21 Easy Holiday Recipes for Beginners, Busy Bees, and Last-Minute Hosts

Garlicky Kale Salad with Crispy Chickpeas

Minimalist Baker

Looking for easy holiday recipes you can whip up in a hurry that also happen to taste gourmet, while capturing the warm, cozy energy of the occasion? Sound too good to be true? They're out there—it just takes a little digging. We took it upon ourselves to sift through the noise and hone in on the best options around.

Whether you're a beginner in the kitchen, a last-minute host, or simply want to minimize stress this holiday season, these 21 recipes (plus one aromatherapy recipe for a festively-scented home) are here to help. We've got your holiday menu covered from a cocktail and appetizers to sides, mains, and desserts.

Aromatherapy

Homemade aromatherapy recipe
Half Baked Harvest

Okay, so technically this isn't a drinkable cocktail (though all the ingredients are edible if you insist on giving it a try)—it's more of a magical holiday aroma. This scrumptious combination of fruits and spices from Half Baked Harvest will make the whole house smell and feel like the holidays. And the good news is that this thoughtful, atmospheric touch only takes five minutes to brew.

Beverages and Cocktails

Mezcal Punch

Mezcal punch
Hola Jalapeño

The Recipe: Mezcal Punch

Why We Love It: This sip is the perfect balance of citrusy, smokey, and tart courtesy of fresh-squeezed orange juice, mezcal, and pineapple, among other ingredients. Add this mezcal-based cocktail recipe from Hola Jalapeño to your holiday traditions. In total, it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare, so you can throw it together while you're working on more time-consuming mains.

Pro Tip: Garnish with mint sprigs and orange wedges.

Honey Grapefruit Pineapple Thyme Mocktail

Honey grapefruit pineapple thyme mocktail

Orchids + Sweet Tea

The Recipe: Honey Grapefruit Pineapple Thyme Mocktail

Why We Love It: This non-alcoholic beverage is refreshingly vibrant. We also love that Orchids + Sweet Tea's mocktail recipe nods to the holidays with a sprig of thyme for herby aroma.

Pro Tip: Add a grapefruit slice to garnish.

Appetizers

Meyer Lemon Herbed Crab Bites

Meyer lemon herbed crab bites
Salt & Wind

The Recipe: Meyer Lemon Herbed Crab Bites

Why We Love It: Though the pretty bright hues and fancy presentation make this dish from Salt & Wind look like it takes a ton of time to create, it actually only requires five minutes. If you want to cook your own crab meat, it may take a little longer, but otherwise, you just have to assemble these Meyer lemon bites with the radishes and add a few garnishes. 

Pro Tip: Garnish with flaky sea salt, pomegranates, and a dash of olive oil.

Holiday Hummus Board

Holiday hummus board with root vegetable chips
Half Baked Harvest

The Recipe: Holiday Hummus Board

Why We Love It: A great charcuterie board or cheese plate becomes even better when there are also some delicious dips joining the lineup. Consider trying one of these recipes from Half Baked Harvest: spicy hummus, roasted garlic hummus with parmesan and pesto, or pumpkin and goat cheese hummus.

Pro Tip: Just add market veggies and crackers or pita chips.

One Bite Mini Lasagna Roll-Ups

One bite mini lasagna roll-ups

I Am a Food Blog

The Recipe: One Bite Mini Lasagna Roll-Ups

Why We Love It: Lasagna is as comforting as dishes can get, and when there's a crowd to please, this mini roll-ups version from I Am a Food Blog will keep hanger at bay before the main event.

Pro Tip: Let cool for five to 10 minutes in the pan before popping them out with a spatula.

Garlicky Kale Salad With Crispy Chickpeas

Garlicky kale salad with chickpeas
Minimalist Baker

The Recipe: Garlicky Kale Salad With Crispy Chickpeas

Why We Love It: The dressing for this kale salad is packed with garlicky goodness, and the warm roasted tandoori chickpeas are the perfect way to heat things up. The best news is that you can make this whole winter greens recipe from Minimalist Baker in about 30 minutes.

