Christmas pudding

A Christmas classic

I find the term traditional Christmas pudding something of a misnomer – I have made a Christmas pudding nearly every year for over 20 years and each year something is tweaked, whether that is because I have / or don’t have something in, so some new ingredient has taken my fancy, or I’m fed up with something!

So, I guess it is traditional to have a dried-fruit heavy, steamed pudding for Christmas, but there isn’t such a thing as a traditional pudding recipe!

Anyway, this is what I’m making for Christmas 2022!

Christmas pudding making is a great activity for young chefs – there is a lot of measuring out and stirring to involve everyone in.

This recipe needs a 2pt / 1.2 litre pudding basin and is best made a month or so before Christmas to give it time to mature. It needs about 1 hour to make, resting overnight and 4 hours steaming the following day.

Serves 8-10.

For a Christmas pudding you will need…

Dry ingredients:
  • 110g beef suet (or vegetarian)
  • 55g plain flour
  • 110g dry breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • ½ tsp powdered cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • A few scrapes of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 100g molasses sugar (optional)
  • 125g soft brown sugar (or 225g, if not using molasses sugar)
  • 155g currents
  • 130g raisins
  • 130g sultanas
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 50g candid peel (if you can get whole pieces and cut them into thin strips)
  • 40g glacé cherries, cut in half
  • 25g glacé ginger, cut into small pieces
  • 25g flaked almonds
  • 1 small apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
  • Zest from a lemon
  • Zest from an orange
Wet ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml stout or dark porter
  • 2tspb brandy or dark rum
  • 1tsp vanilla essence

To make your Christmas pudding…

  1. In the largest bowl you have measure all the dry ingredients – it is a good idea to tick them off as you add them. Give everything a good stir to distribute evenly.
  2. Measure out the wet ingredients into a jug and whisk gently with a fork to break up the egg.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and give everything a good stir.
  4. Cover the bowl with cling film, or a tea towel and leave overnight.
  5. The following day prepare your pudding basin by greasing it with a little butter and putting a small circle of parchment paper at the bottom. I like to use a little extra peel / cut cherries to form a pattern at the bottom, which will be in the top when the pudding is served.
  6. Give the pudding a final stir, it should have firmed up a little overnight as the dry ingredients absorb liquid. Carefully pack the pudding mixture into the basin until just below the top. Put a final circle of baking paper on top of the pudding. If you are using a ceramic or glass basin seal the top with a layer of baking paper folded with a pleat and two layers of foil, folded with pleats, and tied with string. If you are using a plastic basin, put the lid on!
  7. Put the basin in a steamer filled with simmering water and steam for 4 hours. Keep an eye on it and top up the water if the level gets a bit low.
  8. After four hours switch off the heat and leave the pudding to go completely cold. If using a ceramic or glass basin change the paper and foil on top and put the pudding away somewhere to mature, ideally in a place a little cooler than normal room temperature.
Eating your pudding…
  1. Steam your pudding for 2 hours before serving. See some serving suggestions below…


There are lots of superstitions and traditions around making and eating Christmas pudding. Some which often feature in my family include…

  • Asking everyone in the household to give the pudding a stir and to make a wish as you make it.
  • When I was young, we put coins in the pudding as a surprise. Clean the coins, wrap in foil and add them just before serving, but don’t leave coins in the pudding as the acids react with metals.
  • For a Christmas spectacle flame the pudding (warning, take necessary safety precautions!). Turn out the pudding on to a flame proof serving dish with a raised rim. Put a tablespoon or two of rum or brandy in a small pan or, if you have a gas stove, a large ladle. Warm the spirit over a medium heat and as soon as you see vapours coming from the surface ignite with a match/lighter (if you are using a gas stove and ladle you can tip the ladle gently and use the gas flame to ignite the spirit). Tip the burning spirit quickly over the top of the pudding and carry to the table to rounds of applause!
  • How to serve Christmas pudding is a hotly debated subject. In my family we ate it with brandy butter (equal quantities of butter and caster sugar whipped with a little brandy) and rum sauce (a roux sauce sweetened with Demerara sugar and enriched with a little double cream and dark rum). My wife’s family always ate it with custard, though my father-in-law claims a slice of Wensleydale cheese is the ideal accompaniment! If I’m in charge then l like to make crème anglaise with egg yolks, sugar, and cream.
  • Left over pudding can be cut into thick slices and fried in butter till the edges are crispy for a glorious calorific treat – serve with ice cream!