Our Favorite Vintage Christmas Recipes That Deserve a Comeback This Year
In the South, the Christmas season revolves around family, time-honored traditions, and usually the kitchen. We can’t think about our childhood Christmas memories without landing on our favorite holiday meals and treats that make appearances year after year—and are passed down generation to generation. From mouthwatering roasts to perfect pound cakes, our Christmas recipes are not ones to forget. At Southern Living, we’ve featured some of the very best, truly award-worthy holiday recipes that deserve to be spotlighted yet again.
These throwback recipes go back decades and feature the old-school holiday dishes we have loved the most, submitted largely by our talented readers over the years. When we say, “An oldie, but a goodie,” these recipes fit the bill no matter how many years go by. Spice up your holiday menu this year by giving these vintage Christmas recipes another look—you might just find a new family classic. Get ready to slice into our savory Burgundy Eye-of-Round and fill your cookie tins with our Molasses Crinkles. There’s something for every occasion.
Recipe: Oyster Casserole
You'll know it when you see that familiar topping of Saltines. Whether you call it oyster dressing, oyster pie, or even scalloped oysters, oyster casserole is right at home on many Southerners’ Christmas table.
Crown Pork Roast with Cranberry-Pecan Stuffing
Nothing centers a Christmas table quite as stunningly as a crown pork roast. This reader recipe, by Charles and Mary White of Birmingham, Alabama was published in our December 1996 issue.
Recipe: Cranberry-Pecan Stuffing
Pair crown pork roast with something equally as festive: cranberry-pecan stuffing. (See, it's okay to call this stuffing. Just not the Thanksgiving dressing.)
Recipe: Grits Dressing
Thanksgiving gets the cornbread dressing. Let Christmas have grits dressing, an equally Southern side dish.
Recipe: Rum Balls
Rum ball, rum balls, how we love thee. It's not a Christmas party in the South without some form of tipsy treat. Originally from our December 1993 issue, this boozy confection is perfect for homemade food gifts.
Hot Cranberry Bake
Recipe: Hot Cranberry Bake
If you've never used your Christmas cranberries for this simple, crisp-like dessert, you haven't lived. We can thank Sue-Sue Harstern of Louisville, Kentucky for this reader recipe submitted over 25 years ago.
Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie
Recipe: Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie
There’s no Christmas pie more notorious (or divisive) than classic mincemeat pie. Back when tobacco and textiles ruled the South, mincemeat pie was welcomed with enthusiasm at Christmas dinner.
Make-Ahead Yeast Rolls
Recipe: Make-Ahead Yeast Rolls
Think of these as the make-ahead, stress-saving counterpart to traditional icebox rolls. We might be serving hearty roasts and casserole-happy sideboards, but there's always room for rolls at Christmas.
Recipe: Burgundy Eye-of-Round
This roast belongs with a buttermilk biscuit like Johnny belongs with June. (Or like Chip belongs with Jo?) Sent to us by Mary F. Clark of Burkburnett, Texas, in 1990, this Christmas snack works as a party appetizer, brunch dish, or dinner main.
Enter: the original day-after-Thanksgiving casserole. It's hands-down the tastiest, most family-friendly use of leftover turkey. So much so, that even after almost 30 years, it's still our favorite.
Recipe: Orange Cake
This retro recipe makes a beautiful centerpiece for any holiday buffet. The citrus-flavored Bundt offers a bright finish to Christmas brunch.
Recipe: Apple-Bourbon Pie
Apple pie might be a traditional Christmas dessert, but this creative version submitted by Eugenia W. Bell of Lexington, Kentucky is anything but ordinary. It gets a spiced twist from bourbon-infused raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, apricot preserves, and toasted pecans or walnuts.
Frozen Cranberry Relish
Recipe: Frozen Cranberry Relish
Over 20 years ago, Susan Stamberg sent this passed-down recipe to Southern Living, dubbing it "the relish that sounds terrible, but tastes terrific.” We think the festive presentation says the rest.
Spicy Sausage-and-Cheddar Kolaches
A beloved Texas tradition, this classic Czech pastry gets a spicy Southern kick from a combo of smoky Conecuh sausage and sharp Cheddar cheese.
Roast Pork with Spiced Cherry Sauce
Between the sage-rubbed pork and spiced cherry sauce, we know why this roast will never lose its appeal. Southerners love pork loin, and this recipe dresses it up nicely for the holiday.
Recipe: Italian Casserole
This casserole has been saving Mamas everywhere during the holiday season for almost three decades. Make it ahead and never be caught without a casserole in a pinch.
Stewed Tomato Shirred Eggs with Ham Chips
A popular 19th-century dish, baked eggs enjoyed a resurgence during the happy-homemaker post-war decades. This stewed tomato rendition with crispy ham chips gives Southerners a signature flair.
Ambrosia Pudding Pie
Recipe: Ambrosia Pudding Pie
Following British tradition, the earliest custard pies were recorded as puddings in antebellum cookbooks. We added a festive ambrosial note with orange marmalade, crushed pineapple, and coconut custard.
Recipe: Molasses Crinkles
Show up to your next cookie swap with these festive cookies, and leave the belle of the Christmas ball. The crinkle cookies are loaded with the classic holiday spices cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
Japanese Fruitcake with Lemon-Coconut Frosting
“It was the signal that Christmas really was coming when this heavenly smell filled the kitchen,” said Susan Houston of Tucker, Georgia. She submitted this family recipe with hopes it would spread that same Christmas joy to others.
