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8 June 2020

Best Christmas pudding

We tasted premium Christmas puddings from leading supermarkets so you can find the tastiest dessert for your Christmas dinner
By Hollie Hennessy

We’ve tasted 13 premium puddings for the December 2019 edition of Which? magazine. 

Christmas puddings on test came from leading supermarkets, including Asda, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and more, along with puds from Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, so you can be sure of the tastiest pudding for your Christmas dinner.

Best Christmas puddings

Our experts only enjoyed one pudding's aroma, appearance, texture and taste of one pudding enough to make it a Best Buy. Aldi's Specially Selected Exquisite Vintage Pudding was the favourite with a score of 76%.

Both Asda and M&S puddings came joint second with a score of 73%. Asda's pudding stood out as great value, though. It's one of the cheapest available and almost half the price of Aldi's Best Buy.

Best Buy Aldi Specially Selected Exquisite Vintage Pudding - 76%

£13/800g (£1.62 per 100g)

Our panel loved that Aldi's premium, zesty pud was packed full of rich fruit and nuts with an orangey kick. All agreed that it had more of a cake-like texture and that it didn't look the most traditional. This didn't detract from its enticing aroma and flavours, though.

Great Value Asda Extra Special 9 Month Matured Luxury Christmas Pudding - 73%

£7/907g (77p per 100g)

The experts described Asda's pudding as a people-pleaser, and it's a bargain at nearly half the price of the Best Buy from Aldi. They thought it was sweet, but not overly so, with nice fruits and a lovely taste - and also mentioned its glossy good looks.

M&S The Collection 18 Month Matured Christmas Pudding - 73%

£14/800g (£1.75 per 100g)

Our experts agreed that this M&S pudding had rich and intense flavours, with a nice hint of booze coming through. Texture-wise, they were a bit divided - it could be too soft and squidgy for some.

Waitrose & Partners Cherry and Almond-Topped Christmas Pudding with Amaretto - 72%

£14/800g (£1.75 per 100g)

This eye-catching pud is topped with a rainbow of juicy cherries; perfect for a celebration. It will be best for those with a sweet tooth, and the fruity, almond texture was enjoyable.

Lidl Deluxe Luxury 24 Month Matured Christmas Pudding - 71%

£12/907g (£1.32 per 100g)

The panel agreed this impressive-looking pudding was juicy, full of fruit... and booze! Some liked the alcohol taste, describing it as 'aged and pleasant', but it could be a touch overpowering.

Co-op Irresistible 18 Month Matured Christmas Pudding - 70%

£3/400g (75p per 100g)

The flavour was a bit hit and miss with this pud, but our experts found the texture particularly impressive. There are generous amounts of fruits and nuts inside, which is fantastic given the price. It was the cheapest pudding on test.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference 18 Month Matured Cognac Laced Christmas Pudding - 70%

£7/450g (£1.56 per 100g)

Most of the experts thought this 'beautiful' pudding tasted as good as it looked, although it perhaps needed more spice and fruit. One said it tasted cheap and was disappointed.

Selfridges Traditional Christmas Pudding - 69%

£16/905g (£1.77 per 100g)

Despite the name, our experts felt this pudding was less 'traditional' than some of the others on test due to its light and spongey texture. One loved the flavour, but was hoping for a little more nuts and spices. So-so overall.

Harrods Decadent Christmas Pudding - 67%

£14/454g (£3.08 per 100g)

A few experts tasted fatty flavours and an unpleasant alcoholic taste, which we heard a few times on the day. Overall, they loved the quality of fruits and nuts in this pudding and noted it was definitely strong on booze.

Fortnum & Mason St James Christmas Pudding - 67%

£13/454g (£2.85 per 100g)

Our panel told us this fiery pudding was interestingly spicy, with a definite ginger kick. However, it wasn't for everyone. One felt it was intriguing, but not for the right reasons, and picked out cheap tasting fruit.

Morrisons The Best Christmas Pudding - 65%

£8/800g (£1.00 per 100g)

This dark, rich pudding was packed with fruit, cherries, almonds and pecans - which the panel liked, despite being a bit too crumbly. One expert thought it was very fatty and a bit oily.

