With these 20 traditional Filipino Christmas foods, this year’s Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Dinner) will be better than ever.
After all, Christmas is the biggest holiday in the Philippines, with many houses kicking things off as early as September!
But be warned, you won’t find anything low-carb or sugar-free on this recipe roundup.
Instead, Filipino food is rich, fatty, and full of hearty ingredients.
So if you’re looking for exotic comfort foods to add to your holiday menu, these delicious and easy Filipino Christmas foods should fit the bill perfectly.
Tara, kain tayo! (Come and eat!)
Let’s kick things off with something sweet, which is appropriate because Filipinos LOVE dessert.
Buko and pandan are kind of like the Filipino version of peanut butter and jelly.
Buko refers to young coconut, while pandan is a plant with super fragrant, sweet-smelling leaves.
In this salad, strips of sweet coconut are combined with pandan-flavored jelly and tossed in a sweet and creamy sauce.
This addictive dessert is not only served at Christmas but on any and all special occasions as well.
Next up is a pasta dish we all know and love, but with a Filipino twist. Pinoy-style carbonara is unlike the Italian classic in that the sauce is made with heavy cream and cheese.
Italians may frown upon the idea, but this sauce is so much richer and creamier than the traditional egg-and-parmesan-based sauce.
Lechon manok (roasted chicken) is probably the most common dish that Filipinos serve for lunch and dinner – when they don’t have time to cook, that is.
In the Philippines, it’s not uncommon to see shops that sell roasted chicken and pork on every corner.
Though you won’t see any of these Filipino roast shops in the US, it’s easy enough to make at home.
The Pinoy version of roasted chicken is wildly aromatic thanks to lemongrass. It also has a wonderful sweet and savory flavor profile from a combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, bay leaves, and brown sugar.
We all know Menudo was a boy band in the late 1970s, right? It’s where Ricky Martin got his first real break.
In the Philippines, however, menudo is a tomato-based stew filled with pork, liver cutlets, and vegetables.
Also, get this – it’s packed with raisins and cut-up hotdogs.
It sounds like some bizarre things to be added to a stew, but I’m telling you, it’s good.
The sweet and savory ingredients create such a wonderful flavor combination. Serve this over a bed of white rice for Christmas lunch or dinner.
The Pinoy-style fried chicken is deliciously crispy on the outside and perfectly juicy on the inside.
Its flavor, however, is one-of-a-kind.
Unlike the usual buttermilk marinade, Filipinos soak chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, and calamansi juice, which is a local citrus fruit similar in flavor to lemons.
This marinade gives the chicken a beautiful combination of, savory, spicy, and earthy flavors and a lovely hint of tartness for balance.
Lechon is a Spanish word that means “roasted pig,” while kawali is a Filipino word for “frying pan.”
Typically, Lechon is roasted on a spit, but in the case of this dish, pork belly cutlets are deep-fried to crispy perfection in a frying pan.
But if you think this is just your typical deep-fried pork dish, think again. You’ve never had a more addictive piece of fried pork in your life until you’ve tried lechon kawali.
Meaning “small funnel” in English, embutido is a Filipino Christmas dish with a unique cylindrical shape.
It’s a combination of ground pork, bread crumbs, minced carrots and bell peppers, grated cheese, sweet pickles, and raisins shaped into a log and baked in the oven.
Think of it as the Filipino version of meatloaf, but with a special surprise in the center – a slice of hard-boiled egg and sausage.
8. Crispy Pata
Crispy pata is a delectable dish of deep-fried whole pork leg.
Deep-frying makes the pork skin seriously crispy, while the meat inside is tender, juicy, rich, and savory.
This dish is very unctuous, which is why it’s dipped in a sweet, salty, and tangy sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper.
It’s commonly served with a freezing-cold bottle of beer, which a Filipino Christmas celebration is not complete without.
While celebrated as early as September, Christmas in the Philipines officially begins on December 16, when the first night of the Simbang Gabi is held.
Simbang Gabi is a series of midnight masses that run every night until Christmas. Legend has it that if you complete all nine masses, your Christmas wish will be granted.
And when there’s Simbang Gabi, there’s also bibingka. It’s a warm rice cake garnished with a slice of salted egg, a dab of butter, and a sprinkling of shredded coconut.
Bibingka is often sold by street vendors stationed right outside churches – a perfect spot to tempt mass goers with the cake’s sweet and buttery aroma.
10. Leche Flan
As a colony of Spain for over 300 years, it’s no wonder that the Philippines draws major influences from the country.
Dessert is just one of them, but this particular recipe will probably look very familiar.
