Jamaican Christmas Dinner Menu Ideas

I usually know exactly what I'm making for Christmas a month or two in advance. In Jamaica, we have many traditional holiday foods.

Jamaican Christmas Dinner Menu Ideas

Jamaican Christmas Dinner Menu Ideas

Jamaican Christmas Dinner Traditions

In some countries, the traditional holiday dinner takes place on Christmas Eve. In Jamaica, however, this meal traditionally occurs on the afternoon of Christmas Day, anywhere between 2 and 5 p.m. It usually involves a large gathering of family members who come from far and wide. Each person brings a dish to contribute to the holiday table, and the result is a delicious, celebratory feast.

My family is small, and most of my relatives live abroad, so I'm not able to have a large, traditional family gathering. My own tradition is to invite people who I know might otherwise spend the holiday alone. I also usually try to include someone who is needy, or I might bring a plate over to someone who isn't able to attend a gathering.

Must-Haves for the Holiday Table

In Jamaica, the following foods are among the most important Christmas culinary traditions:

  • Gungo Peas and Rice: During the rest of the year, a very common, everyday side dish in Jamaica is red kidney beans and rice. When the holiday season rolls around, however, the red kidney beans are replaced with green gungo peas, also known as pigeon peas.
  • Sorrel: A traditional holiday drink made from the sorrel flower, this beverage is stewed with ginger and spices before being mixed with rum.
  • Christmas Pudding: A traditional holiday cake made with fruits that have been soaked in wine or rum.

A Note About Christmas Ham

I live deep in the countryside where some people are very poor and many people are unfamiliar with foods from other cultures. For example, many people in my neck of the woods have never had ham before—or at least not the way you might know it, anyway. My grandparents used to prepare a pork leg for the holidays by curing it for a few days with salt, then boiling and roasting. Those traditions are now extinct, though.

The upper and upper-middle classes in Jamaica do often prepare ham for Christmas. In the rural areas, people usually roast pork, beef, and chicken. Some will prepare curried goat, as well. Since I grew up in an upper-middle-class home, I was exposed to culinary traditions from other cultures, including the Christmas ham or turkey and stuffing.

What Is on My Menu This Year

Originally, I had planned to use this menu last year, but I had to change tack at the last minute because I couldn't get the turkey in time. This year, I am getting a head start to make sure I get everything I need on time.

  • Roast Turkey: Roasted in the oven with my special marinade consisting of white wine and fresh herbs blended together and rubbed all over. I will make a few incisions in the skin and then rub some of the marinade between the skin and the meat.
  • Stuffing: I will be making the traditional cornbread version for my fiance's sake.
  • Oven-Baked Mac and Cheese: This is my special recipe, which uses three kinds of cheese (cream cheese, cheddar, and mozzarella), semi-heavy cream, and sweet peppers. Topped with herb-seasoned bread crumbs.
  • Potato Salad: Made with corn, cheese, green peas, and carrots. Garnished with parsley.
  • Green Salad: Lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, sliced olives, apple slices, and grapes. Topped with a homemade vinaigrette dressing.
  • Grilled or Roasted Tofu: Topped with a spicy strawberry jelly sauce. The sauce is made using strawberry jelly, preserves, or jam boiled with hot peppers and sugar to get the right consistency. This sauce can also be served with pork or turkey.
  • Gungo Peas and Rice
  • Christmas Pudding
  • Sorrel
Traditional cornbread stuffing is a must.

Traditional cornbread stuffing is a must.

What Was on My Menu Last Year

Last year was my fiancé's first time having a traditional Christmas ham. He'd had a makeshift version of the ham, much like the kind my grandparents used to make, in which the pork leg is cured, boiled, and roasted. However, that version is not smoked, and it does not have the same texture and taste as the traditional Christmas ham.

  • Cranberry Glazed Christmas Ham: A first for my fiancé!
  • Roast Chicken: Seasoned with rosemary and olive oil. Poultry is a must for our holiday table.
  • Oven-Baked Mac and Cheese
  • Green Salad
  • Gungo Peas and Rice
  • Christmas Pudding
  • Sorrel
Sautéed string beans make my mom's menu.

Sautéed string beans make my mom's menu.

My Mom's Menu

This is my mom's holiday dinner menu, which she created herself. After 24 years living and working in the United States, she looks forward to the many traditional Jamaican foods of the holiday season.

For this particular menu, our gathering included Mom, my fiancé, myself, my two brothers, and a couple of guests. The last time we had duck was when I was around six years old, so my mom wanted to include duck on this menu.

