It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid – especially if you’re about to venture into your first one as a vegetarian. The lights are on, and the shops are full of festive fare for carnivores and herbivores alike.
And with every year, there seems to be more on offer for vegetarians. That might be because supermarkets and food producers have realised how many of us Britons are shunning meat in favour of plant-based alternatives for a whole host of reasons, not least the climate crisis and health.
Indeed, a massive 70 per cent of people in Britain said they would be reducing their meat consumption over the festive season this year, according to a new poll by cheese brand Ilchester. More than half (52 per cent) also said they are likely to follow a plant-based diet this Christmas, compared with 20 per cent last year, and 56 per cent of people said they would be catering for vegetarians and vegans.
To make everyone’s life a little easier, we’ve put together this round-up of the must-try vegetarian Christmas dinner foods that all are sure to enjoy.
How we tested
We found a wide range of the finest Christmas dinner options, including classic main dishes, sides, new launches and even puddings that are suitable for those following a vegetarian diet. We made each according to the instructions and tested them either on their own or as part of a full Christmas dinner.
Options were considered by both vegetarians and meat-eaters to see if they could impress all palates. Besides the obvious question of deliciousness, each product was rated on how easy it was to prepare and serve up, and the look and the quality of the ingredients.
The best vegetarian Christmas dinners for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Sainsbury’s miso-stuffed butternut squash: £4.50, Sainsburys.co.uk
- Best vegetarian wellington – Tesco plant chef portobello mushroom wellington: £6, Tesco.com
- Best vegetarian Christmas recipe box – The Cookaway portobello mushroom and goat’s cheese tart with creamed leek and spinach: £26, Thecookaway.com
- Best fish dish alternative – Sainsbury’s plant pioneers no salmon en croute: £5.50, Sainsburys.co.uk
- Best veg side – Morrisons heritage carrots: £3, Morrisons.com
- Best brussels – Morrisons sprouts and chestnuts with thyme butter: £1.50, Morrisons.com
- Best gravy base – Bone Broth Bros proper vegetable broth: £12.50, Bonebrothbros.co.uk
- Best condiment – Wonky Pickles Christmas cheer: From £4.95, Glasgowpickle.co
- Best Christmas pudding – Morrisons Christmas pudding: £5, Morrisons.com
- Best alternative pudding – Waitrose & Partners No 1 chocolate and salted caramel melt in the middle pudding: £6, Waitrose.com
Sainsbury’s miso-stuffed butternut squash
Upstaging the turkey at the Christmas table sounds like a tricky feat, but this beautiful vegetarian centrepiece manages it with aplomb. Half a sweet butternut squash is stuffed to the brim with a mouth-watering medley of miso-marinated mushrooms, kale, chunky chestnuts and cranberry for a rich filling that perfectly balances earthy, sweet, bitter and umami flavours for a scrumptious alternative to turkey that celebrates plants.
We found the squash easy to prepare and roast in the oven, and it was enough for two hungry diners. Overall, we love how this jewelled dish looks and how the various textures and flavours combine to stunning effect. It’s also excellent value for money at just £4. It will be available to buy online from 13 December.
Tesco plant chef portobello mushroom wellington
Best: Vegetarian wellington
Rich, flaky pastry encases layers of whole portobello mushroom, duxelles and beetroot and cranberry stuffing. The result is a wellington that tastes as good as it looks. Our tester loved how the meatiness of the mushroom and soya contrasted with the tangy sweetness of the fruity stuffing. It couldn’t be easier to prepare – just bake in the oven for 25 minutes – and we would recommend slicing down the middle at the table to reveal the layers for a “wow” moment. This dish is designed to serve two, but it could have done with being ever-so-slightly more generous in size (call us greedy, but we insist on leaving the table stuffed after Christmas dinner).
The Cookaway portobello mushroom and goat’s cheese tart with creamed leek and spinach celebration recipe box for two
Best: Vegetarian Christmas recipe box
If you want to be able to say that you did a bit of the work in putting together your vegetarian Christmas dinner, a recipe box is the way to go. This one comes with a marvellous range of high-quality ingredients – everything you need, apart from things like salt and pepper – and easy-to-follow instructions. It was fun to put together, and our novice cook tester thinks they might have learned a thing or two in the process.
The completed tart is satisfying and wholesome, and rich with earthy mushrooms, sharp goat’s cheese, sweet shallots and fragrant thyme atop a flaky pastry base. Follow the guidelines to the letter and you’ll end up with something as pretty as a picture. Serve with the luxurious creamed greens and rustle up your own potatoes to complete the meal.
This recipe box is not the cheapest option, but it depends on how much you’re prepared to pay to remove a lot of the stress that comes with organising a Christmas meal. A bigger version for four people is available for £36 too, which isn’t terrible value for money. We like how little plastic there is in the packaging, with most elements wrapped in paper and it arriving in a recyclable cardboard box.
