A Christmas Pudding alternative for the whole family!

Christmas is the time of year when families, and dietary requirements, come together. It can be difficult to accommodate everyone’s needs, especially when it comes to the most important part of the meal (for me, anyway), pudding! These are four of my favourite vegan and gluten-free dessert and sweet snack options, which all make a wonderful Christmas pudding alternative. They can all be made ahead, which saves work on the big day, and they’re all crowd pleasers.

Ginger Cookies

These ginger cookies are so chewy and delicious, you’d never know they were vegan and gluten free! Rolling them in sugar before baking makes the tops crack beautifully, and means they glitter pleasingly in the light. This batch makes a lot, but that won’t be a problem. They make a great gift, or you can take them into work as a Christmas treat for your colleagues. If you are working from home, you can easily make a smaller batch, or just freeze the dough for use at a later time. Perfect with a cup of tea, or as a snack for Father Christmas.

Father Christmas will be delighted to find these ginger cookies by the fire place.

Serves: makes 35 – 50 cookies, depending on how big you want them to be.

Time taken: 1hr 30min to take account of the multiple batches.



  1. Preheat the oven to 175c and line 2 large baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the softened spread and muscovado sugar together until creamy.  I like to use my mixer for this recipe, as this can take some time by hand. Add the molasses and vanilla, and beat in until smooth.
  3. Add the flour gradually, interspersing it with the rest of the ingredients until the mix is combined.
  4. Scoop out small balls (around 2tbsp if you want large cookies, and 1tbsp for small), and roll these in the sugar thoroughly.
  5. Place on the baking sheets and flatten slightly. Be sure not to overcrowd the baking sheet, as they will spread considerably. 9 per sheet is probably your maximum, this recipe will take several batches to complete.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack. They may look under baked but they will harden up as they cool. If you want to make ginger snaps, leave them in for another few minutes.
  7. Whilst not necessarily a Christmas pudding alternative, they are cracking with a cup of tea!

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake

This cake tastes just like a chocolate orange. The best part? It’s vegan so you can eat as much batter as you like! It’s a quick and easy one bowl Christmas pudding alternative, and you won’t miss the egg and dairy. The cake is unfussy and rustic, and can be jazzed up with some candied or dried orange rings before serving.

This cake tastes just like a chocolate orange!

Serves: 8

Time taken: 35 minutes 


For the cake

For the ganache


  1. Preheat the oven to 180c, and line two 7” loose bottomed cake pans.
  2. Beat the spread and sugar together in a large bowl until they are light and fluffy.
  3. Tip in the rest of the ingredients and combine.
  4. Split the batter evenly and smooth the batter into the cake pans, and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the centre of each clean. The cakes won’t rise much, but this means they are gloriously dense and moist inside. 
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes, before popping on a cooling rack.
  6. Gently heat the coconut milk in a pan, until you see small bubbles around the edges and it begins to steam.
  7. Pour the coconut milk over the chocolate and leave untouched for 5 minutes. It’s important not to over mix it, as this will cause the chocolate to split.
  8. After 5 minutes, gently mix together until completely melted, scraping the sides of the bowl.
  9. Once the ganache is glossy, allow it to cool in the fridge. Then spread some on the top of one cake, and pop the other on top.
  10. Spread the rest of the ganache over the top of the cake. Then grate an orange over the top to give a lovely speckled finish. Serve (slightly warm if possible) with vegan cream or creme fraiche, and enjoy.

Pear and Hazelnut Tart

This tart takes a little more time and effort, but I promise it’s worth it in the end. Filled with seasonal flavours, it’s not your typical Christmas dessert. Both vegan and gluten free guests will love it, and so will you! You can make this the day before, and just pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Candied pears make a great topping, you can easily dye them with food colouring.

Serves: 8-12

Time taken:  1h 25mins, plus 1hr chilling time.





The crust

  1. If you wish to roast your own hazel nuts, preheat the oven to 180C. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 10-15 min, stirring periodically until the skin begins to crack, and the white flesh of the nut begins to brown lightly. 
  2. Remove the nuts from the oven and tip onto a tea towel. Once they are cool, bunch the towel in one hand and rub the hazelnuts with the other inside the towel until the skin peels off.
  3. Place hazelnuts into a food processor, avoiding getting too much of the skin in as it will make the crust taste bitter. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse until they are coarsely ground. 
  4. Add the dates, salt, cinnamon and coconut oil, and blend until the mixture comes together. 
  5. Spoon the crust mix into a 9” loose bottomed tart tin, press evenly into the base and around the edges to create the crust. The edge of the crust shouldn’t be too high, you just want a bit of a lip. Don’t worry if it isn’t neat, just make sure there are not holes in the base. Place into the fridge to chill.

The filling

  1. To make the pear filling, peel, core and dice two large pears. In a small pot with a dash of water, cook the pears with the lid on until they are soft, stirring occasionally. Once you can break them up with your spoon, turn the heat off and blend them until they are smooth.
  2. To the pears, add the coconut cream, maple syrup cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves and agar flakes. Mix well and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the agar has dissolved and the mixture darkens in colour ever so slightly, turn off the heat. Allow to cool slightly, remove the spices, mix in any skin that has formed, and pour onto the crust.
  4. Place into a fridge for about an hour to set. I like to decorate mine with candied pears and hazelnuts, but you can used fresh sliced pear if you prefer. I have to say, this is my favourite Christmas pudding alternative.

…and perhaps this last delicious recipe below is for the adults alone

Easy marzipan rum balls

These marzipan rum balls are a super easy and quick, if a little sticky, to make Christmas pudding alternative. In a nice box, they make a great gift for the vegan or gluten free person in your life. You will find that most marzipan and rum is vegan, but just double check before buying. To make these extra Christmassy, infuse your rum with a cinnamon stick, orange peel and cardamom for 24 hours before you start.

These marzipan rum balls will go down a treat with everyone that tries them.

Serves: As many people as you are willing to share with.

Time spent: 15 minutes.



  1. Flatten the marzipan on a clean work surface, leaving a little well in the middle. Sprinkle over the cocoa powder and rum. Knead together gradually until the whole marzipan is evenly brown. This is sticky but satisfying work.
  2. Roll into even sized balls, aim for 15 pieces.
  3. Roll the rum balls in shredded coconut or cocoa powder to coat. I like to do some of each.
  4. Store in an air-tight box for up to two weeks, or serve immediately. 

Other Alternatives

Now that dessert is sorted, what about the main? Real Foods has a great variety of easy options available online. We know cooking one meal is difficult enough, without factoring in another one. Check out our nut roasts and stuffing, which will complement the trimmings wonderfully. If you’re looking for more specialist recipes, you can find our recipe bank here. You’re bound to find something that suits!

In the meantime, I wish you all the happiest festive season, and I will see you in the New Year for some healthy inspiration!

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