People from across the globe celebrate Christmas quite differently. For instance, most countries observe the religious holiday on December 25th, while nations that follow the Julian calendar commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ on January 7th. But despite these little contrasts, Christmas, wherever you are in the world, is always celebrated with friends, family, and fantastic food.
Speaking of food, Christmas is a culinary high point for any cook, as it’s one of the exciting times of the year when traditional foods take center stage. And in anticipation of the upcoming holiday, the international food magazine Chef’s Pencil conducted a study to determine the most popular Christmas dish around the world.
What’s the most popular Christmas dish in the U.S.?
According to Chef’s Pencil, the most popular Christmas dish in the United States is none other than roast turkey. Turkeys are synonymous with Thanksgiving Day, so this might come as a surprise to some people. But apparently, based on Chef’s Pencil’s research, turkeys are also a hit during Christmastime in America.
What’s the most popular Christmas dish around the world?
Just like in the U.S., Turkey is also at the center of Christmas dinners in Canada and the United Kingdom. In these three countries, roast turkey is prepared with different stuffings and sauces to prevent the meat from quickly becoming a little dry while cooking. In America, roast turkey always comes with a fresh cranberry sauce on the side, while in the U.K., roast turkeys are typically stuffed with sage and onion. While roast potatoes are the staple side dish for roast turkey just about everywhere, some families in the U.S. and Canada prefer pumpkin as their side dish.
Turkey is also the most popular Christmas dish in Chile, Paraguay, El Salvador, Peru, and Brazil. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since turkeys were first domesticated by the Aztecs and the Mayas in South America at least 900 years before Christ. In Peru, roast turkey slices are served with a mélange of creme fraiche, chicken broth, lime juice, Jalapeño peppers, fresh cilantro, and cayenne pepper. Chile’s roast turkey, on the other hand, is commonly stuffed with apples.
The star of Christmas Eve dinners in France is also Turkey, which is served with chestnut stuffing and often surrounded by roast chestnuts and stuffed apples. Turkey is also a Christmas favorite in Greece and Cyprus. In Greece, turkeys are usually stuffed with minced meat, pine nuts, and chestnuts, while turkeys in Cyprus are filled with finely chopped chicken giblets, rice, almonds, and raisins.
The most popular Christmas dishes in Spain, Cuba, and Mexico are all pork-based. In Spain and Cuba, people prepare roast suckling pigs as the centerpiece of their Christmas feast. Spanish people serve their roast caramelized potatoes and onions, while Cubans pair their roast with black beans, rice, and garlicky yuca.
In Mexico, people prepare a pork joint every Christmas. This pork joint is covered with a lavish layer of homemade adobo, which is a thick chili paste with vinegar or citrus juice and enriched with the flavors of onions, garlic, cumin, and oregano.
Julskinka (Christmas pork ham) is the centerpiece of the Christmas feast in Sweden, while pork rib “ribbe” remains the most popular Christmas dish in Norway.
In India, people cook sorpotel for their Christmas meal. Sorpotel is a pork stew that is cooked, then left to marinate for several days before it is served. Its marinating sauce is made with vinegar, spices, and chilis.
As part of their Christmas tradition, people of Papua New Guinea roast pork in a mumu (earth oven) and serve it with local vegetables such as sweet potato.
Christmas Eve dinner in the Philippines is not complete without Liempo. This Christmas dish is made from pork bellies marinated in soy sauce, with spices such as paprika and cayenne pepper. The marinated meat is then slow-cooked to achieve the pork’s perfectly crisp skin and meltingly tender meat.
In some countries, December 24th is the final day of the 40 days of religious fasting, when consuming meat is forbidden. This explains why Christmas Eve dinners in some places are packed with seafood-based dishes.
For instance, people in Austria prepare carp fried in butter for their Christmas Eve dinner. Christians in Slovakia and Czech Republic, on the other, cook breaded carp for their Christmas meals. In Poland, the carp-based Christmas dish is done quite differently. The fish is first soaked in milk, then flour coated and fried.
In Hungary, carp are not served fried. For the holiday feast, Hungarians cook halászlé a.k.a. fisherman’s soup. It is basically a spiced carp broth seasoned with paprika.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Stuffed cabbage rolls are one of the most popular Christmas foods in Central, Balkan, and Eastern Europe. Stuffed cabbage rolls have different names in the region. It is called sarmale in Romania and Moldova, holubtsi in Ukraine, balandėliai in Lithuania, golubtsy in Russia, goląki in Poland, sarma in Serbia, sarmi in Bulgaria, töltött káposzta in Hungary, and kohlrouladen in Germany.
Countries in central and the northern part of South America celebrate Christmas with the iconic celebration food called Tamales. This treat is made of corn dough which is stuffed with a variety of fillings including chicken and pork, before being wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk, and steamed to eat on the go.
While not a Christmas favorite, duck is served during Christmas meals in Denmark. According to Chef’s Pencil, three out of four people in Denmark consume duck on the festive holiday
People who can’t afford turkey opt for chicken as their main dish for their Christmas dinners. For example, Brazilians cook Chester as an alternative to turkey. Roasted and carved like boneless honey ham, Chester is an oval-shaped chicken package made from a special chicken breed that provides a high percentage of breast and thigh meat.
In Ethiopia, a dish called Doro Wat is traditionally served as part of a Christmas feast. A flavorful, fragrant, and rich slow-cooked chicken stew, Doro Wat is usually poured over injera, a soft Ethiopian bread.
Some nations also prepare beef dishes during Christmas. For instance, Argentina has a Christmas dish called Vitel Thoné. It’s a delicious take on an iconic Italian recipe made with sliced veal and topped with a sauce of tuna and anchovies. Uruguay also includes beef cuts in its traditional Christmas asado.
To illustrate the results of its study, Chef’s Pencil has created a series of maps showing the most popular Christmas dishes around the world, which you can see below: