14 Plant-Based Holiday Food Traditions from Around the World

The holidays are a time to honor food traditions that date back through the generations. It’s also a time to create new food traditions of your own. My Arkansas-born mother always made black-eyed peas during the holidays, as they were meant to bring good luck for the coming year (plus they were so darn good!). My father, who was born in Minnesota, favored all of the classic holiday sweet treats, such as sugar cookies, apple crisp, and pumpkin pie. But the world of holiday food traditions is even larger than that! All around the world, cultures have practiced food celebrations that center upon plants—the sustenance of life. These dishes brought friends and families together to revel in the joy of life.

Cinnamon Apple Crumble is a favorite of my father’s.

My family traditions combine my husband’s Swedish upbringing, with the food cultures of my mother and father, plus a generous dose of California spirit. So, I tend to enjoy the holidays with an open air potluck, which includes a variety of plant-based dishes from around the world, such as Swedish Beet Apple Salad, Greek Veggie Balls, and Jansson’s Temptation.


We always enjoy this recipe for Swedish Beet Apple Salad at our holiday brunches.

This holiday spirit inspired me to chat with some of my fellow dietitians and bloggers to get a glimpse of their plant-based global cultures from around the world. We are sharing our favorite memories and recipe ideas, from our homes to yours! I hope this will encourage you to create an eclectic celebration of plant-based foods during the holidays this year.

Eat and Live Well,


14 Plant-Based Holiday Food Traditions from Around the World

Vegan Rum Truffles

1. Austria. “I remember my mum ‘measuring’ the rum ‘by feeling.’ It was that decisive moment in the making of the rum balls. Sometimes you would hear a high-pitched ‘ooh!’, which meant that they were going to turn out rather strong that year. The German name for these Vegan Rum Truffles is ‘Rumkugeln’, literally translated as Rum Balls. But, if used as a verb, ‘rumkugeln’ can mean to roll around, which is what you do when you’ve had too many of them!” says Sophie Rosemary Collins of Vegan On Board.

2. Egypt. “Egyptian falafel is a traditional dish made with fava beans rather than chickpeas. When I lived in Egypt, we had falafel for breakfast. It was fried before our eyes on the street corner and was the best falafel I’ve ever eaten. This is my healthier version; I bake or air-fry it rather than deep-fry it in masses of oil,” says Choclette Ammar of Tin and Thyme.

Vegan Frangipani tart: Galette des Rois

3. France. “In France, on January 6th, everyone, kids and adults alike, loves to buy and eat the Galette des Rois hoping to be ‘King or Queen for a day’ if they find a little figurine in their slice. My homemade vegan version is here,” says Francesca V Di Leandro of Seven Roses.

German Gingerbread

4. Germany. “During the Christmas season, a staple in Germany is to enjoy gingerbreads. Doesn’t matter if you are at home or visiting Christmas markets and enjoying the gingerbread cookies with a cup of mulled wine,” says Jasmin Hackmann of Ve Eat Cook Bake.

Melomakarona Cookies

5. Greece. “These melomakarona cookies are a Christmas tradition for my family. We have made them every year the weeks before Christmas to give as gifts and to eat as Christmas dessert,” says Sophia Tsoukas DeSantis of Veggies Don’t Bite.

6. Hungary. “As long as I can remember, Crescent Cookies with Walnuts have always been an unquestionable part of our family’s Christmas. In other words, there is no Christmas without Walnut Crescent Cookies. The original recipe is handed down through generations. These cookies are definitely kid-favorites and the first ones to disappear, so we always make sure to bake enough,” says Emese Maczko of My Pure Plants.

7. Italy. “Growing up, most of my friends were eating meatloaf for their holiday meals, but in an Italian home, we ate lasagna, and always from scratch. These vegan lasagna stuffed mushrooms are filled with ‘cheesy’ spinach ricotta and topped with a hearty bolognese sauce that takes me back to some sweet childhood memories,” says Rosa Tamm of This Healthy Kitchen.


8. Poland. “Kolaczki, jam filled Polish cookies, have been a staple at holidays and family gatherings on my mom’s side since long before I was born. I have loved them since I was little. Traditional kolaczki contain lots of dairy, but I finally created a dairy-free version, and I promise you no one will know the difference! They are just as light and flaky as my Grandma’s!” says Jennifer Thurman Sebestyen of Veggie Inspired.

Queen’s Cake

9. Portugal. “The staple Christmas dessert on every household in Portugal is the King Cake which has candied fruits, but we never liked it for that. But there’s also the ‘female’ version, the Queen Cake, which is our favorite and it only has nuts or seeds. Of course, we turned it vegan and sugar-free,” says Vasco Lourenço of Vegan Blessing.

Pastelitos de guayaba

10. Puerto Rico. “Pastelitos de guayaba are a special treat found in bakeries all over Latin America. I love visiting my husband’s hometown in Puerto Rico at Christmas time—we always stop by the bakery and pick up a big box of Pastelitos, and then sit on a bench in the town square, listening to the coqui frogs chirping, and watching the twinkling Christmas lights strung across the courtyard,” says Sarah De la Cruz of Fried Dandelions.

11. Slovenia. “I have an obsession with chestnuts and have ever since I was a little girl. My mum used to make a chestnut puree with whipped cream during the autumn when we were kids and lived in Slovenia, and it’s one of my favorite recipes to this day. Chestnuts are a popular ingredient in desserts from that area and surrounding countries like Austria and Croatia, where mum’s family is from. I re-created the dessert, but used coconut whipped cream instead. Still just as good!” says Maša Ofei of The Minimalist Vegan.

Pasta Soup with Seitan Meatballs

12. Spain. “Sopa de galets, also called escudella de Nadal, is a traditional soup from the Catalonia region of Spain that’s served as a starter for the Christmas Eve and Christmas day meals. My husband harassed me for years to come up with a vegan version, and making vegan meatballs for the soup that don’t dissolve when boiled was no small feat!” says Melissa B. Copeland of Cilantro and Citronella.

13. Russia. “Russian-style pickled tomatoes are healthy, delicious and super easy to make. This is my grandma’s recipe that the whole family enjoys for holidays,” says Elena Szeliga of Happy Kitchen.Rocks.


14. Ukraine. “Syrniki, traditional cheese pancakes made in many Eastern European countries, are something I’ve not had in ages. My memories of them are from very early childhood; one of my babushkas loved making them for me as a treat. Whose babushka didn’t, right? I recently recreated them using a simple homemade vegan cheese base and gluten-free flour. It’s so good!” says Audrey Snowe of Unconventional Baker.

Check out some of my favorite plant-based holiday recipes here:

Tollhouse Pan Cookies
Vegan Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies
Sage White Bean Veggie Balls with Pomegranate Mandarin Sauce
Broccoli Walnut Au Gratin
Eggplant Pecan Pâté

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