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10 Desserts From Around the World to Try This Holiday Season

There’s more to holiday baking than gingerbread and fruit cake.

Most years you arrive at your family’s home for the holidays, and there on the table is the same plate of cookies as the year before. We’d never bash a classic chocolate chip or sugar cookie, but tradition can be seen somewhere other than repeat sweets–it’s OK to admit you’re tired of the basic holiday desserts.

This holiday season, allow your baking to be influenced by places far from home. Create a spread for the travels you wished you’d had this year, and (if done right) could just inspire the next year’s vacation.

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Mince Pie

WHERE: England

These once savory pies were invented over 500 years ago in England with the original intent of preserving meat. Now this dish, looking a bit different from the one created half a millennium ago, is a Christmas tradition. Today’s pie is filled with mincemeat, a combination of dried fruit, spices, brandy, and (sometimes) a little meat. The pie crust, both buttery and flaky, holds in and perfectly accompanies the warm filling. If you’re interested in tasting a piece of British history (as well as a Christmas classic), this recipe by The Spruce Eats takes you through the pie creation step by step. Yes, you’ll be making the pastry from scratch. Yes, it will be worth it.

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WHERE: Mexico

While the rosca de reyes (king’s cake) is the traditional King’s Day dessert, buñuelos are another popular sweet served in Mexico during the holidays. Buñuelos are everything you could want: sweet dough deep-fried and then covered in sugar and cinnamon. Not only is this dish delicious, it calls for very few ingredients, making it the perfect “in a pinch” dessert. Serve this fried fritter with a mug of Mexican hot chocolate and you’ve got yourself a perfectly cozy holiday night.

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WHERE: Italy

When it comes to food, Italy never disappoints—from impeccable coffee to pastas to, now, holiday desserts. Though the panettone is the dessert most often associated with the holidays in Italy, we believe it’s the pandoro that deserves some attention (and your baking expertise). This star-shaped sweet bread is a perfect way to finish a holiday dinner, and an equally good breakfast sweet the next morning. While this dish is traditionally topped with powdered sugar, which we don’t recommend skipping, there’s no reason you can’t add a heaping scoop of fresh whipped cream to round this Italian dessert out.

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WHERE: Multiple Countries

At the end of Ramadan comes Eid al-Fitr, also known as “The Festival of Breaking the Fast.” During this time, it’s likely you’ll find yourself enjoying ma’amoul, a date-filled cookie popular in the Middle East. These cookies are synonymous with festivities and celebration, making them the perfect addition to your classic holiday repertoire. Amira of Amira’s Pantry takes you through the ma’amoul baking process, making a dessert that’s difficult in theory seem like a walk in the park.

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Chocolate Bûche de Noël

WHERE: France

While yule logs might be enjoyed around the world, this Christmas dessert got its start in France. The chocolate bûche de Noël is one of France’s most iconic holiday desserts—a chocolate flourless cake taking on the titular log-shape. If you’re looking to impress (and please) this holiday season, we’d recommend taking on this challenge. While creating a yule log both delicious and aesthetically pleasing is not for the feign of heart, with this video tutorial and ample time (thanks pandemic), we think you’re more than capable.

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WHERE: Germany

If the closure of your favorite Christkindlmarket left a dessert-sized hole in your heart this holiday season, fill it with the traditional German Christstollen. A holiday sweet bread, the stollen dates back over 550 years—yet another opportunity to learn about another culture’s history while also indulging in it. Stollen is filled with dried and candied fruits as well as nuts, giving the otherwise heavy bread a nice variation when it comes to taste and texture.

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Om Ali

WHERE: Egypt

This isn’t just a favorite dessert in Egypt, it’s the country’s national dessert. The Om Ali is, as food blogger Tasbih (Cleobuttera) puts it, Egyptian bread pudding. This traditional dessert is composed of just about everything you could want in a dessert—it’s both sweet and nutty and, once topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream, the creamiest way to end a meal. To try your hand at the Om Ali this holiday season follow this recipe–it might very well replace the cookie exchange.

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WHERE: Spain

Around the holidays, sweet shops and markets across Spain will fill with a variety of different turróns, a delicious and sweet nougat candy. To spice up your holiday spread this year, try your hand at this simple candy creation, which (lucky for your wallet and amateur bakers alike) only consists of three ingredients. And if you find that you’ve mastered and loved this harder turrón, you can always add to the spread, trying the Jijona version, a softer variety of that same candy.

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WHERE: Israel

Originating in Israel, the Sufganiyot—a jelly donut of sorts topped with powdered sugar—is a traditional Hanukkah dessert made and eaten to remember the miracle of the temple oil. Sufganiyots are warm and sweet but present a bit of a challenge for those who have yet to master instant-yeast. If you’re looking to try your hand at this Israeli staple, Jenn Segal at Once Upon a Chef perfectly demonstrates how to make a perfectly fluffy Sufganiyot, taking you through the process, from rising your dough to frying the balls.

10 OF 10

Ci Ba

WHERE: China

When celebrating the Lunar New Year in China, sticky rice cakes grace the tables of homes across the nation. The dessert is both traditional and delicious, and this brown sugar ci ba, a Sichuan style sticky rice, masterfully combines what people love about the original dessert with a sweetness from the brown sugar syrup that makes it irresistible.