13 Festive Fruits And How To Use Them For Your Next Holiday Meal

When you hear the word "festive," you probably don't start to imagine a variety of fruits. To be fair, options like peppermint, chocolate, and gingerbread sound much more appealing, though by the time you're finished reading this article, we're pretty certain you'll have changed your mind.

Fruits are known for being a healthy addition to any meal, but when it comes to the holidays, certain fruits do more than supply us with a boost of nutrients. With deeply flavorful tastes, these fruits lend themselves perfectly to the winter season, creating memories on our tongues we won't soon forget. And if you're worried about which fruits are actually in season during the holidays, try not to. We've included a few dried fruit options as well as winter-friendly picks to make things a little easier. With all of that said, let's get into some of our favorite festive fruits and how to use them for your next holiday meal. Enjoy!

1. Figs

Ever heard of "figgy pudding"? This traditional Christmas recipe lends itself to the delicious flavor of figs and thus spotlights them as a longstanding festive fruit associated with the holiday season. And though figgy pudding is indeed a classic Christmas dessert, it isn't the only way to utilize dried figs for your holiday meal.

One of the other ways to put dried figs to use is to pair them with sausage and place them in your Christmas stuffing. Now, we realize this won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially since some people aren't too keen on putting fruit in their stuffing. Still, if you happen to like the flavors of sweet and savory, you could totally add dried figs along with apples, grated orange peel, white wine, celery, and other flavors to your Christmas stuffing to make it a distinctly unique side dish your guests won't forget.

Another slightly less polarizing way to use figs for Christmas dinner is to make a fig and bourbon pecan pie. To pull this one off, you'll simply need a pie crust, figs, pecans, butter, bourbon, and a few other simple ingredients. Combine everything together, bake it up, and you've got a superstar of a dessert to finish off your holiday dinner.

2. Oranges

Many people associate oranges with the holidays, but few know why. Apart from the fact that oranges are often most flavorful during the winter season, the meaning behind why we associate oranges with the holidays runs deeper than that. Some of you may come from families that place oranges in stockings for the holidays, and maybe you've never stopped to ask why. Legend has it that the real old St. Nick from long ago gave bars of gold to young maidens to be used as dowries for eligible suitors. The gold bars were thrown through windows and landed in the stockings of the fair maids. Oranges represent those same gold bars and, thus, are now associated with the Christmas holiday.

These days, there are many ways in which you can use oranges in your holiday cooking. Make a fabulous orange marmalade using oranges, sugar, water, and lemon, or bake up a fantastic spiced orange cake using all your favorite warming spices for the ultimate holiday treat. Don't forget about the different types of punch you can serve using orange juice — mixing it with cranberry juice, soda, and a few other goodies is a fun way to make a refreshing drink to accent your holiday meal.

3. Apples

We usually spend most of our time thinking about apples during the fall season, but it's also true that many of us associate delicious baked goods like apple pie around the Christmas holiday season as well. Thankfully, several apple varieties are in season during the winter, and though they might not be the familiar Gala or Honeycrisp variety, types like Stayman apples are best enjoyed even into December.

So, what should you do with these delicious winter apples? Make holiday apple desserts, of course! Go super basic with candy apples as an appetizing end-of-dinner accompaniment, or go a bit bolder with apple streusel blondies, apple bread pudding, or apple pear crisp. Though somewhat run-of-the-mill, apple pie is certainly still an option, though you might consider doing it up a bit with caramel to make things a bit more interesting. The opportunities are virtually endless when it comes to this familiar festive fruit, so go ahead take your pick!

4. Pears

There are so many ways to use pears during the holidays, and we simply can't wait to present them to you. Not only do these subtly sweet fruits already come in Christmas-hued shades of deep red and green, but their subtle flavor lends itself to several holiday recipes that'll bring you cheer and warm your spirit.

One of the most interesting ways we've seen pears served during the holiday is poached. Poached pears can be prepared using mulled or red wine as this brings a level of elegance perfect for the Christmas season. Simply boil your pears in the wine (making sure your pears are fully submerged) until they become tender. Be sure that once your wine reaches a boil that you lower the heat to a simmer — you don't want all that yummy wine to reduce too much. Serve the poached pears upright along with a side of homemade whipped cream or ice cream for a flavorful yet unique take on Christmas sweets.

