Let’s face it: We're on the cusp of the holiday season.
This festive timeframe now officially begins November 1 (at least as far as we’re concerned — and seriously, Christmas songs are invading the atmosphere earlier and earlier every year) and carries us through to the New Year.
It’s party season, it’s family season, and, most importantly, it’s a time of year to be generous and loving — and is there a better way to show you care than to cook for the ones who mean the most to you? We think not.
Use this guide for inspiration or pull it out in a pinch when you’re in need of a tried-and-true recipe. This collection comprises the heavy hitters, so to speak; these recipes in the major food categories are perfect for combatting the cold, sharing, and bringing to family dinners or parties. Each of the following recipes, of course, has an element of seasonal or festive flair, but note, however, that this recipe roundup is not meant to satisfy Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner celebrations, and we don’t include any turkey, ham, or even traditional pumpkin pie recipes — we’ll have many other guides to address those!
Avoid stress and make this holiday season seem like a piece of cake with help from this ultimate guide to holiday cooking.
Rachael Pack contributed to this roundup.
Denise Woodward and Laudalino Ferreira
These old-fashioned cinnamon rolls are full of butter, cinnamon, and childhood nostalgia. They’re generously topped with a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze.
A strata is like a breakfast bread pudding filled with eggs, bread, whatever fillings you could think of, and just a touch of cream. This dish is ideally made the night before so the bread has time to absorb the egg mixture, but in a pinch, you can use soft, fresh bread the morning of.
Similar to the vegetable strata, this slow-cooker cinnamon French toast is made in the same way, but in your slow-cooker. It’s the perfect dish to make when you want minimal cleanup, and it’s great for when you have bits and bobs of leftover bread that need to find a home.
The brown rice cooks gently until it turns soft, fragrant from the coconut milk, and mildly sweet from the maple syrup. Serve this dish like oatmeal; the coconut milk adds a richness that will have you double-dipping back into your Crock-Pot.
What would the holiday season be without decadent hot chocolate and a little festive cheer?
Glögg is the Scandinavian recipe for mulled wine. Festive spices, red and port wine, figs, and raisins macerate over heat, and when it is ready to serve, the glögg is strained and poured into mugs. Glögg is traditionally served with blanched almonds, raisins, and pepparkakor (Scandinavian gingersnap cookies) on the side.
This steamy beverage is perfect for warming up on the coldest of fall/winter days. Dark rum, brown sugar, butter, and spices infuse hot water in a cocktail shaker; it’s then strained into a warmed mug.
Wassail is spiced hot cider with bourbon; wassail also means to “drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way.”
You may love it, you may hate it, but there’s no denying that this classic winter beverage is a recipe worth having up your sleeve.
Embrace the changing seasons and warm up on a cool evening with a traditional and comforting hot toddy.
La Force Seasons
From first courses to passed hors d'oeuvres, start the evening off on the right foot with these dishes.
Complete with tart apples, sweet dried cranberries, and nutty pecans, this baked Brie is easy to prepare and makes for a stunning appetizer.
Green Kitchen Travels
This salad has nuts for extra crunch, oranges for a fruity aroma, and a classic honey mustard dressing that is simultaneously biting and sweet. It’s delicious on any occasion but especially perfect during the winter holiday season.
La Force Stevens
This is the perfect appetizer, side, or snack for either intimate dinners or large parties.
Gourmande in the Kitchen
These salty, spicy, rosemary-infused roasted nuts are so simple to make. They will fill your kitchen with a wonderful earthy and woodsy aroma when they come out of the oven.
Soups and stews are among the most comforting dishes, and these hot and hearty dishes will warm bellies all season long.
In this stew, the heavy Irish stout not only tenderizes the beef but also adds a lovely malty dimension.
Few recipes are more comforting or downright delicious than simple chicken and dumplings. Most cooks (especially Southern cooks) won't get any fancier with seasonings beyond parsley, but other fresh herbs like chives, tarragon, or savory can also elevate the flavor profile.
Chicken and spices marry and cook together for a few hours before the broccoli rabe and peppers are added into the mix. When finished, the chicken is shredded and grated Parmesan is sprinkled over the top.
This spiced pumpkin soup could not be more perfect for the season; the crumbly Italian sausage along with the ginger, cumin, and coriander flavors will please your palate and leave you with delightful warmth.
