The Christmas food trends you need on your table
If you’re hosting Christmas this year, you'll almost certainly already be planning what you’re going to cook that's special, will please everyone, and is manageable.
Supermarkets are always bang on the Christmas trends, conducting months of research to find out what will sell. So we’ve been perusing the shelves of all the major supermarket chains to see what Christmas food looks like in 2021, and how you can create those best-sellers at home.
This year we’re apparently side-stepping Christmas puds and Brussels sprouts and heading into a new age of vegan Wellingtons, salted caramel desserts, baked cheese and global party foods. Even if you ignore the fashions and keep to tradition, there's certainly fun to be had exploring the trends that you might like to try.
Everyone loves a mince pie. Or do they? This year's fillings are edging away from tradition: bourbon and bitter orange (Co-op), "millionaire" salted caramel and chocolate (Aldi), salted caramel (Tesco), and, err, hoisin duck (Marks and Spencer).
Making them yourself means you can play with fillings, shapes and pastry. Mary's long, sliceable mincemeat tart is great for a party and if you hate rolling and cutting all those pie cases. Try the sloe gin filling or the amaretto and walnut filling in these puff pastry mince pies if you want to get a bit experimental with flavours.
For picture-perfect classics, you can’t go wrong with Mary Berry's mince pies with their crumble streusel topping or Nigella's star-topped pies. If you like a deep-filled mince pie with a lid, Paul Hollywood's mince pie recipe is for you. Freshly baked pies will always have the edge on shop-bought, even if you buy the pastry ready-made. Just make sure you shower them with gold shimmer dust for the most Instagrammable Christmas ever.
You don’t need market research to tell you that cheese will be popular. But this Christmas is all about baked cheese, with a variety of small brie and camembert cheeses in ceramic dishes, or wrapped in puff pastry.
These sorts of things you can easily make at home. Raymond Blanc's baked camembert recipe is cooked in the wooden box, and is great for a buffet with breadsticks or flatbreads. With a little more effort, Nadiya’s cranberry and chilli brioche wreath or chicken and cheese in puff pastry is the perfect table centrepiece for everyone to coo over.
Deluxe macaroni cheese has been around as a party food for a few years. Serve in small foil trays with some deluxe additions such as the Hairy Bikers' spicy chipotle mac and cheese or deluxe lobster mac and cheese. Or try Rick Stein's extra-creamy smoked bacon macaroni cheese. Delia's any-cheese sauce means you can use up cheeseboard leftovers and call it a luxury four-cheese recipe.
Vegetarian and vegan
According to a YouGov poll from last year, a vegetarian roast is the most popular option behind turkey and chicken. With younger generations turning to plant-based diets, the rise of the veggie roast looks set to continue. On top of that, 2021 has been a huge year for plant-based meat alternatives, with loads of new products hitting the shelves in supermarkets.
A nut roast is a safe option, of course, but if you’re thinking something more on trend, it's all about the pastry. Make sure you get vegan puff pastry (widely available) for a vegan Wellington or a mushroom Wellington. Or use it to make a hearty vegan pie for Christmas day or after.
If pastry isn't your thing, stuff it. Literally. A stuffed butternut squash, stuffed aubergines or stuffed mushrooms make a great centrepiece. We have recipes for all parts of the dinner, plus vegan party food in our vegan Christmas recipes collection.
Christmas party food is where novelty and convenience become best friends, usually in the freezer cabinet. There's no way that a home cook can make the vast array of miniature snack foods for less money or effort as can be achieved with mass manufacturing. But if you don't enjoy the packaging or the long list of ingredients, we have some easy recipes for party foods that will impress all the more because you made them, even if they're not chicken churros (Sainsburys).
Our tandoori-style chicken skewers, satay skewers or teriyaki skewers only need a few ingredients. Ready-made puff pastry is the perfect canvas for canape tarts, some easy cheese and chorizo straws or a big tear-and-share like Nadiya's ham and cheese crown.
For party food desserts, it's all about the fun. Cut these chocolate hazelnut brownies or Christmas rocky road into tiny squares, or use shot glasses to serve this three-ingredient lemon posset or Nadiya's chocolate hazelnut mousse.
I'm dreaming of a caramel Christmas
Puddings may be the favourite part of the meal, but the Christmas pudding is on the decline – only 28% of all those questioned in Tesco’s latest Christmas report said that it was their favourite festive dessert. Meanwhile 2021 sees perhaps the widest range of festive desserts ever, with one clear trendy flavour frontrunner – salted caramel. From salted miso caramel brownies (Waitrose) to stuffed, chocolate-covered salted caramel profiteroles (Lidl) to salted caramel cheesecake (everyone), it's everywhere. Special mention goes to the caramel flavour of speculoos biscuits which is popping up in desserts beyond the biscuit spread.
Ice cream, cheesecake and cakes are all moving in on the Christmas table traditions and are especially favoured by younger people. Stay on their nice list with a tray of salted caramel brownies, a caramel cheesecake or Nadiya's magical caramel chocoflan cake. Dulce de leche or tinned caramel is a great cheat that goes into many desserts, including this easy salted caramel sauce that will put a shop-bought ice cream completely on trend.
If you’re hoping to nail the centre of the trendy Christmas venn diagram, look no further than this outrageous Biscoff cheesecake with caramel sauce – it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
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