Christmas is a big deal for me now. Believe it or not, there was a time in the not-so-distant past where I ate pizza for Christmas dinner (while everyone around me tucked into a roast). But times have changed and now I'm in charge of the food. And that means planning, cooking, cooking, cooking, drinking, cooking, cooking and a lot of happy eating. Some people may wonder what vegetarian Christmas recipes there are to enjoy at this time of year. Not in my house. Not in yours either!
Here are a few of my favourites which also include options for vegan and gluten-intolerant diners - click the title to get the recipe. If you're still stuck for inspiration, leave me a comment with your preferred ingredient or the kind of dish you are searching for and I'll come back to you with my best suggestions. I'm happy to help!
Vegetarian Christmas recipes: Appetizers
An elegant, flavourful, aromatic first course to a fabulous dinner. The roasted flavours are imparted to the tender flesh you scrape off with your teeth. Complete with chuck-in-the-oven simplicity, this method is much, much, much more delicious than simply steaming them.
Served with a simple, classic combination of melted butter (or olive oil) and fresh lemon juice, the flavours are amazing. Enough fresh lemon to cut through the rich, creaminess of the butter, a sprinkle of sea salt and a grind or two of black pepper are all that you need for a taste sensation.
Vegan if olive oil is substituted for butter and gluten-free.
A chunky, rather than a blended, dressing with the focus squarely on the blue cheese. There are two kinds of vinegar and some shallot for a little extra tang and a few chives for freshness, but the cheese really is where it’s at. Great served as an appetizer or starter with fresh Belgian endive leaves and thin slices of ripe, sweet pear.
Tart and piquant. Savoury and cheesy. Zingy and fresh. Bitter and sweet. Bags of flavour with plenty of satisfying seasonal crunch.
Cheesy choux pastry flavoured with red onion, garlic, Dijon mustard and fresh basil, deep fried to crispy, oozy perfection. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, with plenty of fresh herbs and alliums to contrast with the cheese. Great with a little squeeze of lemon on top.
Excellent served with dry sparkling white wine or champagne. The dry, fizzy acidity is a fantastic contrast to fried food, really cutting through the rich fat, making these fritters perfect for pre-dinner boozing.
One of the key regional dishes of Rome - carciofi all Romana. Fresh, firm artichokes, stripped back to their tender core, stuffed with fresh mint and garlic pesto, then steam-braised in lashings of iridescent green olive oil. The flavour is herbal and delicately metallic, the texture meltingly soft and silky. Incomparable.
An incredibly delicious and elegant first course that shows seasonally available artichokes at their very best.
Vegan and gluten-free.
Vegetarian Christmas Recipes: Main Courses
There is absolutely no possibility that any meat eaters on your table will not be looking over enviously when you slice this beautiful mushroom Wellington open. It’s up to you whether you allow them a slice. There are three tasty elements to the filling for this pie. Mushrooms make a star appearance. They rest on a bed of wilted, seasoned spinach, thoroughly squeezed of any soggifying moisture. This is all topped with a generous amount of Stilton.
A note for vegans. I am a weak cheese fanatic, but the vegetable fillings in this pie truly are delicious enough to be eaten without the Stilton. Apart from the pastry glaze, which you can swap with protein-rich soy milk, the rest of the dish is completely vegan – pastry and all.
Although this dish will involve you making your own pastry – and your own filo/phyllo pastry at that – I promise it is simple to make, easy to work with and it will look and taste great. Although this pie is marginally better when baked and served immediately, I have also baked it and reheated it the next day, so that is definitely an option for the busy Christmas period.
Vegan if cheese omitted and soy milk is used as a glaze.
This spelt pastry pie is made with a new, revolutionary pastry recipe – 100% whole grain spelt flour blended with ripe avocado and a little water. Used instead of oil or butter, the avocado lends the dough a wonderful softness. It is moist and easy to work with – yet strong enough to be rolled paper thin into gossamer sheets of filo that bake into flaky layers of iron-rich, whole grain goodness.
Stuffed with cavolo nero, homemade ricotta, Kalamata olives and garlic mushrooms, this pie contains two and a half portions of vegetables in every slice. And it's extremely tasty!
Although not gluten-free, this pastry is made with spelt flour which is naturally low in gluten and is sometimes tolerated by people who would otherwise be sensitive to wheat.
Firm, set polenta, cut into rounds and baked in a light, but intensely flavoured, mushroom broth. This dish contains crème fraîche, which has the potential to be rather heavy, but it is well watered down in a rich mushroom stock and is far outweighed by the whole grain polenta, the crushed garlic and the plentiful wild mushrooms (you can, of course, substitute cultivated mushrooms as necessary). I did add a small amount of strongly flavoured cheese, but this is very much optional – the mushroom sauce packs so much fantastic flavour that the dish up stands perfectly well on its own.
Warming, filling and nutritious. Creamy, garlicky, with incredible umami flavour. You will marvel at the stunning amount of flavour that has been generated from so few ingredients.
Gluten-free and can be veganised by substituting vegan sour cream for the crème fraîche and omitting the optional cheese.
Another vegetable-packed pie, filled with long-cooked aubergines, mushrooms and smoked halloumi (or tofu). Seasoned with lemon juice and zest, chipotle chilli, garlic and spring onion, this impressive pie is delicious - lightly sweet, lemony, smoky and spicy.
Can be made vegan by substituting the smoked halloumi for smoked tofu, using a flax egg in the filling and glazing the pastry with soy milk instead of egg and yoghurt.
