Fast Food Restaurants Celebrating The Holidays With Seasonal Menu Items

Few things announce the arrival of the holidays better than food. Thanksgiving has its turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Hanukkah has latkes, sufganiyot, and gelt. Christmas has eggnog, chestnuts, and cookies. In winter, we bake, mix hot beverages, and settle snugly into our warm homes to fend off the cold and damp.

Even the retail industry gets into the holiday spirit, though mostly by going bananas on Black Friday and offering discounts on their wares. While that may do it for some people, not everyone is in the right mindset to fight a stranger to get half off of a television. And many restaurants also want to get in on the festive mood, which some do by offering special food or drink items. Peppermint, eggnog, gingerbread, hot cocoa, tamales ... All of these conjure memories of winter and its holidays. (Okay, maybe some more than others.)

From Nachos Navidad to peppermint milkshakes, let these fast food restaurants help to get you into a more joyful humor.

McDonalds' Holiday Pie

Did you know that McDonald's releases a limited edition Holiday Pie every December? According to NBC Los Angeles, it's a holiday tradition that dates back to 1999. However, it may only appear in select locations, so keep an eye out in your region for this vanilla custard treat wrapped in a flaky crust topped with rainbow sprinkles. NBC suggests checking the McDonald's app or phoning the restaurant before you go to make sure they carry the pie.

The McDonald's Holiday Pie definitely has some fans. During the summer, one Twitter user who was disappointed by the dessert's seasonal nature tweeted, "I would start eating sugar again if McDonalds brought back the holiday pie." Just days before the pie was anticipated to make its return, another tweet claimed that "the holiday pie from McDonalds is my life force and I cannot wait for it to come back." And still another tweet asked, "If you haven't had a @McDonalds Holiday Pie, are you even in the Christmas spirit?"

Del Taco Tamales

In Mexican and Mesoamerican cultures, making tamales is a Christmas tradition, one that dates back countless centuries to well before Christianity arrived on American shores. Families often gather for tamaladas, or tamale-making parties. According to the Los Angeles Times, the tamale holiday season lasts from December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to January 6, Three Kings' Day.

Mexican-American fast food chain Del Taco hasn't forgotten its heritage. During this same time of year, they add tamales to the menu. Twitter, however, doesn't seem impressed. One of the kinder tweets said, "I promise you no one's going to del taco for those tamales." Redditors were more thoughtful. One posted in the Del Taco subreddit, "As far as tamales go, they taste good. Could use a bit more meat, but overall I am satisfied by them. Are they the best tamales ever? Probably not. But they do satisfy the urge if you like tamales and are pretty tasty."

MOD Pizza Chocolate Peppermint No Name Cake

Based in Seattle, Washington, MOD Pizza now operates in 29 states. They are far more known for their plethora of pizza options than their dessert menu, upon which only one item is listed. The No Name Cake is a chocolate-dipped chocolate cake with a vanilla buttercream center, similar to the Hostess Brands' Ding Dong. In 2019, a customer suggested on Twitter that MOD needed a mint version of the No Name Cake, and it appears MOD listened.

Business Wire reported that as of November 28, 2022, a new dessert item would be joining the menu, the Chocolate Peppermint No Name Cake. Like the original, the Chocolate Peppermint Cake is a chocolate cake dipped in chocolate but with a peppermint cream center and crushed candy canes sprinkled on top. The special cake will be available at all MOD locations, both company-owned and franchises, while supplies last. One Facebook user commented on the new cake's announcement, "Some people go there for the pizza ... I go because there's cake!"

Taco Johns' Nachos Navidad

More than any other item on this list, Nachos Navidad is likely to get a certain festive song stuck in your head. Seasoned ground beef, nacho and cheddar cheeses, refried beans, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream are piled on tortilla chips that are colored a seasonally appropriate red, green, and yellow. Who wouldn't sing its praises?

