This slow cooker Christmas pudding, historically known as figgy or plum pudding, is incredibly easy to prepare and steam in the slow cooker.
You can prepare this recipe a few weeks before Christmas and leave the festive pudding to mature and develop its flavours before enjoying on Christmas Day. Or enjoy a deliciously moist, fruity, rich but light, and perfectly spiced slice soon after cooking.
Serve with a dollop of easy vegan Brandy butter [hard sauce] for the best traditional festive pudding. Although do switch out the brandy for orange juice if preferred.
This vegan Christmas pudding can be easily adapted for gluten-free diets.
This slow cooker steamed Christmas pudding recipe is adapted from an old-fashioned 1845 Eliza Acton recipe!
The result is a fruity, sweet, rich, and deliciously spiced traditional Christmas pudding that can be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry area for at least a few months.
Or enjoyed soon after cooking which is perfect for last minute emergency vegan Christmas puddings!
What is a Christmas Pudding?
Christmas pudding has also been known historically as plum pudding or figgy pudding. Although plum puddings did not contain actual plums as the word plum was just a generic term for any dried fruit. Raisins and currants were the most popular.
A Christmas pudding is similar to a fruit cake but is more moist and pudding-like, and is a steamed mixture of flour, suet, sugar, dried fruits, spices, breadcrumbs, citrus peel, and eggs, with liquids such as brandy, beer, and milk.
Christmas puddings were traditionally wrapped up in a cloth bag and then plunged into in a pot of boiling water, and cooked for several hours.
Victorian Christmas pudding was traditionally served with brandy butter or hard sauce as its known over in the US. Brandy butter is simply brandy, sugar, and butter whisked together.
Hot custard, whipped cream, pouring cream, or even ice cream are other more modern accompaniments to a festive pudding.
It was during the Victorian era that Christmas traditions and the meaning of Christmas was developed which was achieved through the help of Charles Dickens and his famous novella The Christmas Carol, published on the 19th December, 1843.
During this time the idea of Christmas was waning and many people did not observe it, but Dickens story helped cement the festive season as one of giving, concern for those less fortunate, and spending happy moments with loved ones.
In The Christmas Carol book, Mrs Cratchit describes her Christmas pudding as 'a speckled cannonball'! And two of Mrs Cratchit's children are impatiently waiting for the pudding to be ready:
''Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody would have gotten over the backyard and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose, a supposition at which the two young Cratchit's became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.''Charles Dickon's, A Christmas Carol, Chapter 3.
For the Cratchit children a least, the Christmas pudding was a great treat to be anticipated and warrant much concern about its health!
Eliza Acton was an English cookbook author who wrote the once popular Modern Cookery For Private Families first published in 1845, and which span for 13 editions. Eliza Acton was writing before the more well known Mrs Isabella Beeton whose famous book The Book of Household Management was published, some years after Acton's cookbook, in 1861.
Eliza Acton included a recipe for Christmas pudding within her cookbook and this was the first time in history that the plum pudding was termed a Christmas pudding and its recipe published. Acton also started the trend of listing ingredients for each recipe before the method, as well as providing more instructions on cooking times for her readers, both extremely helpful additions!
Vegan Christmas pudding
This recipe for vegan Christmas pudding is adapted from Eliza Acton's 1845 Christmas pudding recipe. However, Acton's recipe included 3 eggs which I have replaced with apple sauce.
The suet of 1845 would have likely been meat-based so I have opted for Suma vegan suet. More milk was added to the vegan pudding and the spice level was increased. The result was very pleasing, as a lovely moist, fruity, sweet, rich but light, and perfectly spiced Christmas pudding emerged from the slow cooker.
Of course Acton did not steam her pudding in a basin within a slow cooker, but rather tied the pudding up in a cloth bag and steamed it in a pot of bubbling water.
Why cook Christmas pudding in the slow cooker?
Cooking a Christmas pudding in the slow cooker is a great idea giving the cost of living crisis and the cost of cooking energy and fuel. The slow cooker costs much less compared to steaming the pudding on the stove-top for at least 3-4 hours.
