No Christmas lunch is complete without the most traditional of festive deserts.
Once known as plum pudding (bizarrely, as it never had any plums in it), all contain three key ingredients – dried fruits, spices and a good lug of booze which helps keep things moist and flavoursome.
We blind tasted a huge pile of puds, taking into account aroma, texture and flavour. Here are the 10 that we think deserve pride of place after your Christmas lunch.
Top tip – don’t assume the more expensive, the better the pudding. Some of the poshest foodie brands didn’t even make the cut, while some of the cheapest Christmas puddings won us over on the first bite.
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Iceland 12 month matured Christmas pudding, 400g: £4, Iceland
Not only did this look the part, sliding like butter out of its plastic dome to look picture perfect on the plate, but it tastes like the kind of pudding you’ll remember from childhood. Generously boozy (with brandy, sherry, cider and cognac) and full of spice, it has a particularly pleasing texture – the fruit is beautifully balanced with crunchy almonds and pecans. It’s heavy on the citrus, which makes for a fabulous aroma while cooking.
M&S The Collection perfectly matured Christmas pudding, 907g: £12, M&S
Many a culinary debate is had about whether Christmas puddings can ever really taste as good when they come out of the microwave as when slowly steamed on the hob. Microwave-advocates will easily win their argument with this pud, which is succulent and juicy despite taking under six minutes to cook, although you can also pan cook it for the longer two and a half hours. Laced with brandy, stout and cognac, the flavour is rich and intense.
Fortnum & Mason’s King George pudding: From £12.95, Fortnum & Mason
As rich and full-bodied as its namesake, this decadent pudding is made with real beef suet and contains exotic ingredients like Turkish sultanas and Marcona almonds. There are four different sizes to choose from, including one which serves 18-20 in case all the relatives are descending on you. The texture is sticky, the colour is dark, the taste is rich and the ceramic bowl is a keeper. Remember not to serve it to your vegetarian guests.
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference cognac laced Christmas pudding, 900g: £8, Sainsbury’s
Another good looking and traditional tasting pudding, this is a great crowd pleaser, with a long lingering aftertaste. Not only does it hold together beautifully – never falling straight off the spoon into a crumbly mess as you serve it, as with some substandard Christmas puds – there’s a nice boozy kick. Packed with lots of juicy, plump and rich fruit, as well as being moist and flavoursome, we think it tastes almost as good as homemade puds.
Heston from Waitrose hidden orange Christmas pudding, 1.2kg: £16, Waitrose
This one has a whole candied orange in the middle, which – together with the English cider and Spanish sherry – gives the pudding a festive citrus smell that you’d pay good money for in a Christmas candle. As for the taste, the orange permeates every bite without being overly sweet and somehow doesn’t dominate the rest of the mixed fruit. Surprisingly, the children who tried this loved it every bit as much as us grown-ups.
The Wolseley Collection Christmas pudding limited edition, 454g: £16.95, The Wolseley
The glitzy gold and black packaging (which features the pattern of the hotel’s famous marble floor) suggests luxury and indulgence and the pudding inside does not disappoint. Full of warming brandy and a mix of sweetness and spice, it has a good, traditional texture – not too dry and not too saturated, just like the real deal that’s served in the restaurant itself. Your only decision is what to have with it – our vote goes to a lovely big dollop of brandy butter or cream.
Betty’s Christmas pudding: From £6.50, Betty’s
This flat-topped festive pud has been a bestseller for years and for many people is worth a special trip to the posh Harrogate bakers in the lead up towards Christmas. Although one of the smoother puddings in terms of texture, it’s packed with plump, juicy fruits, zesty citrus peel and almonds, with festive spices and lashings of ale and brandy. It’s less moist than some, so you might need a bit of extra cream. Available in three sizes.
Figgy’s Christmas pudding: From £12.95, Figgy’s
These vegetarian-friendly puddings are all made by a husband and wife team in Devon. Production is old-school (the only bit of machinery they use is an old floor-standing mixer nicknamed Grandma) and so is the taste – succulent and light-textured. Each one comes in a Mason Cash ceramic bowl and cotton pudding cloth so the puds can breathe and the flavours mature. Don’t put it anywhere near a microwave.
Riverford vegan Christmas pudding, 450g: £12.25, Riverford
Vegan Christmas puddings can be dry and crumbly and often bear no resemblance to the flavour of the real thing. But this one – which uses coconut oil instead of butter – manages to stay gorgeously moist (more so if you steam it than microwave it) and the oodles of vine fruits and spices keep things festive and tasty.
Lidl 24 month mature Christmas pudding, 907g: £11.97, Lidl
If you don’t like Christmas pudding, you may change your mind with this one as it is lighter than most and not quite as sweet. It doesn’t scrimp on the liquor, with cider, cognac and brandy all helping to produce a fabulous aroma while cooking, as well as giving it a good kick with every bite. The nuts are nice and crunchy and the pudding holds its shape easily as you turn it out to serve.
The verdict: Christmas puddings
We love it when the cheapest food item we try turns out to be the best – and that’s exactly what happened with Christmas puddings this year. But once word spreads, Iceland’s 12 month matured Christmas puddings are likely to fly off the shelves – so waste no time in snapping one up.