My Favorite Holiday Eco-Friendly Dishes and Desserts
We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn affiliate commission.
Welcome to Part 3 of the 3-part eco-friendly holiday series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.
Thanksgiving is behind us and just when we thought we were done with cooking for a while, it’s time to prepare for the winter holidays. Whether you’re planning a big holiday feast or just a small intimate gathering for your immediate family, start thinking about your menu and the kind of foods you want to serve.
Did you know that you can make your holiday dinner eco-friendly? Believe it or not, it is possible. Here are some of my favorite holiday eco-friendly dishes and desserts to help you make your holiday menu as green as possible.
Buy Organic and Local Where Possible
You’ve got tons of options for the main course for your holiday feast — turkey, goose, roast or some equally flavorful vegan alternatives. The biggest thing you want to remember for your main course protein is to buy local, organic and/or free range proteins. They’re a bit more expensive than the alternative, but they’re better both for you and for the environment.
Using local meat and produce helps to reduce carbon emissions by reducing the distance that the food has to travel.
I don’t know about you, but by the time holiday dinner rolls around, I have had just about enough of turkey for a while, and so I tend to go with a beef roast. I’ve included some vegan alternatives that are just as savory as well though!
- Local, free-range rib eye roast, roughly 3lbs.
- ¼ cup fresh chopped rosemary
- ¼ cup chopped garlic. (This is about 20 cloves, give or take a few.)
- Salt/pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 cups mushrooms — use whatever is in season or choose your favorite mushrooms.
- 1 cup beef stock.
Heat your oven to 350 °F. Tie the roast and season with salt and pepper. Mix your rosemary and garlic with 2 tbsp of olive oil and set aside. Add the other 2 tbsp of oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat and brown the roast on all sides. Remove the pan from heat and cover the roast with the garlic and rosemary mixture. Roast for 1 to 1½ hours, until temperature reads 135 °F with a meat thermometer. Remove from heat and let rest.
While the roast is resting, sauté your mushrooms with butter until they’re cooked through and have absorbed the butter. Remove the roast from the pan, deglaze with stock and cook until thickened. Then just slice and serve!
You don’t need beef to have a fantastic holiday feast.
Vegan Filo Dough
- 2 cups whole grain spelt flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 medium avocado mashed
- ¾ cup very hot water
- 1tbsp flax seed, ground
- 1tbsp water
- 3 1/8 cup of brown mushrooms
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3 cloves crushed garlic
- ½ c and 1 tsp dry white wine
- ½ c and 1 tsp water
- 1 tbsp vegetable stock paste
- 1/8 c rolled oats
- 1/8 c walnuts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 1/8 cup thawed spinach
- Juice of half a lemon
- Cheese (omit for fully vegan recipe)
- Mix the pastry — add flour and salt to a bowl or food processor and combine. Add the avocado and blend, then add water a little at a time and blend. You want pliable dough that’s not too sticky. Knead for about five minutes, then wrap in plastic and rest while you make the filling. Mix your water and flax seed and let rest in the fridge while you cook the filling.
- Stew your garlic, water, white wine and stock paste over medium heat for 20 minutes or so. You can add more water if it starts to dry out.
- Dry sauté the mushrooms over high heat until well browned. Once browned, add the mushrooms to the garlic and wine mixture and cook for 15 more minutes. Toss the red onion in the pan where you were cooking the mushroom and sauté until translucent.
- Grind up the rolled oats and walnuts to a powder in a food processor. Mix the onions, mushroom mixture, rolled oats and walnut mixture and the flax seeds from the fridge until well combined. Wring out the thawed frozen spinach to get rid of as much water as possible. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Roll out your dough and layer the ingredients on it — spinach first, then mushrooms and then top with cheese if you’re using it. Roll up the Wellington, brush with an egg wash (or use soy milk for a vegan recipe) and bake for 15-30 minutes until evenly browned.