Sainsbury’s plant pioneers no salmon en croute
Best: Fish dish alternative
This novel vegetarian take on a Christmas classic is something we couldn’t wait to try. How would it compare to the traditional fish dish? Amazingly well is the answer. Out of the packet, it looked no different to its non-veggie counterpart, and when we baked it in the oven (after brushing it with oat milk), it filled the kitchen with a garlicky, herby aroma. At that point, we became even more excited to get our teeth into it, and after 20-odd minutes the wait was over. We pulled from the oven a perfectly crisp and golden pastry treat, its core made from jackfruit, soya and oyster mushrooms nestled among spinach and a creamy and zesty garlic, lime and dill sauce. It is a joy to eat, with a satisfying texture – no soggy bottom – and heaps of flavour, including subtle hints of what our tester remembered fish to taste like. We also like that each person gets their own little lattice parcel, which is great news for those wanting to make an impact with the presentation. Each packet contains two en croute and they are suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians.
Morrisons the best heritage carrots
Best: Veg side
We have tried to roast carrots before and ended up with disappointing burnt sticks, so we were not expecting big things from this pre-prepared vegetable side. We were, however, amazed by how the dish turned out. After carefully following the instructions, the carrots were perfectly golden. The centres were soft and sweet, while the smoked salt butter enhanced the flavour further and the parsley oil dressing and thyme added a herbaceous hint. Best of all it looks spectacular with purple, yellow and orange carrots creating a stunning dish with plenty of colour. Our tester found the serving size was enough to give three people a decent portion.
Morrisons the best sprouts and chestnuts with thyme butter
We couldn’t possibly prepare a vegetarian Christmas dinner without brussels sprouts, so we had to include them in this round-up. These are not just any sprouts either – no overcooked sogginess here. They arrive ready to pop in the oven and are partnered with sweet chestnuts and a herby thyme butter for layers of flavour. They end up soft and tasty, with just enough bite, and are vibrantly green in colour. Your dinner guests will be impressed, and these delicious morsels might convert even the staunchest of sprout haters.
Bone Broth Bros proper vegetable broth
Best: Gravy base
When our tester first converted to vegetarianism, good gravy was one of the things they struggled to make. Meat juices are obviously a no-no, so finding a way to replace the depth and richness is critical. Then we discovered this vegetable broth made from root vegetables and garlic. It has serious flavour, contains no animal products and creates a splendid gravy. It’s also rich in vitamins and minerals to boot. To make a beautifully rich sauce that’s perfect for the Christmas table, Bone Broth Bros recommend combining two sachets with one large carrot, three celery sticks, three shallots, one leek, 1 tbsp tomato puree, ½ tsp Marmite, 2 tbsp plain flour and a sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme.
Wonky Pickles Christmas cheer
Whatever you choose for your Christmas main, cranberry sauce is a must. We’ve picked this appropriately named chutney for our round-up because it is packed with plump, juicy cranberries – and flavour. The cranberries are infused with sloe gin and caramelised with red onion, orange, cinnamon and other seasonal spices for an ultra-festive condiment. Whereas some other cranberry sauces have a jam-like consistency, this is more like a chunky chutney with whole fruits. It pairs well with the wellington and stuffed butternut squash in this round-up and equally well with cheese, so be sure to put a great big dollop on your after-supper board.
Morrisons the best Christmas pudding
Best: Christmas pudding
Eat this on Christmas day and you’ll be enjoying it after it’s aged for exactly nine months, without any of the hassle of having to remember to feed the pudding regularly. We had to taste it slightly before that, but it was full of the fantastic flavours of Christmas and crammed with fruits, nuts and plenty of booze, including cider, rum, sherry and cognac. This pudding is simple to prepare, but it can take some time if you choose to steam it on the hob. You can, of course, take the quicker route of popping it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, which we admit we did. Serve to up to four people with heaps of cream or brandy butter (or both, we won’t judge).
Waitrose & Partners No 1 chocolate and salted caramel melt in the middle pudding
Best: Alternative pudding
Ours can’t be the only households serving up more than one sweet at Christmas dinner. We always like to offer an alternative to the traditional festive pudding because some tell us that it can be an acquired taste, and chocolate is a failsafe crowd pleaser. And this dessert, in particular, is also something of a showstopper. Be sure to cut into this ridiculously rich, sweet, gooey chocolate sponge dome at the table so your guests can marvel as the shimmery gold centre oozes out. That hidden treasure is, in fact, a luxurious smoked sea salt caramel sauce, and our testers couldn’t get enough of it (it’s made to serve six, but four of us managed to eat it in one sitting). It’s also rapid to prepare, needing only a quick zap in the microwave. This is a pudding to remember that adds plenty of festive flair to the table.
The verdict: Vegetarian Christmas dinners
The golden, jewelled beauty of the Sainsbury’s taste the difference festive miso-stuffed butternut squash meant it had to be our top pick overall. It’s hearty, easy to prepare and tastes fantastic, with a whole host of flavours and textures that all palates will find more than agreeable. The Waitrose & Partners no 1 chocolate and salted caramel melt in the middle pudding also deserves a mention for its wow factor both in looks and taste. It is simply the perfect way to round off a vegetarian Christmas meal.
For offers on food and drink, try the links below:
From meat-free mains to plant-based puddings, try one of these vegan Christmas dinner essentials
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