10 Recipes You Should Add To Your Holiday List, According To Our Food Editor

Southern Living The Redbird Cake sliced on a cake plate to serve
PHOTO: VICTOR PROTASIO; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX; PROP STYLIST: LYDIA PURSELL

Glorious as they are, the holidays are a hustle. There’s just SO many decisions to be made—what to wear, what gifts to buy, whose in-laws to spend Christmas with, which parties to go to, which Christmas card photo is perfect, etc., etc., etc.

One thing you don’t have to stress about is the food. The Southern Living Test Kitchen has been working all year (honestly, for the last half century!) to dream up, test, and deliver holiday recipes that are so good, they become family traditions. These 10 recipes are just that—and they deliver on flavor, presentation, and ease in a time when all three are required in equal amounts. These are the recipes that help me get by during this busy season—I hope they do the same for you.

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Blood Orange Holiday Punch

Blood Orange Holiday Punch
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLING: TORIE COX

Big-batch drinks like this festive punch are a lifesaver at Christmas. You can add alcohol (or not), and guests can serve themselves, freeing you up from bartender duty. Always a plus!

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Cheese Straws

Cheddar Cheese Straws
LEE HARRELSON

Christmas can’t commence at my house until the cheese straws are made. It was a tradition started by my grandmother and I’m proud to say we are keeping it alive!

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Sugar Cookies

Southern Living Easy Sugar Cookies on a cooling rack ready to serve
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

I know what you’re thinking…aren’t these cookies kinda basic? You’re not wrong. But they’re just a blank canvas waiting for my creative family to go to town. Mom whisks together a rainbow of colored icings using cream and powdered sugar, and pulls out every jar of sprinkles she can find. I don’t know how has more fun—me or my five-year-old nephew. OK, it’s me for sure.

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Ham-and-Cheese Croissant Casserole

Stuffed Ham-and-Cheese Croissant Casserole
JENNIFER CAUSEY; FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL; PROP STYLIST: MISSIE NEVILLE CRAWFORD

For years, my husband has ordered fancy croissants from New York and has had them shipped to my mother for the holidays (she’s never met a croissant she doesn’t like). This is one of our readers’ favorite recipes—it’s everything we love about fancy New York (or Paris!) croissants, but easier, faster, and cheaper!

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Our Best Ambrosia Ever

Our Best Ambrosia Ever
GREG DUPREE; FOOD STYLING: CHELSEA ZIMMER; PROP STYLING: KAY E. CLARKE

My grandmother DID NOT make the best ambrosia ever, so we use this recipe for Christmas Brunch. To clarify, the grandmother I’m referring to is my paternal grandmother, not my grandmother with the bouffant hair. She was an excellent cook. Joyce, however, made and served her ambrosia from the fridge’s crisper drawer. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin
GREG DUPREE; FOOD STYLING: CHELSEA ZIMMER; PROP STYLING: CHRISTINE KEELY

For Christmas Eve, I try to tackle something a little fancy. Beef tenderloin is pricy, but I splurge once a year (you can often find it on sale around the holidays). If tenderloin is a stretch for your pocket book, try our recipe for Southern Cracklin’ Pork Roast, which uses tasty, less expensive pork belly (the thicker, meatier cousin of bacon).

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Twice-Baked Duchess Potatoes

Southern Living Twice Baked Duchess Potatoes on a platter to serve
GREG DUPREE; PROP STYLIST: GINNY BRANCH; FOOD STYLIST: MICAH MORTON

A show-stopping main dish deserves a potato that’s dressed for the occasion. Yes, these elegantly piped, twice-baked spuds aren’t as easy as popping a potato in the oven, but it’s Christmas—if not now, when? You can even skip the piping—the cheesy filling is just as good if you take the easy route and just spoon it in.

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Panna Cotta

Luscious Orange Panna Cotta
JENNIFER DAVICK; STYLING: LYDIA DEGARIS PURSELL

If you’re like, “what’s panna cotta?” hear me out. I first made it from one of the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks years ago, and ever since, not one Christmas has approached without my mom politely yet persistently insisting upon it. Basically just cream that’s been simmered with vanilla, sugar, and other flavors and then gently set with dash of powdered gelatin, it’s the cool, smooth, and creamy dessert you deserve this season. And it’s SUPER simple.

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Pear Salad

Pear Salad
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLING: TORIE COX

If you’ve been following us a bit, then you’re bound to know my love of this “zany salad.” And despite what you or your grandmother might consider a salad, this dish is delightful.

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The Redbird Cake

Southern Living The Redbird Cake sliced on a cake plate to serve
VICTOR PROTASIO; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX; PROP STYLIST: LYDIA PURSELL

This was the first “Big White Cake” I’ve gotten the privilege to work on at Southern Living, and it was such a wonderful journey. My Test Kitchen buddy Tricia experimented with dozens of layers, flavors, filings, and toppings to get this cake just right—and we got to taste them all (that’s why my clothes are tighter this year). This Christmas take on Hummingbird cake (and its sweet story by Fried Green Tomatoes author Fannie Flagg is one you’ll come back to year after year.

Honestly, that’s just the tip of my holiday cooking iceberg. Don’t even get me STARTED on my New Year’s Eve menu…

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!