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Alternative Christmas Meat Dishes

We sure love our turkey, but if you want to think out of the box this Christmas, why not serve a different dish featuring your favorite meat?

Good old Christmas turkey

One way you can serve something different while still keeping with the season is by cooking traditional Christmas dishes from other parts of the world. While you might not be used to these dishes, they are well loved in other countries, and you can make Christmas dinner a novel experience. However, to make sure you don’t serve dishes that are just too exotic for everyone’s taste, I suggest that you start cooking up a storm this early to try some of the international dishes below and be able to pick the ones you think are worthy to be part of your Christmas dinner menu this year.

Roast Suckling Pig (Lechon)

Roast Suckling Pig

Forget the turkey and go bigger this year with an entire roast suckling pig. Roast suckling pig, or lechon, is a popular dish in Spain and its former colonies including Puerto Rico, Colombia, the Philippines, and other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America, where it is a must-have during special occasions such as Christmas. You will also find roast suckling pig in European countries like Russia, Serbia, Romania, and Germany during Christmas feasts, although the dish only comes second to roast goose in these regions.

While the mouthwatering lechon is a dish anyone would surely enjoy, it is also the one dish that you surely can’t cook inside the kitchen, but if you fancy yourself the barbecue king and are up to the challenge, then fire up a giant grill or charcoal pit. Be prepared to spend almost an entire day with all the prep work and roasting time needed to get this super delicious dish and an authentic lechon sauce to accompany it just right. Of course you can always just head to a Filipino restaurant to sample their national dish.

Christmas Ham


If you don’t fancy an entire suckling pig on your dinner table, but still want some pork to satisfy your cravings for something juicy and filling, then serve some ham instead. There are many variations of Christmas hams to choose from. The following are but a few of the countless versions you can serve as part of the Christmas feast this year.

Traditional glazed ham – This recipe uses honey, maple syrup, and mustard to glaze the leg of ham. You can, however, use other ingredients like pineapple juice to glaze your ham.

Julskinka – The traditional Christmas ham in Sweden, the julskinka is more rustic than the ham you might be used to and depends primarily on brown sugar and mustard to provide a counterpoint to the flavour of the meat.

Christmas ham balls – This recipe is perfect for families with small kids or anyone who wants to serve ham in bite-sized pieces.

Sticks of ham in honey – Another easy-to-eat ham idea. The notable thing about this ham recipe though is that it uses Jamon Serrano, which is a dry-cured Spanish ham that is often compared to the Italian prosciutto.

Fish dishes

Puerto Rican Fish Stew with Bacalao

I don’t know about you, but having fish as the main dish on Christmas feels somewhat strange. However, many cultures actually have fish as part, even the highlight, of their traditional Christmas meal.

Fish soupFish soup is part of the traditional Christmas dinner in Hungary, Poland, Serbia, and the Czech Republic. Also often called Fisherman’s soup, this bright red dish makes use of carp and other mixed river fish. The Fisherman’s soup is known for being hot and spicy thanks to the generous amount of hot paprika that gives it its distinct flavor and color. You can also try a different kind of fish stew using the bacalao, an ingredient that I’ll be discussing in greater depth in a bit.

Fried fish – In the Czech Republic, fried carp is always present during Christmas dinner. It is usually served with potato salad and Christmas cookies, which are also offered to visitors who come by on Christmas day. If you don’t fancy carp, you can always substitute any kind of fish and have a fish fry on Christmas day.

Bacalao – Bacalao refers to the dried and salted codfish that is used to a main ingredient for a variety of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Puerto Rican dishes. In Portugal, The traditional Christmas dinner involves boiled bacalao that is served alongside boiled cabbage, potatoes, eggs, and onions, all smothered with olive oil. If boiled dried and salted codfish doesn’t sound too appetizing though, you can try out other less traditional bacalao recipes like the Bacalao in Tomato Garlic Confit, Garbanzos con Bacalao, and Bacalao with Orange and Olive Salad.

So the next time you plan your Christmas dinner, don’t get stuck in a rut. Be a bit more adventurous and consider using something other than turkey, or whatever meat you are used to, this Christmas.


Photos via Chewy Chua, Todd Smith Design, UKTV, and

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