Ever wondered why Christmas pudding is known as plum pudding, despite its lack of plums? It’s because the word ‘plums’ before Victorian times referred to raisons. We love the flavours of a good Christmas pudding: dried fruits (and often nuts), flavoured with spices and held together by egg and suet (or vegan alternatives). You should expect a good kick of alcohol, too.
There are variations, of course, and our roundup has something for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans.
We tested many more puddings than wound up in this list, judging on aroma, appearance, texture and taste. Here are the ones that made the final cut.
Fortnum & Mason King George Pudding, four sizes: from £12.95, Fortnum & Mason
As rich and full-bodied as its namesake, this pudding is packed to the brim with top notch ingredients like chewy Turkish sultanas and crunchy Marcona almonds, along with heaps of good cognac and navy rum.
Not one for vegetarians, it has beef suet to bind it together – something that will appeal to the traditionalists.
It feels decadent and sticky – the kind of pudding a past generation would have made and stuck a sixpence in.
There are several sizes – we tried the biggest, which serves 10-14 and would be great if the rallies are descending on you.
You can use the ceramic bowl again afterwards.
Tesco Finest 12 Month Mature Christmas Pudding, 907g: £8, Tesco
The first thing you’ll notice about this dome-shaped pudding is it’s darker than most, hinting at the richness that lies within.
It went down a treat among our testers, with not a crumb left, thanks to the abundance of cherries, pecans and almonds, which give a bit more crunch than most Christmas puddings while still keeping things moist, fruity, spicy and alcoholic.
The cider and sherry keeps things on the stronger side – all the better for it, in our opinion, but one to avoid if you wince at too much liquor.
Stick carefully to the cooking times as the outer part can dry out otherwise.
Riverford Vegan Christmas Pudding, 450g: £11.95, Riverford
No need for the vegans to miss out with this delectable Christmas pud from Riverford, which substitutes butter for coconut oil and generously feeds four.
There’s no shortage of vine fruits and spices, with the apple flavours coming through more intensely than with other puddings. It still tasted on the lighter side.
Non-vegans shouldn’t be disappointed either.
We thought it tasted better steamed the traditional way than microwaved.
Marks & Spencer The Collection 12 Month Matured Vintage Christmas Pudding, 907g: £14, M&S
Christmas pudding should be rich and indulgent and have the right balance of juicy fruit, warming booze and an appealing mix of sweetness and spice. This ticks all those boxes, with a smell so good that you can expect several shouts of, “Is it nearly ready?”.
The brandy and citrus are the most identifiable flavours, although they don’t dominate at the expense of all the other goodies.
Not too dry and not too sodden, it also has a good traditional texture.
Your only decision is what to have with it – our vote goes to a dollop of brandy butter or cream.
Figgy’s Christmas Pudding, three sizes: from £11.95, Figgy’s
Made by husband-and-wife team Richard and Joanne Evans from their small Devon bakery, this vegetarian and sweeter-than-most pudding is one of the most aromatic we tried, with no scrimping on the ripe fruits that include raisins, sultanas and orange.
The packaging stands out, too – available in three sizes, each is presented in a Mason Cash ceramic bowl and then wrapped in cotton pudding cloth so the puddings can breathe and the flavours mature.
There are strict instructions not to put it near the microwave, so you’ll need to start steaming it before you sit down for your meal.
Heston from Waitrose Golden Delicious Pudding, 800g: £14, Waitrose
You can always count on Heston Blumenthal to delight and surprise and this Christmas pud doesn’t disappoint. It has a gooey, candied, boozy centre that’s spills out honey and apple brandy sauce to moisten the rest of the pudding.
While all this might sound very sweet, the spices – notably cloves and cinnamon – keep things balanced.
It looks striking too, thanks to the gold topping, but you’ll need to like a serious alcoholic kick. This pudding is best served with pouring or whipped cream.
Betty’s Christmas Pudding, three sizes: from £6.50, Betty’s
Betty’s flat-topped classic Christmas Pudding has been a bestseller for years. We’ve seen queues at this Harrogate baker for their delicious puddings. We have to admit to ordering online this year.
Expect plump, juicy fruits, plenty of nuts and a generous sprinkling of spices, all topped off with lashings of brandy and Yorkshire ale. Matured for six months, they come in a lovely box that makes them a nice gift.
Dark, indulgent and incredibly tasty, this pudding is on the smoother side.
Selfridges Selection Artisan Christmas Pudding, 800g: £24.99
With the iconic Selfridges yellow bow, this pudding would make a great gift – and is ideal if you’re asked to bring pudding to your festive dinner.
It’s on the spicy side – which comes through in both the smell and taste – and is wonderfully rich. The boozy hit comes from the stout and dark rum.
Beautifully sticky, almost gooey, it will be a hit all round.
Aldi Specially Selected Salted Caramel Vodka Pudding, 750g: £6.99, Aldi
The fruit in this Christmas pudding has been soaked in salted caramel vodka. Cider, brandy and rum have then been added. It’s surprisingly light, and we loved the caramel and vodka – it made an unusual and welcome change. We also found the fruit to be particularly plentiful.
It’s a thumbs up from us if you’re after something a bit different.
Cole’s Connoisseur Christmas Pudding, 454g: £8.49, Tiptree
Nut lovers, rejoice. This vegetarian-friendly option has all the qualities you’d hope for in a top-notch Christmas pudding, but with sweet ground almonds standing out in the aroma as it’s cooking and the flavour, giving a soft marzipan, almost cake-like feel.
And while that keeps things lighter than usual, there are satisfyingly crunchy nuts mixed in with the succulent fruits, all topped off with a tipple of cognac.
It looks good, too – glossy and chestnut brown in colour and a flat-topped shape that doesn’t fall apart when you turn it out ready to serve.
The Verdict: Best Christmas puddings
Fortnum & Mason has come up trumps with its magnificent and long-time bestselling King George Pudding, which comes in sizes to suit all occasions.
For a less pricey option, we’d go for Tesco Finest 12-Month Mature Christmas Pudding, which is bursting with fruit, spice and booze.