Top picks: make-ahead Christmas

December 10, 2022  Chef Austin Avatar
Top picks: make-ahead Christmas

In my last post where I shared my (secret!) tips for how I make Christmas cooking easier, I promised to share my list of go-to recipes that are either entirely make-ahead, reheat extremely well or with high levels of prepare-ahead components and minimal assembly on the day-of.

Here’s the list!


Snack monsters unite! Lots of colourful options here for nibbly things that are easy to transport and no fiddly work on the day-of.

Festive Italian Cheese Log

Tastes even better than it looks! Just take it ready-made to wherever you’re going and add a big pile of Jatz on the side. I love that this is something a little different, just an idea that popped in my head one day!

Holiday Crostini

Make the crostini ahead (keeps for days!), spreadable toppings in piping bags, garnishes and pre-chopped toppings in containers ready to use. Excellent canapé option – and something for everyone with EIGHT topping options in my recipe!

Cheese truffles

I love the kaleidoscope of colours you can get by using different coatings for these adorable mini cheese balls! I like to serve these with a pile of Jatz for a nostalgic touch.


Any dip that’s served fridge cold or at room temperature is a terrific starter that’s mobile-friendly! As for how to keep everybody’s favourite guacamole green? Just cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil or water. Avocado is so dense it won’t absorb the liquid at all, and it will stay green for 2 whole days!

Cucumber with smoked salmon mousse

Excellent low-carb option that’s a little bit fancy and is fully prepare-ahead. Cut the cucumber the day before and keep it in an airtight container with the smoked salmon mousse in a piping bag. Pipe on demand – it’s super quick!

2 minute baked Brie

Unwrap brie, stick in oven for 15 minutes or 2 minutes in the microwave (no one will EVER know!). Top with honey or maple syrup for a killer flavour combination. Dunk with crostini (homemade or store bought) or other sturdy crackers. Dunk and prepare to swoon.

Prawns with Dipping Sauces

It doesn’t get any more Aussie than a giant bucket of prawns with your favourite dipping sauces! The nice thing is the sauces can be made days in advance. And you don’t even need to peel the prawns… though if you are feeling generous, you can peel them the day before.

TIP: The Marie Rose is the easiest (least ingredients + classic) and the RecipeTin Family Favourite is my, well, favourite. šŸ™‚

Make-ahead Christmas Mains

When it comes to make-ahead mains, the only thing that matters is how well it reheats. And these are crackin’ Christmas mains that reheat so well, no one will ever know you made it the day before!

12 hour lamb shoulder – juiciest roast lamb ever

This is the best recipe I know for making a roast the day before that will reheat 100% perfectly on the day of. Cooking meat at a really low temperature for 12 hours guarantees ultra juicy meat because the lower the temperature, the less meat juices evaporate.

It’s a stunner. It really is.

Christmas Glazed Chicken

Marinated then glazed with a sticky sauce reminiscent of everybody’s favourite Maple Syrup Glaze for ham! Using bone-in thighs ensures they are still juicy the next day. Just reheat in the microwave followed by 5 minutes in the oven to resurrect that sticky glaze!

In fact, this works so well, I just did a demo of this on a TV show last week using chicken I made the day before. Watch it here!

Christmas Glazed Ham!

YES you can bake your ham the day before to glazed perfection then reheat it on the day-of! One of my top tips to make Christmas cooking easier, find the directions here.

12 hour pulled pork

Generally speaking, I find that pork roasts do not reheat as well as even a whole roast chicken. It just doesn’t seem to hold in juices as well as other meats.

This is generally speaking, of course, because there’s always exceptions to the rule. But when it comes to large format pork for festive gatherings, the best make-ahead pork dish I know is my 12 hour BBQ pork because it reheats 98% perfectly the next day. Like I spoke about in the 12 hour lamb above, roasting at an ultra low temperature guarantees super juicy meat because less juice evaporates while roasting.

Served with a homemade BBQ sauce that everybody loves!

Christmas Baked Salmon (reader favourite!)

This is one that’s regularly requested at gatherings and I’m happy to oblige because it’s so convenient to make ahead! Assemble the salmon wrapped in paper and foil ready to bake the next day. Make the creamy dill sauce and the nut-dried-fruit “tapenade”. On the day, bake salmon, then top with sauce and tapenade. How easy is that??

Stuffed Pumpkin (OMG it’s VEGAN!)

A cookbook exclusive recipe from the Bigger Things chapter, this is a stunner of a vegetarian centrepiece for special occasions that is excellent made ahead! Stuffed with a lentil, pumpkin, herb and nut filling, it can be fully assembled the day before then just reheated in the oven.

You can watch how it’s made in the recipe video but the recipe is only available in the cookbook. šŸ™‚

But wait! Where’s the……??


Sorry folks. Being a lean white meat, I just can’t recommend turkey as one of the best dishes to make ahead for the big day! But if turkey is what you’re after, find all my recipes here!