Also, the slow cooker contains the steam that is produced during cooking, which prevents the excess moisture being released into the home.
Steaming in the slow cooker also saves time, even though it does take longer to cook, as you don't have to hang around your kitchen checking that the water levels are not drying out.
All in all, the slow cooker is just an amazing invention and perfect for cooking foods that need long cooking, especially during the cost of living crisis.
How to prepare slow cooker vegan Christmas pudding
This Christmas pudding recipe couldn't be easier. It's simply a case of adding all the ingredients to a mixing bowl, giving it a good stir, and then decanting into a pudding basin. The pudding is steam cooked on the high setting of the slow cooker for at least 6 hours.
First add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl: dried fruit, mixed chopped peel [candied peel], breadcrumbs, plain flour, baking powder, spices, vegetable suet [or margarine/shortening see recipe notes], grated eating/dessert apples, granulated sugar, apple sauce [or apple puree], Brandy [or fresh orange or apple juice], and your choice of plant milk.
Give everything a good mix.
Decant the pudding mix into a well greased pudding basin.
Add a parchment paper lid.
Next rip a piece of kitchen foil much larger than the parchment paper lid and scrunch it tightly over the paper and around the basin rim.
Fill the slow cooker with hot water until it reaches about three quarters of the way up the pudding bowl.
Cook on high for 6 hours.
Once removed from the slow cooker, take off the lids and leave to settle for 5-10 minutes before removing.
Or completely cool in the pudding basin and then add a fresh parchment paper and kitchen foil lid so that it can be stored until required.
Optional: Prepare the brandy [or orange juice] butter accompaniment.
Add the vegan margarine, icing sugar [powdered sugar] and brandy [or orange juice] to a mixing bowl. Using a hand whisk or similar whizz until the butter is well mixed.
Or whisk briskly by hand with a mixing spoon.
Serve the brandy or orange butter along with the Christmas pudding.
Adding a pat of the sweet butter on to the top of the hot pudding so that it melts around the pudding is a tasty touch.
This Christmas pudding is incredibly moist when enjoyed soon after cooking in the slow cooker, but as the pudding cools and sits it becomes really easy to carve thin slices off for reheating.
Recent tradition, has leftover Christmas pudding slices fried in butter and eaten along with a cooked English or Scottish breakfast: such as sausages, bacon, mushrooms, eggs, potato scones, baked beans, etc.
Nowadays, we can have a tasty cooked breakfast with the vegan alternatives, and a slice of fried Christmas cake if desired!
Which is perfect for a Boxing Day or New Years Day Brunch.
Storage and reheating
Christmas pudding, prepared with alcohol such as Brandy, can be stored in a very cool, dry, and dark area, or within the refrigerator, for a few months.
Christmas pudding made with fresh orange or apple juice can be stored within the refrigerator for a few weeks.
Store the pudding within the pudding basin with a fresh parchment paper and kitchen foil lid tightly covering. Or add the pudding to a food container. Or place the leftover pudding onto a plate and tightly wrap in greaseproof paper and a second layer of kitchen foil.
Reheating Christmas pudding in the slow cooker
Christmas pudding can be reheated by placing the pudding basin into the slow cooker and reheating on the high setting for 1-2 hours or until piping hot. Fill the slow cooker with enough hot water so that it reaches at least half way up the pudding basin sides.
Reheating Christmas pudding in the microwave
If reheating one or two slices, then place the pudding into a microwave safe dish and cover with cling film or Seram wrap or similar, poke a few holes into the wrap, and re-heat for 1-2 minutes. Small slices will likely only need a minute to reheat, depending on the microwave wattage.
Reheating Christmas pudding in the air-fryer
Christmas pudding slices can be placed onto a piece of parchment paper and reheated in an air-fryer until piping hot, this usually takes a few minutes at 180C, but do consult your air-fryer manual for any advice on reheating baked goods.
Reheating Christmas pudding on the stove-top
It is traditional to fry slices of Christmas pudding in butter and to serve along with a cooked English or Scottish breakfast.
