Apple pie and sugar cookies will always have a seat at the American holiday table. But maybe there’s a place for something a little different, or perhaps even continental. Whether you are trying to broaden your culinary horizons or just looking to sweeten your menu, here are several traditional Christmas desserts and sweets of other cultures worth a taste.
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As far back as my British husband can remember, his mum and gran would cook for days to prepare for all the family and friends that would come for Christmas supper and tea. A main staple was mince pies. He was given the grand task of helping roll the dough. We inherited this recipe—the best gift!
— Cindy Moody
When I was growing up, my family always made this Norwegian Christmas treat. They’re very sweet wafers cooked on a special iron on the stove and then quickly rolled into cylinders. My fingers were always red from rolling the very hot krumkakes!
— Janette Housman
This particular recipe is from the northern region of Colombia, which is where my family is from. We make coconut rice and eat it as a side dish for holidays as well as for family reunions.
— Carolina Fernandez
As a child, I was afraid of “the Lep Cookie” as we called it. But I ended up loving these Lebukuchen after I baked them myself. German immigrants brought the recipe to Boonville, Missouri, my family’s hometown, in the 1800s. The cookies sit in sealed containers to “ripen” for a month before being consumed at Christmas. They were prepared around nut harvesting time in November and eaten at Christmas. They are kind of like a granola bar or a fruitcake without fruit.
— Stephanie Young
This Polish and Czechoslovakian recipe has been handed down for generations in my family and was given to me by my great aunt Lillian. The recipe makes three stollens—one to eat, one to freeze and one to give away.
— Frank Hogg
Mom Johnson, my husband’s grandmother, always made these tiny spicy cookies, which are as addictive as potato chips. One year, we made thousands of these little guys as a church fundraiser. We didn’t have time to do much else that season, but our house constantly smelled of ginger and spice, and no one seemed to mind!
— Denise Johnson
Lefse is a Scandinavian Christmas treat my grandma made all day prior to Christmas. It basically looks like a tortilla, but it is made with potatoes and served rolled up with butter and sugar.
— Jen Hedberg-Jones
Because my wife is from the Philippines and spent most of her life there, I wanted to start a tradition during Christmas of having a wonderful dessert that would remind her of home. She decided that bibingka, a Philippine rice flour cake traditionally eaten during the holiday season, would be the perfect Christmas dessert tradition.
— Jake Johnson
For me, waking up on January 6 meant that a fun day was ahead as the holiday season came to an end with a bang. And, as if the brand-new toys and gifts weren’t enough, the aroma of hot chocolate and the sweetness of the traditional Mexican rosca de reyes was sure to remind us all that this once-a-year party was really happening! But don’t bite down hard on this special bread or you might loosen a tooth if your piece contains a hidden muñequito, or little doll. Don’t misunderstand—finding one of the tiny plastic baby dolls in your piece of bread is a good thing, for it means that you get to be the host of another fun party on Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria) in February!
— Elias Cuevas
I adopted this holiday dessert tradition after living in France my senior year in college. My French host “mother” presented it at the table for Christmas dinner, and I have been wowed ever since. Its stunning presentation is boosted by a relatively easy effort in the kitchen.
— Shelley Knapp