wrapped gifts, with Christmas paper

A Southern Christmas Dinner Menu & Southern Christmas Recipe Ideas

The menu I share today is what my family look forward to all year long, Southern Christmas recipes that warm the heart and nurture the soul!

a Christmas dinner menu with southern food recipes

A Southern Christmas Dinner Menu & Southern Christmas Recipe Ideas

My Southern holiday meal is easy to build upon in the event we entertain extra guests or anticipate drop-ins. It’s also very intimate, as the focus is on the main course, just a couple of side dishes, and a well-presented and coveted dessert.

What Southern Christmas Recipes Make Up the Main Menu? Glad you asked!

Pink drinks in Mason jars, with Christmas balls
An easy Christmas cocktail, a Sassy Jingle Bell, is a mix of grapefruit and rose-flavored vodka, pink grapefruit juice, and a splash of Prosecco. Rim the glasses with sugar and garnish with thin slices of fresh grapefruit.

The Main Menu is a no fail plan even if you’re making it for the very first time. The additional recipes included below are for building onto the Main Menu.

Do this if you are hosting a crowd, are concerned about having enough, or just need some ideas for the occasion. Every item is designed to complement the Main Menu.

Pro Tip: if I am hosting more than a dozen people, I provide the Main Menu in its entirety. Then, I ask my guests to ‘bring a dish.’ I send this list as a sign-up and allow guests to tag the dish they’d like to bring so there is no duplication.

a menu

The following Southern Christmas Recipes are ideas to get your creative juices flowing! Each compliment the Main Menu. When we entertain extra guests or anticipate drop-ins, the focus shifts to the need for additional food. Here I have listed twenty recipe ideas in each of the following categories: shared appetizers, festive side dishes, tempting desserts, and classic cookies.

What Other Southern Christmas Recipes Am I Recommending? Click to Review Each Recipe!

Appetizers Geared for Sharing

a wood cutting board, with 2 figs

Festive Side Dishes Geared for Passing

close up of creamy corn pudding

Desserts Geared for A Crowd

a bundt cake with sugared fruit

Classic Southern Christmas Cookies

featured image for Whipped Shortbread Cookies

wrapped gifts, with Christmas paper

Meaningful Holiday Moments and Food

Over the last 25 years, my family has curated a few new heartening traditions. Our ‘anything goes’ Christmas Eve dinner got a makeover.

It not only evolved but culminated in part because of our relocation to the American South. I mean, you cannot live here and not be impacted by the enormity of what it means to be in the south during the holidays.

My very first Christmas in Charleston was bittersweet. I was missing my grandmother (dad’s mom) who remained living in New Jersey after my migration down the eastern seaboard.

ingredients

I was also missing friends and extended family I’d always celebrated with, playing host or participating in progressive holiday parties leading up to the big day. Funny enough, I was always alone on the big day, my grandmother permanently a resident of a nursing home and my immediate family scattered between Virginia and South Carolina. Everybody was gone, and so was my heart.

Pink heart shaped chocolates

Home for The Holidays

The holiday season is a time for families to shine. I don’t just mean jumping in the car to go to Grandma’s house, what I mean is a time to shine by making the moment meaningful.

Moments are not only made meaningful by the people in our lives that we love and spend time with, but also the sounds and the smells and the tastes associated with those moments. Kind of like the aroma of celery and onion sauteing on the stove at Thanksgiving, soon to become part of the stuffing you can’t imagine the day without. Or the aroma of cloves simmering in a Christmassy Wassail.

featured image for Christmas Dinner Beef Tenderloin Roast
See step-by-step how to easily prepare my Christmas Eve Beef Tenderloin Roast and ensure there are temperatures to everybody’s liking, from rare to well done.

Why Tenderloin?

I don’t know, maybe I was ham’d and turkey’d out. But my grandmother (mom’s mom and residing in South Carolina) loved my surf and turf so I guess you could say I expanded on that. And because of her, Christmas Eve became our moment, the one that my Main Menu is patterned after.

At one point, I included crab cakes to fit this menu as a topper for the filet, but we all agreed it was simply too much food. When our gatherings grew to more and more guests, I toyed with reintroducing the crab cakes but opted for a cold crab dip instead.

Economically at that time, it just made more sense, and it was nice to be able to offer it as a casual dip and away from the table, so it needn’t be plated. It absolutely compliments the filet, but I do not count it as part of the Main Menu unless I need to expand the amount of food I am serving to allow for more eaters.

The tenderloin in this case is something I purchase when it’s on sale and everybody else is buying turkeys. My local big box store displays the grades of beef in order of prime, choice and select. I go prime or choice depending on the price per pound but can usually score a lovely roast to feed 8 to 12 for right around $85 US.

cake pops shaped like trees for Christmas

Other Southern Christmas Dinner Menu Ideas

Southern holidays, Christmas in particular, means sweet potatoes, collard greens, cranberry sauce, a main dish juicy meat like ham or turkey, and a big old pecan pie for dessert. All of those things I covet but have opted to modify here or omit altogether for the sake of ease of preparation.

And whether you are preparing southern Christmas dinner recipes or the best soul food Christmas menu around, it all comes down to making moments. If the sweet potato casserole cannot be skipped, include it. If your kid looks forward to a flaky biscuit with his supper, bake ’em up.

This list is simply meant to serve as jumping off points for additional inspiration. Delicious meals begin with love and creativity. Keep an open mind when reviewing each menu option and settle in on a few of these easy recipes.

wrapped gifts, with Christmas paper

Setting Our Christmas Dinner Apart from Our Thanksgiving Dinner

Back in the day, our Christmas dinner always looked identical to our Thanksgiving dinner. My mom did her best to stretch our family’s food budget while still bringing creativity to the meal. All told, it was largely a repeat.

To this day, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her green bean casserole. She used fresh green beans from our own garden that my brother and I were directed to snap and bag darn smack in the middle of summer so mom could then freeze for later.

a pile of Christmas cookies

She also made a mean potato au gratin (cheesy potatoes as my brother refers to them to this day) and a sour cream pound cake which we all loved. And because it was affordable, a traditional turkey was lifted by my dad into the very hot oven early Christmas morning to give it the necessary cook time to be enjoyed by dinner.

I never minded the turkey, but once I was the one cooking my family’s holiday dinners, I changed things up. First, I worked it out with my mom that we’d still enjoy her turkey dinner on Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve was going to be all mine. Secretly, I know my grandmother loved it.

It meant we would spring her from assisted living twice in one week for food. My cooking entertained her I think, and I of course loved her as my audience and chief taste-tester.

I decided I wanted to make my family the succulent flavor of a standing rib roast initially. I scaled back to a tenderloin roast pretty quickly because it was so much easier.

Christmas season is all about making moments. Some of the best ways to accomplish ‘the little things’ are through the preparation of great food.

pink drinks in matini glasses, with Christmas balls
Another easy Christmas cocktail, a Cheeky Snowman (a raspberry Gin and tonic), is a combination of London dry gin, fresh raspberries, and simple syrup that has been muddled and strained twice, and Indian tonic water. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

And so, my easy Christmas dinner menu evolved. I practiced and got better at correctly cooking the roast, and I was always on the hunt for a method for potatoes that were just that much more unique.

And despite being a TERRIBLE baker, I practiced too, the art of the southern dessert. For better or for worse, the Main Menu at the top of this post is what we look forward to every Christmas Eve.

The combination of wine, laughter, and family is a cure for anything and everything that ails you. There’s no rule book and nobody’s keeping score, just go with it. Try new things and make moments! Merry Christmas!

two elves for Christmas decorations

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