Another way to use pears is to simmer them in your oven along with fresh cranberries, spices, and sugar to make a side dish that's ready in a snap. Some chefs, like Carla Hall, also like to use pear as a part of their turkey holiday meal by making it into a relish to be ladled over meat for a delicious sweet and savory way to enjoy the ultimate Christmas main entrée.

5. Cranberries

Cranberries are the quintessential fruit of both the holiday and autumn season, so it was crucial that we included them in our lineup here. One of the more nostalgic ways to serve up cranberries is to make them a part of a fruit and marshmallow "salad" which is perfect for children and adults alike. This recipe combines sugared cranberries with whipped cream and drained pineapple. Alternatively, you can take these traditionally sour-flavored gems and place them in a Christmas cake. Fresh cranberries make for a great tart option to offset the sweetness of the cake and give it that oh-so-festive flavor cranberries deliver — and we're so here for it. 

You could also try utilizing cranberry juice to make a variety of holiday cocktails to take the intimidation factor down a bit since cranberries can sometimes be tricky to cook with because of their potent flavor. Cranberry orange, cranberry ginger ale, and cranberry and triple sec — you get the point. Mix up something special and offer it to eager guests for a deliciously tart spin on Christmas dinner no one will soon forget. 

6. Dates

Eating dates may sound a bit outdated to younger generations, but there are so many ways to prepare them for the holidays that we had to mention them here. In case you aren't familiar with them, dates come from date palm trees, and are known for their sweet caramel-like flavor. They pack several health benefits but, ultimately, offer truly delicious flavor when infused into a holiday dinner.

Some of the most impressive ways we've found to use dates for the holidays is to stuff them full of walnuts, make Christmas "logs" out of them, or simply convert them to cookies. There are so many ways to utilize dates, and the fact that they come dried and ready to use makes them even more appealing. We've even seen some take dates the more savory route by wrapping them in bacon and garnishing them with cheese to make for an appealing appetizer just prior to the main course. No matter how you choose to use them, dates are definitely a festive fruit worth looking into.

7. Raisins

Because raisins obviously come in dry form, they make an excellent addition to holiday desserts and even savory dishes. Some of our favorite ways to utilize raisins during the holidays are in desserts like carrot cake and oatmeal raisin cookies. This is mainly because of the warm and nostalgic spices used in both of these that marry perfectly with raisins, and work to satisfy our tummies in the dead of winter.

Also, we've mentioned this once in light of figs, but you can also use raisins in stuffing — if the sweet and savory combination is your thing. Like figs, raisins pair well with apples and are an affordable way to pull off this type of stuffing without needing to buy figs to get the job done. All in all, raisins are a very versatile and inexpensive way to jazz up your winter holiday meal. What's not to love?

8. Pumpkin

Like apples, pumpkin is often associated with the fall, but really, adding the distinct and mild taste of pumpkin to your winter holiday meal is just as feasible. Now, we understand that most pumpkins are harvested during the autumn season, but because pumpkins are also sold in canned form year round, there isn't any reason you can't infuse this yummy festive flavor into your holiday spread.

Pumpkin pie is a well-known option for dishing up at Christmas time, but there are many other ways to incorporate pumpkin into your holiday feast than just this. Consider making pumpkin Christmas bread, an old-fashioned traditional pumpkin pie, or even offering guests a yummy roasted pumpkin soup to whet their appetite before the main course. No matter how you use it, it's clear pumpkin flavors aren't only for autumn — you can definitely use it for a variety of purposes all throughout the year.

9. Squash

First off, before you get yourself all in a tizzy, we'd like to note that squash is indeed a fruit. Because it comes from the flowering part of a plant and also contains seeds, this rather savory option is a not-so-sweet fruit you can easily incorporate into your next holiday meal.

