Traditional Irish plum pudding recipe for Christmas (2024)

An Irish plum pudding recipe for Christmas inspired by counties Clare, Donegal, and Dublin!

Plum pudding is the essence of Christmas in Ireland and no one can ever make it like one's own dear mother, but here's a recipe that's a little bit Clare and a little bit Donegal, with some Dublin thrown in for good measure.

There are many traditions and superstitions surrounding the Christmas pudding. Some traditions say to make the pudding by the 25th Sunday after Trinity, with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples. Every member of the family is to take a turn stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon from east to west, in honor of the three kings.

It is said that setting the brandy aflame represents Christ’s passion. A sprig of holly as the garnish is a reminder if His ‘Crown of Thorns.’ Holly supposedly brought good luck and had special healing powers. It was often planted near houses in the belief that it protected the inhabitants.

Some families add coins to the pudding for luck. Everyone then stirs the pudding and makes a wish. Those who get the coins in their serving get wealth, health, happiness, and their wish will come true. Some people even add gold rings to the mix to indicate the finder will get married in the coming year.

A tradition that died out due to its depressing nature was the addition of thimbles or buttons to the pudding. This signaled that the finder would remain a spinster or bachelor forever, the loser slice if you will!

Traditional Irish Christmas plum pudding recipe

Ingredients:

  • 10 eggs
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 4 ounces chopped almond pieces
  • 1 grated apple
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • 1 medium carrot, grated (this optional ingredient probably crept into the recipe during WWII when fruits were in short supply)
  • Rind and juice of an orange and a lemon
  • 3 pounds raisins, use some currants, some yellow, and some sultanas. The more variety in fruits, the better the pudding.
  • 8 ounces candied cherries or natural dried cherries
  • 24 ounces breadcrumbs
  • 12 ounces candied peel (candied pineapple chunks, citron, mixed peel)
  • 1 pint of Guinness
  • 5 tablespoons of hard liquor
  • 1 pound butter or finely minced suet if preferred

Method:

  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub the raisins and other fruits with the flour and spices. The flour adheres to the stickiness of the fruits and gives the pud a nice even texture.
  • Cut the butter into fine pieces and mix well with the dry ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the liquid ingredients. When the liquids have been well stirred, add them to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix all together very well.
  • The batter should be a bit loose, a little thicker than a cake mix. If it’s dry like bread dough, add more Guinness.
  • My mother would grease a big square of unbleached muslin and pour the pudding into this, tying off the top with string. In these modern times, heat-proof bowls are an acceptable substitute for the cloth bag method ... and much easier.
  • Line the bowl with parchment paper; fill to within an inch of the top of the bowl. Cover the batter with parchment paper and use a lid for steaming. Sealing the top of the bowl with foil will work if there is no self-lid for the bowl.
  • Fill the pot in which you are steaming the pudding to just below the top of the pudding bowl and gently boil for at least 12 hours. I use the slow cooker for this and it works very well. Depending on the size of the bowls used, you may get about three puddings from this recipe. I triple it and get at least a dozen quart-sized puddings. (Big family!)
  • When the pudding has cooled, remove it from the bowl, dribble brandy (or any other whiskey-type stuff) over the top of it, letting as much sink in as possible.
  • Seal the puddings in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. (Don’t let the aluminum touch the pudding as there is a reaction that dulls the foil and I suspect this is not good for the pud or the people eating it.)
  • Let it sit for as long as possible before serving. Three or four months is not too long. Occasionally dribble the pudding with a shot of the spirit of your choice: brandy, whiskey, bourbon, etc.
  • Traditionally, the pudding was steamed again for an hour before serving. There are two possible methods: Remove the wrapping, return the pudding to the original bowl, and steam again for an hour.
  • Turn it out on a heat-proof serving plate and proceed to the lighting process that follows the brandy butter recipe or unwrap the pudding, place it on the serving platter, and microwave for 10 minutes at 50 percent power. The microwave method, though obviously not traditional, works exceptionally well, and has become traditional in my family!

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Brandy Butter (Hard Sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup brandy (or whiskey, Irish or otherwise)

Method:

  • Soften butter. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until it’s fluffy.
  • Slowly add an equal amount or more of confectioner's sugar. You will see that the mixture changes in texture.
  • Slowly add the brandy after this textural change in the sugar/butter blend. Beat further until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
  • Spoon the brandy butter into serving dishes and chill until firm. When turning the mixture into the serving dish, finish off the top by swirling it into a circular pattern with the bottom of the spoon for a decorative effect.
  • Garnish everything with holly in berry if you have it.

Lighting the plum pudding

To light the plum pudding, pour a generous cup of Christian Brothers Brandy (none other!) on top. There’ll be a little puddle on the plate. That should light pretty easily and the blue flames will creep up the sides.

Douse the lights in the dining room to bring in the pudding to the acclaim of all at the table. Don’t be disappointed if the flame is out quickly. That’s how it goes.

I have no idea or wish to know the carb count of this wonderful traditional food. Save one pudding for New Year’s Day dinner if you can. Leftover pudding is generally fried in a little butter in a cast-iron pan the next day. Microwaving works just fine too, but will not please any Luddites at the table.

AND FINALLY…

Riding the favorite at Cheltenham, a jockey was well ahead of the field. Suddenly, he was hit on the head by a turkey and a string of sausages.

He managed to keep control of his mount and pulled back into the lead, only to be struck by a box of Christmas crackers and a dozen mince pies as he went over the last fence.