Such as bacon, sausages, potato scones, hash browns, poached eggs, baked beans, cooked mushrooms and tomatoes, etc. But of course we can prepare a veggie cooked breakfast with vegan alternatives.
A slice of fried Christmas pudding is served along with the cooked breakfast, which is not as odd as it sounds as in medieval times fruit puddings were not part of a sweet course but served along with the savoury foods.
Simply heat some vegan margarine or butter in a non-stick pan and cook each side of a slice of pudding for a few minutes.
Alternatively, heat the pudding in a dry fry pan or skillet [or under a cooker grill/broiler] until it is nicely heated on each side and then spread vegan margarine, etc over.
Once cooled and chilled, the slow cooker Christmas pudding can be easily sliced into thin slices or a thick wedge! It reheats beautifully.
Try a slice or wedge with some hot custard. So tasty.
Find an easy vegan custard recipe over on the old school jam and coconut traybake recipe [the custard method is within the recipe notes].
Suet is a saturated animal fat that is removed from sheep or cows kidneys and loins.
Traditional suet is not vegan but vegetable suet is available to purchase in most UK supermarkets.
Some wholefood stores or health shops may stock Suma vegan suet which is also gluten-free and is made with non-hydronated vegetable oils and rice flour.
Other countries may need to look at International/British/Irish themed stores, or source vegetable suet online, or use a suet replacement.
The suet is a traditional ingredient in Christmas pudding but it can be replaced with vegetable shortening[such as Trex or Crisco], vegan margarine [such as Stork] or vegan butter.
For the vegetable shorting and vegan butter, these can be frozen for about an hour, or until semi-frozen enough to be able to be grated/shredded directly into the pudding mixture. Or chop the semi-frozen shortening or butter into very small pieces.
To use the vegan margarine, leave it out of the refrigerator for an hour or so, if necessary, to soften up enough to be more easily mixed into the pudding ingredients.
Although do not use a low-fat/lite/reduced fat margarine as these have extra water added which may affect the recipe. Use a margarine that is suitable for heating and baking, such as Stork baking spread, Vitalite, or Flora dairy free.
Traditional Christmas pudding contains flour, breadcrumbs, and suet which are not gluten-free. However, it is really easy to prepare a home-made gluten-free Christmas pudding with just a few substitutions.
First, choose a gluten-free plain flour blend [such as Freee Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain White Flour]. Also ensure that your baking powder is free from gluten.
Next, add about ¼ teaspoon of xantham gum which helps stick gluten-free bakes together.
Choose a gluten-free bread to prepare home-made breadcrumbs [see notes below on how to prepare breadcrumbs].
Lastly, use a gluten-free suet such as Suma vegan suet as Atora vegetable suet contains wheat so is not gluten-free.
Absolutely. The brandy can be simply replaced with orange or apple juice, either fresh or from concentrated. Although do not use orange squash/diluting juice as the flavours will not be the same.
Also the brandy butter can be easily replaced with orange juice for an orange butter which is really tasty.
However, do bear in mind that alcohol such as brandy acts as a preserver meaning that the Christmas pudding will store well for much longer. Whereas a pudding prepared with fruit juice will have a shorter shelf life.
Any type of apple sauce or apple puree is perfect for Christmas pudding, including the jars of apple sauce intended as a savoury food accompaniment.
If your apple sauce is quite chunky then give it a mash with a potato masher or stick it in a food blender or processor for a few seconds.
Alternatively, prepare your own apple sauce using eating or dessert type apples. Peel and chop the apples, and stew the apples with a few tablespoons of water until soft. Mash with a potato masher or blend until smooth.
Any leftover home-made apple sauce can be frozen in ice-cube trays [measure out 1 tablespoon of apple sauce if possible per ice cube as this will make it easier to use for future recipes]. Once frozen pop the frozen cubed apples out of the tray and store in a freezer bag.