Tesco Finest 12 Month Matured Christmas Pudding - 56%

£5/400g (£1.25 per 100g)

This sorry-looking centrepiece was often described as dry by our experts, despite containing a decent amount of fruit. Some tasted spice, some tasted none - it was 'almost a pudding of two halves'.

Iceland Luxury 12 Month Matured Christmas Pudding - 50%

£4/400g (£1.00 per 100g)

This cheaper pudding didn't impress with its texture - it was soft, spongy and one-dimensional, although one expert did describe it as 'delicate'. Fruit was sparse, small and very currant and sultana heavy.

Table notes: Prices are correct as of November 2019. All puddings are suitable for vegetarians and contain alcohol.

How to get a perfect dome

Christmas puddings always look delectable on the packaging, but getting a neat dome of cake from the plastic tub on to your plate isn't always an easy exercise. If you've ever been left scraping half your pudding from the side, then follow these easy steps to serve.

  1. First up, steaming your pudding is preferable to microwaving - it'll give a much better taste. It might seem like more hassle, but it's surprisingly easy and you won't have to worry about it once it's on the hob (save for checking the water doesn't dry up). It's practically impossible to overcook it this way, whereas the microwave can separate the fat too quickly and you can definitely leave it in for too long.
  2. Almost all of the cooking instructions recommend leaving the pudding to stand for one or more minutes before serving, if you do decide to use the microwave. It's tempting to start serving as soon as possible, particularly when you catch a whiff of the lovely, fruity aroma, but waiting gives the dessert a chance to settle and keep its shape better.
  3. Run a knife around the edge of the pudding to separate it from the basin.
  4. Put a plate over the top of the basin and turn the plate and basin over. Wait a minute or so, or until you feel the pudding come free.
  5. If your pudding comes in a plastic tub and shows no sign of shifting, take a corkscrew and make a hole in the base of the tub. This will allow some of the pressure to escape and you should feel the pudding drop on to the plate in no time.

Best wine pairing for pudding

We asked wine expert Charles Metcalfe what drink was best to serve with a Christmas pudding and here's what he had to say: ‘Any wine partner for this dried-fruit bomb needs to match the high sugar level. But by the time you get to pudding, you may be wined out. Sparkling Asti gives you the right flavours, the right sweetness and it’s usually only 8-9% alcohol.’

Some desserts were boozier than others, so you may want a stronger wine for anyone who's a fan of those flavours.

You can also find out which wines scored highest in our taste tests this year in our best prosecco and sparkling wines and best red wine advice guides.

Serve it with a cocktail or mocktail

Cocktails add (even more) fun and theatre to your Christmas lunch. You can get all the family involved with shaking, stirring and garnishing drinks to serve with your Christmas pudding. Here are our favourite cocktails and mocktails that pair perfectly with Christmas puddings.

  • Espresso Martini Our experts recommend coffee as a pairing for Christmas pudding. For a boozy twist, a traditional Irish coffee works well or an espresso martini.
  • Spicy cocktails Anything with ginger is ideal, as the firey taste will blend well with the spices in your pudding. Go for some ginger wine, or ginger beer. You can make this into more of a mocktail by rubbing fresh ginger around the inside of your glass (filled with ice), before pouring in the ginger beer. Then garnish with fresh slices or grated ginger.
  • Brandy Alexander Try a brandy alexander cocktail by  mixing one part fresh cream, one part brandy and one part creme de cacao. Sprinkling some freshly ground nutmeg on top is delicious.
  • Negroni Don't limit negroni to the summer; its orangey tang makes it perfect with Christmas pudding. Make your own by stirring together one part gin, one part vermouth rosso and one part campari over ice. Garnish with a slice or some orange peel.
  • Mulled Cider A mulled cider will go better with a Christmas pudding than mulled wine. Our experts suggested heating cider with spices. Also add brandy and (surprisingly) butter when you heat it- it'll give your drink more depth.

