Holiday Recipes – Blended Traditions

This year, we’re reflecting on the Blended Traditions of the holiday season and how holiday recipes contribute to cultures and kitchen tables around the world! Whether you are sharing turkey and dressing, or preparing a Christmas Eve favorite, the holiday recipes you prepare each year make each event a spectacular piece of your history and family legacy..and the blending of these traditions around the table is what makes the season so incredibly memorable!

From our The Spice & Tea Exchange Family to yours, here are a few of our favorite holiday recipes from around the world – and a bit about how they came to be:

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Polish Borscht (Barszcz)

While borscht recipes vary across Europe, Polish adaptations have a distinctive and vibrant red hue! Polish borscht is often served as a broth soup during the first course of a Christmas Eve meal over uszka (porcini dumplings) or potatoes. For a heartier winter dish, vegetables are left in to add “meat” to this traditionally vegetarian dish. Onion, garlic, celery and carrots are a few other vegetables that add flavor to this Polish version of Borscht.

Our very own CEO, Amy Freeman, has been eating Borscht all her life! However, in her Hungarian family, Borscht is prepared a bit differently…This popular soup recipe changes between Eastern and Central European countries. While beets remain the common ingredient, the color, vegetable additions, and spelling of the name change from region to region. Ukranian borsch includes potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, tomatoes, and a variety of beans. Russian borscht will often add meat as well. Give “Borscht” a search and you’ll find a variety of recipes to choose from around the world!

Coquito Eggnog

Coquito in Spanish means “little coconut,” which is the highlight of this Puerto Rican eggnog. Often given as a gift, sweet and spiced coquito is a party favorite and decadent Spanish holiday tradition!

However, coquito isn’t just for the holiday season. It can be consumed any time of year and is celebrated as a signature rum beverage in Puerto Rico, alongside their famous Puerto Rican moonshine, pitorro. While coquito begins with the same ingredients, unique and different recipes can be found throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean as families perfect their “secret recipes” to share with friends and loved ones.

In Cuba, coquito is served with a scoop of coconut ice cream, and Caribbean islands often make the base with coconut juice to produce a lighter beverage. Measurements don’t matter as much as the ingredients and the flavor as it melds together. Competitions even ensue to find the best coquito recipes! No matter who wins, the process of making coquito is a family bonding activity, and gift-giving is the perfect way to get rid of the large batches these recipes often create.


German Lubkuchen (Elisenlebkuchen) is well known around the world as a traditional holiday dessert. Featuring honey and molasses, warm spices, and candied fruit, this one-of-a-kind treat harkens back to the spice trade and “honey cakes” commonly enjoyed in monasteries as early as the Middle Ages. Often served with a strong beer, Lebkuchen also took the name of “pepper cakes,” as it was common to include all of your finest “peppers” (then an all-encompassing term used for spices that helped digestion).

Lebkuchen has taken many forms over the years, from small cakes and bars, to commonly-found cookies – our inspiration for this recipe. The city of Nuremburg, Germany celebrates lebkuchen as its signature baked good, and to this day ships Lebkuchen around the world.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Our Spiced Lamb Meatballs are inspired by the blended Jewish traditions of Morocco, North Africa, and Arabic cultures. The presence of parsley, cinnamon, Baharat, and ginger gives this dish a strong, authentic North African accent. Serve with warm couscous and naan bread.

Many North African dishes can be prepared in a traditional tagine to cook low and slow (shown in our recipe image). The holes in the tagine serve to release steam during the cooking process. Dishes can also be served in a tagine to add a beautiful display to the dinner table!

Korean Beef Bulgogi

Bulgogi, a classic Korean grilled beef, is easy to make and traditionally made for sharing and gatherings! This year-round favorite makes its appearance during the holidays, as well as summertime barbecue menus. Bulgogi can be eaten over rice or wrapped in lettuce. However it is prepared, this thinly sliced, marinated beef is a staple in any Korean cook’s repertoire.

The history of bulgogi is well-blended as the dish began in a kabob-like state as early as the Goguryeo era (37 B.C. to 668 A.D.), and became the marinated beef soaked in a broth that it is today by the 20th century. Influences from the Japanese, Korea’s fight for independence, and Korean royalty over the years have transformed the dish in a variety of ways. Two types of preparation are most common; the brothy marinated beef dish, and a second grilled bulgogi that has evolved as the grill has become more accommodating, and as bulgogi became a part of Korean culture in America.

Peruvian Spiced Hot Chocolate

Spiced Hot Chocolate is the center of holiday gatherings in Peruvian culture, and stems from a long tradition of celebrating the country’s rich resource of cocoa. Made with heavy milk or “tres leches” (three types of milk), spices, and rich chocolate, it is often shared with panetón or sweet bread.
Although it seems a bit strange, Christmas in Peru falls in the summer season. And while temperatures begin to rise, so does the heat on the saucepan to make this decadent beverage.

In Peruvian Andes communities, hot chocolate is the center of gift-giving during holiday “chocolatadas,” during which home-made food and gifts are given to children in Peru. Hot chocolate, toys, and games are enjoyed by children during these events; many of whom may be from the poorest communities in the mountains.

Vegetable Curry

Traditional Indian curry recipes are created with an assortment of individual spices, whole or ground, to bring the dish to life! Made in a variety of ways, authentic recipes often vary from family to family as spices are chosen carefully to enhance the flavor of each element within the dish.

While curry is well-known around the world, the dish and its origins have a somewhat blended history, as the spice trade and expansion of cultures around expanded both its meaning and its flavor from not only India, but in the east, Europe, and beyond.

Today, curry can refer to a curry dish – prepared with a variety of traditional spices, often served on rice or with flat-breads like naan. It can also refer to a spice blend or powder, which is a compilation of many spices to create flavor that represents the flavor of “curry” dishes in cultures like Thailand, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and more. And in one further instance, curry can also refer to a plant, which produces leaves that smell and taste like – you guessed it – curry! This is often used in India, however, does not often make its way into curry dishes or spice blends around the world.

Through the years, curry has changed to adapt to the cultures in which it was served. As Columbus brought chilies back from the Americas, they became popular to incorporate into the dish. When Eastern European countries began to trade, and eventually occupy eastern/Asian cultures, the natives kindly softened the intensity of their highly-spiced dishes to appeal to a more mild flavor palate.

Whether you’re enjoying curry wet or dry, spiced or mild, meat or vegetable, or any other variation, know that you’re consuming what may be one of the world’s most well-blended food traditions.

Share your favorite holiday recipes and traditions with us in the comments below!

holiday recipes

Post Author: Spice & Tea

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