28 Festive Holiday Main Dishes

From standout holiday centerpieces to simple crowd-pleasers we have all of the holiday main dish recipes you'll need to make your meal extra special!

Festive Holiday Main Dishes

For me, the winter holidays are a time for honoring the passed year, showing gratitude to the people in my life, and celebrating family traditions. Our family celebrates Christmas, but regardless of the traditions of your culture, whether it’s Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Yule, or Festivus, I suspect there is one thing in common we all do: We feast! 

There are two kinds of celebratory meals—those that require you to plan ahead, prep, and cook all day long, and those that are so easy and quick that you have time to soak in a warm tub before guests arrive. Pick what works for you. Either will be impressive and delicious! 

Below I compiled our tried-and-true holiday main dishes. You’ll find recipes for gatherings both intimate and large. Oftentimes our holiday main meals showcase special cuts of meat, so there are lots of crowd-pleasing recipes like chicken, fish, lamb, pork, and beef, but we also have stunning vegetable mains to delight everyone at the table. 

I hope some of these recipes make it on your holiday table! Happy Holidays!

  • Roast Chicken with Carrots

    Roast Chicken with Carrots
    Sally Vargas

    A simple roast chicken is great for a smaller gathering. It never fails to impress. Use a large oven-proof skillet and roast the chicken on a bed of carrots and garlic. Lemon and fresh thyme add a welcome brightness.

  • Roast Chicken With Apricot Glaze

    Roasted Chicken with Apricot Glaze
    Elise Bauer

    Want your roast chicken to have a little wow factor? Coat it with apricot preserves. Once the chicken is fully cooked (internal temperature of 165℉), baste it with apricot preserves and roast it for ten minutes. The skin will get glossy and golden. 

  • Slow Cooker Jambalaya

    How to Make Jambalaya in the Slow Cooker
    Nick Evans

    A slow cooker can help save oven space, especially during busy holiday cooking. This easy classic-ish Creole dish is made in the slow cooker, but it’s still smoky and flavor-packed. To prevent the rice from getting mushy, cook it separately and then mix it in right before serving.

  • Chicken Gumbo with Andouille Sausage

    Chicken Gumbo with Andouille Sausage
    Elise Bauer

    Andouille sausage adds an extra kick of spice to this Southern classic filled with chicken thighs, okra, bacon, and a homemade spice mix. This is a great dish for a large gathering since it can serve 10 to 12 guests. 

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  • Shrimp Gumbo with Andouille Sausage

    Shrimp Gumbo with Andouille Sausage
    Elise Bauer

    Master the roux and make an unforgettable pot of gumbo this holiday. This is a speedier version (with shrimp) of the Chicken Gumbo with Andouille Sausage. It’s ready in about 2 hours. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp, since it can get tough and rubbery. 

  • One-Pan Roasted Harissa Salmon with Vegetables

    One-Pan Roasted Harissa Salmon with Vegetables
    Sabrina Modelle

    Salmon takes almost no time to cook. It’s not only great for quick weeknight dinners, but it's also an impressive main dish for the holidays especially when served as a whole fillet. Plus, it can be ready in just 30 minutes! For this recipe, a dry harissa spice blend coats the salmon, giving it a beautiful red hue. 

  • Classic King Crab

    A platter of king crab legs.

    No need to spend hours in the kitchen for this holiday main. It comes together in 10 minutes. That’s it! Serve the steamed king crab with melted butter and a generous rice salad. Look for wild-caught crab and remember that it is often par-cooked, so do not over-steam it.

  • Prime Rib

    Prime Rib
    Elise Bauer

    A bone-in prime rib, also known as a standing rib roast, is a showstopper for any holiday table. A 10-pound portion will easily feed 10 guests with some leftovers. When buying rib roast, look for even marbling throughout and keep a close eye on the internal temperature while it roasts. A digital thermometer would be super helpful!

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  • Beef Wellington

    Beef Wellington
    Sliced Beef Wellington.

    Elise Bauer

    A classic English dish, a beef tenderloin is coated with mustard, mushrooms, and ham, wrapped in puff pastry, then baked until golden brown. It’s a fancy holiday main, but don’t let that intimidate you, especially since you can lean on store-bought frozen puff pastry. Just don’t forget to thaw it before using.

  • Roast Beef

    A sliced roast beef cooked to medium rare beef temperature.
    Ciara Kehoe

    It doesn’t have to be expensive to feel special and even fancy. Use whatever roast fits your budget. Prime rib and beef tenderloin are more expensive than rump roast and bottom round, but all will be delicious. Serve with gravy and make Philly Cheesesteaks with leftovers the next day. 

  • Roast Beef Tenderloin with Sautéed Mushrooms

    Roast beef Tenderloin
    Elise Bauer

    Beef tenderloin is the same cut as filet mignon, arguably the crème de la crème of beef. Paired with mushrooms sautéed in the same pan used to sear the beef gives it maximum flavor and minimum dirty dishes. Let the beef rest for about 20 minutes before slicing into it. 

  • Beef Roast Braised in Red Wine

    Beef Roast Braised in Red Wine
    Elise Bauer

    Simmer beef chuck roast with a bottle of full-bodied red wine and root vegetables for a special meal fit for your holiday table. Once the roast is cooked, the rich sauce is strained, reduced, and  spooned over the sliced beef. You’ll need about 3 1/2 hours to roast the meat. What about Garlic Mashed Potatoes on the side? 

