Our Best Recipes For an Unforgettable Christmas Eve Meal, No Matter Your Family's Dinner Style

Pineapple Glazed Ham
Photo: Jen Causey

On Christmas Eve, families around the South gather to celebrate in different ways. We have the houses we go to, the dishes we serve, and the traditions we recreate year after year. "It's our family tradition," we might say. Or, "That's just my family's style."

And while the dishes we serve may vary over time, it's more often than not that our family or group's dinner style stays somewhat the same. Once a casual Christmas Eve dinner family, always a casual Christmas Eve dinner family, and so on.

With this in mind, we decided to create three delicious menus for the most common Christmas Eve dinner styles: casual, classic, and formal. And to make things easy to recreate at home, we've provided the same structured menu for each: one main entree, two side dishes, and one dessert.

So, read on to find dinner inspiration, whether your crowd prefers a casual holiday meal or a formal sit-down affair. We have menu ideas for every type of Christmas Eve dinner. And no matter which menu you choose, these delicious dishes will surely put everyone in a festive mood.

01 of 12

Casual Main: Lasagna Roll-Ups

Tomato-Basil Lasagna Rolls
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Lasagna Roll-Ups

Lasagna checks all the boxes on our holiday meal wish list: feeds a crowd (of all ages), can be made in advance, and can be made in one dish. These roll-ups, however, were made for a holiday helping of Lasagna, as they still check the boxes but are presented in a way that while casual, feel celebration-worthy too.

02 of 12

Classic Main: Pineapple Glazed Ham

Pineapple Glazed Ham
Jen Causey

Recipe: Pineapple Glazed Ham

Glazed ham isn't just for Easter. Make this pineapple-glazed, cherry-studded showstopper the center of your Christmas Eve table this year. Trust us: It tastes as good as it looks.

03 of 12

Formal Main: Pancetta-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin

Pancetta-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin with Whipped Horseradish Cream
Jim Franco

Recipe: Pancetta-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin with Whipped Horseradish Cream

Pancetta (otherwise known as "Italian bacon") adds an extra layer of richness and a deliciously crisp texture to beef tenderloin. Slice the beef into rounds and serve with Whipped Horseradish Cream.

04 of 12

Casual Side: Yeast Rolls

Thanksgiving Yeast Rolls
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Yeast Rolls

A basket of warm, scratch-made rolls makes the most laid-back holiday meal feel special. This recipe, a favorite among our readers, turns out beautifully every time.

05 of 12

Casual Side: Christmas Salad

Christmas Salad
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Christmas Salad

This salad is a go-to for holiday gatherings because the sturdy lettuce can hold for a few hours. This works well for a serve-yourself dinner style without sacrificing the salad's signature flavors of beets, onions, bacon, and feta.

06 of 12

Classic Side: Herbed Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Lisa's Herbed Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Lisa Cericola's Herbed Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

No one can resist an extra helping of these buttery, silky smooth mashed potatoes. This recipe comes from a Southern Living editor's own kitchen, so trust us when we say the addition of herbs and brown butter will surprise you in the best way.

07 of 12

Classic Side: Green Beans with Garlic

Green Beans with Garlic
Jim Franco

Recipe: Green Beans with Garlic

This simple side dish of blanched, then sautéed green beans comes together in minutes and will pair perfectly with any dish on your menu. Not a fan of garlic? Omit it and top the green beans with toasted slivered almonds.

08 of 12

Formal Side: Sweet Potato Stacks

Sweet Potato Stacks
Greg Dupree; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch

Recipe: Sweet Potato Stacks

Enjoy the comfort of sweet potatoes in a pretty little bite with these rosemary-and-cinnamon-topped stacks. While beautiful, they are surprisingly easy to make and look fancy thanks to the unique flavors and presentation.

09 of 12

Formal Side: Honey-Glazed Spiced Carrots

Honey Glazed Spiced Carrots
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Honey-Glazed Spiced Carrots

Roast multicolored whole baby carrots in a hot oven, then toss them in a spicy-sweet honey glaze for a side dish that looks and tastes more impressive than the sum of its parts.

10 of 12

Casual Dessert: Ambrosia Trifle

Ambrosia Trifle
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Giulietta Pinna; Food Styling: Ali Ramee

Recipe: Ambrosia Trifle

Everyone will be eager to dig into this incredible trifle, made with layers of angel food cake, maraschino cherries, and pineapple. We especially love the rich flavors of the homemade custard—made with whipped cream, mayonnaise, and sour cream.

11 of 12

Classic Dessert: Gingerbread Cake Roll with Eggnog Cream

Gingerbread Roulade and Eggnog Cream
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Gingerbread Cake Roll with Eggnog Cream

We gave an old-fashioned Christmas dessert—gingerbread cake—an extra holiday twist with eggnog cream filling. Add a dusting of powdered sugar to top it off.

12 of 12

Formal Dessert: Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

Everyone loves crème brûlée for its golden, crackled tops and silky custard filling. Turn this favorite fancy dish, which always feels like a special occasion when you order it at restaurant or make it at home, into a crowd-friendly cheesecake for Christmas.

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