Looking to add some international flair to your holiday meals? Maybe you just love learning about what others eat during Christmas time. Either way, our list below covers dishes, both sweet and savory, that are loved around the world, especially during the month of December. Grab a tamale and head to Mexico or pick up some KFC in Japan, either way, the below foods will have your taste buds traveling even if you are home for the holidays. 

1. Leaf bread —  Iceland 

This traditional Icelandic holiday meal began as far back as the 18th century. This crunch dough creation is made by the whole family. Once taken out of the oil the bread is flattened with boards called laufabraudshlemmur, which children create for their parents at school to give as holiday gifts. The bread is often accompanied by other dishes and made before Christmas Day, to be eaten for the holiday. 

2. KFC on Christmas — Japan 

Believe it or not, over the last 40 years, fried chicken, in particular KFC fried chicken has become an overwhelmingly popular Christmas tradition in Japan. Many people place orders months in advance and wait in long lines to pick up this holiday treat. It all began in the 1970s with the first KFC to come to the island nation, and provided a Christmas “party barrel” which mimics the American turkey dinner but instead of turkey, it was with chicken. “An estimated 3.6 million Japanese families eat KFC during the Christmas season, reported the BBC” (business insider). 

3. Tamales — Mexico 

Although tamales are popular year round in Mexico and other latin American countries, they have become synonymous with Christmas tradition. Tamales are made with pork, beef, chicken, veggies, and cheeses. There are many speculations why tamales are always included in traditional Mexican holiday meals. One explains that they are a symbol of the Virgin Mary carrying baby Jesus, especially if the tamale contains an olive inside. 

4. Hallacas — Venezuela 

Similar in look to a tamale, hallacas are a Venezuelan delicacy. Made with corn dough stuffed with beef, pork, chicken or other ingredients and typically served on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Unlike the Mexican tamales, hallacas are only made around the holiday season. Making the hallacas brings family and friends together to celebrate love and the season. 

5. Risalamande — Denmark 

A traditional Christmas sweet rice pudding made with whipped cream, sugar, vanilla, and almonds. It is also topped with warm cherry sauce. Danish people celebrate Julefrokost, which is Christmas lunch, and this dish will be seen across the European country. 

6. Panettone — Italy 

Looking to switch up your Christmas desserts this year? A panettone is Italy’s take on a sort of fruit cake. It is sweet bread filled with raisins, citrus, and almonds. It is very popular in Italy, but is also easy to find here in the U.S. as well. It is meant to be given as a gift to loved ones, friends or family, around the holiday time. 

7. Tang Yuan — China 

Tang Yuan is a type of Chinese dessert eaten around the holidays. It is made from rice flour and water in broths or syrups and the dough balls can be either filled or unfilled. Although most Chinese celebrate the winter solstice as opposed to Christmas, Tang Yuan is eaten during this time of year. The Tang Yuan can be colored for the holidays and even decorated as Christmas figures. 

8. Buche de Noel — France 

Buche de Noel or in English, Yule log, is a traditional Christmas dessert throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North America. It is very popular in France and served at Christmas dinner. Made from sponge cake, chocolate or coffee butter cream frosting, and decorated with various sweet treats to resemble an actual log, this delicacy is a delicious dessert for the whole family. 

9. Green Bean Casserole — USA 

Green bean casserole is a staple at most American holidays meals, including both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although the recipes change from family to family and across the different regions of the United States, most include: green beans, varying types of cream soups, as well as French fried onions on top.

10. Jollof Rice — Senegal 

Popular in many west African countries, including Senegal, this rice dish is made with tomatoes, onions, oil, and various types of protein like goat, chicken or beef. It is often referred to as “Nigerian fried rice” and is served in various African countries around the Christmas holiday. 

Bottom Line On the Best Holiday Recipes From Around The World

From mouth watering sides, to rich desserts, Christmas favorites from around the world will give your holiday celebration a unique international spin. Pick one or spend the next few weeks trying your hand at all of these holiday favorites. Which items will you be trying this December? 

Amber Zakem

Amber Zakem has worked in the travel industry since 2014. Although, her love of travel began far before that. Amber grew up visiting cousins stationed throughout Europe and worked as an Au Pair in Germany for a year between High School and College. She started working at a local travel agency in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, after graduating from Central Michigan University. Amber began working for MAST Travel Network in 2016 and is the Social Media Specialist. She runs the MAST Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat and she teaches twice monthly webinars to travel agents on using social media to promote travel. Amber has continued her passion for travel and social media by also teaching a course at Moraine Valley Community College in their Hospitality program.