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  • Garlic Herb Butter Prime Rib

    Herb butter prime rib with gravy being served on a cutting board.
    Sally Vargas

    Take a seemingly plain prime rib and dress it up with a garlic butter spread. I love that the roasting pan is used for both searing the roast and making the gravy. This thoughtful approach saves on dishes without losing out on flavor.

  • Classic Rack of Lamb

    Classic Rack of Lamb
    Elise Bauer

    This rack of lamb is rubbed with a generous amount of olive oil, garlic, fresh rosemary, and thyme. Have the butcher French the rack to expose the ribs or feel free to do it yourself at home. Cook it to an internal temperature of 125°F for rare or 135°F for medium-rare.

  • Beef Brisket Pot Roast

    Beef Brisket with carrots on platter
    Elise Bauer

    Celebrate Hanukkah with this easy beef brisket recipe. Score the brisket (the side with the layer of fat) to help the fat render as it sears. Use the same pan to cook the onions and then place the brisket on top to braise for about 4 hours. The brisket will be fork tender. This recipe can be adapted for the slow cooker!

  • Instant Pot Beef Brisket

    Instant Pot Beef Brisket
    Coco Morante

    Here is another way to make brisket that frees up the oven! The pressure cooker makes quick work of the brisket. Ready in under 2 hours, this brisket is just as tender as the oven version. Don’t skip the gravy! 

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  • Easy Beef Brisket

    Easy Beef Brisket
    Elise Bauer

    This three-ingredient (four if you count water) recipe is super simple. The brisket cooks in a BBQ sauce until fork tender. Take advantage of the hot oven and make Roasted Baby Carrots while the cooked brisket rests before slicing. 

  • Slow Cooker Bourbon Short Ribs with Cheesy Grits

    Braised Short Ribs in the Slow Cooker
    Nick Evans

    Let the slow cooker do the work. Cook short ribs, beef broth, vegetables, and a splash (or two!) of bourbon in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours. Cheesy grits are decadent and the perfect accompaniment for this special meal. 

  • Braised Beef Short Ribs

    Rice and short ribs on a plate.
    Alison Bickel

    Short ribs are braised with mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery) in red wine for 2 hours. This recipe uses a trick to get rid of the excess fat: After cooking the dish, chill it in the fridge. The fat will solidify, making it easy to remove.

  • Cranberry Glazed Ham

    Cranberry Glazed Ham
    Elise Bauer

    Jazz up a spiral cut ham with a glaze of cranberry sauce, oranges, and mustard. It’s festive, delicious, and oh so easy! This glaze will also work for boneless hams if bone-in isn’t available or just too large for a smaller gathering. Look for ham without added water for the best flavor.

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  • Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

    Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
    Sally Vargas

    Tenderloin is a lean cut of pork, so this recipe fills it with a mix of apples and herbs and wraps it with bacon. The bacon helps the tenderloin hold its shape and imparts a smoky flavor. This recipe takes less than an hour to prep and roast but feel free fill it and roll it the day before. 

  • Cranberry Apple Stuffed Pork Loin

    Cranberry Apple Stuffed Pork Loin
    Elise Bauer

    Let’s take it just a little further to make this stuffed pork loin look as special as it tastes. Butterfly the pork loin to into a larger and thinner slab so that it can be filled with apples, walnuts, and cranberries, and rolled. When sliced, the twirly inside is so impressive! The pork loin can be rolled and tied up to two days in advance. 

  • Brown Sugar Baked Ham with Pineapple

    Brown Sugar Baked Ham with Pineapple
    Alison Bickle

    Ham is an easy and readily available holiday main. Most hams are pre-cooked, so the goal is to warm them all the way through. Like in this recipe, you can add additional flavors with a brown sugar rub and pineapple rings. Totally old school, but still classic and fun! Hope for leftovers so you can make Croque Monsieur Ham and Cheese Sandwiches.

  • How to Roast a Goose

    Roast Goose
    Elise Bauer

    If you’ve never cooked a goose, consider this holiday an opportune time to try. This in-depth how-to guide walks you through it. You may need to special order a whole goose early to make sure you have it in time for your special holiday meal.

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  • Roast Leg of Lamb

    Sliced Roast Leg of Lamb with pink center
    Elise Bauer

    Either a boneless or bone-in leg of lamb will work for this recipe. Make sure you plan accordingly: It needs to marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours and then be brought to room temperature before roasting. As will most roasted meats, let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

  • Vegan Stuffed Squash with Brown Rice and Mushrooms

    Overhead view of three vegetarian stuffed squash on a platter.
    Cambrea Bakes

    This vegan stuffed squash is a showstopper holiday main. Halved and roasted acorn squash are filled over the brim with brown rice, fragrant herbs, mushrooms, and a little wine. Save time on the big day by prepping the filling and roasting the squash a day ahead.

  • Butternut Squash Lasagna

    Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
    Sally Vargas

    This vegetarian lasagna is layered with a creamy béchamel sauce, a host of cheeses, roasted butternut squash, and lasagna noodles. Assemble it, freeze it, and bake it straight from the freezer if you need something that can be planned way ahead. 

  • Roasted Eggplant and Butternut Squash with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce

    Roasted Eggplant and Squash with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce
    Sheryl Julian

    It’s not often that a sheet pan dinner fits the holiday bill, but this one is a star. Take a little extra time to salt, drain, and rinse the eggplants—it helps tame the bitterness. Roast the eggplants and butternut squash at the same time, and then top them with an easy yogurt-tahini sauce. Yum!