The Omaha-Herald reported that not only are these nachos a fun addition to the holiday, but Taco John's donates a portion of the proceeds to charity. Each individual franchise chooses which charity to sponsor. Some of the beneficiaries include Toys for Tots, the Food Bank of Iowa, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Not only do you get to enjoy a fun holiday-themed meal, you are helping your community by doing so. Born as a humble taco stand in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and now spanning nearly half of the U.S., Taco John's has carried on this Christmas tradition for 30 years.

Steak 'n Shake Festive Milkshakes

Steak 'n Shake is undeniably known for its milkshakes. It's in the name after all! And it likes to mix things up by offering seasonal flavors, such as Pumpkin Spice, Campfire S'Mores, and Caramel Apple to celebrate fall. For winter, they have mixed up some special festive shakes too.

One such popular milkshake is the Peppermint Chocolate Chip, about which one Twitter user raved, "Steak 'n Shake has a new peppermint chocolate chip shake and HOLY MOLY!" Another tweet called this flavor "the BOMB!" We're sure they mean it in the best way possible.

Another holiday Steak 'n Shake favorite is the Eggnog shake. "That Eggnog milkshake from Steak n Shake is life changing," said one customer on Twitter. And someone else wondered, "Steak n Shake Eggnog milkshake, why you so tasty?" A fan on Reddit enjoys "getting an eggnog shake to take home, and spiking it with some spiced rum." If the holidays aren't a time to indulge, when would be?

Starbucks Chocolate Pistachio Swirl

You might be wondering why Starbucks, a business famous for its coffee drinks, is on a list of holiday foods. Many look forward to the release of winter favorites like the Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte, Chestnut Praline Latte, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, Irish Cream Cold Brew, and Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte. But there's more.

In November of 2022, Starbucks announced the launch of a new sweet treat for the holiday season. Joining the ranks alongside Reindeer Cake Pops, Sugar Plum Cheese Danishes, Cranberry Bliss Bars, and Snowman Cookies was the Chocolate Pistachio Swirl, a brioche roll with chocolate, cinnamon, and chopped pistachios. Exciting, right? Not so fast.

"Finally tried the chocolate pistachio swirl and very disappointed," said one post in the Starbucks Subreddit. "It's too doughy, I thought it'd be more flaky." Another Reddit user responded, "It's dry too. And where's the cocoa I can't taste it! It's a sad thing. No wonder no one orders it." Perhaps the harshest critique of all said, "They're just little brown circles of disappointment and regret." Ouch.

Chick-fil-A Peppermint Chip Shake

People really love their milkshakes, even after the temperatures drop and snow swirls through the air. The sweet treat mixes well with so many seasonal favorites such as peppermint and chocolate. Enter Chick-fil-A's Peppermint Chip Milkshake. Peppermint syrup is mixed with Chick-fil-A's signature soft-serve vanilla Icedream, then little chunks of peppermint bark are stirred in to create this customer favorite (per Chick-fil-A). Whipped cream and a cherry on top finish it off.

The fast food chain's Director Of Menu and Packaging, Leslie Neslage, said in a press release in 2022, "As one of our most popular seasonal items, we're always excited to bring back the Peppermint Chip Milkshake to our menus. We know that it's a part of our customers' holiday traditions." A fan on Twitter confirmed this: "It's officially the Christmas time, I've had my first Chick-Fil-A Peppermint Chip milkshake of the season." Another tweet said, "If the commercials are to be believed the Chick Fil A peppermint chocolate chip milkshake is back. Now it is truly the Christmas season."

Panera Bread Mitten Cookie

Sometimes it isn't the flavors that make the season but familiar shapes. Take the shortbread cookies from Panera Bread that are shaped like cozy mittens, for instance. According to a thread on Reddit, Panera retires the pumpkin-shaped shortbread cookies with orange frosting that celebrate the fall season and replaces them with the mitten shapes for winter. The mittens come with different colored icing with various designs drawn in white. They can be bought individually or in packs of six.

