Our easy Christmas dinner menu for four is a base menu with alternative options to grow your menu for 5 people or even 6. We have outlined vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free options too, so everyone can enjoy!
Plus, welcome cocktails, appetizers, and wine pairings. Our Christmas dinner countdown is a step-by-step planning guide to ensure a relaxing and enjoyable holiday for everyone.
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🎄 Christmas Dinner Menu
The best Christmas dinner menus combine traditional items, regional specialties, and new modern takes on the classics.
No one menu is perfect for everyone so we have listed out alternatives so you can expand and custom a menu that is perfect for your small gathering. But without having to go through a round-up list of 50+ items.
Here is a guide to our diet abbreviations:
- GF/ GFO- Gluten Free/ Gluten-Free Option
- DF/ DFO- Dairy- Free or Dairy- Free Option
- V- Vegetarian
Suggested Basic Christmas Menu
- Braised Pork Roast with Apples and Sage (GF, DF)
- Mushrooms with Roasted Chestnuts (GF, DF, V)
- Parmesan Baked Rutabaga (GF, V)
- Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate (GF, DF, V)
- Roasted Cranberries (GF, DF,V)
- Maple Creme Brulee (GF, V)
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Pork Roast with Apples and Sage
We love a pork roast for Christmas dinner (or Christmas Eve dinner). It is perfect for a crowd size of 4 to 8, and a nice change of pace from overly sweet glazed hams. If you aren't a pork person, try this herb-roasted turkey breast instead.
Braised in hard cider (or apple juice) and a delicious sauce for drizzling. This is a wow recipe that truly takes very little effort or hands-on time. Braising the pork ensures it is tender and juicy.
Pro Tip: The best variety of apples to cook with pork are Winesaps, Braeburns, Jonagold, Fuji, or Cortland apples. These variety of apples are firm, so they hold up well to long cooking times.
Time Saver: This recipe can be made in your slow cooker or instant pot. Detailed instructions for both in the blog post.
Mushrooms with Roasted Chestnuts
This side dish is our vegan/ vegetarian main course for all our veggie-loving friends at Christmas. This rich mushroom dish is deceptively tasty and always surprises our guests.
Roasted chestnuts are a Christmas staple. But have you ever made them? Now is your chance. Don't worry, we used pre-roasted chestnuts for ease.
Pro Tip: This recipe uses ground-up dry mushrooms to thicken the sauce. Don't try to substitute other thickeners like cornstarch or you miss out on the intense wild mushroom flavor.
Time Saver: This recipe can be made up through the step of adding the wine up to 3 days in advance. Finish by adding the chestnuts and almond milk when reheating.
Parmsesan Baked Rutabaga
I am all about mashed potatoes but sometimes we want to impress our guests (and ourselves) with a different take on starchy vegetables. Enter these gorgeous roasted rutabagas with parmesan and herbs. They pair perfectly with the sauce from the perfect.
Alternatively, if you wanted a dairy-free option, this honey and thyme roasted rutabaga pairs well too.
Plan on ⅓ pound of rutabagas per person. Don't go by rutabaga counts, as rutabagas vary greatly in size. A kitchen scale comes in handy here.
Pro Tip: Use a mandolin or the slicing blade on your food processor for perfectly cut rutabagas.
Time Saver: Assemble the night before and bring to room temperature before baking.
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegrante
This brussels sprout salad is as festive as it gets with bright pops of red and green.
With just two ingredients plus a tangy poppy seed dressing, this is as easy as it gets when it comes to holiday side dishes.
Pro Tip: Trim off the stems of the sprouts and use the slicing blade on your food processor to quickly shred the sprouts.
Time Saver: All the parts of the salad can be prepared in advance and tossed together up to 2 hours before serving.
No weird jello, food color, or more sugar than cranberries. These roasted cranberries are tart, delicious, and the most popular Thanksgiving recipe we have ever published. But we love it for Christmas too.
You can turn this recipe into a cranberry sauce by adding water and giving the cranberries a quick pulse with the immersion blender.
You won't go back to cranberry salad. We promise.
Pro Tip: Don't skip the bourbon. It really adds a unique flavor to this dish.
Time Saver: Make this recipe up to 3 days in advance and reheat in the oven on low.
Maple Creme Brulee
I am never sure what to make for Christmas dessert is polarizing. After all the Christmas cookies and candies. A simple maple creme brulee with salted pecans is the perfect solution. You can serve in individual ramekins or make one and serve in a small casserole dish.
Our rich Spice Cake (GF, DF, V) is another option.
Pro Tip: You can add additional flavors like bourbon or cinnamon.
Time Saver: The sure-fire way to ruin creme brulee is getting water from the water bath into the creme brulee when getting from the oven. Place paper towels under the ramekins. It will prevent them from moving around and sloshing the water.
