, let’s find out how your most beloved (and most hated) holiday eats fared in our super scientific ranking.

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classic christmas foods fruitcake
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32. Fruitcake

Less like cake, more like a doorstop. How this typically dry, dense "dessert" studded with candied or dried fruit and nuts became a holiday staple is beyond us. (We'll chalk it up to the booze it's occasionally soaked in.)

Try It Anyway: Fruitcake

classic christmas foods figgy pudding

31. Figgy Pudding

TBH, we want nothing to do with a dome-shaped dessert that doesn't ooze molten chocolate. This boiled pudding contains suet (that's raw, hard animal fat), figs and dried fruit instead. We'll pass.

Try It Anyway: Figgy Christmas Pudding

classic christmas foods ribbon candy
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30. Ribbon Candy

We can't afford to crack our teeth on one of the tastiest holidays of the year—too many better things to eat. It is pretty, though; maybe they'll look nice hung on the tree?

Try It Anyway: Old-Fashioned Ribbon Candy

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29. Salad (of Any Kind)

Listen, we have nothing against greens here and there. But raw veggies on Christmas? What is this, amateur hour?

Try It Anyway: Kale Salad with Persimmons, Crispy Chickpeas and Fried Shallots

classic christmas foods boiled carrots
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28. Boiled Carrots

Unacceptable for those between the ages of 11 months and 97 years. If you insist on having carrots at the table, we'd recommend sautéing them in butter and fresh herbs to soften the blow.

Try It Anyway: Sautéed Carrots

classic christmas foods mince pie
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27. Mince Pie

Fun fact: "Mincemeat" isn't meat at all, but a mix of dried fruits and spices. Fun fact aside, we're not chomping at the bit to taste this British delicacy. The pastry stars are cute, though.

Try It Anyway: Mince Pies

classic christmas foods biscotti
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26. Biscotti

It's cookie season, and these rock-hard treats are definitely *not* cookies. (Sorry, Italy.) Be sure to dunk them in coffee, hot cocoa or mulled cider to avoid any impromptu trips to the dentist.

Try It Anyway: Biscochito Biscotti

classic christmas foods egg nog flavored baked goods
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25. Eggnog-Flavored Baked Goods

Of all the holiday flavors to infuse cookies and yogurt and keto protein bars with, you chose eggnog? Nice try, supermarket. Wash 'em down with aged rum or bourbon, we guess.

Try It Anyway: Eggnog Custard with Raspberry Jam

classic christmas foods canned yams
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24. Canned Yams

Why? How dare they? If you're going to put sweet spuds on the table, at least roast them so they're not so...sad and mushy. (Oh, and PSA: Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same.)

Try It Anyway: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sriracha and Lime

classic christmas foods mixed nuts
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23. Mixed Nuts

Two things we should all get over: these and crystal-cut bowls. The only way we're even looking at mixed nuts on Christmas is if they're on a cheese board. If they're a staple at your place, go with the below recipe that's thoroughly spiced and herby.

Try It Anyway: Roasted Mixed Nuts

classic christmas foods yule log
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22. Yule Log

Sure, it's basically just chocolate spongecake, but it's not doing itself any favors with that name. We can support the vanilla version below, but spending three hours on dessert with so many other to-dos on your list might be a bit too ambitious.

Try It Anyway: Raspberry White Chocolate Bûche de Noël

classic christmas foods egg nog
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21. Eggnog

Festive, but an acquired taste. Granted it kinda doesn't feel like it's officially Christmas until you nurse a glass of this custardy bev. We'll give credit where credit is due: Booze helps.

Try It Anyway: Classic Eggnog

classic christmas foods candy canes
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20. Candy Canes

Unless it's bark-ified, they're more of a decorative obligation than anything. Many families consider candy canes an essential stocking stuffer, but you may reconsider once you're picking the crushed remnants out of your carpet until New Year's Eve.

Try It Anyway: Homemade Candy Canes

classic christmas foods ham
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19. Ham

The most polarizing of all the proteins. We're gonna give this sweet meat a solid ehhh. If it's the only thing the kids' table will eat though, we understand keeping it on the menu.

Try It Anyway: Spicy Orange-Honey Glazed Ham

classic christmas foods gingerbread
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18. Gingerbread Cookies

As far as traditional Christmas foods go, these are satisfactory, but way overplayed. (They are pretty darn adorable, though.) Might we suggest adding hair and chic outfits to each cookie person? The naked-with-buttons look is a little old school.

Try It Anyway: Gingerbread Cookies

classic christmas foods turkey
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17. Turkey

Fair pick, but a little redundant so soon after Thanksgiving. If your family considers it a nonnegotiable, we'd suggest preparing a breast instead of a whole bird, as long as you aren't serving a massive crowd. (You can only eat so many leftover turkey sandwiches.)