Leche flan is a smooth and creamy custard made of milk, sugar, and egg yolks.
It’s topped with a golden sugar syrup that gives it an extra-sweet, caramel flavor.
11. Buko Salad
If you like fruit salad, you’re going to love this Filipino dessert.
It’s a lot like a regular fruit salad in that it’s loaded with fruits and is coated with cream. But the Pinoy version is a lot more decadent for two reasons.
First, there’s more than just fruit in a buko salad. It also features coconut strips and popular Filipino delicacies, such as palm sugar (kaong), and nata de coco.
Second, the creamy dressing is sweetened with condensed milk. Needless to say, this salad will surely satisfy your sweet tooth.
12. Lechon Cebu
Cebu is a province in the Philippines that’s famous not just for its pristine, white-sand beaches but its scrumptious food as well.
Among Cebu’s must-try dishes is the Lechon Cebu, which is a whole pig roasted to crispy goodness.
Flavored with lemongrass, anise, bay leaves, garlic, and onions, Lechon Cebu possesses a unique and aromatic taste that no other dish can offer.
Lumpiang Shanghai is the Filipino version of the Chinese fried spring rolls.
These are small logs of minced meat covered in spring roll wrappers and deep-fried to golden perfection.
A word of warning: these are beyond addictive, especially when dipped in sweet and sour sauce (or in a pinch, ketchup).
It’s not uncommon to see Filipino moms wrapping mountains of lumpia on the morning of Christmas Eve!
You can spot Filipino-style spaghetti from a distance.
Italians might cringe at the sight of it, but in the Philippines, it’s always a hit, especially with kids. In fact, no celebration is complete without it.
Filipino-style spaghetti has the same basic components as traditional spaghetti, and then some fun extras.
First, expect the meat sauce to be much, much sweeter, and studded with cut-up hotdogs.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Filipinos have a love affair with hotdogs.
The Filipino spaghetti is also garnished with a generous sprinkling of cheese to contrast the sweet sauce. And since cheddar is more accessible and cheaper than parmesan, it’s what’s often used.
It’s not a Christmas feast without hamon and queso de bola. These two are always present at Noche Buena or the Philippine Christmas midnight feast.
Covered in a crunchy sugar glaze and pineapple syrup, the Philippine hamon or Christmas ham is, once again, sweeter than usual.
This is why it’s commonly paired with queso de bola, which literally translates to a “ball of cheese.”
Together, they create a sweet and salty combination that makes for perfect finger food or sandwich filling.
Here in America, BBQ often refers to grilled or smoked meats, such as ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and more.
In the Philippines, however, BBQ is the common name for pork cutlets threaded into skewers and marinated in sweet BBQ sauce.
They’re then grilled to smoky perfection, and glazed with even more BBQ sauce.
It’s more popularly sold as a street food item than prepared at home. But don’t worry, cooking Filipino BBQ at home is just as easy as grilling any meat.
17. Filipino Pancit
As a neighboring country, China also has a huge influence on Filipino cuisine. So much so that the Filipinos have adapted their own version of the Chinese noodles or pancit.
There are many methods of cooking pancit in the Philippines. Some use thick noodles, some use thin, while others use a combination of both.
All of them are equally delicious.
In this recipe, you’ll use thin vermicelli noodles and fill them with pork cutlets and colorful vegetables. Yum!
If you ask a local what Filipino dish they’d recommend, it’s almost certain that kare-kare will be at the top of the list.
Kare-kare is a wildly rich and savory stew with a thick peanut-based sauce.
It swims with melt-in-your-mouth beef and ox tripe, as well as exotic veggies such as bok choy, banana heart, and long beans.
Kare-kare is served with white rice and a sweet shrimp paste called bagoong. It’s so insanely delicious that it’s almost impossible to only have one serving of it.
Chicken macaroni salad is a Filipino Christmas food staple.
It’s a cream-based salad bursting with color that features shredded chicken, elbow macaroni carrots, bell peppers, cheese cubes, pineapple, and raisins.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Filipinos love to add raisins to their dishes. It’s not an obsession, but rather an easy way to give sweetness to an otherwise purely savory dish.
20. Puto Bumbong
Along with bibingka, puto bumbong is another rice-based delicacy that’s commonly sold by street vendors during Simbang Gabi (midnight masses).
Puto bumbong is delightfully soft and chewy, with just a mildly sweet flavor and a distinctive purple hue.
It’s garnished with a dab of butter, as well as a mix of shredded coconut and muscovado sugar for more sweetness and some crunch.
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