- Sarmale – Romania
- Dduk Guk (tteokguk) – South Korea
- Buche De Noel (Yule Log Cake) – France
- Pavlova – New Zealand
- Panforte – Italy
- Pozole – Mexico
- Turron De Alicante – Spain
- Melomakarona – Greece
- Weinachtsstollen – Germany
- Cola De Mono – Chile
- Mince Pies – U.K.
- Mechado – Philippines
- Toshikoshi Soba – Japan
- Sonhos De Natal – Portugal
- Olivier Salad – Russia
- Lussekatter (Saint Lucia Buns) – Sweden
- Latkes – Israel
- Pasteles – Puerto Rico
- Tourtière – Canada (Quebec)
- Kutya – Ukraine
- Doro Wat – Ethiopia
- Babka – Poland
- Banh Chung – Vietnam
- Spiral Ham – USA
Sarmale – Romania
Cuts of pork are rolled in cabbage leaves, then slow-cooked in tomatoes and dill in this traditional Romanian recipe. Sarmale are eaten to celebrate a few occasions in Romania, but especially Christmas and New Year’s. Because they take a few hours to finish cooking, many people make them ahead of time and reheat them—some actually prefer them reheated because the flavors are richer. The choice is yours.
Dduk Guk (tteokguk) – South Korea
Celebrating the Lunar New Year in South Korea absolutely requires eating dduk guk (or tteokguk), Korean rice cake soup. Made with deep-flavored beef broth that simmers for hours, it’s served with shredded beef, scallions, eggs, and seaweed on top. The steamy soup is supposed to bring luck and health in the new year, so don’t hesitate to try this recipe at home.
Buche De Noel (Yule Log Cake) – France
Bûche de Noel, or yule log cake, probably originated around the 17th century. Before this, families would burn logs covered in holly to purge the events of the previous year. Eventually, this fell out of practice and was replaced by a delicious dessert that resembles an actual log. Now, the French buy this decorative cake in bakeries or make it from scratch. The sponge cake is filled with cream, then covered in buttercream and garnished with fresh fruit and herbs. Get the recipe here.
Pavlova – New Zealand
Created in honor of famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this dessert’s country of origin is much disputed—historians can’t decide if it was New Zealand or Australia. However, the one thing they can agree on is that it’s divine. While Americans celebrate Christmas during the wintertime, countries in the southern hemisphere are in the middle of summer. It’s no wonder, then, that this soft and airy treat made of baked meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit is typical holiday fare in New Zealand the Land Down Under. Get the recipe here.
Panforte – Italy
Italy’s contribution to holiday food does not stop at panettone. There are several varieties in the “pan” family, and this one from Siena is worthy of your dinner table. Originally, panforte was given to monasteries as thanks for accommodations. Filled with almonds, figs and other dried fruits, this rich “bread” incorporates honey and spices for a dense dessert typically served with coffee. Get the recipe here.
Pozole – Mexico
Coming in three different varieties—red, green, and white—pozole has been a celebratory Central American food since the Aztecs. Its name refers to the hominy in the stew and is filled with onions, peppers and aromatic herbs. Pork or chicken thighs are slowly cooked in the broth for rich flavor. Peppery radish and spicy chiles tops it all off. Get the recipe for chicken pozole verde here.
Turron De Alicante – Spain
This crunchy confection was brought to Europe by the Moors and is now enjoyed in countries around the world. Though there are a few versions—basically divided into two categories: hard and soft—the hardened nougat mixed with almonds in the turron de Alicante might be the most iconic. Get the recipe here.
Melomakarona – Greece
These sweet, nutty honey cookies are the quintessential Christmas cookie in Greece. Once the cookies have cooled, they’re left to soak in a mixture of sugar, honey, spices, and water. Not only does this help them cling to crushed walnuts, but it also keeps them moist. Get the recipe here.
Weinachtsstollen – Germany
Stollen, also known as weinachtsstollen or christstollen, originated in the 15th century as a plain food for the Advent fasting period in Dresden. Just before the 16th century, requests for Pope Innocent VIII to allow the use of butter in the cake were finally answered. Since then, this holiday cake has gradually become more elaborate with added raisins and candied fruits. When the cake is still warm, it’s brushed with butter and rolled in powdered sugar. If you want to buy stollen from its original town, look for the gold seal—only 120 bakeries are authorized to call it authentic Dresden stollen. Otherwise, try this recipe that also uses marzipan.
Cola De Mono – Chile
Although the origins of its name—which translates to “monkey tail”—is largely a mystery, cola de mono has persisted throughout the years. Like eggnog, it’s made with milk and spices like nutmeg, but don’t worry about getting the two confused. Cola de mono has a healthy dose of a grape spirit called aguardiente, and coffee, making the taste more akin to a White Russian than eggnog. Get the recipe here.
Mince Pies – U.K.
Mince pies, now a staple in many British homes at holiday time, trace their roots back to the Crusades, when spices and dried fruits were brought back to England, along with Middle Eastern recipes. In the beginning, mince pie’s ingredients also included mutton, but most modern iterations make do with beef fat, spiced raisins, currants, and other dried fruits. Baked in a flaky pie pastry, they’re wonderfully sweet and savory treats. Get the recipe here.
