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Japanese Christmas Food (+10 Recipes To Try)

A collage of Japanese Christmas foods.

Who doesn’t love Christmas? The jingling bells, the twinkling lights, the snow-capped trees, carols and of course, the ample amount of yummy festive foods. Japanese people are very fond of Western culture and have been adapting many Western traditions into their own for years. This includes the celebration of Christmas. Many Japanese dishes are modified to be more Western in appearance or taste. Furthermore, Japanese people love being creative with food, so you’ll see a lot of interesting innovations this time of year! We’re about to share some amazing examples that you need to know if you want to impress your friends when they visit on Christmas!

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Why Try Japanese Christmas Food Over Holiday Season?

Japanese Christmas traditions may sound a little unconventional to people from many Western cultures. However, it is one of those countries that do a wonderful job of incorporating traditional Japanese food with the best of Western recipes to create a true festive spirit for everyone to enjoy over the Christmas season. So why not have a beautifully tasty eclectic Christmas table this year? We call it, the Japanese style!

  • You will find anything from Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza to traditional Japanese Christmas food on a festive table.
  • Some dishes will be lovingly prepared at home, whilst others will be delivered to you from one of the nation’s favourite fast food chains – you guessed it – it’s KFC!
  • Trying some new recipes from the Japanese culture will open up your culinary horizons and you may just find some of your new favourite recipes to enjoy over the Christmas holidays!
  • You will finish your Christmas day meal with a fresher and lighter Japanese Christmas Cake that is similar to a Strawberry Shortcake. Let’s be honest, we are always too full for a heavy British-style Christmas cake or a chocolate yule log after a big meal, anyway!

So let’s see what one of the most decadent holiday feasts looks like in Japan.

Fried chicken in a red basket.
Copycat KFC Chicken by The Good-Hearted Woman

KFC Chicken

The most well-known Japanese Christmas tradition is enjoying a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken over the Christmas period. Yes, you read that right! This fast-food chain has been popular over the holiday season in Japan since 1970s! And nowadays people even pre-order their American-style chicken dinners in advance! Possibly due to a smart advertising campaign by Takeshi Okawara for KFC Japan (with a tagline saying: Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!) running in the country year after year, fried chicken has become one of the greatest Japanese Christmas traditions.

But don’t be fooled – it’s not just an ordinary bucket of chicken. Today, KFC meals come in special family meal-sized boxes that include other Western staples, like cornbread, Christmas cake and even champagne.

But if you don’t fancy making a trip to KFC, here are some lovely copycat recipes that you can make to get you in Christmas Spirit Japanese style.

Pizza

Having learnt from KFC Japan, many Western fast-food chains followed in its footsteps with the aim to popularize their own foods in Japan at Christmas. Pizza Hut and Domino’s are now offering special Christmas-themed pizzas for the Japanese people to enjoy over the winter season, and they are proving very popular. Typically prepared with Western-style Christmas toppings, like roast chicken, vegetables and even Camembert cheese, pizza is becoming an increasingly more common dish served on Christmas day. It seems that traditional American Christmas food is becoming more popular over Christmas every year!

If you are looking to make some Christmas-themed pizzas, this year, here are some of our favourite recipes:

Christmas-themed Fig & Ham Pizza on a wooden chopping board.

Roast Chicken

Roasted chicken is an easy-to-make and popular Western-inspired dish that can be served with a variety of side dishes. Japanese Roasted chicken is usually made with soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine), but you can also find many other variations. We are absolutely in love with Japanese 7 spice-flavoured roast chicken for Christmas, so if you’re looking to substitute your traditional Turkey or Goose with a smaller bird this year, there’s nothing better than this Japanese Roast Chicken recipe by Better Homes & Gardens.

Chanmery

Known as a children’s party drink, Chanmery (a playful name made up of two works: ‘Christmas’ and ‘Merry’) is a non-alcoholic drink served alongside Christmas meals in Japan. A great alternative to Champagne, it is a go-to drink for children and adults alike at Christmas parties. It typically comes in a champagne bottle and has a festive red or pink colour. It is actually really easy to make at home (recipe coming soon)!

Chanmery served in champagne flutes with a garnish of lemon zest.

Wagashi

Wagashi are small, sweet treats that are Japan’s answer to Western gingerbread or European-style Christmas cookies. Made with mochi and adzuki bean paste, these cookies are prepared in various festive shapes (like Santa Claus hats, Christmas trees or holly leaves) and are typically colourfully decorated. These cookies are sometimes so pretty to look at, that they act as Christmas decorations as well as treats!

Potato Salad

Whilst Japanese Potato Salad is enjoyed all year round, it is particularly popular over Christmas time. Japanese families who cook their special Christmas dinner at home often make a Potato Salad to go along with the main course of chicken, roast turkey, roast beef or other meat dishes. It is argued that the tradition to serve Potato Salad over Christmas came from Germany, where a version of potato salad is typically enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Cake (Kurisumasu Keki)

Traditional Christmas Cake in Japan is not what many in the West are accustomed to. An unseasonably fresh and summery strawberry shortcake is a popular Japanese cake that is often served on Christmas. It is a sponge cake made with eggs, sugar, and fruit. The cake is then frosted with whipped cream and decorated with red strawberries.

A slice of Japanese Strawberry Shortcake on a white plate.
A Beautiful Japanese Christmas Cake from Drive Me Hungry

Kurisumasu Keki is not a traditional Japanese dessert but was introduced by the American government after the Second World War. At the time, the Japanese government encouraged people to consume more dairy products, so they advertised Christmas cake as a healthy and delicious cake option. The strawberry sponge cake quickly grew in popularity and has since become a staple at Christmas celebrations in Japan.

If you fancy a lighter and fresher dessert to enjoy after your filling Christmas dinner, this year, Japanese Christmas Cake is just the thing to make. Here are some of our favourite recipes for you to try:

A fully assembled and decorated Japanese Christmas cake with strawberries on a white marble platter.
What a picture-perfect Strawberry Shortcake from Catherine Zhang!

Bottom Line

Christmas is a time to celebrate and be joyful, and Japanese people love to celebrate this holiday with delicious food. To do this, they’ve adopted many Western traditions, such as serving recipes from the United States, and continental Europe! So if you want to get into the Christmas spirit, try out some of these foods! They’re sure to put you in a festive mood, and your friends and family will be impressed with your knowledge of Japanese food! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Other Christmas Recipes From Around The World

If you are going around the world by taking yourself on a culinary journey, we have you covered for some wonderful Christmas dishes from around the globe:

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