Holiday Recipes That the Whole Fam Will Devour
For food-loving families, a major highlight of the holiday season involves gathering around the table and sharing a homemade meal. But with so many different people to please, it can be difficult to find recipes that will leave everyone smiling from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.
Luckily, there’s a simple formula for preparing a winning holiday dish: Opt for straightforward, crowd-pleasing flavors (nothing too unusual or spicy) with an attractive, clever presentation. And perhaps most importantly, choose recipes that don’t require a million different ingredients and hours spent in the kitchen. In short, don’t push your own culinary skills or patience too far.
Whether you’re hosting a holiday party, a simple weeknight dinner or cozying up for a family movie marathon, here are 14 holiday recipes — from drinks to main dishes to desserts — that everyone in the family will love.
Jingle Juice Mocktail
Punch is perfect for a holiday party — it provides a striking centerpiece for your spread, and it allows your guests to serve themselves throughout the shindig. And while it’s a good idea to have an adults-only option, an alcohol-free punch is great for parties with younger participants. (And if the grown-ups want to doctor up their serving with a nip of something stronger, they’re more than welcome to it.)
This Jingle Juice mocktail from No Biggie is bursting with citrusy flavors and in-season cranberries. Served over crushed ice with plenty of bright fruits floating on top, it’s a beautiful addition to your holiday table that everyone can enjoy sipping. Bonus: All that citrus fruit has to be good for the immune system, right?
Snickerdoodle Hot Cocoa
There’s nothing wrong with straightforward, chocolately hot cocoa with a sprinkling of marshmallows on top. We won’t even judge you for using the powdered mix. But for a fun and tasty spin on the winter warmer, try playing with some fresh seasonal flavors.
This super rich recipe from Lemon Tree Dwelling starts with a base of white chocolate and creamy half and half, then adds cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. The result: a cup of “cocoa” that tastes a whole lot like a snickerdoodle cookie. Serve it up in a cute mug or mason jar with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon for a truly adorable presentation.
Pumpkin Spice Waffles
When the holidays hit, basic breakfasts just won’t cut it. With a house full of hungry guests, you need a morning pick-me-up that will get everyone energized for the day ahead. Enter waffles, a classic breakfast food that’s filling, satisfying and easy to make.
Adding some pumpkin spice flavor to your waffles makes them perfect for Thanksgiving and beyond. Lovely Little Kitchen’s pumpkin spice waffle recipe uses pure pumpkin puree along with pumpkin spice extract. Serve the dish with whipped cream and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon for an extra special treat.
Fruit and Cheese Holiday Tree
Not all holiday food has to destroy your diet. It’s always nice to have at least one healthy option on the table to balance out the more indulgent dishes.
Ideal for holiday parties or keeping the family satisfied while they’re waiting for dinner, a fruit and cheese holiday tree is a healthy snack disguised by its cuteness. Simply arrange your favorite fruits (red and green options work best) and cubes of various types of cheeses into a tree shape. Then, add a stick of celery to the bottom to complete the picture, and finish it off with a few sprigs of thyme to add some aromatics.
Squash Stuffed With Macaroni and Cheese
No one can resist the comfort food classic of macaroni and cheese. Carbs covered in cheese — how can you go wrong? The flavor of mac ‘n’ cheese complements most main dishes, and it can even stand on its own as a warm lunch on a chilly day.
Kick your mac ‘n’ cheese game up a notch and give it a seasonal twist by serving it in a hollowed-out, roasted acorn squash. Not only does this result in a lovely presentation, but it also adds a wholesome element (read: veggies!) to a dish that, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly healthy. Follow this recipe from Honestly Yum for a classic white cheddar mac, or get creative by using your favorite cheese blend, and toss in some bacon for an extra kick.
Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes
Your slow cooker likely gets a serious workout during the holiday season — as it should. It’s a busy cook’s best friend, helping you to prepare everything from drinks and side dishes to desserts with very little effort. And slow cooker sweet potatoes are the perfect example of the slow cooker’s usefulness.
Wrapping the sweet potatoes in foil and roasting them in the slow cooker is an easy way to save oven space for other dishes while ensuring that the potatoes cook fully. When they’re done, simply place them on a platter and finish them off with your favorite toppings, like butter, brown sugar and marshmallows.