Mechado – Philippines
This warm beef stew found its way to the Philippine Islands during the Spanish colonization, but since then, Filipinos have made it into something that’s all their own. The tomato-based stew is seasoned with bay leaves, soy sauce, and fish sauce making it as aromatic as it is tasty. Now, it’s enjoyed at family celebrations like Christmas. Get the recipe here.
Toshikoshi Soba – Japan
These buckwheat noodles are essential to celebrating the New Year in Japanese culture. The tradition of eating Toshikoshi soba noodles for New Year’s Eve goes back some 800 years. The idea is that when you bite the long noodles, you’re “breaking off the old year.” Don’t eat them as the clock strikes midnight, though, as it is actually bad luck! Eager to try? Get the recipe here.
Sonhos De Natal – Portugal
These fried doughnuts are called sonhos or “dreams.” And around Christmastime, they’re called sonhos de natal. Typically, the dough is prepared before Christmas Eve mass so it has time to rise before being fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Try this recipe, and give your family the sweet dream of a Portuguese Christmas!
Olivier Salad – Russia
All the ingredients in this Russian salad that dates all the way back to the 1860s—which includes peas, potatoes, carrots, ham, and pickles—are cut into cubes. It was originally invented in Moscow by a Belgian chef and is enjoyed at celebrations throughout the year but especially during Christmas and New Year’s. The cold salad is bound by mayonnaise and garnished with dill. Get the recipe here.
Lussekatter (Saint Lucia Buns) – Sweden
These swirl-shaped buns mark the beginning of the holiday season for many people in Scandinavian countries. December 13th is Saint Lucy’s (or Saint Lucia) Day, the saint day for the martyr killed by the Romans in 304 AD. To celebrate, families make these pastries spiced with saffron and decorated with raisins or currants. Get the recipe here.
Latkes – Israel
Originally, latkes (potato pancakes) were made of fried cheese because sometime before the Maccabean Revolt, Judith fed wine and cheese to the Assyrian general. Once he fell into a drunken slumber, she beheaded him, brought his head to her people, and the larger attack was launched. The oil the latkes are fried in, as well as the Chanukkah Menorah recall the oil which lasted eight days while the Maccabees restored the Temple of Jerusalem; the oil was only supposed to last one day. The switch to potatoes instead of cheese was made in the Middle Ages, as Ashkenazi Jews were forced to plant potatoes because of crop failure. Get the recipe here.
Pasteles – Puerto Rico
Pasteles hold a special place in many Latin cuisines, but especially Puerto Rico’s, which is credited with their invention. Stewed meat is wrapped in grated plantains and green bananas, before being wrapped in banana leaves and boiled. The savory treat is labor-intensive, but it also allows families to gather together and share the work at Christmastime. If you’d like to make your own pasteles, try this recipe.
Tourtière – Canada (Quebec)
French Canadians celebrate the holidays with a meat pie that dates back to Quebec’s time as a French settlement. Typically the flaky crust is filled with beef and/or pork and served with ketchup on the side, but ingredients and condiments have been known to change regionally—maple syrup, anyone? Tourtières are made to be shared, so try this recipe for the holidays.
Kutya – Ukraine
On Christmas Eve, families in Ukraine typically eat 12 dishes to represent the 12 apostles of Jesus. Because they are part of an advent fast, these dishes can’t contain meat, eggs, or milk and other dairy. One of these dishes is kutya, a sweet wheat berry and poppy seed pudding, topped with dried fruits, nuts, and honey. The poppy seeds are mixed with sugar and ground into a paste before being added to the creamy wheat berries. Get the recipe here.
Doro Wat – Ethiopia
Although this spicy dish is eaten all year round in Ethiopia, doro wat is made special for Christmas by using a rooster instead of a hen and adding 12 eggs “to symbolize eternity.” The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, like other orthodox churches, follows something close to the Julian Calendar, meaning that Christmas is on January 7th for them. Leading up to Christmas, many Ethiopians fast for 40 days, eating only vegan meals. The celebrations include Christmas Eve mass, food, and fellowship. Get the recipe here.
Babka – Poland
The two most popular flavors of this iconic bread are chocolate and cinnamon, but there are many variations to choose from. In countries around the world, babka is perfect not just for celebrations, but everyday. For many Polish and Jewish communities, the holiday season is the perfect time to make babka—Yiddish and Polish for “little grandmother”—because it takes some time to make. Get the recipe here.
Banh Chung – Vietnam
When faced with choosing his successor, the king of the 6th Hung Dynasty asked all 18 of his sons to present him with the most delicious, impressive foods. Having little money, Lang Lieu had no choice but to choose humble everyday ingredients. Thus, banh chung was born. The king decided that banh chung (square sticky rice cake) was not only delicious, but also a pleasing tribute to the ancestors. Now, the rice cake made of mung beans, fatty pork and rice is enjoyed in celebration of the Lunar New Year. Get the recipe here.
Spiral Ham – USA
For many Americans, the holiday season is synonymous with ham for Christmas. The tradition probably has Germanic roots; ham symbolizes harvest and fertility. In pop culture, the Christmas ham is everywhere from advertisements to series and films. It can be prepared with the traditional honey-brown sugar glaze or with any flavors you prefer. Get the recipe here.
Hungry for more? Here are 50 easy and elegant recipes for New Year’s Eve.