Crackling pork!

I know I know, we all want that awesome crackling on Christmas Day! The crispy crackling pork belly and crackling pork roast are big favourites around here over the Christmas period! But sadly, they are not ideal for making ahead.

The logistics are just a little difficult when dealing with crispy skin on large roasts because you need to balance reheating the flesh without compromising the crackling. The whole thing in the oven to reheat = burnt crackling. Separate crackling from flesh = doesn’t present as nicely risky to remove in once piece.

Also, while pork belly flesh stays nice and juice for days (with all that fat, how can it not!), roast pork does have a tendency to dry out, unless you use the 12 hourBBQ pork roast listed above.


As with roast pork, I find that roast beef just doesn’t reheat perfectly! Good quality beef is not cheap, so when you indulge, I really think it’s best to enjoy it freshly made. For the best roast beef, look no further than standing rib / prime rib. If you’re looking for a great economical version, use my roast beef marinade (adds flavour and tenderises).


Well! Let me tell you, that was on my schedule to share for this Christmas. But I’m a little pressed for time right now so I can’t fit it in!!! Next year, I promise. I have so many tips and so many sauces to share!


Here are my go-to desserts that I make for gatherings that can be made entirely ahead or can be mostly prepared-ahead but are quick and easy to assemble just prior to serving.

Never-Ending Meringue (EASY – 1.6m/5 feet long!)

Named as such because you can make it as long as you want! Basically, it’s just meringue bases that are secured next to each other with cream. You can make the meringue bases a few days in advance, whip the cream the day before, then chop fruit on the morning-of.

When that’s ready, assembly is a breeze. Pipe the cream on, sprinkle with fruit and bask in the applause!

Bonus: Super economical, a 1.6m/5 foot tart requires just 6 eggs, cream, sugar, 600ml cream and best value fruit in season.

Christmas Trifle

This year, you can even top your trifle with stabilised whipped cream the day before! Then on the day-of, just add a handful of berries then it’s ready to serve. How good is that!!

Christmas Cake!

How can we have a Christmas dessert list without Christmas cake! This lasts for weeks and is straightforward to make. In fact, you can make it this afternoon and it will still be fresh for Christmas Day!

Mango Cheesecake

Hot summer Christmas’ here in Australia means big, ripe, juicy mangoes! This one is a firm favourite with Australians over Christmas, a dessert that showcases the best of mangoes: the juiciness, flavour and striking yellow colour. Have you tried it yet?? It’s a stunner!


Another big Aussie favourite! Bake it the night before because it’s best left overnight in the oven. Store in an airtight container then assemble just prior to serving. With my make-ahead Whipped Cream (a secret tip that I shared in my How I Make Christmas Cooking Easier List) pulling together a Pav on Christmas Day was never so easy!

Freezable Cakes

As listed as a top tip in my How I Make Christmas Cooking Easier post, most cakes are freezable! I obsessively freeze stashes of my classic Vanilla Cake and Chocolate Cake, undecorated, ready to pull out on demand. They are like freshly made! (See a more extensive list in the How I Make Christmas Cooking Easier post)

With these plus make-ahead Whipped Cream (another secret tip that made my How I Make Christmas Cooking Easier List) making freshly decorated cakes on demand was never so easy.

Freezable lemon cheesecake!

For those of you who already have the cookbook, a handy tip: the Lemon Cheesecake freezes perfectly! I know, I couldn’t believe it either. I was sure the cream cheese filling would split or be watery. It doesn’t at all.

Sorry to say this is a recipe exclusive to the cookbook. But if you’d like a preview, watch the recipe video!

Oh – also, this one would be a good one for Christmas – the Death by Chocolate Caramel cake on page 311 of the cookbook. If there was ever a day for outrageous indulgence, that would be Christmas Day.

Make it today, serve it tomorrow. 😇

Honourable Mentions

Pavlova Christmas Tree – a visual stunner, this is just pavlova rounds that are stacked with cream and fruit. While all components can be prepared ahead, assembly on the day-of does take care and time (around 20 minutes) though it’s a great one to get everyone involved in helping!

Gingerbread Men – just don’t put them on the Christmas tree if you have scavengers in the house, like I do.

Christmas Cookies – classic vanilla cookies that are designed for Christmas cookie cutters!

Cookie Mix in a Jar – Just add egg and butter, then bake! My holiday version has white chocolate and cranberries. Great gift idea!

Holiday Popcorn – Think, your favourite caramel popcorn, plus cinnamon and other holiday spices plus slivered almonds. Lasts for weeks – if you can keep your hand out of the jar!

And there you have it, my list of (current) favourite make-ahead / mostly prepare ahead foods for the festive season. I hope you found it useful!

Back next week with a brand new Christmas recipe that I think you’ll love. – Nagi x

Life of Dozer

That time the arm of a gingerbread man mysteriously went missing…..

Dozer gingerbread man Christmas tree ornament

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