Optional Menu Items
Everyone has a different plan for how much work they want to put into a holiday gathering. Not to mention available time. We put together a few ways to expand and customize our menu so you can create your own perfect Christmas dinner menu for 4 (or 6 or 8!),
Every dinner table needs bread or rolls. Use store-bought or make homemade Crescent Rolls (GF, DFO, V).
🍸Appetizers and Cocktails
It can be exhausting keeping everyone entertained while finishing up dinner. I like to have a nibble or two available to keep everyone out of my hair and relaxed while we put the finishing touches on dinner.
When we have small gatherings, everyone ends up in the kitchen so I like to have just one or two items I can set out and don't take up much space.
There are only two options for Christmas cocktails (in my mind at least)- Eggnog and Mulled Wine. Our Boozy Eggnog (GF, DF, V) is a perennial favorite, but my new slow cooker mulled wine is a cozy alternative. You might also want to try our Apple Whiskey Smash.
🍷 Wine Pairings
The wine available in your neck of the woods might vary greatly from mine. I always recommend going to a locally-owned shop and sourcing wine that both matches the menu and you personally like.
My personal picks for Christmas pork are a Chablis and a Malbec. But there are so many more options!
White Wines for Christmas
If you like sweeter wine, try a dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
For a more traditional pairing, try a Chardonnay or Chablis wine.
One note about Chardonnays, there is an American trend towards making them overly oaky (i.e., buttery). Ask for something that is alight to medium oak to ensure it balances well with the pork fat in dinner.
The surprise pick here would be a Spanish Alberino which is more acidic.
Red Wines for Christmas
The typical pairing for pork roast is a classic merlot or a Pinot Noir. And I love these picks. But Malbec with pork is a favorite of mine.
For a surprise red pick, try a Sangiovese.
Rose and Sparkling Wines for Christmas
I love a dry prosecco; it has finer bubbles than Champagne or a crisp rose made from pinot noir as alternative picks.
⏲️ Christmas Dinner Countdown
This is not a Christmas planner or worksheet that has things like "order rentals" or make a "holly centerpiece". A small group Christmas dinner menu should be more manageable.
Let's break down the important high-level tasks to keep you on track and relaxed.
Four Weeks of Before
- Finalize guest list and confirm dietary restrictions
- Decide on menu, make sure you get ahead of any dietary restrictions
Pro Tip: There is never room on our table once the food is ready so I skip the centerpiece and just a have few votives on a table runner.
Three Weeks of Before
- Make sure you have the proper tools and serving ware (i.e., properly sized roasting pan)
- Make your shopping lists. Divide between week 2 items and week of items, non perishable vs. fresh.
Two Weeks of Before
- Shop for non perishables like spices, pantry items, paper goods, wine, and beer. Also get your turkey if doing frozen.
- Cook anything that will freeze like homemade stocks, pie crusts, or dinner rolls.
One Week Before
- Make a cooking schedule. What pieces and parts can be made before Christmas?
- What order do items go in the oven on Chrristmas day?
- Do any major cleaning that needs done in order for you to feel relaxed the week of Christmas.
The Week of Christmas
- Buy you perishables and fresh foods
- Clean and chop all the vegetables
- Thaw out your pork roast at least 24 hours in advance.
Christmas Week Cooking Schedule
Two Days Before
- Make the salad dressing.
- Shave the brussels sprouts.
- Make cranberry sauce.
- Spot clean as needed.
One Day Before
- Make creme brulee dessert and chill.
- Make mushrooms.
- Thaw out dinner rolls.
- Make the eggnog.
- Assemble the parmesan roasted rutabaga.
- Set out the pork roast and rutabagas at room temperature before preparing.
- Assemble appetizers.
- Assemble salad.
- Make eggnog.
👪 What Can I Bring?
When hosting any gathering you should expect this question. And our lovely etiquette experts will tell you to say, "Just bring yourself". But some people generally want to contribute, so let them!
And frankly, hosting Christmas is a lot of work. I could use a hand.
I break the request down into types 4 people.
The Best Intentions- They want to help, but there is a low chance of follow-through. These people get the "just bring yourself" but "if you have time to grab a bottle of wine that would be great". And then I don't count it!
The Shopper- They want to help but they don't do homemade. I ask them to bring something easily purchased but I am specific. "I was going to pick up a spice cake (or dinner rolls) from the bakery, if you could handle that I would be so appreciative."
Wine or beer is also a good choice here. Or ask if you can borrow any serving dishes if you are short.
The Sous Chef- Truly wants to help and will show up with whatever you ask. But you have to be specific. There are two tactics here. The first is asking them to bring a dish you know they make well (great for family favorite side dishes).
Or try the "I was planning to make XYZ recipe. Would you want to bring that? I can send it to you.". And send them the recipe link.
The Chef- REALLY wants to help, but don't stifle their creativity. This is my little sister in a nutshell. "Would you want to tackle dessert? ". Then get out of the way and enjoy their amazing creation.
Check out our Christmas Dinner Menu web story!