Whether it’s your first non-carnivorous Christmas or you’re a seasoned pro, cook and food writer Anna Jones shares her tips for a sumptuous meat-free feast.

T’was a time when vegetarians really suffered at Christmas, their festive repasts an after-thought involving a few additional Brussells sprouts, and that was their lot. Happily, it needn’t be so these days. Vegetarianism and veganism have gained mainstream traction over the last decade, in part fuelled by the climate crisis. But it also has much to do with a swathe of truly excellent meat-eschewing chefs, cooks and cookery writers, all of whom demonstrate how a vegetarian diet can be so much more than tofu and lentils. Amongst these, Anna Jones is the reigning queen.

Having cut her teeth at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, where she worked for seven years, she has gathered an ever-loyal following thanks to her Guardian columns and bestselling cookery books, which espouse seasonal veg and roundly prove how sumptuous, moreish and delicious veggie food at its best can be. Here, the high priestess of plant-based cookery shares her tips for a delicious, meat-free Christmas.

Main image credit: Emma Lee

New Traditions

If this is your first year eating meat free, it’s time for some new traditions. All of sudden, there’s no bird to go in the oven at 7am and no pigs to wrap in blankets, and so your festive traditions might need updating. We make a version of the same squash, confit garlic and chestnut tart every year. It’s one we save for Christmas and it’s comforting and special. Think beyond food too – Christmas Eve is always new pyjamas and a decoration for the tree.

Put Veg At The Centre

This may sound a little obvious for a meat-free Christmas, but really focus on vegetables; celebrate them, keep them seasonal and buy from local growers, if you can. Give your veg care and attention. Each can have its own subtle flavour and spicing. Cumin or coriander for carrots; garlic and herbs for potatoes; cinnamon and chilli for squash.

Create A Showstopping Centrepiece

Christmas is the time to create something beautiful; aesthetics are never more important than on a festive table. I like to make something that is as striking to look at as it is tasty to eat. Focus on a showstopping pie, or a whole roast squash; something you can bring to the middle of the table.

Think About Textures

Texture is often forgotten in vegetarian cooking. Plan ahead for the textures that will feature on your Christmas plate, as well as the tastes. The softness, crunch or bite is what hits the taste buds and tells your brain that this is delicious. Think of toasted nuts and seeds on top of veg, or some crunch on top of winter bowls of soup.

Pick Your Battles

I like to put most of my effort into an all-singing main event for Christmas Day. Something that can be made ahead (this is pretty much the only time of year I make anything ahead). I keep everything we eat in the days before and after Christmas Eve supper (pasta) to Christmas Day sides relatively quick and simple so I’m not too stressed and I can enjoy the day. Some prep the day before – peeling, parboiling, making any sauces, pastry etc – is key. I like to get everyone involved.

By Nancy Alsop
December 2020

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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.