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25 Christmas Japanese Food Ideas: What do Japanese eat for Christmas?

japanese christmas foods

Curious about Christmas in Japan? Despite its non-Christian history, Japan has adopted certain Christmas traditions, largely for commercial reasons. From its origins in 1552 to a 1612 ban, and the revival in 1873, Christmas in Japan took a unique path. Thanks to clever marketing, the holiday has become ingrained in Japanese culture. Embark on a culinary journey with Japan With Love to uncover the delightful array of the 25 Christmas Japanese Food Ideas & What do japanese eat for Christmas?

1. Christmas Japanese Food: Suggestion 6 Main Dishes

Explore a variety of Christmas dinner main dishes, ranging from simple to elaborate, featuring 6 suggested options.

1.1. Fried chicken (唐揚げ)

The first dish to answer the question what do Japanese eat for Christmas is fried chicken. In Japan, turkey is scarce, so Christmas is synonymous with chicken. The tradition began in the 1970s when KFC introduced Christmas chicken deals. Consequently, dishes like kara-age, teriyaki chicken, or fried chicken have become popular Christmas alternatives.

The Christmas chicken tradition in Japan is largely attributed to KFC's successful 1970s marketing campaign. Initially sparked by an expat ordering a large amount of chicken for a Christmas party, the idea evolved into KFC's "Kentucky for Christmas" (クリスマスはケンタッキー) campaign in 1974, creating a new holiday tradition. Today, KFC outlets in bustling locations experience long queues on Christmas Eve, with customers advised to pre-order online or in-store to secure their festive chicken feast.

This traditional Japanese Christmas Food is credited to KFC's successful 1970s marketing campaign, "Kentucky for Christmas" (クリスマスはケンタッキー)
This traditional Japanese Christmas Food is credited to KFC's successful 1970s marketing campaign, "Kentucky for Christmas" (クリスマスはケンタッキー)

1.2. Pizza

Another of the 25 Japanese Christmas Foods is Pizza, which has become a popular choice for Christmas celebrations in Japan, often ordered and enjoyed on the festive day. With KFC dominating the Christmas scene, other fast-food outlets, including Pizza Hut, Pizza-La, and Domino's, have seized the opportunity to capitalize on the holiday's growing popularity.

Japan's pizza industry actively promotes pizza as an alternative Christmas dinner, leveraging its association with party food. Special Christmas and winter menus feature toppings like roast chicken, vegetables, roast beef, as well as gourmet options like camembert cheese and truffles. The trend includes "quattro" pizzas, with each quarter offering a different flavor and topping combination. Recognizing the Japanese preference for chicken during Christmas, many pizza places introduce seasonal chicken dishes. Notably, Pizza Hut has partnered with KFC in the past to offer a Christmas combo pack comprising pizza and KFC chicken.

Pizza has become a go-to choice for Christmas celebrations in Japan
Pizza has become a go-to choice for Christmas celebrations in Japan

1.3. Chirashizushi (ちらし寿司)

Chirashizushi is a traditional Christmas Japanese Food, often enjoyed during New Year's celebrations, featuring a bed of sushi rice topped with colorful ingredients like raw fish, vegetables, and pickles. It symbolizes good fortune and happiness, making it a popular choice for festive occasions in Japan.

New Year's joy on a plate; symbol of good fortune

New Year's joy on a plate; symbol of good fortune

1.4. Cream stew (クリームシチュ)

Cream stew, a beloved Yōshoku dish in Japan, features meat, typically chicken or pork, and a medley of vegetables like onion, carrot, potato, and cabbage, all cooked in a rich white roux. Widely regarded as a winter dish, cream stew is cherished for its warmth, making it a fitting choice for Christmas. Despite its Western origins, it has become a popular Christmas meal in Japan.

This hearty and comforting dish is ideal for cold winter nights, making it the perfect option for a festive Christmas Eve. The tender chicken or pork, enveloped in a creamy roux, combines with earthy mushrooms and fresh vegetables, creating a satisfying and joyous meal. A delicious and hearty feast ensures a merry and contented holiday celebration. You can consider choosing this Christmas Japanese Food for your family's Christmas party.

Symbolizing good fortune, it's a popular choice for festive occasions in Japan
Symbolizing good fortune, it's a popular choice for festive occasions in Japan

1.5. Tonkatsu (とんかつ)

Tonkatsu is a classic Japanese Food at Christmas featuring deep-fried pork cutlets coated in panko breadcrumbs. Served with shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, it's a popular comfort food in Japan, often enjoyed with rice and miso soup.