Whole Foods Market
This is a simplified version of the classic Italian seafood stew. The vegetable base can be made ahead of time and frozen (great to have on hand for surprise guests). When ready to serve, simply heat up and stir in the seafood to cook.
This is truly a comfort food soup. It's thick, creamy, and tastes like chicken pot pie without the crust — but you should definitely serve this soup with fresh bread or a hot buttery biscuit.
A collection of stunning mains you can bring to the table guaranteed to impress each and every guest in attendance.
David Kolotkin and Joey Allaham
This classic preparation of brisket is cooked with just carrots and onions. Ask your butcher to remove the tough silver skin before you purchase your cut to make the cooking and serving process easier.
What could be better than bread dipped in hot gooey cheese? There is also a tradition in the Swiss and French Alps that when nearing the end of the meal, when the last of the cheese is almost gone, a whole egg is cracked and stirred into the remaining cheese. It creates a richly decadent and insanely delicious sauce meant to extend the meal and the fun.
This dish uses the popular flavors from a roast ham glaze on a less salty piece of pork for a trimmer, healthier roast.
Most pot roasts use white flour to thicken the cooking liquid, but here the cooked vegetables are puréed to create a thick and deeply flavored gravy to serve with the roast. Best of all, you can cook the roast as you leave for work in the morning so that when you return, you will be welcomed home with an amazing aroma and dinner ready to go.
When you talk to your butcher, make sure to order an untrimmed rib roast with the fat and rib bones still intact — as the fat melts, it will baste the meat and keep it juicy during the long cooking time.
Prego's Farmers Market
Lean and tender chicken breasts are cooked in a garlicky tomato sauce with baby spinach and marinated artichoke hearts, and then finished with a generous layer of shaved Parmesan.
Lexi's Clean Kitchen
These vegetable-forward side dishes may even steal the spotlight from your main course.
The key to this side dish is patience: Let the Brussels sprouts brown to ensure that the edges are charred and crispy. Then, top with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan to enhance the flavor and add the most delectable crunchiness.
Lexi's Clean Kitchen
Coconut sugar, black pepper, and cinnamon coat butternut squash that is then roasted in the oven to caramelize the sugars and lightly crisp the edges.
Roasted cauliflower gets a kick of flavor from garlic and umami-rich Parmesan.
Verjuice, which is made from unripe grapes, has a mellow, fruity flavor that will highlight the sweetness of both the eggplant and pomegranates.
Fresh mushrooms, Madeira wine, mascarpone cheese, and fresh green beans simmered in savory broth come together to create an utterly delicious, creamy, and flavorful side dish.
Cook these white root vegetables in your pressure cooker in mere minutes. With the help of stock and sour cream, this mash is teeming with delicious flavor.
Sarah L. Bolla
Contrast the uber-sweet and over-indulgent holiday desserts with this impossibly light and airy angel food cake frosted with a bright citrus and gingery whipped cream.
Food & Wine
Cut the sweetness of traditional pecan pie with wonderfully intense rich and chewy dates that have been cooked in espresso for a memorably delicious dessert.
Food & Wine
This apple pie is filled with a super crisp variety of apples as well as a buttery, oat crumble layer to ensure a satisfying texture in the finished pie.
Food & Wine
If you’re feeding a crowd, these easy pumpkin pie bars are the answer, there’s no need to roll out dough or crimp crusts for these delicious bars.
Make this vacherin for an unusual and elegant holiday dessert that’s sure to impress.
Sarah L. Bolla
These beautiful, gluten-free tartlets are a lovely embodiment of the warmth and sweetness of the holiday season.
This toffee-bacon-cracker combo is sweet, salty, and crunchy all at once. It’s a perfect accompaniment to serve with a cheese course dessert; specifically, a Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere Cheese is an excellent pairing according to cheese expert Tia Keenan.
This quintessential English dish is gooey and insanely delicious. Serve warm with clotted cream, and it will no doubt be a crowd favorite.
Here’s a good go-to sugar cookie recipe to keep in your back pocket throughout the holidays. Gramercy Tavern in New York City uses this sugar cookie recipe to make its edible ornaments and decorates them with colorful royal icing. For more cookie inspiration, check out our 101 best cookie recipes.