Alternative Christmas Dinner Ideas

Preparing Christmas dinner is a stressful task at the best of times. Perfecting the succulent turkey roast, getting all the trimmings just right and delivering a show-stopping dessert for the big finale is no easy feat.
Christmas dinner display

When you’re cooking for family members with specific dietary requirements, the job can feel even more overwhelming. The number of vegans and vegetarians is growing rapidly, and food allergies are more common today than they were in the past. This means it’s increasingly likely that you’ll encounter people with dietary requirements at Christmas.

Whether there are allergy sufferers in the family or you want to do away with tradition and dare to be different, you won’t be stuck for alternative Christmas dinner ideas. We’ve put together the ultimate guide on cooking a “free from” Christmas dinner, so there’s no need for anyone to miss out on all the festive feasting.

Keep reading for tips on catering for diners with coeliac disease and allergies as well as vegans and vegetarians.

Gluten Free Christmas Dinner

A selection of mince pies
Mince pies, biscuits, pastries and bread are all common sources of gluten

Gluten is a dietary protein found in various foods commonly consumed at Christmas, such as gravy, sauces, sweets and cakes. But fear not: you can still create flavourful festive dishes without gluten. Here are some tips on making a memorable gluten free Christmas dinner.

Gluten Free Starters

If you’re making savoury starters, bread and pastry will need to be replaced with the gluten free equivalents. Most supermarkets now offer gluten free bread and baking ingredients, making it easier to create popular dishes for guests with coeliac disease.

Instead of making a gluten free version of a popular starter, you could ditch tradition altogether. ‘Tis the season to get creative, after all. Lots of foods are naturally gluten free, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Some alternative dishes you could make include spiced sweet potato wedges, spicy chickpeas or halloumi and bacon rolls.

Gluten Free Mains

Tucking into turkey or another meaty main? While Christmas roasts and vegetable trimmings are naturally free from gluten, it’s present in many sides and sauces.

Classic store-bought gravy often contains gluten, but you can whip one up using ingredients like cornstarch, potato starch or cornflour as a thickener. Alternatively, there are plenty of gluten free gravy recipes available at your fingertips, including this 5-minute recipe by Gluten Free Palate. Don’t fancy making it from scratch? Look out for Bisto and Kallo gluten free gravy granules in your local supermarket.

Stuffing is another offender, as breadcrumbs are a staple ingredient. Try this easy recipe by Genius Gluten Free, or give the breadcrumbs a miss and use rice and dried fruits instead. Are roast potatoes part of your Christmas spread? Many supermarket roasties contain gluten, so always check labels before buying.

Gluten Free Desserts

Gluten is present in many treat foods like cakes and brownies. However, you can make an indulgent Christmas dessert by switching certain ingredients with gluten free flour and baking powder. From Christmas puddings and Yule logs to brownies and cakes, there are plenty of decadent desserts you can create with gluten free ingredients.

If you're not up to making it yourself, don't worry. Fortunately, supermarkets are growing their gluten free offerings. Look for gluten free profiteroles, chocolate cakes, Christmas puddings and Yule logs in your local supermarkets.

Vegetarian and Vegan Christmas Dinner

A Christmas cake
All the favourite festive dishes can be made without animal-based ingredients

Whether you’re cooking for diners who avoid all things animal-derived or those with allergies to dairy, eggs or fish, plant-based cooking needn’t be bland. You can prepare a yummy vegan or vegetarian Christmas dinner by making a few simple swaps.

Vegetarian and Vegan Starters

Instead of serving starters that are meaty or fish-based, why not wow your family with veggie samosas or kebab skewers? Soups are also perfect starters to whet your guests’ appetites. Try a spicy roasted parsnip or spiced lentil soup to get your guests excited for the main event.

You can also get your hands on tasty nibbles and snacks from most supermarkets which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Look out for sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, pigs in blankets and cheese platters in the Free From section of your local supermarket.

Vegetarian and Vegan Mains

A traditional Christmas dinner typically consists of a meat roast accompanied by various vegetable trimmings, so only a few substitutes should be needed. Ditch the goose fat for olive oil, swap the honey for maple or agave syrup, and switch milk and butter for their dairy-free counterparts in your preparations.

If there are only one or two vegans or vegetarians at your gathering, it’s probably worth serving them a meat roast substitute if not everyone wants a fully veggie or vegan Christmas dinner. There are plenty of respectable meat-free roasts on the market by Tofurky, Fry’s, and Linda McCartney.

Why not ditch meat altogether and try something new? Meat doesn’t have to be the centrepiece of every meal, so you can experiment with different flavours and perhaps even start a new tradition. Nut roasts, meat-free wellingtons and festive wreaths make great alternative Christmas dinners that everyone will enjoy tucking into.

Vegan and Vegetarian Desserts

Anything can be made without meat, eggs and dairy and the proof is in the pudding. Make your bakes vegan-friendly by swapping milk chocolate for dark or dairy-free varieties and using vegan margarine and plant-based milks. Replace eggs with aquafaba, applesauce or chia or flax seeds mixed with water.

If you’re short on time or lack confidence in your culinary skills, you can get vegetarian and vegan desserts and goodies from most supermarkets. Look for vegan mince pies, chocolate torte and Christmas puddings in your local supermarkets.

Nut Free Christmas Dinner

Christmas turkey with sprouts
You can avoid nuts in your Christmas cooking if you take all the right precautions

Traces of nuts can find their way into foods you least expect, which makes them difficult to avoid. Baked goods, sweets and sauces that are commonly consumed at Christmas can contain traces of nuts.

Even if there’s only one allergy sufferer at your Christmas dinner, it’s safer to cook completely nut free to ensure there’s no cross-contamination between dishes. If you’re making your Christmas dinner from scratch, it’s extremely important to ensure all utensils are thoroughly cleaned before use.

Nut Free Starters

Meat roasts and fish are generally free from nuts, but care needs to be taken with any sauces or glazes. Impress your guests with a crayfish cocktail or sumptuous sharing platter filled with an array of nut-free nibbles.

Nut Free Mains

You can stick with a meaty centrepiece for your main course, but pay close attention to allergens lurking in glazes, sauces or gravy. Stay on the safe side and make your sauces from scratch. Go with ham glazed with a maple syrup and apricot jam, or succulent beef drizzled in homemade red wine gravy.

Nut Free Desserts

Nuts are typically used for extra crunch, especially in desserts. Preparing a nut-free dessert may seem like a daunting task, but as long as there’s no cross-contamination in your baking, it should run smoothly.

Many traditional desserts like Christmas pudding include nuts as an ingredient, but there are plenty of festive favourites you can make without nuts (without needing a substitute). If you do want to replace nuts, try swapping them with seeds. Fortunately, there are various store-bought alternatives available, so be sure look in the Free From section at your local supermarket.

Top Takeaway Tips

- When you have family with dietary requirements, always ask for their input so you can fully understand their preferences and needs.

- Always check (and double check) labels to ensure allergens or no-go ingredients aren’t present.

- Make the most of resources on trustworthy organisations’ websites so you can be aware of risks and other important information.

- Relax! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can always ask those with allergies or dietary requirements to help cook the meal. They may even be happy to bring their own dishes along to the dinner.

You might like the following stories