Tonkatsu is a popular dish in Japan, and variations may include katsu curry, where the tonkatsu is served with Japanese curry, and katsudon, where the tonkatsu is placed on a bowl of rice and topped with egg and condiments.

Tonkatsu is a classic Japanese dish featuring deep-fried pork cutlets coated in panko breadcrumbs
Tonkatsu is a classic Japanese dish featuring deep-fried pork cutlets coated in panko breadcrumbs

1.6. Ginger Pork (豚の生姜焼き)

While Ginger Pork (Shogayaki) is not specifically associated with Christmas in Japan, it is a popular and flavorful dish that can be enjoyed during the festive season. Shogayaki is made by thinly slicing pork and marinating it in a soy-based sauce with ginger, garlic, and mirin before being stir-fried.

The dish has a delightful balance of sweet and savory flavors, with the warmth of ginger enhancing the overall taste. While not a traditional Christmas dish, Ginger Pork is a versatile and well-loved option in Japanese cuisine that can be served on special occasions, including Christmas celebrations. It pairs well with steamed rice and vegetables, making it a satisfying and festive meal choice.

Ginger Pork (Shogayaki) is a popular and flavorful dish in Japan
Ginger Pork (Shogayaki) is a popular and flavorful dish in Japan

2. Christmas Japanese Food: Suggestion 10 Side Dishes

Enhance your Christmas Japanese Food experience with a selection of essential side dishes. Indulge in these 10 must-try Japanese foods.

2.1. Korokke (コロッケ)

Korokke are Japanese croquettes made with mashed potatoes or ground meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until crispy. They often contain a flavorful filling like minced meat, vegetables, or seafood.

Crispy Japanese croquettes with flavorful fillings
Crispy Japanese croquettes with flavorful fillings

2.2. Tamagoyaki (卵焼き)

Tamagoyaki is a type of Japanese omelet made by rolling together several layers of seasoned beaten eggs. It has a slightly sweet taste and is often served in bite-sized pieces, making it a popular addition to festive meals.

Sweet rolled omelet, perfect for festive bites
Sweet rolled omelet, perfect for festive bites

2.3. Sunomono (酢の物)

Sunomono is a type of vinegared salad typically made with thinly sliced cucumbers, seaweed, and sometimes seafood. It provides a refreshing and tangy contrast to richer dishes often served during Christmas.

Tangy vinegared salad with sliced cucumbers and seaweed
Tangy vinegared salad with sliced cucumbers and seaweed

2.4. Daikon Salad (大根サラダ)

Daikon salad features thinly sliced daikon radish, which is crisp and refreshing. It is often dressed with a soy-based vinaigrette and may include other vegetables, providing a light and crunchy side dish.

Refreshing daikon radish salad with soy vinaigrette
Refreshing daikon radish salad with soy vinaigrette

2.5. Namasu (紅白なます)

Namasu, a pickled delight, involves julienned daikon and carrot. The name "namasu" signifies the traditional red and white hues of its ingredients, bringing a colorful and tangy element to the Christmas table.

Colorful pickled julienned daikon and carrot dish
Colorful pickled julienned daikon and carrot dish

2.6. Tsukemono (漬物)

Tsukemono, Japanese pickles, manifest in various forms, encompassing pickled vegetables like cucumbers, radishes, and plums. Acting as palate cleansers, they provide a crisp and slightly sour component to the meal.

Crisp Japanese pickles, a palate-cleansing delight
Crisp Japanese pickles, a palate-cleansing delight

2.7. Vegetable Tempura (野菜天ぷら)

Vegetable tempura is a sought-after dish featuring a medley of vegetables, including zucchini, green beans, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. Coated in a light batter and deep-fried to perfection, it is often accompanied by a dipping sauce, adding a delightful crunch to Christmas feasts.

Lightly battered and fried veggies for a crunchy treat
Lightly battered and fried veggies for a crunchy treat

2.8. Potato Salad (ポテトサラダ)

Potato salad, a comforting side, incorporates boiled potatoes, chopped boiled eggs, onion, celery, and pickle relish. Mixed with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing, it serves as a refreshing and hearty addition to Christmas meals.

Creamy comfort with boiled potatoes, eggs, and veggies
Creamy comfort with boiled potatoes, eggs, and veggies

2.9. Miso Soup (味噌汁)

Miso soup, a classic Japanese Food at Christmas, combines miso paste, tofu, seaweed, herbs, and dashi broth. Renowned for its health benefits and savory umami flavor, it serves as a versatile side that complements the richness of other Japanese dishes, making it a favored choice during Christmas celebrations.