Light and airy as you would expect from a soufflé, but made into a more substantial main course by the rye flour and mushrooms. The wild mushrooms can be substituted for cultivated mushrooms if that's all you are able to get - it will still be wonderfully flavourful and impressive enough for guests. Or for your loved ones!
Soufflés can be made about an hour before baking and chucked in the oven for the last half hour.
Vegetarian Christmas Recipes: Side Dishes
If there’s any dish that is more lusciously satisfying than a creamy potato casserole or gratin, I am yet to taste it. I mean, I like a lot of different foods. Love them even, but the soul-warming feeling I get when I place a bite of rich, layered potato in my mouth is quite unique.
This version uses lovely, loose strands of potato, instead of hearty slices, baked in a mixture of vegetable stock and cream which has the double benefit of both lightening the dish and adding a whole lot more flavour than dairy alone. A touch of garlic, nutmeg and Parmesan round out the flavours.
Tender, silky strands of potato. Garlicky, seasoned cream and stock. All baked until bubbly under a crisp, cheesy, peppery crust.
As it is, the aubergines are silky and tender, the tomato sauce tangy, the cheese rich and moreish, with the fresh basil lifting and brightening the whole dish. Although not listed in this recipe – and certainly not necessary for a fabulously flavourful, healthy, vegetable-packed meal – you can add cream to the tomato sauce and it will be even more amazing. Yum yum.
Gluten-free and can be veganised by omitting the cheese and increasing the flavourings in the tomato sauce – with more garlic and basil, the aubergines will still be a delight.
Tender layers of potato and pumpkin, baked in a beautiful, but quick and easy, pumpkin stock. You can adjust the proportions of cream to vegetable stock to taste to make a creamier or lighter version. Both will be excellent. You can even make it without cream entirely, but I like to add a few tablespoons.
I tend to finish this gratin with cheese, but it will still be great winter side dish without. The pumpkin adds a touch of sweetness, but it is definitely not overpowering.
Gluten-free and can be veganised by omitting the cream and cheese.
Vegetarian Christmas Recipes: Desserts
The pastry is the first really delicious element of this tart. Made with a base of ground almonds, it is a crumb pastry that is pressed into the tin – it does not need blind-baking. When cooked, it is firm, crunchy and holds together beautifully with nutty, caramel tones.
But it is the filling that really makes this recipe for me. It is what elevates this from a mere French apple tart to something transcendent. A sweet, custardy mixture of cream cheese, vanilla and a little egg, when baked it is lightly set, creamy and smooth. A very pleasant surprise under the top layer of tender apples.
Thinly sliced, the apples are layered to form a beautiful rose pattern – both easy and quick to achieve – which looks stunning and complex. Rich, sweet, fruity, nutty, salty, creamy and tart - a very happy end to a delightful seasonal dinner.
Although I made this pastry with regular plain flour, I think you could happily substitute an all-purpose, gluten-free flour as the pastry does not need to be rolled out, so the structural integrity that gluten offers is not so important. The rest of the recipe is gluten-free.
Cooked on a pretty high heat, these meringues puff up dramatically, forming a ethereally light, crisp outer shell and a soft, airy, chewy centre. Beautiful contrast.
The Christmassy, spiced berry sauce that accompanies them uses a combination of fruits and spices to make a complex, layered taste which really jazzes up the somewhat one-dimensionally sweet meringue. You can keep the sauce as a whole fruit compôte or blend it into a purée as you fancy.
A range of flavours – fruity, sweet, tart, spicy, milky; and textures – airy, chewy, creamy, silky – are what makes this dessert.
The sauce is vegan and the whole dessert in gluten-free.
I am not generally a huge fan of lemon curd and lemon tarts, but the layer of bitter chocolate between the pastry and curd is a revelation! It makes this tart something I am very happy to shovel into my mouth.
The pastry is also absolutely delightful. Extremely easy to make if you have a food processor of some sort, it is easy to work with, holds its shape well during cooking and tastes divine.
The curd sets beautifully, enabling the individual slices to hold a great shape when sliced. It keeps very well in the fridge and will last quite happily for about five days allowing you plenty of time to make ahead.
Sweet, buttery, flaky, golden pastry. Deep, rich, bitter chocolate. Smooth, silky, fruity, tart curd. Nom!
Vegetarian Christmas Recipes: Cheese
This very simple recipe offers sweet, tart and savoury flavours through the combination of figs, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. The sugars in the vinegar complement and enhance the figs perfectly, lightly caramelising during the short, high-heat roast they receive – especially helpful if your figs are a little under par.
The savoury notes of the flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper help temper this sweetness and connect the sugary fruit flavours to the salty, earthy, savoury cheese I strongly encourage you to eat them with. There are a wide selection of cheeses you can choose to serve with these figs, but my favourite is a lovely piece of Stichelton (an unpasteurised version of Stilton).
A small glass of aged Port is a fantastic match not only for the Stilton, but also for the honeyed sweetness of the figs.
The figs are both vegan and gluten-free.
Delightful, elegant, British farmhouse fare, this pâté is creamy, mousse-y and light – surprisingly so for a rich, cheesy spread. Blended with cream cheese and seasoned with celery, shallot, white wine, parsley and nutmeg, it is great smeared on bread, crackers or my very special oatcakes above.
This dish can also be served as an appetizer if you prefer.
That's it! Enjoy your Christmas preparations! Remember, if you're stuck for inspiration, leave me a comment and I'll get thinking...