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


  • 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


  • 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)


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


  • 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.


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)


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 pudding is traditionally eaten on Christmas Day? ›

Well Christmas pudding (also called plum pudding, Christmas pudd or Christmas pud) is traditionally the main dessert served with Christmas dinner in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries, but it's origins are very much British. Plum pudding is a very rich dessert which is boiled or steamed.

What is the difference between Christmas pudding and plum 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.

What is traditionally put in Christmas pudding for luck? ›

If you're old enough you will remember Christmas puddings containing coins that were said to bring the finder good luck. Before coins, charms were put inside Christmas puddings including a silver coin for wealth, a wishbone for luck, a thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage and an anchor for safe harbour.

What is the difference between figgy pudding and plum pudding? ›

If it contains figs, it is called a figgy pudding. Plum pudding usually has raisins, not plums, since "plums" was once used to describe raisins. This iconic English dessert is similar to our American fruitcake with a few variations.

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).

Why are there no plums in plum pudding? ›

The dish is sometimes known as plum pudding (though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving dried fruit). The word "plum" was used then for what has been called a "raisin" since the 18th century, and the pudding does not in fact contain plums in the modern sense of the word.

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 does the plum pudding symbolize? ›

Christmas plum pudding has evolved a bit over the past 600 years, both in method and legend, to get to its current dessert iteration. Some say it should contain 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his apostles. The stirring of the pudding should be done from east to west to honor the journey of the Three Wise Men.

Can you buy Christmas pudding in America? ›

You might find it in some specialty shops but it would not be found in most supermarkets. People who want to buy a Christmas Pudding would likely order it online. Others will make it themselves. We don't make a lot of steamed desserts in the U.S. but I expect that some people do.

Is figgy pudding the same as Christmas pudding? ›

It's made with alcohol and dried fruit and is a traditional English dessert. It's more like a cake than what Americans think of as a soft, custard-like pudding. Figgy pudding is also known as Christmas pudding or plum pudding. It can also be affectionately called “pud.”

Why do Christians eat Christmas pudding? ›

Religious significance

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.

Why do you put a penny in a Christmas pudding? ›

A silver sixpence was placed into the pudding mix and every member of the household gave the mix a stir. Whoever found the sixpence in their own piece of the pudding on Christmas Day would see it as a sign that they would enjoy wealth and good luck in the year to come.

Why should you stir a Christmas pudding clockwise? ›

Why do you stir Christmas pudding clockwise? Stirring East to West is supposed to signify the way the Three Wise Men travelled to meet Jesus.

What direction should you stir your Christmas pudding according to tradition? ›

The ritual is laden with small traditions that speak to the Christmas story. For example, the pudding is supposed to be stirred from East to West in honour of the wise men who travelled to Bethlehem.

What is traditional Christmas pudding made of? ›

Christmas pudding is generally made from a combination of dried fruit, candied fruit peel, and citrus zests in a dense, sticky sponge cake. It can be flavored with cinnamon, brandy, rum, or other spices for moisture and taste.

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.

When was Christmas pudding banned? ›

It wasn't until the mid-seventeenth century that this pudding became associated with Christmas which led to it being banned in 1647 by Oliver Cromwell who believed that it and other festive traditions led to drunken revelry instead of sombre reflection.

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