Side dishes for holiday dinner are as varied as the people hosting these fantastic meals, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be eco-friendly. The biggest trick for veggie sides is to use seasonal vegetables — beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots and citrus fruits are all in season in December, making them an ideal eco-friendly choice!
- 1.5 cups Brussels sprouts
- 1 bunch broccoli, broccolini or other seasonal vegetables.
- A few handfuls of arugula
- 2-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Remove the outer leaves of your Brussels sprouts and chop them in half. Cut the rest of your vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
- Heat your oven to 375 °F.
- Spread your veggies out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
- Bake until browned but not burnt — 20 minutes for veggies like broccoli and broccolini, 45 minutes for other vegetables like Brussels sprouts.
- Toss with arugula and cranberries and serve immediately, or store and warm up right before serving.
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes are in season in the winter, and you can’t have a proper tasty and filling meal without some potato goodness. This is not traditionally a vegan dish, but you can easily substitute the butter and milk for vegan-friendly alternatives — I’ll include some below.
- 4 lbs of locally grown organic potatoes, peeled and cubed. (If you like some skin in your mashed potatoes, opt for red potatoes or other small varieties.)
- 1 head of garlic, unpeeled.
- 4 – 8 tbsp butter (substitute vegan buttery spread or olive oil)
- 1 c half and half or whole milk (Substitute unflavored and unsweetened almond or soy milk)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- First, peel and chop your potatoes, then toss them into a pot of water with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.
- Cook until the potatoes break apart when punctured with a fork.While the potatoes are cooking, heat up your oven to 350.
- Don’t peel the garlic — instead, just chop off the top of the head, doing your best to expose all the cloves.
- Drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or so until the garlic is browned and very soft.
- Remove and cool. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and mash them until they’ve reached the consistency you prefer. I like them chunky, but other people prefer smoother mashed potatoes, so this is entirely up to you.
- Mix in your butter and milk, and stir until smooth.
- Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves into the potatoes and mix well — I love the subtle taste of roasted garlic, so I tend to use the whole head but feel free to season to taste.
- Add salt and pepper, and serve.
You can’t have a holiday dinner without dessert. Break out the fine dessert china instead of using disposable plates and silverware. It looks better, and it’s better for the environment. We’ve got one no-bake dessert to keep you from having to turn the oven on, and one that takes advantage of the seasonal citrus fruit that’s available in December!
- 1 ¾ cups of gluten-free oat flour
- ¼ cup coconut flour (can be substituted for more oat flour if preferred)
- 2 tbsp granulated sweetener (sugar, coconut palm sugar, etc.)
- Pinch each of sea salt, nutmeg, and cloves
- ¼ cup nut butter of choice (almond, cashew, etc.)
- ¼ cup brown rice syrup (or any sticky sweetener)
- ¼ cup eggnog of choice (substitute Silk or Almond eggnog for vegan recipe)
- First, mix dry ingredients — flour, sweetener, sea salt, cloves, nutmeg — in a bowl and combine well.
- Next, heat your nut butter and sticky sweetener in a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan until combined. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix.
- Once mixed, pour in your eggnog and mix well until a thick batter forms.
- Using your hands, form the dough into balls and refrigerate to firm. Simple but tasty — if you want, you can even add a scoop of protein powder to make them a little less of a guilty pleasure.
- 1 ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 2 grapefruits, sliced
- Cream together your butter and sugar, then stir in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract.
- Mix in your flour a bit at a time, until well combined. Scoop the batter into a muffin tin and top each muffin with a slice of grapefruit.
- Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cupcake.
- It’s not hard to keep holiday eco-friendly while still enjoying all the amazingly rich flavors of the season. Just remember to buy local, buy seasonal and skip the disposable dishware, and you’re well on your way to reducing your carbon footprint while still making eco-friendly dishes and desserts to remember.
Want more from Environment.co? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive our latest posts and exclusive content straight to your inbox.
About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.