If you just can’t get excited at the thought of serving turkey at your celebration dinner, there’s still time for a last-minute change of plan that will surprise and delight your guests! To help you banish the boredom of serving the same old bird, our Point2 team put together a list of twelve great alternatives.
As they’re all inspired by traditional Christmas dishes from around the world, they’re straightforward to prepare and easy to adapt to create your unique ‘heritage’ dishes! Explore and enjoy!
1. Suckling Pig
A suckling pig will definitely make an impression if you’re looking for a dramatic centerpiece for your Christmas dinner! You’ll have enough meat to feed 15-18 hungry adults.
Although traditionally, the roast would be served with head and trotters intact, this is often impractical with modern ovens. The good news is that many butchers will prepare a ‘porchetta’ boning and stuffing the joint for you – and all you need to do is treat it as you would a large roasting joint of pork.
Then serve Spanish style, with roast potatoes and caramelized onions cooked underneath the meat so they absorb the delicious juices.
2. Cold buffet
As it’s midwinter in Sweden, and temperatures are likely sub-zero, it seems strange that a cold buffet or Julbord is one of the highlights of Christmas. But, if you want to get away from hours of preparation in a hot kitchen and offer your guests something lighter yet delicious, it’s a delightful alternative.
Create your Julbord around four themes. First, serve fish, such as gravlax, pickled herring, and salmon, washed down with traditional schnapps. Then, a selection of cold meats. The Julskinka, or Christmas ham, is the most typical offering. Brawn and various cuts are also offered, partnered with fine cheeses.
Next, some warm dishes, such as grilled sausages, meatballs, or Janssons frestelse, literally “Jansson’s Temptation,” a traditional Swedish stew of potatoes, onions, and pickled sprats. Finally – dessert arrives! Perhaps serve a simple rice pudding, with a whole almond hidden inside -to bring good luck to whoever finds it.
For curry lovers, why not make a traditional Goan sorpotel, a dish with Portuguese roots but commonly served in India at Christmas time? One advantage of this fiery recipe is that you prepare it well ahead of time- it’s said to taste best on the third day when the flavors have had time to meld together.
4. Freshwater Fish
Fish makes an attractive festive centerpiece if you’re looking for an alternative to meat. River or lake fish such as carp or trout are prepared in unique ways all over central and northern Europe, accompanied by vegetables and potatoes cooked according to the local traditions. So you’re free to choose whatever you like that’s in season!
Prepare the fish Austrian-style by frying it in butter or covering it in breadcrumbs, as in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In Poland, the fish is typically soaked in milk, then fried, or served baked in aspic (a savory jelly).
5. Salted Cod
Baccalà or Baclau is codfish that’s been preserved by packing in salt and drying. It has quite a chewy, meaty texture and tastes nothing like regular fish. It’s practically the national dish of Portugal and is famous all over Europe and Brazil.
Portuguese Christmas Eve salted cod, bacalhau de consoada, is a humble, traditional dish typically prepared with potatoes, cabbage, and hard-boiled eggs.
If that doesn’t sound fancy enough for Christmas dinner, go for something different! Try it Italian style – cut into chunks, dipped in flour, fried, and then cooked again in homemade tomato sauce and served with a massive plate of your favorite pasta!
You may want to surprise your guests with a more informal yet still memorable menu. For example, why not make a huge pile of delicious Venezuelan-style tamales, aka hallacas? Homemade dough (masa) is packed with a warming stew containing raisins, various spices, and any variety of meat. Wrap it all up in a banana leaf or, if that’s not readily available, a corn husk.
7. Mexican-style Tamales
Mexican tamales also have an infinite variety of ingredients, making them ideal if you’re a cook who loves to experiment. Or, let everyone contribute to their meal by organizing a fun Christmas tamalada, or tamale-making party. One of our favorite recipes involves bone-in chicken breast with delicious green jalapeno chili sauce, but the choice is yours!
Although it’s a smaller and more modest alternative to turkey, chicken is more versatile and often juicier. Although few things are more delicious and aromatic than a well-roasted chicken flavored with herbs and spices, if you’re looking for something different, what about a fragrant Ethiopian Doro Wat?
It’s a wonderfully succulent slow-cooked stew prepared for special occasions and family gatherings. Serve it over soft Ethiopian-style bread, perhaps with some collard greens as a side.
If the thought of serving a mass-produced turkey doesn’t inspire you, what about goose as an alternative? It’s synonymous with a traditional Christmas dinner in Germany, Austria and Russia and makes a spectacular centerpiece for any festive table.
Moreover, it’s not complicated to prepare and cook- remember to save the rendered fat as there’s nothing like it for making excellent roast potatoes and veg! (If you don’t want to use it immediately, freeze it in ice cube trays).
10. Prawns and crayfish
If the climate where you are allows it, why not throw some prawns on the barbie? Enjoy your festive meal al fresco, with plenty of potato salads and perhaps some cold roast meats as an alternative.
In Australia, where this would be a traditional Christmas dinner, oysters are sometimes included to add a touch of extra luxury to the meal. And to end the meal, a pavlova – a fluffy meringue-based cake smothered in whipped cream and garnished with fruit makes the perfect end to the menu.
11. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
To get away from roasting and grilling, why not make a vegetable the focal point of your Christmas meal? Stuffed cabbage is a staple of central and eastern European cuisine and often takes pride of place at Christmas meals.
For example, German kohlrouladen is stuffed with beef and partners well with mashed potatoes or egg noodle pasta. Variations from neighboring countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, or Poland combine two or more meats, such as pork and beef, for the stuffing and cook the leaves in a spiced tomato sauce. And what else is great? They can be made in advance and frozen, so you can enjoy Christmas relaxing with your guests!
12. Vegetarian mains
Whether you have vegetarian/vegan guests or feel like breaking out of a meat-based Christmas dinner straight-jacket, you’re in luck. There are so many sumptuous non-animal-based celebration mains to choose from!
The key is to select dishes that even dedicated carnivores will love, so what about a vegetarian potpie, with a delicious homemade pastry crust? Or a whole roasted cabbage with mushroom gravy or a chili cheese sweet potato bake? There are hundreds of creative recipes to delight your guests and make them happy that there’s no sign of turkey on your table!