The Best Southern Christmas Foods of All Time, Ranked

Cheese Sauce over Cauliflower
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling; Tina Bell Stamos

Thanksgiving tends to be the holiday most closely associated with big festive dinners, but Christmas has its own delicious food traditions to look forward to all year long. Christmas cookies are near and dear to our hearts, while cheese straws and gingerbread always make an appearance. Some aren't fans of a traditional fruitcake, while others don't think you can celebrate the holiday without it. Many families opt for a classic Christmas roast, or 'Roast Beast' as the Grinch would call it, others serve ham or turkey. Then there's the eggnog, the signature drink of the holiday season. Here in the South, everyone has their own go-to family recipes and traditions, but without ruffling any feathers, we ranked what we think are the best Christmas foods of all time. Just like the twelve days of Christmas, we have a dozen dishes ranked. How did your favorites rank?

01 of 12

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookie Stars
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Brown Sugar Cookie Stars

Although we love all Christmas cookies, there's something so classic and delicious about a sugar cookie. Maybe it's the royal icing or the sprinkles, perhaps it's the festive shapes, but we can't imagine celebrating Christmas without a batch (or two) of these around.

02 of 12

Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Cheese Sauce over Cauliflower
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling; Tina Bell Stamos

Recipe: Roasted Beef Tenderloin

A great Christmas dinner needs a show-stopping centerpiece. Some prefer turkey, but coming just off the Thanksgiving holiday, roast beef is exactly what we are craving. A tenderloin is the special-occasion cut we reach for this time of year, especially when served with a Vidalia Onion-and-Vinegar Sauce.

03 of 12

Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Diana Miller

Recipe: Homemade Mashed Potatoes

We've never met a person who doesn't love mashed potatoes—it's a perfect food. While some prefer their Christmas potatoes roasted, we fall on team mashed as they're the buttery vehicle for gravy.

04 of 12

Cheddar Cheese Straws

Cheddar Cheese Straws
Southern Living

Recipe: Cheddar Cheese Straws

There is nothing we'd rather munch while dinner comes together than cheese straws. Plus, they make a great homemade gift alternative if you don't want to make any more cookies.

05 of 12

Macaroni and Cheese

mac and cheese, casseroles, 13x9 dishes
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Best-Ever Macaroni and Cheese

This dish is a smash hit at the kids table, but adults clamor for seconds of this ooey-gooey side just the same. Mac and cheese is the king of casseroles on the table, particularly when made with freshly grated cheese for the best velvety texture.

06 of 12


Southern Cornbread Dressing
Lee Harrelson

Recipe: Southern Cornbread Dressing

Dressing, not 'stuffing', is mandatory on any Southern holiday table. We love a good cornbread dressing, but also love one made with crusty bread. Sausage is always a delicious addition, as are plenty of aromatics and fresh herbs.

07 of 12

Christmas Layer Cakes

Sea Salt-Caramel Cake
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Sea Salt-Caramel Cake

Christmas layer cakes aren't easy, but if there ever was a reason to flex those baking muscles it would be Christmas. Whether caramel, Red Velvet, or coconut, your guests will love a slice, just don't be surprised if they start requesting these cakes all year.

08 of 12


Ben Mim's Perfect Cornbread Recipe
Brian Woodcock

Recipe: Ben Mims' Perfect Cornbread

We make cornbread year-round, but it feels extra special when made around the holidays. We're partial to it made in a skillet of course, but as any Southerner knows, pre-heating whatever pan you're dropping the batter in, is absolutely mandatory.

09 of 12


Our Best Ambrosia Ever
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Recipe: Our Best Ambrosia Recipe Ever

You can't go wrong with this classic. Is it a dessert or a salad? We don't particularly care as its on the Christmas table somewhere. Whether you used Grandma's old-school recipe or opt for our fresh take on the dish, it wouldn't be a Southern Christmas without some form of Ambrosia served.

10 of 12


Baked Ham with Brown Sugar-Citrus Glaze
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Baked Ham with Brown Sugar-Citrus Glaze

Ranked lower than roast beef, sure, the humble ham is still a delicious Christmas dinner main dish especially when glazed in brown sugar. Salty and sweet, it's perfect served with a biscuit or warm dinner roll, and makes great sandwiches as leftovers.

11 of 12

Homemade Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog
Jennifer Causey; Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Homemade Eggnog

This can be a divisive drink, but we are fans, especially with a little added bourbon. The store-bought stuff can be overly sweet and give the drink its bad reputation, but those who've made it from scratch know the wonder that is homemade, warm-spiced eggnog.

12 of 12


White Fruit Cake
Joy Howard

Recipe: White Fruit Cake

Ranked last, as we know more than a few of you won't go near it, we hope you reconsider the fruitcake this holiday season. It might not be the overall favorite, but made fresh and from scratch, this dried-fruit studded confection is more than meets the eye and a true Christmas classic as well.

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