The Best Food Vacations And Holiday Recipes Around The World

Trying A Country's Holiday Food Is The Best Way To Experience Its Culture.

By Eben Diskin | Published on June 21, 2023


In the U.S., the holiday season might as well be called "calorie season." The holidays are an excuse to gather with family and friends, enjoy well-earned time off, or go on a vacation, but they're also an excuse to indulge in a cornucopia of turkey, ham, potatoes, biscuits and cookies. And don't even get me started on the pie.

Food is equally important in the holiday celebrations of cultures around the world. The best food vacations are those that expose you not only to another country's cuisine but also to its holiday traditions, which often go hand in hand. Diving into the holiday food culture of an unfamiliar place is a surefire way to get intimately acquainted with its people, culinary history and celebratory traditions.

From South America to Asia, these are the best places to visit for foodies around the world — and the holiday recipes you need to try.

1. Traditional African Recipes

Jollof Rice

In West Africa, Christmas is all about rice. The region consists of 16 countries ranging from Senegal to Cameroon, and while much differentiates these countries from each other, there's one unifying factor during Christmas: jollof rice.

One of the most traditional African recipes in the region around Christmas, jollof is made by cooking rice in tomato soup and is often prepared with chicken and gravy and served with a side of fried plantains. Fried chicken — or sometimes beef and mutton — can also be added.


In Muslim North African countries, like Morocco and Algeria, tajine is a time-honored culinary staple. Named after the pot used during the cooking process, tajine is a slow-cooked stew that typically consists of lamb or beef, vegetables and fruits, like apricots and plums. It's usually served with potatoes and couscous.

North Africa is one of the best places for foodies to visit around April, when the Muslim holiday of Eid takes place and when tajine is most traditionally served.

South African Bobotie

One of the best food vacations you could take on the African continent is to South Africa, where bobotie is on the menu. South African bobotie consists of ground beef or lamb seasoned with apple, onions, soaked milk bread, almonds, raisins and lemon juice. The ingredients are mixed together and roasted in the oven with bay leaves.

2. Traditional Asian Recipes


Dumplings are one of the most traditional Asian recipes, even outside of the holiday season. While eaten year-round, dumplings have a special significance on the holidays in northern China.

According to tradition, on a cold winter's day in the second century A.D., physician Zhang Zhongjing made dumpling soup to distribute to the poor suffering chill burns on their ears to keep them warm. The winter tradition has remained, with dumplings shaped like ears and wrapped with chili, mutton and herbs.

Beef Bulgogi

In South Korea, Christmas is a potluck-style family affair with everyone bringing something different. At the heart of it all, though, is usually a mouth-watering beef bulgogi, a dish dating back to the seventh century.

Beef bulgogi is often made from marinated strips of barbecued beef and accompanied by side dishes, including sweet potato noodles and kimchi (pickled cabbage). The meal is capped off with a Christmas cake — not a sweet cake but one made with steamed rice and adorned with fruit.

Fried Chicken

Since only a small percentage of Japanese citizens celebrate Christmas, the holiday has become highly commercialized. Instead of preparing an elaborate meal, many simply choose to indulge in a fast food staple well known to westerners: fried chicken. But not just any fried chicken. We're talking about KFC — the standard-bearer for fried fast food.

In 1974, KFC launched a "Kentucky for Christmas" campaign in Japan to make foreigners feel more at home, though now millions of people in Japan have adopted the tradition for themselves. The KFC Christmas dinner package includes fried chicken, salad, chocolate cake and a drink.

3. Traditional South America Recipes


Tamales are enjoyed in South America year-round but especially around Christmas in countries like Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. Made from masa and pre-cooked meat, pressed together and steamed in corn husks, tamales are a classic South American Christmas tradition. Since they're a bit time-consuming to actually prepare, making them often becomes a fun family activity.


One of the most traditional South American recipes in the Caribbean, tostones are popular in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Often eaten during the holiday season as an appetizer with guacamole dip, tostones are sliced plantains fried once, smashed with a spoon and then fried again. The crispy, golden and sweet treat is often served with garlic sauce and pico de gallo.


None of the best food vacations in South America would be complete without a glass of coquito, which translates to "little coconut." An alcoholic mixed drink similar to eggnog, coquitos originated in Puerto Rico and are made with spiced rum, coconut milk, cream of coconut, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.

4. Traditional European Recipes

Vanocni Cukrovi

Traditional European recipes for the holidays are as varied and diverse as the countries comprising the continent itself. In the Czech Republic, nothing says Christmas like vanocni cukrovi — a delicious cookie made with two iced shortbread biscuits and jam in the middle. They're usually cut into Christmas-themed shapes, like snowflakes or stars, and a wide variety of jams can be used.

Creamy Rice Pudding

Thanks to its rice pudding, Denmark is one of the best food destinations in Europe around the holidays. A Christmas staple, creamy rice pudding is a cold pudding with whipped cream and chopped almonds topped with cherry sauce. The pudding is traditionally served in a large bowl with a single whole almond hidden somewhere in the pudding. Whoever gets the almond gets a gift, known as the "almond present."

The Julbord Smörgåsbord

Sweden is one of the best food destinations for travelers looking for sheer quantity. The Swedish smörgåsbord — a buffet-style meal of various dishes — is legendary, but the Christmas smörgåsbord, called a julbord, is on a whole different level.

Consisting mainly of pickled herring, cured salmon and meatballs, the julbord smörgåsbord also features a potato-anchovy casserole, white fish, rice porridge and Christmas ham. Julmust — a non-alcoholic sweet root drink — is also a must.

Interested in experiencing some of the best food vacations in the world? Check out the Ultimate World Cruise, a 274-night cruise that visits more than 60 countries.


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