Savory Pumpkin Pizza
Around the holidays, we’re often so focused on the main meal that we forget about lunch or appetizers to tide family members over, but this seasonal spin on pizza does the trick.
Love Lola's savory pumpkin pizza recipe starts with ready-made pizza dough, which means the hardest part of making pizza is already done. Then, add pumpkin puree, caramelized onions, garlic, thyme, cheese and arugula. Pop it in the oven for a few minutes, and you’ve got a sweet and savory treat that doesn’t feel like an afterthought.
Slow Cooker Matzo Ball Soup
Whether or not you’re celebrating a Jewish holiday, there’s no denying that matzo ball soup is delicious. Ideal for those days when the temperature drops lower than you’d like, this pleasing soup warms you from the inside out. And making it in the slow cooker means less work for you.
For a straightforward matzo ball soup in the slow cooker, you’ll start with a couple of chicken breasts and add in all your classic chicken soup ingredients, like onions, celery, carrots and chicken stock. Let that cook for a few hours, then whip up your matzo mixture and form it into balls. Add the matzo balls to the soup when there’s 30 minutes left to go, and you’ll end up with a hearty meal that looks a lot more complicated than it actually is.
Turkey and Cranberry Quesadillas
Looking for another way to use up those leftovers? This recipe for turkey and cranberry quesadillas from Little Dairy on the Prairie is sweet and savory — in other words, a crowd-pleaser.
For this dish, you’ll sprinkle Swiss cheese over a tortilla to start, then layer some shredded turkey, more cheese and then cranberry sauce. Top it off with another tortilla, and warm it up in a frying pan or skillet with a bit of butter. Once you’ve got the quesadillas assembled, they cook quickly, and they’re great for serving a big, hungry group.
Many families’ holiday meals look similar. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole are holiday staples — and we usually end up with plenty of leftovers.
Think outside the box when working through all of that extra food with a creative meal like Thanksgiving Pizza. The clever recipe from The Gunny Sack starts with puff pastry in a tart pan and adds mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, turkey, stuffing, even more gravy and a final sprinkling of cheese and French fried onions.
The best part of this dish: You can really customize it with whatever leftovers you have on hand, from ham and carrots to sweet potatoes and squash.
Hot Cocoa Brownie Cups
Wow-worthy desserts don’t have to take hours to prepare. If you’re headed to a cookie exchange or need a bite-sized dessert idea, these little brownie cups are almost too cute to eat.
This Delish recipe keeps it simple with store-bought brownie mix. Bake the brownie batter in cupcake tins, then press mini marshmallows into the centers before they’re completely baked. Return them to the oven so the marshmallows will puff and melt. Use melted chocolate to attach chocolate-covered pretzel halves to the sides of the brownie cups — these are your “handles” — then top it all with sprinkles and a drizzle of chocolate.
Strawberry Shortcake Trifle
Trifles are simple no-bake desserts that never fail to impress. Turning a trifle into a single-serve dessert is a slightly different way to present it that’s especially popular with kiddos — because who wouldn’t want the chance to eat an entire dessert by themselves?
This recipe for strawberry shortcake trifles from Cooking Classy uses homemade shortcake and fresh strawberries, but you could also start with store-bought pound cake or even use frozen berries in between the layers of cream. Mix it up by adding different types of berries.
Mini Apple Pie Roses
Looking for a lighter dessert with a wow-worthy presentation? These Mini Apple Pie Roses from Martha Stewart definitely fit the bill.
While they look complex, this sweet and simple dessert starts with a pie crust base cut into heart shapes and arranged in cupcake tins. (And yes, you can use store-bought pie crust.) Thinly slice and bake a few apples, and then roll them up into a rose shape, sprinkle with sugar, and bake.
Holiday Popcorn Mix
For those in-between meal times when your family is looking for a fun seasonal snack, this Holiday Popcorn Mix is a quick and easy option. It’s perfect for holiday movie nights on the couch, and it can also be packaged up nicely and given as gifts.
Love Grows Wild shares this recipe that blends fresh popcorn, white chocolate, pretzels, holiday-colored M&Ms and sprinkles. Everything is spread out and mixed together on a cookie sheet, and can be served in a big bowl or parceled out into individual servings. Just be careful: This sweet and salty combo is seriously addictive.