Tired of recipes like whipped sweet potato? Why not try whipped butternut squash instead? You'll need to roast your squash in the oven first all before adding the cooked flesh to a bowl and mixing in butter, sugar, and spices to your liking. Apple spice and pumpkin spice work very well to add subtle nuance to this whipped squash, but really, you could add any spices you wish. Whip it up with a hand mixer until you've got deliciously fluffy results. Other recipes to consider include butternut squash with pancetta, upside-down cornbread with squash, and roasted squash cranberry salad. As you can see, this fruit is very versatile and lends itself to many uses. Get creative and see what you can come up with!

10. Grapefruit

You're probably wondering why this fruit made the most "festive" list, especially if you're one of those people who utterly despise grapefruit's bitter taste. While we will admit that we are huge grapefruit fans over here, we're willing to empathize with the rest of you and explain why we think this fruit is worthy of your attention this season.

As it turns out, grapefruits are at peak season in the winter, and as such, it'd be a shame to throw it shade when it's at its juiciest. While this fruit may be a bit too bitter to use in the way you might use orange or lemon, it still makes for an awesome way to impart flavor to certain parts of your holiday meal, especially when it comes to drinks. Try mixing grapefruit juice with bourbon, or with pineapple juice and a bit of ginger beer for a non-alcoholic rendezvous. You can also try adding the flavor of grapefruit to holiday bread loaves as a surprising alternative to the typical lemon-essenced bread slice. It isn't traditional, but trust us, once you try a few of these ideas, we may be able to convince you that grapefruit is more than just a bitter citrus fruit. It makes for a very sweet infusion when it comes to desserts and drinks!

11. Plums

Most of us know the tune of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies," even if we don't know it by name. Sugar plums, or plums in general, are often synonymous with Christmas, so why not make it a part of your holiday feast this year? We realize that not every family will have grown up eating plums for Christmas, especially when it comes to "sugar" plums. However, after eyeballing the recipe for sugar plums, we realize how quick and easy these are to pull together and how they definitely seem worth trying out.

All you really need to make sugar plums are prunes (i.e., dried plums), a handful of other dried fruits (like apricots, dates, and cranberries), a variety of warming spices, walnuts, sugar, and a few other minor ingredients. Process everything except for the sugar before forming into small balls and rolling them into the sugar for coating. The results are the perfect bite-sized sugar plums that'll keep you humming that age-old tune for the rest of the night!

12. Apricots

Fruit cakes are often associated with the Christmas season, seemingly with as many people maligning them as people loving them. Either way, apricot often plays a role in making fruit cake special, along with other yummy dried fruits, which make this festive pick of fruit worthy of its mention.

Though apricots are most commonly found to be in season in the summer, this is one of those fruits you can get your hands on dried, making it perfect for use during the winter months. Outside of fruitcakes, you could also consider using apricot jam to make Christmastime rugelachs, which are small pastries made with cream cheese and rolled with nuts and jam. Yes, we know using apricots for Christmas isn't quite a no-brainer like some of the others, but we think their distinct qualities make them a good candidate for adding surprising flavor to the holiday season. Try it once, and see what you think!

13. Pomegranates

There are so many ways to use pomegranates for the winter season! The deep red hue of this fruit, coupled with its robust flavor, has us looking for all the ways we can possibly incorporate this healthy grab into our holiday meals. One really cool way we've seen pomegranate used for the holidays is making Christmas pomegranate punch. The punch consists of cranberry juice, orange juice, pomegranate juice, liquor, ginger beer, and a variety of spices. The results are a deeply satisfying, rich flavor that puts a deliciously mature spin on otherwise traditional holiday flavors.

In addition to making pomegranate punch, you may consider adding pomegranate to Christmas cakes or salads. If you like fruit in your salad, you can add a bit of mandarin along with pomegranate, pecans, and feta for interesting flavors that play off of one another in a cheerful way. As for pomegranate cake, celebrity chef Natasha Kravchuk takes a yummy advantage of pomegranates in dessert by creating a pomegranate cake that will likely end up being the star of the holiday meal. All in all, pomegranate can be used in a variety of ways to complement your holiday spread and make it that much more delicious. Yum!


In order to put together this piece, we consulted home chef and celebrity chef recipes, and even utilized our own experience to inspire you with a variety of ways to use festive fruits this holiday season.