Christmas Meal

One of the most stressful things about hosting a big holiday get together is planning and executing all of the tiny elements in your Christmas Menu, which can lead to multiple meals if your guests plan to stay the night.  It is MUCH more difficult to plan than most people would think.  So many questions to answer, like…

  • How much oven space do you have?
  • Do I need any additional crock pots or counter space?
  • How much food do I serve?
  • Can any of my menu items prepared in advance?
  • How long can it chill before it starts to not taste as good?

These, along with many more questions, are typically racing through a host’s mind a few days, to even weeks, before the guests start to arrive.  So, to help you out with this task, I have put together the PERFECT Holiday menu including cooking times, prep-ahead tips, alternatives, and uses for left-overs.

How to Prepare the Perfect Christmas Menu

Everything you need to know from when to start to what to serve!

Main Course – Honey Baked Ham

Ham is always the star of the show. It is super easy to make, and it doesn’t take much time. Plus, most people like ham.  And of course, there is always the added bonus that it makes for great leftover meals!

Honey Baked Ham

Prep Ahead Tip:  The day before, score your ham and add the cloves.  You can also make your brown sugar glaze.  On the day of cooking, simply heat the glaze and then follow the directions as listed.

  • Source:  Cooks in the oven.
  • Cook Time:  1  hour 15 minutes.  This time will need to be adjusted if you cook a larger ham.  Rule of thumb, always keep an eye on the meat thermometer. The internal temperature should always register 140°F. Here are some numbers to use as a guide:
    • Boneless Ham – These numbers assume each guest will eat 1/3 pound of ham.
      • 6 people = 2 pounds
      • 12 people = 4 pounds
      • 18 people = 6 pounds
    • Bone-in Ham – These numbers take in the account of the weight of the bone, and assume each guest will eat 1/2 pound of ham.
      • 6 people = 3 pounds
      • 12 people = 6 pounds
      • 18 people = 9 pounds
  • Side Note:  Make sure to cook a larger ham so that you intentionally have leftovers for day two meals.

Side Dish – Skins on Mashed Potato

Skins on Mashed Potatoes are an amazing side dish to add to your Christmas Menu.  Everyone loves a creamy mashed potato with a little bit of texture.  Serve it with butter or with some of my mouth-watering bacon gravy!

Skins On Mashed Potatoes

Prep Ahead Tip:  You can cook the potatoes the day before (without adding the cream or butter) and store them in the refrigerator.  On the day of, just heat up the butter and cream in a large pot and add the mashed potatoes to heat them up!

  • Source:  Cooks on the stovetop.
  • Cook Time:  Start to finish 40 minutes
  • Side Note:  Potatoes can be kept warm in a crockpot if you want to cook these earlier on the same day. Just make sure you have a crockpot with a “warm” setting.  Anything hotter will burn the potatoes.

Side Dish – Green Bean Casserole

This is a holiday favorite and a staple on our Christmas table every single year!  It is easy to put together,  cooks up in under 30 minutes and everyone loves it!

green bean casserole

Prep Ahead Tip:  You can mix all of the ingredients together the night before with the exception of the fried onions.   Those are added in the last five minutes of cooking.

  • Source:  Cooks in the oven.
  • Cook Time:  30-40 Minutes
  • Side Note:  Pop this in the oven while your ham is resting and being carved.

Side Dish – Roasted Carrots

Carrots don’t last long in this house and these roasted carrots are no exception.  The brown sugar carmelizes the carrots and the rosemary adds a savory vibe that everyone craves!

Roasted Carrots

Prep Ahead Tip:  The entire dish can be made the day before and just popped into the oven when ready to cook.

  • Source:  Cooks in the oven
  • Cook Time: 40-50 minutes
  • Side Notes:  These can also be made in a crockpot on low for 2 hours.

Dessert – Cherry Vanilla Heaven Dessert

At first, Cherry Vanilla Heaven Dessert doesn’t seem like it fits on a traditional Christmas Menu, but this is my all-time favorite way to dress up an angel food cake.  I love serving this during the holidays because it is light and delicious and a little bit unexpected.  Bonus:  this dessert is so simple to make, you will have it prepped in minutes! (Disclaimer: I picked this one because it is on the easy side, but if I have help I make pie! My favorite pie just happens to be French Silk and folks always seem to love it!)

Cherry Vanilla Heaven Cake

Prep Ahead Tip: This dish should be made at least 3-4 hours before you plan to serve it.  Go ahead and make it the day before to save on time.

  • Source:  No Bake
  • Side Notes: You can buy an angel food cake, ready to go, for just a few dollars!

The Next Day

Okay, you made it through the busiest day! But, you know there will be a few people that will stay with you for a couple of days. So, what can you have ready for those overnight guests?

Breakfast – Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

We’ve been planning for this recipe!  If you have leftover Ham from day one of this Christmas menu, just chop it up and make this delicious breakfast!  Your guests will thank you!

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

Prep Ahead Tip:  We like to crisp up the hashbrowns before adding the eggs, so you’ll have to wait until the morning to prepare this recipe if you want that crispy crust.  So, set your alarm a little earlier than normal and pop those hashbrowns in the oven before the guests awake.  While your hash browns are cooking, cut up the leftover ham and pop it in a bowl with the eggs, milk, seasonings, and cheese.  Pop the whole dish in the oven, start a fresh pot of coffee, and the breakfast will be ready when your guests start to wake up.

