The Good Housekeeping Christmas taste test winners for 2021 revealed

·6-min read
Photo credit: Ana Davila - Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Ana Davila - Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Now in its 22nd year, once again the Good Housekeeping Institute has been hard at work sampling over 470 festive products from 175 brands and retailers, to ensure this year’s Christmas feast is one to remember.

The expert panel tucked into 31 categories; from pretty canapes and pigs in blankets to traditional and flavoured smoked salmon and fresh and frozen turkeys. Vegans and vegetarians are also well catered for with our expert-approved meat-free mains.

For those with a sweet tooth, we’ve tracked down the most show-stopping dessert centrepieces, Christmas puddings and mince pies — and brand new for this year, we lift the lid on where to find the best panettone.

From supermarket champagne and prosecco, through to fun festive liqueurs, you’ll also want to read the full results of our alcohol taste tests before refreshing your bar cart this season.

We’re pleased to reveal that Marks & Spencer is the overall winner of our 2021 Christmas taste test, scooping the top spot in four categories, including mince pies with a twist, bottled cocktails, show-stopping dessert centrepieces and chocolate-tastic yule logs — making it a clear favourite for sweet treats.

In second place is Tesco, claiming the runner-up spot in smoked salmon, festive liqueurs, whole turkeys and meat-free main categories, and winning first place in our alternative Christmas pudding taste test.

Away from the supermarkets, online butcher Pipers Farm excelled when it came to turkey, and Yorkshire-based Betty’s proved it was the best place for your classic mince pie.

Read on to discover the top Christmas food and drink products available this year…

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

For the first time, the Good Housekeeping Institute tried a mix of both fresh and frozen whole birds and turkey crowns. Specialists in grass-fed and free-range meat, online butcher Pipers Farm came out on top for both its herb-stuffed whole turkey (81/100), as well as its faff-free crown (76/100).

Catering for a meat-free crowd? COOK’s Portobello Mushroom Wellington proved most popular as our vegetarian centrepiece, scoring 82/100 with its winning combination of creamy garlic mushrooms in buttery puff pastry.

For a fully plant-based feast, Morrisons Vegan Vegetable Wellington and Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen No Turkey Roast Crown came in joint first place with 78/100 for its vegan offerings.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

This year, we hope to entertain more friends and family, so our expert panel sampled 22 meat, seafood, vegetarian and vegan canapés to pair with your festive fizz. Special mentions go to ASDA’s Kilted Prawns, Waitrose & Partners’ Mini New Yorker Style Pastrami Toasties and M&S Plant Kitchen’s BBQ No-Pork Bon Bons.

For a special Christmas Day breakfast, you’ll find the best smoked salmon from London Smoke & Cure, who came out top with its thick, tender slices of sashimi-grade fish (78/100).

For a subtle festive flourish, Morrisons The Best Smoked Salmon with a Twist (79/100) is triple-smoked and marinated in orange juice, winning first place in the flavoured smoked salmon taste test.

Christmas dinner isn’t complete without pigs in blankets, and this year they are ultra-decadent. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Truffle Pigs in Blankets scored 84/100 for this premium side dish, while Aunt Bessie's Roast Potatoes (80/100) were rated best for ready-made crispy spuds.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Christmas doesn’t really begin until you take your first bite into a warm mince pie. The Good Housekeeping Institute sampled 47 classic, flavoured and gluten-free varieties in what was our biggest taste test to date.

Scooping the top spot in this hotly contested category is Betty’s, with its traditional recipe, achieving an impressive score of 84/100. Meanwhile, Marks and Spencer’s Sticky Toffee PudPie is our top-rated alternative (94/100). Coeliacs will want to head to Costa where they’ll find the tastiest gluten-free mince pie (84/100), which is also suitable for vegans too. This is the third year in a row the brand has won this title.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

From classic Christmas cake and puddings to show-stopping dessert centrepieces, the testing team were presented with 83 sweet treats to evaluate.

For a traditional pick, the top-scorer in our Christmas pudding taste test was the Harvey Nichols Classic Christmas Pudding with a score of 88/100. For a delicious alternative, Tesco’s Finest Black Forest Christmas Pudding (79/100) appealed to the panel with its chunks of melted Belgian chocolate and glug of kirsh.

Despite being un-iced, Daylesford scored an impressive 92/100 for its organic Christmas cake thanks to an even ratio of plump, brandy-soaked vine fruit and moist, spicy sponge.

And for all-out decadence the whole family will enjoy, Marks & Spencer took the top spot in both our dessert centrepiece and yule log categories for its theatrical Sticky Toffee Crown (85/100) and impressively rich Triple Chocolate Yule Log (85/100).

New for 2021, the GHI also tried a selection of panettone, with commendations going to Carluccio's authentic Panettone Tradizionale and Waitrose for its dessert-hybrid Tiramisu Panettone.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Expanding on last year’s taste test, which focused on traditional Christmas food and drink hampers, our experts also tucked into a selection of cheese-focused bundles and gin gift sets — making this your one-stop shop for all Christmas gifting.

Starting from just £9.95 through to £300, there really is an option for every budget, and with every single component tried and tested by the Good Housekeeping Institute, you can rest assured the lucky recipient will be delighted with whichever you choose.


Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Get the party started, without spending a fortune, with our best supermarket fizz under £25.

Taking the top spot in our champagne taste test for the second year running is the non-vintage

Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut (78/100). Meanwhile, Aldi’s Prosecco DOCG Millesimato is your best bet for inexpensive Italian fizz, also scoring 78/100.

When it comes to port, Sainsburys Taste the Difference Special Reserve Port (82/100) is our most highly rated, with notes of black cherry, chocolate, vanilla and clove, while Gonzales Byass’ Vermouth La Copa Rojo was judged the best vermouth to make this year’s festive negronis.

We also tried a selection of ready made cocktails, including espresso martini, negroni, margarita and old fashioned serves, so you can channel your inner mixologist. It was M&S that beat big name brands, with its new The Marksologist Madagascan Vanilla Espresso Martini Cocktail (85/100).

In terms of all-out festive liqueurs, we had joint winners. Whether you prefer the sound of Two Birds After Dinner Mint Vodka or the Tesco Finest Lebkuchen-flavoured Irish Cream Liqueur, both scored an impressive 84/100 and will make a fantastic end to your evening throughout the month of December.

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