8 best Christmas pudding alternatives to impress your guests with

Stacey Smith
·7-min read
More is more when it comes to Christmas feasting, 'tis the season after all (The Independent/iStock)
More is more when it comes to Christmas feasting, 'tis the season after all (The Independent/iStock)

Looking for the perfect way to round off your festive feast? We’ve taken one for the team and put this year’s Christmas desserts through their paces, looking for the ultimate show-stopping, sweet treat to grace your table on December 25.

If you’re of the opinion that traditional Christmas pudding or cake is just too stodgy (and dare we say it, old-fashioned, sorry Grandad!), then fear not, we’ve come up with some great alternatives. Other options that we ruled out; ice-cream (too summery), panettone (great with a cup of tea but doesn’t cut it for afters) and by the 25 December, we’re all mince-pied out. So then, how best to finish your festive feast?

We were looking for show-stopping numbers designed to wow the whole family – glitter, lustres, shimmers and baubles were all very much welcome on our plate. More is more when it comes to Christmas feasting, 'tis the season after all.

Ideally, the perfect Christmas dessert would have exciting seasonal flavours but would still be light enough to tackle after the main event. Unlike the rest of the year when you might consider making your own, on the big day itself there’s already too much to prepare for you to take on the final course yourself. Therefore we were also looking out for options with minimal preparation.

When selecting the perfect pud, be sure to consider how many people you need it to serve, whether children will be getting their mitts on it (some contain alcohol) and where applicable, how much space you’ll have in the fridge to defrost it or keep it chilled. Some are simply perfect as they are, while others might be improved with an extra spoon of cream.

So whether you’re planning a romantic Christmas dinner for two or have the whole family descending on you – one thing is for sure, only the best Christmas dessert will do.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Tesco Finest Christmas tree pots, 315g: £8, Tesco

Chocolate still accounts for more than half of all dessert sales at Tesco, so if you’re looking for a failsafe family option that everyone will approve of, look no further than these clever little pots. The terracotta containers are completely edible, reminding us of something we were lucky enough to try at a Michelin star restaurant recently – and all for only £2 a head.

At the base you’ll find black cherry compote, layered with a light but very chocolatey mousse, before a top layer of chocolate cookie crumb soil which has been given a dusting of silver shimmer, like freshly laid snow. Finished with a chocolate Christmas tree and red lustred malt balls, we think these are excellent value for money – offering something a bit special for Christmas, without being too heavy or filling.

There are four in a pack and are simply served chilled – so an absolute doddle if the thought of lifting your finger after the main meal leaves you with dread. Serves four.

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Heston’s fig and port cheesecake, 700g: £12, Waitrose & Partners

Clever Heston is at it again, this time disguising a classic sweet cheesecake to look like a savoury cheese board. Cut into the wheel of “cheese” and you’ll find the centre hides a fig and suitably festive port-flavoured caramel sauce with the whole thing sitting on a rich, buttery lemon shortbread base. A clever, talking point dessert best saved for grown-ups. We’d be tempted to save the surprise until they bite into it. Serves eight.

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M&S sticky toffee pudding trifle, 1000g: £12, M&S

A crowd-pleasing trifle can always be relied upon to win over the whole family, so M&S has given the classic a little twist for Christmas. Combining it with another family favourite dessert – the sticky toffee pudding – M&S has taken layers of the pud’s sponge and toffee sauce and layered it with the rich creamy custard and whipped cream that you’d find in a traditional trifle, before adding a sprinkling of chocolate swirls and crunchy toffee pieces for good measure. Despite being super sweet, we think it’s light enough to enjoy after the full festive feast. Serves eight.

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Morrisons the best panna cotta star, 750g: £7, Morrisons

Thick and creamy, this wibbly-wobbly panna cotta has been handmade in Somerset with decadent British cream. Better still, it’s been moulded into a giant star, ready and waiting to be the finishing touch to your table this Christmas. We were a little nervous about getting it out of the pack in one piece but we needn’t have been. Simply find a big enough serving plate, turn upside down, give it a little wiggle and out it pops.

It’s ready to eat but to ensure you’re the hostess with the mostess, all you need to do is fill the middle with the raspberry and prosecco sauce provided and sprinkle the gold sugar sprinkles all over. If you’ve got little helpers, it would be a fun one to do with the kids. Morrisons says this feeds 12 but we think that might be a push.

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Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference white chocolate and raspberry snow dome, 970g: £12, Sainsbury’s

This modern, snow-white centrepiece reminds us of this season’s geometric homeware trend. Crack into the light, crisp white chocolate and feuilletine shell (a very light, thin wafer), to reveal creamy layers of white chocolate mousse. In the very centre, there are more layers of sweet raspberry mousse and tangy compote, resting on a thin, moist sponge. The simple round design makes serving super easy, however, because it’s so light you might want a larger portion, which makes it hard to serve the 10 people Sainsbury’s suggests.

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Iceland luxury five gold rings, 657g: £7, Iceland

Chocaholics need look no further – this is the ultimate decadent dessert for the whole family this Christmas. The dessert itself is made up of dark chocolate mousse, salted caramel sauce and a dark chocolate cookie base encased in a thick dark chocolate shell finished with a golden lustre. However, the magic happens when you heat up the chocolate pouring sauce provided and pour on top.

The clever design means the sauce runs around the rings, creating a chocolate puddle at the base – make sure you find a suitable platter! Almost impossibly thick to crack into, don’t expect pretty little slices – instead we’d recommend serving in the middle and letting everyone dig straight in.

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Cook espresso martini pavlova, 700g: £14, Cook

Taking inspiration from everyone’s favourite late night cocktail, COOK has created a decidedly grown-up dessert fit for the festive season. Classic, light-as-air meringue has been flavoured with chocolate and spread with lashings of coffee and vodka-spiked whipped cream. It’s then layered with more chocolate, coffee and vodka sauce before being carefully rolled into the traditional pavlova shape.

Finished with a sprinkling of crunchy cacao nibs for texture, it’s delicious as it is but we couldn’t resist adding a little extra cream on the side. It looks so impressive that there’s no way we’d waste time trying to roll one ourselves. Simply defrost in the fridge, slice and serve for effortless get-ahead entertaining.

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Pots & Co vanilla creme brulee, 90g: £1.50, Sainsbury's

Christmas is all about the theatre. Ultimately we want it to look like we’ve made loads of effort, without actually having to do much more than open a packet. That’s where Pots & Co’s new vanilla flavoured creme brulee comes in. They’re sold individually and are baked in handmade terracotta pots (which can be reused time and time again). Simply sprinkle each one with its packet of sugar, pop under the grill for three minutes and out comes a golden, restaurant worthy, oh-so-creamy, can’t believe you made that yourself, creme brulee. Guests don’t need to know you were only involved in the last three minutes.

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The verdict: Christmas pudding alternatives​

For a real crowd pleaser that's friendly on the purse, we’re big fans of Tesco’s chocolate pots.

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