Classic Japanese soup with miso, tofu, and seaweed
Classic Japanese soup with miso, tofu, and seaweed

2.10. Ganmodoki (がんもどき)

Ganmodoki, or Japanese tofu balls, is a popular fried tofu dish made with tofu, vegetables, and seasoning. It offers a unique texture, crispy on the outside and tender inside, and serves as a versatile vegetarian option in Japanese cuisine. Commonly used as a side dish or in hot pots, it is known for its savory flavor and protein-rich tofu content.

The name "ganmodoki" literally means "pseudo-meat"
The name "ganmodoki" literally means "pseudo-meat"

3. Christmas Japanese Food: Suggestion 4 Desserts

Japanese sweets are less sugary than their American counterparts. Don't dismiss them thinking your sweet tooth won't be satisfied. These desserts often feature abundant fruit and mildly sweet red bean or matcha paste, ensuring a little goes a long way.

3.1. Christmas Cake (クリスマスケーキ)

Christmas Cake is a popular dessert in Japan, often a sponge cake layered with whipped cream and adorned with strawberries. It symbolizes the festive spirit and is widely enjoyed during the holiday season.

A festive Japanese sponge cake adorned beautifully
A festive Japanese sponge cake adorned beautifully

3.2. Yule Log (クリスマスログ)

The Yule Log, known as Christmas Log or "Bûche de Noël," is a rolled sponge cake filled with cream and often decorated to resemble a log. This French-inspired dessert has become a Christmas favorite in Japan.

Sweet rolled cake resembling a winter log
Sweet rolled cake resembling a winter log

3.3. Kuri Kinton (栗きんとん)

Kuri Kinton is a traditional Christmas Japanese Food sweet made from sweet chestnuts. The chestnuts are mashed and sweetened, creating a smooth and sweet paste. This dessert is often enjoyed during the winter season, including Christmas.

Kuri Kinton is one of the best choices for Christmas Japanese Food dessert
Kuri Kinton is one of the best choices for Christmas Japanese Food dessert

3.4. Mochi (もち)

Mochi is a Christmas Japanese Food rice cake made from glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into a sticky, elastic consistency and then molded into various shapes. During Christmas, Mochi is often enjoyed in its plain form or filled with sweet fillings such as red bean paste, strawberries, or ice cream. It is a beloved treat during the holiday season and holds cultural significance in Japanese celebrations.

Glutinous rice cakes, a popular Japanese treat
Glutinous rice cakes, a popular Japanese treat

4. Suggestion 5 Christmas Japanese beverages

During the cold winter season in Japan, especially in the festive spirit of Christmas, the need for warming beverages becomes essential. Explore the joyous holiday atmosphere with these 5 Japanese-style drink ideas that perfectly complement the Christmas celebrations.

4.1 Amazake (甘酒)

Amazake is a sweet rice drink often consumed hot. Made from fermented rice, it has a mild sweetness and is commonly enjoyed during the winter season, including Christmas.

Savor the sweetness of Amazake, a hot rice drink delight
Savor the sweetness of Amazake, a hot rice drink delight

4.2. Sake (酒)

Sake is Japan's traditional rice wine. During Christmas celebrations, it is not uncommon to raise a glass of sake to toast to the festive occasion.

Raise a festive toast with Japan's traditional rice wine, Sake
Raise a festive toast with Japan's traditional rice wine, Sake

4.4. Umeshu (梅酒)

Umeshu is a plum wine that can be a delightful choice during Christmas. Made by steeping green Japanese plums in liquor, it offers a sweet and fruity flavor profile.

Experience the fruity allure of Umeshu, a plum-infused Christmas choice
Experience the fruity allure of Umeshu, a plum-infused Christmas choice

4.4. Matcha Latte (抹茶ラテ)

Matcha Latte is a popular drink that combines green tea (matcha) with steamed milk. Its vibrant green color and rich, earthy taste make it a comforting choice for Christmas gatherings.

Indulge in the comforting blend of Matcha Latte, a Christmas treat
Indulge in the comforting blend of Matcha Latte, a Christmas treat

4.5. Kōcha (紅茶)

Kōcha, or black tea, is often served hot during the chilly Christmas weather. It provides a familiar and comforting option for those who prefer a classic tea choice during the holiday season.

Embrace the classic warmth of Kōcha, black tea for Christmas coziness
Embrace the classic warmth of Kōcha, black tea for Christmas coziness

Wrap up your culinary adventure of the 25 Christmas Japanese Food ideas with Japan With Love! There's so much more to explore, follow Japan With Love for flavorful insights into Japanese cuisine. Let's uncover the secrets of the Japanese Christmas spread together. Merry Christmas!

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