How to make Christmas pudding vodka

This year, we cooked more than eight kilos of premium puds for our taste tests - and you might wonder what happens to the leftovers. Two of our expert tasters, who are the chef proprietors at Orwells restaurant, use them to make Christmas pudding vodka. Once the big day is over, you can put all the crumbly bits into vodka, and leave it in storage for a couple of months for the flavours to infuse. Once it's done, strain through a muslin cloth and it's ready to drink on the rocks, or added to cocktails. If you're not a vodka fan, you can also try liqueurs such as Southern Comfort. 

Christmas pudding serving suggestions

Brandy butter or rum sauce? Custard or cream? What do you like to eat with your Christmas pudding?

Your favourites are the simplest - cream or custard - according to our survey of 723 Which? members who like Christmas pudding.

But if you want to wow your guests this Christmas, why not try our experts’ different take on these traditional serving suggestions? 

  1. Brandy stirred into whipped cream runs elegantly down the pudding.
  2. Contrast hot and cold by serving steaming hot pudding with cold custard or ice cream.
  3. Make your own alcoholic cream - Drambuie or Kirsch work perfectly, just add a couple of dessert spoons per every 100ml of cream. If you'd prefer a non-alcoholic option, try a few drops of orange or vanilla extract in your double cream.

When it comes to actually serving dessert, you can jazz up your pudding by adding some gold sugar pearls on top (you can find them in the baking aisle), or sticking in some Christmas shaped biscuits, like a Santa or a Star - kids will love it. For individual portions, use a lipped plate or a bowl. It'll look better and it'll make pouring the sauce easier. 

In 2017, we asked whether you set light to your Christmas pudding before serving it and, according to our survey, 39% of you do. If you're planning on it this Christmas, make sure to warm the brandy up in a saucepan first and use an ignitor or a long match. 

Alternatives to Christmas pudding

Christmas puddings aren't for everyone, which is why we asked our experts what they would offer for anyone who isn't a fan.

Black Forest gateau – 1970s dishes are making a comeback, and while you may not fancy a prawn cocktail before your turkey, ending with a Black Forest gateau isn't such a bad idea. The dark fruit is reminiscent of a Christmas pudding, but the sweet cream and chocolate sponge give it a crowd-pleasing flavour.

Sticky toffee pudding – this year-round favourite is perfect for Christmas. It's a proper hot pudding that's popular for a reason. The rich toffee flavour goes well with custard and be sure to pop it under the grill before serving to get a scrumptious caramelised glaze.

Mincemeat cheesecake – you might struggle to find this in shops, but if you don't mind donning an apron and channeling the Great British Bake Off, you could try your hand at making your own.

Mincemeat cheesecake recipe

  • Add a teaspoon of mincemeat into 12 sweet pastry tartlets
  • Beat together 200g full-fat cream cheese, 40g caster sugar, one egg, 2 teaspoons plain flour and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Spoon some of the cream cheese mix into each pastry tartlet before sprinkling with amaretti biscuits 
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 180°C.

See which mince pies came top in our tasting this year in our best mince pies guide.

How to bling up your pudding

If you fancy adding a bit of sparkle to your Christmas pudding this year, watch our video below to see how easy it is to add that touch of Christmas bling.

How we tested

  • We removed all packaging from each pudding. 
  • We heated each pudding in the microwave as per the instructions on the packet (because 64% of you who heat your Christmas pudding prefer to microwave it) before our panel blind-tasted them. 
  • Each expert tried the puddings in a different order. They then discussed their tasting notes, agreed on scores for each pud and decided which of the highest scorers really deserved to be Best Buys. 
  • Taste is key, but experts also judged on appearance, aroma and texture.

Our experts:

Dan Lepard award-winning baker, and food writer for The Guardian, BBC Good Food and Australian titles. He was also a judge on the Great Australian Bake Off.

Patrick Moore award-winning artisan bread maker and founder of More? Artisan Bakery in Cumbria.

Liam Trotman joint chef proprietor of acclaimed restaurant Orwells in Henley-on-Thames.

Ryan Simpson joint chef proprietor of acclaimed restaurant Orwells in Henley-on-Thames.