  • Source:  Oven
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes for the hashbrowns; 40 additional minutes for the casserole (1 hour 10 minutes total)
  • Side Notes:  If you had a veggie tray, chop of some of the leftovers and use them in this dish too

Light Lunch – Egg Salad Sandwich

By day two, your guests are going to want to switch things up a bit.  Egg Salad Sandwiches are a great choice because they can be made in advance and can be whipped together in a pinch when everyone starts to get a little snacky around lunchtime.  Eggs are usually something that I have on hand, and they are pretty cheap to buy if you need more.

My Favorite Egg Salad

Prep Ahead: Egg Salad can be made up to five days ahead of time! So, you have plenty of time to boil some eggs and get this dish ready to serve when needed!

  • Source:  No Bake
  • Side Notes: Base the recipe on the number of guests you will be serving. The general rule is 2-3 hard-boiled eggs per person. Plus, you can make it a little fancier by having croissants available! (But, simple buns work just as well😉)

Appetizer Dinner

With all the food that is served over the holidays, most people will just want to munch on something as the day wears on. So, why not have a few appetizers on hand for people to help themselves? Just set them out, and let people eat when they are hungry.

French Onion Dip

French Onion Dip is a classic dip that most people like since it’s not too far out of their comfort zone. It can be served with a simple bag of chips or baguettes.

Homemade French Onion Dip

Prep Ahead: This is another recipe that can and should be made a day or two ahead of time. This amazing little dip actually tastes better after chilling for a day!

  • Source: No Bake
  • Side Notes: Besides the chips have some vegetables available for people to dip into the French Onion Dip. After all, they may be craving something a little healthier by then.

Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball Bites

Quite possibly one of the most fun appetizers to serve! These mini cheese balls are coated with bacon and served with crackers.  They are so easy to make and can be made well in advance!

Bacon Ranch Cheeseball Bites

Prep Ahead Tip:  This entire appetizer can, and should be made a few days in advance.  The cheese balls need to be chilled for about an hour before they can be rolled in the bacon mixture.  It’s also super easy to cook the bacon ahead of time. When I cook bacon, I do it in the oven.  I set the temperature to 415°F and while it is preheating, I lay out the individual slices of bacon on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  (Yes, right on the pan! No rack needed.) They are perfectly crispy in 18-20 minutes.  No flipping and easy cleanup!  Once the bacon chills you can chop it into very small pieces and mix it up with the rest of the cheese ball coating ingredients.

  • Source: Oven
  • Side Notes: Use room temperature cream cheese, and have some pretzels and crackers around spread the cheese mixture out.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs are usually first to go when it comes to appetizers.  I usually make up a few different variations like french onion deviled eggs and bacon deviled eggs.  I like to keep things interesting:)

Deviled Eggs

Prep Ahead: Boil the eggs ahead of time (when you are making the eggs for the egg salad sandwiches) so you are ready to make the egg yolk filling when needed.

  • Source: Stovetop
  • Side Notes: Add a few drops of hot sauce in half the deviled egg mixture to give a few of your deviled eggs a little kick!

Evening Dessert

Yes, I know people have been eating all day, but there is something about having dessert on your Christmas Menu.  Keeping some dessert handy is always recommended to satisfy all those sweet tooths!  Especially when it involves these two amazing treats!

French Silk Brownies

What’s not to love about the combination of a super moist brownie and a French silk filling?!? This decadent dessert is a chocolate lover’s dream!

French Silk Brownies


Prep Ahead: You will want to make these a day ahead of time so they can chill in the refrigerator. Any recipe that you can make in advance is a winning recipe in my book!

  • Source: Oven (for the brownies)
  • Side Notes: These brownies are made with raw eggs, so be aware of that when you decide if you are going to serve them to your guests.

The Original Fantasy Fudge

This is a no-fail fudge that will be sure to satisfy the sweet tooth in the group.  You can make this in advance and set it out all weekend if you want!

The Original Fantasy Fudge

Prep Ahead: Lucky for us, this fudge can be made a couple of weeks ahead of time! Yes, I will take that! You can have this available as soon as guests arrive up until they leave.

  • Source: Stovetop
  • Side Notes: If there are any nut allergies, simply leave them out.  I would highly recommend a candy thermometer, which you can find at most grocery stores or houseware stores.

Christmas Menu Substitutes

I threw together a handy little list of substitutes in case one or more of the recipes above didn’t work for you.  All of these have prep ahead options and would work great for serving a crowd!

Christmas Menu

Main Course

Crock Pot Honey Ham

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey

Side Dish

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes


Beer Cheese Dip

Jalapeno Popper Dip


Ham, Egg, and Cheese Sliders

Biscuits and Gravy

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins

Pumpkin Sweet Rolls

Apple Hand Pies

Light Lunch

Ham and Cheese Sliders

Tuna Salad Sandwich


Apple Toffee Dip

Dulce de Leche Pecan Pie

Ginger Sandwich Cookies

Brownie Pudding Dessert

Share with your friends!

Categorized in:

Related Recipes

Meet Amanda Rettke

Amanda Rettke is the creator of I Am Baker, and the bestselling author of Surprise Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion – With a Little Something Extra Inside.Over the course of her 15+ year blogging adventure, she has been featured in and collaborated with the Food Network, New York Times, LA Times, Country Living Magazine, People Magazine, Epicurious, Brides, Romantic Homes, life:beautiful, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Mail, Star Tribune, The Globe and Mail, DailyCandy, YumSugar, The Knot, The Kitchn, and Parade, to name a few.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.