With great skill, he managed to steer the horse to the front of the field once more when, on the run-in, he was struck on the head by a bottle of sherry and a Christmas pudding.

Thus distracted, he succeeded in coming only second. He immediately went to the stewards to complain that he had been seriously hampered.

* Originally published in 2011. Updated in 2023.

What are your favorite Christmas recipes?

Traditional Irish plum pudding recipe for Christmas (2024)

FAQs

What was the original Christmas pudding? ›

The pudding we know today began life as a pottage. This was a kind of broth, including raisins and other dried fruit, spices and wine. It was thickened with breadcrumbs or ground almonds. Not dissimilar to the mince pies of yesteryear, it often included meat or at least meat stock.

What are the 13 ingredients in Christmas pudding? ›

According to tradition, Christmas Pudding is made from a total of 13 ingredients: raisins, currants, flour, suet, eggs, brown sugar, bread crumbs, citron, lemon peel, orange peel, mixed spices, milk, and brandy.

What is inside the traditional Christmas pudding you can find? ›

For a long time it's been common practice to include silver Christmas pudding coins, charms or tokens into Christmas pudding. Finding a Christmas coin in your slice of pudding is believed to bring good luck and especially wealth in the coming year.

What's the difference between plum pudding and Christmas pudding? ›

Why is Christmas pudding also known as plum pudding? The interesting thing is, plum pudding does not contain any plum! This goes back to the Victorian practice of substituting dried plums with other dried fruits, such as raisins.

Why was the Christmas pudding banned during history? ›

By the mid-1600s, plum pudding was sufficiently associated with Christmas that when Oliver Cromwell came to power in 1647 he had it banned, along with Yule logs, carol-singing and nativity scenes. To Cromwell and his Puritan associates, such merry-making smacked of Druidic paganism and Roman Catholic idolatry.

What is the most expensive Christmas pudding ever? ›

A luxury website in the UK has started selling the world's most expensive Christmas pudding for a staggering $37,000 (£23,000).

Is figgy pudding and plum pudding the same? ›

Figgy pudding — also known as plum pudding or Christmas pudding — is a staple of the British Christmas table, she says.

What alcohol is poured on Christmas pudding? ›

Douse the pudding

Pour the lit brandy over the top of your Christmas pudding – the flames will transfer and – voilà! – a spectacularly festive flaming pud.

What is Victorian Christmas pudding made of? ›

A pound and a quarter of flour, fourteen ounces of suet, a pound and a quarter of stoned raisins, four ounces of currants, five of sugar, a quarter-pound of potatoes smoothly mashed, half a nutmeg, a quarter-teaspoonful of ginger, the same of salt, and of cloves in powder: mix these ingredients thoroughly, add four ...

What is traditional plum pudding made from? ›

It has its origins in medieval England, with early recipes making use of dried fruit, suet, breadcrumbs, flour, eggs and spice, along with liquid such as milk or fortified wine.

What is the white stuff on Christmas pudding? ›

The is the all-time classic sauce to slather over the traditional Christmas Pudding is a brandy sauce. A pudding already will have either brandy or rum in it depending on your taste, so a splash added to a lovely white sauce becomes a perfect partner.

Which supermarket has the best Christmas puddings? ›

  • King George Christmas Pudding, 1.36kg. ...
  • George's Classic Christmas Pudding. ...
  • M&S Collection Christmas Pudding 12-Month Matured. ...
  • No. ...
  • Asda Extra Special 12-Month Matured Luxury Christmas Pudding 400g. ...
  • Morrisons The Best 18 Month Matured Christmas Pudding. ...
  • Specially Selected Sticky Toffee Christmas Pudding 800g.
Nov 30, 2023

What is the button in the plum pudding? ›

Bachelor's Button: If a single man found it, they would be stay single for the following year. Spinster's/Old Maid's Thimble: If a single woman found it, they would be stay single for the following year. A Ring: If a single person found this, it meant you will get married in the following year!

Can I use butter instead of suet in Christmas pudding? ›

If you or someone in your family is a vegetarian and doesn't want to eat suet, look for a recipe that uses butter or margarine instead, such as this recipe for individual Christmas puddings.

What is a fun fact about Christmas pudding? ›

It is believed that a Christmas pudding must contain thirteen ingredients. These ingredients each represent Jesus and each of his twelve disciples. Traditionally, brandy is poured over the Christmas pudding and set aflame before serving. The flames are believed to represent Christ's passion.

What is Christmas pudding called in the USA? ›

It's also been called plum pudding or figgy pudding, which we know from songs, but what is it, exactly? It's nothing like what Americans call pudding, which is a custard of milk and eggs with flavoring. It's closer to fruitcake, although there's no cake in it, and it's boiled instead of baked.

What is the famous British Christmas pudding? ›

Known initially as Pottage, it has also been called Plum Pudding, Figgy Pudding, and Frumenty. Traditionally, Christmas Pudding is served with a healthy drizzle of thick, delicious brandy sauce, which makes this dessert even more indulgent.

What do Americans call Christmas pudding? ›

First off, the English term “pudding” can refer to just about any “dessert”, though “Christmas pudding” is a specific type of dessert, that an American is more likely to call an extreme variant of a “soaked cake” or “brandy cake”.

What was pudding originally made of? ›

The original pudding was formed by mixing various ingredients with a grain product or other binder such as butter, flour, cereal, eggs, and/or suet, resulting in a solid mass.

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