  • Stewed or Roast Duck
  • Roast Pork
  • Sautéed String Beans
  • Cole Slaw in Lettuce Cups
  • Green Salad
  • Fried Ripe Plantains
  • Breadfruit Salad
  • Gungo Peas and Rice
  • Christmas Pudding
  • Sorrel

More Menu Ideas

In addition to the many holiday items listed above, here are some more menu ideas:

  • Curried Goat
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Roast Beef
  • Fish
  • Boiled Green Bananas
  • Shredded Cabbage Salad With Cucumbers and Tomatoes
  • Candied Potatoes

General Considerations

Your Christmas dinner menu should take into consideration:

  • Number of guests
  • Budget
  • Dietary restrictions: For instance, if anyone at the table is vegetarian, or if anyone has a medical condition, such as hypertension or diabetes.
  • Time: If you are pressed for time, your menu should be simpler.
  • Time of day: What time dinner is served may also play a role. An earlier meal may not require as many dishes.
  • Culture: Every culture brings with it its own culinary traditions.

Share Your Menu Ideas

Do you have more menu ideas or do you think I should change or add something? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section, below. Your ideas are highly appreciated.

May your Christmas be peaceful and blessed. Remember to share the love. Have a blessed holiday, and may you have peace and prosperity in the new year.

© 2012 Carolee Samuda


Anna Christie from London, United Kingdom on November 28, 2015:

Great hub and recipe ideas thanks

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 06, 2012:

lol..Tirelesstraveler, I seem to have gotten too much of that gene. Thanks for the feedback.

Judy Specht from California on December 05, 2012:

Thanks so much, always need ideas. Somehow the ideas for meals "gene" missed me completely.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 05, 2012:

Hi Ruby, never heard about the Cracker Barrek coke cake before, will definitely look it up. Have a wonderful holidays.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 05, 2012:

Shiningirisheyes, thank you. I hope it turns out the way I planned it, or a lot of people especially my nephew will be so disappointed.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 05, 2012:

Hey Carolee, I'll save a place for you. We always season our turkey. I know in the states the taste is all in the gravy, it's the opposite here. In most cases we use a cranberry sauce.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 05, 2012:

I don't think you should change a thing, it all sounds delicious. I will be having baked ham and turkey and of course cornbread drsy. I will make the ' Cracker Barrel ' coke cake, it's delicious, you can get the recipe on the internet. Have a wonderful Christmas...

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on December 05, 2012:

Sounds like a delicious and tempting meal you serve.

carol stanley from Arizona on December 05, 2012:

Everything sounds absolutely wonderful. I am going to have to show up even uninvited ...I am sure I told you my nickname is carolee. So we have something in common.The turkey with the marinade sounds so good. Voting up++++

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 05, 2012:

Hey Dexter, come on by there is definitely more room for one.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 05, 2012:

Hi Om, I would love to have you and bring some of those poppy seed cupcakes when you are coming!

Dexter Yarbrough from United States on December 05, 2012:

Hi Cardisa! I want to stay with you for Christmas!

Om Paramapoonya on December 05, 2012:

Carolee, I only have one thing to say: please invite me to your Christmas party immediately! LOL

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 05, 2012:

Mhatter, I have seen where some families do it on Christmas Eve. Here in Jamaica, we have something called a Grand Market, where people do bargain shopping until Christmas morning. That's our Christmas Eve tradition. Have a wonderful holidays.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on December 04, 2012:

Thank you for sharing your Christmas dinner. We are a Christmas Eve family. Our Christmas dinner use to last all day.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 04, 2012:

Wow, Moonlake that is wonderful. I think next year I'll make some cookies. I haven't decided on the gravy yet either. Thanks and please have a wonderful holidays.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 04, 2012:

Hi Angela, my mom usually makes a candied potato but I never attempted it for fear it might not turn out so well. Your menu brings back memories.

Have a wonderful Christmas~~

moonlake from America on December 04, 2012:

Your menu sounds very good and close to what we will have. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegeable of some kind. Cookies and pies. Enjoyed reading your hub voted up and shared.

Angela Blair from Central Texas on December 04, 2012:

Your Christmas dinner sounds like it will be wonderful. I'll do the traditional turkey and cornbread dressing along with some sweet potatoes, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy and probably a green veggie of some kind. Afraid I'm one of those folks who fixes the same thing every year -- so far, no complaints! Merry Christmas and may your blessings be many and often. Best/Sis

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 04, 2012:

Thanks Sharkye11, I hope everything turns out well. What are you having this Christmas?

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on December 04, 2012:

Fascinating! Love reading your hubs about Jamaican culture and traditions. This menu sounds absolutely delicious!

Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on December 04, 2012:

You're welcome, same to you and fiancé in 2013 ;-)

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 04, 2012:

Thanks Jan, I do hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous 2013.

Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on December 04, 2012:

This is nice, Cardisa. Sounds so good. I haven't heard about gongo peas in ages! Thanks for the memories. It's good to share history and traditions.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 04, 2012:

I hope it will be Billy. I will have my niece and her two kids, my brother, my nephew and a neighbor to feed. I don't know if there will be others, I suspect my nephew's bother will be here as well. I hope everything turns out well.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 04, 2012:

It's always interesting to hear how others celebrate Christmas, or what they are serving. Sounds like a great meal at your house.

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