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Christmas Dinner Ideas: Non-Traditional Recipes & Menus

Looking for a Christmas menu that's a little bit non-traditional and unique? I've got some great ideas for you, whether you're planning a casual get together or a five star feast.


Turkey is a no-brainer when it comes to Thanksgiving, and ham or beef roasts are holiday mainstays. But I've always liked to get a little unconventional when it comes to our Christmas meal.

I know, I runs contrary to most advice (including my own) to try a new recipe on a holiday, but Christmas dinner is the one chance I have each year to finally test out some of those slightly more involved recipes I've been tearing out, pinning, and bookmarking all year long.

My only rule for a Christmas dinner entree is that it has to be special — something I wouldn't normally make for our family dinner. That might mean it's a little bit labor intensive, or requires a unique or expensive ingredient that I wouldn't normally buy.

Yet I don't want it to be over-complicated. I want my Christmas meal to say, "I love you, I'm glad you're here, and I put effort into making this delicious, special meal for you." Not, "I was trying so hard to be impressive and fancy that I completely stressed myself out and now I hate everyone."

With that in mind, here are some recipes and menu ideas for some simple, yet special meals to consider for your holiday feast.

Non-traditional Christmas Dinner Ideas:

1) Homemade Lasagna

Homemade lasagna is a labor of love, and any dinner guest will appreciate it. You can never go wrong with traditional lasagna, but there are other variations you can try as well. It's a perfect dish to serve if you're feeding a crowd, especially since you can make it ahead.

Lasagna Recipe Suggestions:

Homemade lasagna

2) Pasta Bolognese or Ragu

Again, pasta might not seem like it would be special enough for a holiday meal, but when you spend hours simmering and stirring and perfecting a bolognese or ragu sauce, it definitely is. Another perk to making one of these dishes is that you make the sauce several days ahead and store it in the refrigerator. The flavor will be even better!

Bolognese and Ragu Recipe Suggestions:

3) Lobster

Lobster is the ultimate "special occasion" food. Risotto isn't hard to make, but it's time consuming because it requires adding liquid in small amounts and stirring constantly to get it just right. For that reason, I've only made it for him once (on his birthday), but I'd consider making it again for a holiday meal.

4) Cioppino

Another thing that would be glorious on a Christmas dining table (and in your belly) would be a seafood stew or Cioppino. The gathering and prep of ingredients for this dish is where the difficulty lies; otherwise, the actual cooking is quite quick and simple.

Cioppino Recipe Suggestions:

5) 1770 House Meatloaf

Meatloaf for Christmas?

This isn't just any meatloaf, however. A few years ago, I made 1770 House Meatloaf for our Christmas dinner -- a recipe originally shared by Ina Garten and beautifully replicated by Susan at The View from Great Island.

Meatloaf might seem like a run-of-the-mill weeknight meal, but this meatloaf is special. It's all about the garlic sauce, which is really easy to make and has delicious flavor (and it's not super garlicky since the slow simmering of the garlic mellows it out quite a bit). It was a huge hit with everyone, including the kids!

6) Short Ribs

You don't need to cook a large roast to have holiday-worthy beef for dinner. Short ribs are a great option because they cook low and slow, so you don't need to worry about any mad dashes through the kitchen when it's time to eat.

Short Rib Recipe Suggestions:

7) Steak

You can't go wrong with a perfectly cooked steak for a holiday meal. If you want to make it extra special, choose the highest quality steak you can find, and create a special sauce to go with it.

Steak Recipe Suggestions:

9) Braciole

A combination of beef, proscuitto, red wine, garlic, parmesan, tomatoes and more - sounds perfect for Christmas, right? This recipe for Beef Braciole is absolutely delicious, and you can save time and energy by cooking it in the slow cooker.

10) Lamb Chops

A well cooked lamb chop makes for a delicious, yet simple main course. Lamb has a distinctive taste, which some love and others don't. But if you've got lamb-lovers coming for dinner, these recipes would be a hit.

Christmas Side Dish Ideas:

OK, now that you've got ideas for a main course, what about side dishes? Here are some of my favorite Christmas side dish recipes.

Christmas Drinks:

  • Rosemary Lemonade - the rosemary simple syrup makes the house smell like the holidays!
  • Coquito - it's a Puerto Rican twist on eggnog, and this vegan coquito happens to be egg-free and dairy-free!
  • Vegan Eggnog

Christmas dinner doesn't have to mean 10 different dishes or an elaborately prepared expensive cut of meat. All you need is good food made with love.

If you have any great Christmas dinner ideas to share, please do so in the comments. Wishing you all a wonderful, delicious and stress-free holiday!

If you don't want to make the traditional turkey or ham for Christmas dinner, here are some fantastic recipes and menu ideas for a simple, but delicious holiday meal.

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Tuesday 8th of December 2015

I made short ribs for Christmas Eve dinner last year....they were easy, they pretty much cooked themselves as I did last minute wrapping & then after Christmas Eve mass we all had a delicious meal complete with little potatoes & carrots!


Wednesday 9th of December 2015

Great minds think alike! :)

Susan Deaven

Tuesday 8th of December 2015

Anxiously awaiting what will be on the Pera menu this Christmas! Everything sounds fabulous!


Tuesday 8th of December 2015

You should vote on what you want! Menu is still up for debate. :)

Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life

Tuesday 8th of December 2015

This is a great collection of special dishes! I love the menu ideas. I agree that holiday food for me is a labor of love and I like to try/use recipes that are special and DELICIOUS! While we don't have pasta on holidays typically, homemade pasta is definitely a special occasion/celebratory food at our house. Also, Cooks Illustrated has a no-fuss risotto recipe that is really easy and good-- instead of adding the broth in a little at a time, you actually add steaming broth all at once, then cover and cook it for about 20 minutes. If you like risotto a lot, it may be worth checking into. :-)


Tuesday 8th of December 2015

Thanks so much, Lisa! I'll definitely look for that recipe. I'm sure it would make my husband happy if I made it more often. :)


Tuesday 8th of December 2015

A great collection for the Holidays, thank you for including my recipes, such an honor. You have really put together a wonderful variety to please everyone and leave room to enjoy the guests! Thank you for such a great post!


Tuesday 8th of December 2015

Your recipes are right up my alley -- good & simple. :)

Tara | Deliciously Declassified

Tuesday 8th of December 2015

Love these ideas for cooking something new and different for Christmas! I usually prepare the same menu year after year but changing it up is a good idea. Thanks for including my recipe :)


Tuesday 8th of December 2015

Your recipes are fantastic! There are so many I'd like to make.

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