Try It Anyway: Slow-Cooker Turkey Breast with Orange and Herbs

classic christmas foods stuffing
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16. Stuffing

Again, it's a bit redundant after Turkey Day...but it does improve arguably bland poultry by a mile. Scarf some down while you and your relatives argue over calling it stuffing or dressing.

Try It Anyway: Mushroom and Sausage Sourdough Stuffing

classic christmas foods canned cranberry sauce
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15. Canned Cranberry Sauce

Hot take: The canned kind is better than homemade. There, we said it. But we're still not sure if we *really* love cranberry sauce or just the nostalgia of it. An indented slab of gelatinous fruit kind of takes the wind out of an Insta-worthy plate, no?

Try It Anyway: 5-Ingredient Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

classic christmas foods mnms for the gingerbread house
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14. M & M’s Meant for the Gingerbread House

Oops, we ate the doorknob. And the shingles. And there goes the green-and-red chimney. Best keep these in a bowl—no one wants fingerprints in the frosting.

Try It: Pantry-Size M&M's

classic christmas foods dinner rolls
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13. Dinner Rolls

Like that actress whose name you can never remember who always plays the best friend: lovable and reliable, but never the highlight. Although you will need something to drag through all those gravy-kissed mashed potatoes...

Try It: Easy Dinner Rolls

classic christmas foods coquito
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12. Coquito

Eggnog's coconut-y (and far superior) cousin. This creamy cocktail requires some forethought since it needs to chill for at least four hours before being served, but we promise it's worth it. Bring on the spiced rum, amigas.

Try It: Caribe Hilton’s Coquito

classic christmas foods green bean casserole
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11. Green Bean Casserole

Fried onions from a tin never cease to delight (even if we eat the leftovers from Thanksgiving for a month straight). And don't knock the canned cream of mushroom base—this veggie side is a traditional Christmas food for a reason.

Try It: Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole

classic christmas foods brie
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10. Brie with Literally Anything

Crackers? Classic. Apples? Great. Baked with pomegranate arils? Heck yes. Old tires? We’d try it. Serve it with plenty of honey for drizzling, and when in doubt, bake it until bubbly in a cast iron skillet.

Try It: Baked Brie with Cranberries and Pomegranate

classic christmas foods pheasant
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9. Pheasant

Oh, you fancy, huh? This poultry choice is giving Medieval feast. TBH, your guests may be just as satisfied with a whole roast chicken, but if you're feeling particularly regal this holiday, we won't stop you.

Try It: Pheasant in Mustard Sauce

classic christmas foods pecan pie
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8. Pecan Pie

Gooey filling, flaky pie crust and sugared nuts—this classic is so worth the future cavities. It's twice as delicious topped with a hulking scoop of vanilla ice cream (but you knew that already).

Try It: Maple Pecan Pie

classic christmas foods roast beef
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7. Roast Beef

Turkey who? Sorry, we were distracted by this tender main's herb-crusted exterior and impeccably juicy interior. Roast beef never fails to impress, and it's way less fussy to prepare than a whole bird.

Try It: Roast Beef with Gravy

classic christmas foods fudge
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6. Fudge

Chocolate, vanilla, caramel: We're not picky when it comes to this decadent dessert. Try something unconventional on for size this year, like the marshmallow-peanut butter variety below. (It only takes 15 minutes to make, after all.)

Try It: Fluffernutter Fudge

classic christmas foods gravy
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5. Gravy

Dare we say gravy is almost tastier than what goes underneath it? We're here for those infused with turkey drippings, mushroomy vegetarian takes and heck, store-bought gravy mix in a paper pouch. As long as a boat of the stuff is on the table.

Try It: Make-Ahead Vegetarian Gravy

classic christmas foods hot cocoa
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4. Hot Cocoa

It's sweet, creamy, comforting and tastes like childhood. Pass the sugar cookies so we can get to dunking. Just be sure to leave a few out for Santa Claus if you know what's good for your gift haul.

Try It: Hot Chocolate with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream

classic christmas foods roasted potatoes
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3. Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes cooked in fat until crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and drool-worthy all around. Need we say more? We like the standard EVOO-salt-herb treatment, but could we convince you to make this sweet-and-spicy version finished with pistachios, honey and yogurt?

Try It: Crispy and Spicy Harissa Potatoes with Yogurt

classic christmas foods mashed potatoes
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2. Mashed Potatoes

Yeah, we ranked potatoes back to back. Condemn us to the naughty list if you must, but no one has ever complained about the menu being too spud-heavy.

Try It: Smoked Gouda and Scallion Mashed Potatoes

classic christmas foods peppermint bark
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1. Peppermint Bark

Screw the bark—give us a peppermint tree. In fact, give us the whole damn forest. Fresh, festive and delectably sweet, this giftable gem is our top pick of the season. Bow down to the reigning king of traditional Christmas foods.

Try It: Peppermint Bark

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...