For something so simple, people are really taken with the indulgent little treats. One Panera customer tweeted, "Panera Bread got me the best mitten cookie [I've] ever tasted and I think I'm in heaven." Another fan tweeted about the cookies, "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ... and my personal stress beater in the winter." There was, however, one critique of the cheerful shape. Said this Twitter user, "Panera has a mitten cookie. The thumb is on the left. I think they should be the other way around in [Michigan]."

Jack in the Box Frozen Hot Cocoa Shake

Popular fast food chain Jack in the Box is also in the holiday shake game with its Frozen Hot Cocoa Shake. According to Brand Eating, the shake uses Jack's vanilla milkshake as a base, then toasted marshmallow-flavored syrup and cocoa are mixed in, and the whole thing is topped off with whipped cream and a little more cocoa powder for decoration.

We aren't sure what makes this different from a regular chocolate shake with marshmallow flavoring, and we aren't the only ones. Several Redditors also expressed confusion. One person who tried it supplied a possible answer in the thread: "I have had it and it doesn't taste like a normal chocolate shake. It has marshmallow and a lot of cocoa powder." A reviewer on YouTube agreed that it "tastes like [an] actual ... hot chocolate but frozen." They add that the whipped topping is also marshmallow flavored, and you might need a spoon to help you enjoy the thick shake.

Culvers' Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer

If you don't have access to a Jack in the Box, perhaps you can head over to your local Culver's instead and pick up a Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer. For this, you will definitely need a spoon, as a Concrete Mixer is more akin to a Blizzard from Dairy Queen than a milkshake.

The Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer is a blend of Culver's vanilla frozen custard and cocoa, then topped with whipped cream and a dusting of more cocoa. CBS reported that the seasonal treat is available until the middle of February, covering far more than just the holiday season.

A reviewer on YouTube said the cocoa flavor was more like if a packet of hot cocoa powder was used rather than pure cocoa powder, which has a more bitter flavor. She was "pleasantly surprised" by the flavor and rated it a 4.7 out of 5. A person in the comments of the video said they ordered the Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer with chocolate custard rather than vanilla and had marshmallows added, which is a good tip if you're looking to recreate hot cocoa.

Krispy Kreme Santa's Bake Shop Collection

Let's get away from dessert and check in with another meal. How about enjoying a festive breakfast with Krispy Kreme's Santa Bake Shop Collection of colorful doughnuts? New in 2022 are the Holiday Sugar Cookie, Red Velvet Cake, and Gingerbread Cookie Crumb doughnuts. Others in the collection include the cream-filled Santa Belly, painted with icing to look like the iconic red coat. Chocolate iced with holiday sprinkles and mini iced with colorful sprinkles are also available in chocolate and red.

Krispy Kreme's Global Chief Brand Officer, Dave Skena, said in Parade, "We're bringing the fun, flavors and joy of the Christmas season to life by turning Krispy Kreme shops into Santa's Bake Shop. We hope our fans pick up these delicious, fresh treats to share with family and friends at holiday gatherings."

Per the official announcement on Twitter, these goodies will only be around through December 24. A merry dozen might be a hit at any holiday gathering.

Pizza Hut Triple Treat Box

Is there a bigger bummer during the holidays than having a day's worth of preparation and cooking all go to nought with a burned or undercooked meal? Or maybe you are too stressed to deal with the whole affair to begin with. Pizza Hut to the rescue!

For less than $30, Pizza Hut will deliver a three-course meal. That's two medium-sized pizzas, five breadsticks, and ten Cinnabon mini cinnamon rolls, all wrapped up together in a special seasonally-themed box. Said the chief marketing officer of Pizza Hut, George Felix, "We know the holiday season can get busy, so let Pizza Hut take care of dinner so you can focus on spending time with the people you love."

For last minute disasters, in November 2022, Pizza Hut announced that if you email a photo of your ruined holiday meal to, you might just get a free Triple Treat Menu to save the day (per QSR). But you only have until December 24 to ask for a holiday rescue.