Chicken Liver Mousse Crostini with Pepper Jelly
If Aunt Barb said she loved this smooth, velvety mousse topped with spicy-sweet pepper jelly once, she said it a million times. This retro holiday snack is a favorite among the Southern crowd.
Southwestern-Style Spoonbread Dressing
With texture and taste landing like a cross between cornbread dressing and fluffy spoonbread, this dish is pure heaven. As far as we're concerned, it goes with any Christmas main.
Recipe: Orange-Glazed Ham
With a glistening glazed ham residing at the head of the holiday table, you're already off to a good start. This standout reader recipe, from Judy Grimes of Brandon, Mississippi, was featured in our December 1989 issue and pairs well with any side Mama wants to serve.
Recipe: Snow Flurries
What makes this recipe a true “lost classic” is the delicious dough. Going beyond just basic sugar or butter cookie dough, it's made with fresh lemon zest and both almond and vanilla extract. The star-shaped sandwich cookies are then filled with raspberry jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar for a snow-dusted look.
Molded Cranberry Salad
Recipe: Molded Cranberry Salad
Even if it just sits there, pushed to the farthest corner, a congealed salad just wants to be on the Christmas spread. The congealed salads of the 1960s deserve some love—if anything, for posterity's sake—and we're giving this cranberry rendition its due.
Chocolate-Mint Whipped Cream Cake
Back in the day, this decadent cake won a local cooking contest in Mobile, Alabama. Take a bite, and you'll see why. Traditionally, green food coloring was used to tint the whipped cream filling. (Just like in the South's beloved congealed salads.)
Old-School Green Bean Casserole
Recipe: Old-School Green Bean Casserole
Is there a world where this doesn't belong on the list? From the frozen French-cut green beans to the crispy fried onion topping, it's a familiar staple on every Southern holiday table.
Citrus-Marinated Turkey Breast
Recipe: Citrus-Marinated Turkey Breast
Back when citrus was king during the holiday season, this turkey quickly became a reader favorite.
Cider-Glazed Carrots with Walnuts
Once a classic side for Christmas Eve, glazed carrots offer the sweetness that sweet potato casserole does on Thanksgiving. Carrots, meet your special-occasion makeover.
Recipe: Apple Strudel
A delicate, fruit-filled pastry, strudel was brought to the South by early settlers. Due to its fall-inspired filling and flaky pastry crust, this recipe earned a spot in our November 1989 issue.
Polish Sugar Cake
Recipe: Polish Sugar Cake
Similar to strudel, sugar cake was introduced to the South by way of North Carolina (where Moravians brought their Moravian Sugar Cake). This recipe is a close cousin, topped with a sugar glaze instead of the Moravian-style topping of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Marbled Pecan Pound Cake
Recipe: Marbled Pecan Pound Cake
An instant hit with home cooks, this recipe added a special touch with chocolate marbling on the inside. It can also be made ahead, which Mama likes. A lot.
Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie
Recipe: Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie
Some things are better when kept the absolute same, like this old-fashioned pot pie recipe. How do you know it's vintage? It uses hard-boiled eggs in the filling.
Classic Roasted Duck with Orange-Bourbon-Molasses Glaze
Feel instantly fancy and old-fashioned when serving this perfectly crispy roasted duck. (Break out both the vintage china and Mama's old apron.) The secret is in the sauce: a glaze of orange marmalade, bourbon, molasses, lemon juice, and ginger.
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
Recipe: Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
Serve this citrus-flavored ricotta cheesecake if you're looking for the sweet certainty of scrumptious success. Citrus was once a beloved Christmas flavor in the South. Let's bring it back.
Toasted Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe: Toasted Oatmeal Cookies
Consider these Christmas cookie jar-approved. What made these stand out from basic oatmeal cookies initially: the toasted oats. Instead of mixing quick-cooking oats straight from the can into the cookie batter, this recipe calls for toasting them in the oven with melted butter and a cup of chopped pecans.
Cassandra’s “Light” Fruitcake
Recipe: Cassandra's "Light" Fruitcake
“Every time your mama wasn’t looking, I’d sneak into the closet and pour more whiskey over those cakes," said King's father. This family recipe was a childhood tradition that lived on through Cassandra King after her mother passed—but just slightly askew—until her daddy let her in on the secret she was missing.
Creamy Ham-and-Chicken Medley
Recipe: Creamy Ham-and-Chicken Medley
This comforting medley (using leftovers) quickly become a staff favorite after Test Kitchen professional Jane Cairns published it over 25 years ago. As we wrote in the original story: “When there’s a reason to celebrate, there’s Jane Cairns ready to whip up just the right dish for the special occasion." At Christmas, this is that dish.
Recipe: Chicken Alouette
Before the name scares you, know that Alouette is just cheese. Gloriously creamy, garlicky, herby spreadable cheese. This main dish was formerly a seasonal favorite to be served alongside tossed greens or a congealed salad.
Recipe: Angel Biscuits
Were they sent from heaven? Perhaps. Do they capture the holiday spirit with both the fluffiness of a biscuit and yeasty flavor of a dinner roll? Definitely.
Recipe: Chocolate Trifle
High on style, low on effort. This chocolate trifle looks decadent and fancy enough for the holiday spread, but takes only five storebought ingredients. (They never have to know.)
Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe: Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe was created specially to use the leftover canned pumpkin in your pantry. These chocolatey pumpkin cookies will help you transition from holiday to holiday without missing a beat.