Pro Tip: Use hot water to thin out the dressing to your desired consistency.

Whenever you are eating raw kale, massage the leaves first. Doing so breaks down some of the tough fibers that can be hard to digest. Before you dress the salad, move your hands through the kale, giving the leaves a little squeeze.

Warm Butternut Squash Ricotta Dip With Spiced Sage Butter

Warm butternut squash ricotta dip with spiced sage butter

Yes to Yolks

The Recipe: Warm Butternut Squash Ricotta Dip With Spiced Sage Butter

Why We Love It: Fluffy, whipped ricotta is infused with a medley of fall flavors in Yes to Yolks' dip recipe, including butternut squash, sage, and pomegranate. Use a food processor to pulse roasted butternut squash, ricotta, olive oil, and bake briefly. Then make the spiced sage butter to drizzle over the dip.

Pro Tip: "I recommend keeping the dip covered in the refrigerator if you are making it ahead. Allow it to return to room temperature before baking," Yes to Yolks writes.

Sides

Butternut Squash, Andouille, and Herb Stuffing

Butternut squash, andouille, and herb stuffing
Spoon Fork Bacon

The Recipe: Butternut Squash, Andouille, and Herb Stuffing

Why We Love It: This medley of cold weather flavors like butternut squash, sage, thyme, rosemary, and, of course, gruyere (or Swiss) cheese in Spoon Fork Bacon's stuffing recipe is a wholesome addition to your holiday dinner lineup. This super festive side will be just as good (if not better) in a leftovers sandwich the next day.

Pro Tip: Let cool 10–15 minutes before serving.

Ginger Carrot Bisque

Carrot Ginger Bisque
The First Mess

The Recipe: Ginger Carrot Bisque

Why We Love It: Nothing warms the soul like a sunny bowl of bisque. This creamy vegan carrot ginger soup from The First Mess is bright and beautiful while also being just decadent enough to comfort and soothe your dinner guests without being too heavy. 

Pro Tip: Drag a paring knife through the tahini cream swirls for a marble effect, if you like, writes The First Mess.

Vegan Biscuits

Vegan biscuits

A Couple Cooks

The Recipe: Vegan Biscuits

Why We Love It: These perfectly golden, flaky biscuits taste just as rich and buttery as the traditional recipes. However, this one from A Couple Cooks is dairy-free, so it'll satisfy your vegan guests too. Just make sure there are enough to go around, as everyone will want a second helping. 

Pro Tip: "Vegan butter melts easily, so it’s important to freeze it for 5 minutes prior to making the recipe," A Couple Cooks recommends.

Holiday Quinoa

Holiday quinoa salad

I Am a Food Blog

The Recipe: Holiday Quinoa

Why We Love It: This side dish from I Am a Food Blog is slightly sweet, which will balance out all of the other savory flavors on the table. Plus it's packed with healthy ingredients like quinoa, pecans, pears, and dried cranberries.

Pro Tip: After mixing all ingredients, let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Brussels sprouts gratin

The Modern Proper

The Recipe: Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Why We Love It: We love that The Modern Proper's cheesy side dish can be a refreshing twist to traditional holiday favorites like creamed spinach and green bean casserole. All you need is 12 minutes to prep, Brussels sprouts, leeks, heavy cream, cheese, panko crumbs, herbs and spices.

Pro Tip: Once Brussels sprouts and leeks are topped with bread crumb mixture, return to oven and bake until golden brown, approximately five to eight minutes.

Mains

Chicken in Red Wine, Grapes, and Caramelized Onion

Chicken with red wine, grapes, and caramelized onions
Playful Cooking

The Recipe: Chicken in Red Wine, Grapes, and Caramelized Onion

Why We Love It: This chicken breast recipe from Playful Cooking will blow you away, and not just because it's simple enough to make even if you only have one hour to work with. Dunked in a caramelized onion wine sauce, it's loaded with flavor and punctuated with beautiful colors to keep your plates looking vibrant and wholesome.

Pro Tip: Garnish with cilantro and/or parsley.

Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs

Baked Italian oregano meatballs
Half Baked Harvest

The Recipe: Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs

Why We Love It: Taking one bite out of these simple baked Italian oregano meatballs brought to us by Half Baked Harvest will prove that your hard work in the kitchen paid off. Cheesy, satisfying, and full of spices, this dish only takes one hour total with only 10 minutes of prep.

Pro Tip: Add some spaghetti, or serve them on their own. And as an option, add harissa sauce to the sauce mixture.

Vegan Lentil Wellington

Vegan lentil wellington

Orchids + Sweet Tea

The Recipe: Vegan Lentil Wellington

Why We Love It: Orchids + Sweet Tea's plant-powered Wellington features a satisfyingly flaky crust and herby filling that vegans and non-vegans can get behind. Just make sure to set aside two hours to make and refrigerate the pastry crust, mix the filling, and shaping and cutting the loaf before baking.

Pro Tip: To prevent breakage, keep the dough's thickness while rolling it out, and don't overstuff the loaf with filling.

Beef Tenderloin With Cranberry Sauce

Beef tenderloin with red wine cranberry sauce

Yes to Yolks

The Recipe: Beef Tenderloin With Cranberry Sauce

Why We Love It: Succulent roast beef with a red wine cranberry sauce is an undeniably special occasion dish, like this recipe from Yes to Yolks, which yields a tender and flavorful roast for the whole table.

Pro Tip: Bring the beef down to room temperature before placing in the oven by taking it out of the fridge about an hour beforehand, Yes to Yolks advises.

Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

Walnut and lentil bolognese

The Modern Proper

The Recipe: Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

Why We Love It: This satiating, plant-forward bolognese recipe from The Modern Proper doesn't lack on flavor. And thanks to meaty walnuts and lentils, vegans and non-vegans alike will appreciate this hearty dish.

Pro Tip: Toss with the pasta of your choice, and if you aren't going vegan, feel free to top with parmesan, The Modern Proper recommends.

Apple Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder

Apple cider-braised pork shoulder

The Modern Proper

The Recipe: Apple Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder

Why We Love It: Apple is expressed three ways in The Modern Proper's fall-themed dinner recipe. You'll need unfiltered apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and fresh apples, plus aromatics and spices like fennel, shallots, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

Pro Tip: "Although a lot of people love fat-marbled pork butt for braising—us included—for this particular recipe, a pork butt would be too fatty. Instead, look for something called a 'pork shoulder roast' which is boneless and skinless and not as fatty as a pork butt," The Modern Proper recommends.

Easy Fish Stew

Easy comforting fish stew

Pickled Plum

The Recipe: Easy Fish Stew

Why We Love It: A fish stew, like this easy recipe from Pickled Plum, is a bit lighter than the other main dish recipes featured, and could serve to balance out the rest of the holiday buffet table if you're going all out with appetizers, sides, and dessert.

Pro Tip: Garnish with flat leaf parsley.

Desserts

Mini Caramel Apple Hand Pies

Mini caramel apple hand pies

Cooks With Cocktails

The Recipe: Mini Caramel Apple Hand Pies

Why We Love It: Baking typically requires a number of steps, but Cooks With Cocktails shortens this hand pie recipe by using caramel pieces as filling, rather than calling for homemade caramel. Once the pastry is made and has sat in the fridge for a bit, the apples are finely chopped, and pies are assembled, these desserts will cook up in 15 minutes.

Pro Tip: Chop apples really small to prevent tears in the pastry crust once stuffed.

Winter Citrus Yogurt Loaf Cake

Winter citrus yogurt loaf cake

Sugar Salted

The Recipe: Citrus Loaf Cake

Why We Love It: This simple but delicious citrus loaf cake from Sugar Salted is the perfect homemade dessert to make when we don't have the time to bake an extravagant pie or cake.

Pro Tip: "I think you could easily make this with sour cream, buttermilk or a mix of the two, but I like the idea of yogurt. It’s a bit lighter than sour cream but the cake doesn’t lack in flavor in any way," Sugar Salted recommends.

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