Any type of bread can be used to prepare home-made breadcrumbs, such as ordinary sliced white/wholemeal/granary bread from the supermarket and grocery stores, as well as fresh bakery bread. Use a gluten-free bread if necessary.
The bread can be stale or fresh, but stale bread is perfect for breadcrumbs as its a little drier so tends to crumb easier.
The easiest way to prepare home-made breadcrumbs is to pop a few slices of torn fresh or stale bread slices into a food processor and whizz until crumbed. Some blenders will work fine as well. I have a small Kenwood food processor that isn't very strong compared to more expensive processors but it makes breadcrumbs perfectly.
Alternatively, if there is not a processor or blender available then freeze slices of bread and then use a cheese grater to shred the bread into small crumbs.
Breadcrumbs can be frozen for at least a few months and defrost very quickly. I like to pick up a reduced loaf of bread from the local supermarket just to make crumbs for pennies, that can then be stored in the freezer.
More tasty vegan festive treats
Three ingredient Christmas cake
[Perfect for emergency Christmas cakes! And ideal for kids to bake. Add extra flavours such as spices as desired. Can be covered with marzipan and fondant icing]
World War 2 era Christmas pudding
[prepare in the microwave, for a super quick pudding and enjoy with hot custard]
The best ever traditional fruit loaf cake
[bake for a quick Christmas fruit cake slice, add marzipan and icing for extra specialness. Can easily be prepared as gluten-free]
[amazingly also free from added fats, sugars, nuts, soya, as well as dairy and eggs!]
Christmas pudding traditions
Its a British tradition to light the Christmas pudding with some hot brandy just before serving. If you would like to do so then check out this easy method over on Jamieoliver.com.
Its also an old tradition to add a coin such as a silver sixpence to the pudding mixture and the lucky family member who finds the coin will have good luck throughout the coming year.
In olden days, preparing the Christmas pudding was a family affair as during Stir-up Sunday [the special day for preparing the pud] all the family members had a go at stirring the pudding and then the sixpence was added. Next year Stir-up Sunday is on the 26th November 2023 which is the last Sunday before Advent [3rd December].
However, nowadays its not advised to add a coin straight into the pudding mix due to hygiene concerns and potentially choking or chipping a tooth! However, many still do but instead of just putting the coin into the pudding, they wrap the coin in a piece of parchment or baking paper so that it is more obvious that the coin is there! Also sterilizing the coin is a good idea!
Slow Cooker Christmas Pudding [Vegan]
- 3.5 litre [or larger] slow cooker [3.6 quarts or larger] [or larger]
- 2 pint pudding basin/bowl [such as a Pyrex bowl, plastic pudding basin with lid, ceramic pudding basin]
- parchment paper [if your pudding basin comes with a heatproof lid then use that instead of a paper and foil lid]
- kitchen foil
- grater [for grating/shredding apple]
- sieve [for preparing brandy butter]
- electric hand whisk [for preparing brandy butter, or just use a mixing spoon]
- 150 grams vegetable suet
- 75 grams plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 75 grams breadcrumbs
- 150 grams raisins [can replace the dried fruit with a dried fruit mix]
- 150 grams currants
- 50 grams mixed fruit peel [candied citrus peel or use glace or candied cherries]
- 110 grams apple [grated/shredded] [eating/dessert apples]
- 125 grams granulated sugar
- 60 mililitres brandy [or fresh orange/apple juice]
- 65 millilitres soya milk [or your usual milk]
- 180 grams apple sauce [can use shop bought ordinary apple sauce or apple puree/or home-made]
- 2 teaspoon mixed spice [or apple pie/pumpkin spice mix]
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
Brandy or orange butter [optional]
- 100 grams vegan margarine [such as Stork]
- 125 grams icing sugar [powdered sugar]
- 2 tablespoon brandy [or orange juice]
- 1 teaspoon vanilla optional
- Switch the slow cooker to the high setting, pour in 2 cups [500ml] of hot water and pop the lid back on. Leave to preheat while the pudding is prepared.
- Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl: flour, breadcrumbs, baking powder, sugar, suet, salt, cinnamon powder, clove powder, nutmeg, mixed spice, raisins, currants, fruit peel, grated apple, brandy and milk.150 grams vegetable suet, 75 grams plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 75 grams breadcrumbs, 150 grams raisins, 150 grams currants, 50 grams mixed fruit peel, 110 grams apple, 125 grams granulated sugar, 60 mililitres brandy, 65 millilitres soya milk, 180 grams apple sauce, 2 teaspoon mixed spice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Give it all a good mix.
- Grease the pudding basin with a good amount of vegan margarine or butter.
- Scoop the pudding mixture into the basin and level the top a little.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper just larger than the basin top. Place the paper on top of the rim of the basin, don't add the paper to the top of the actual pudding in the basin.
- Rip a piece of kitchen foil much larger than the top of the pudding basin and place it over the parchment paper. Scrunch the sides of the foil up to near the rim of the basin so that it is tightly pressed and scrunched under the rim. [*refer to the step-by-step photos above for guidance*]
- Place the pudding basin into the slow cooker and pour more hot or boiling water into the slow cooker until its about three quarters of the way up the basin.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and set a 6 hour timer. Don't worry if the pudding ends up cooking an hour or so longer as it will be fine.
- Check the pudding about 4 or so hours into cooking just to see if the water level needs topped up with more boiling water.
- Once ready the pudding will be firmish to the touch, look cooked at the surface, and darkened. A skewer popped in will come out clean.
- Once removed from the slow cooker, remove the paper and foil lids and leave to sit for 10 minutes to settle before removing.
- Using a small knife or cake palette knife, go around the edges to loosen them up. Place a plate or small board on the top of the pudding basin and flip it over. The pudding should slide out easily.
- The pudding will be very moist and delicious when first cooked, but will firm up as it cools and stores, so that thinner slices will be able to be sliced and reheated as required.
- If not eating soon after cooking, the pudding can remain in the basin. Cool the pudding completely then add a fresh parchment and foil lid. Store somewhere very cool, dry and dark or in the refrigerator until required. If brandy was used the pudding will be good for a few months. If orange juice was used the pudding will be fine in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
To prepare vegan brandy or orange butter accompaniment [optional]
- Add the vegan margarine, sifted icing sugar, vanilla, and brandy to a mixing bowl.100 grams vegan margarine, 125 grams icing sugar, 2 tablespoon brandy, 1 teaspoon vanilla
- With a hand whisk whizz until fully combined. Or briskly beat by hand using a wooden or mixing spoon. If the brandy butter is too thin sieve more icing sugar in to thicken it up.
- Place a large pat of brandy butter on top of the hot Christmas pudding. And serve a smaller pat with each pudding slice, if liked.
- Keep the brandy butter in the refrigerator for about a week, covered. Or freeze for up to a month.
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not an exact calculation as ingredients vary.
- Once cooked the Christmas pudding will be very moist but will firm up as it cools.
- Reheat slices in a microwave for a few minutes.
- If storing the whole pudding until Christmas day then cool in the basin, and add a fresh parchment paper and kitchen foil lid.To reheat place the pudding into the slow cooker, and reheat on high setting for 1-2 hours or until piping hot.
- This recipe used a 2 pint Pyrex bowl that was suitable for cooking.
- The slow cooker was a 3.5 litre with an oval shaped ceramic cooking pot.
- Some pudding basins come with a heatproof lid such as plastic basins, if this is used then omit the paper and foil lid.
- An amazon link to vegan and gluten-free suet is included above within the ingredients, however I purchased the same one from my local wholefoods store for half the price. I included the link just to show which suet to look out for.
- Suet can be replaced with vegan margarine, butter, or shortening.
- If using vegetable shortening or butter it can be frozen and grated/shredded into the pudding mix, or softened up before using.
- Currants and raisins can be replaced with a dried fruit mix, the type intended for Christmas cake and puddings.
- The apple sauce can be ordinary apple sauce from a jar or tub, or an apple puree or home-made apple sauce which is simply chopped eating/dessert apples stewed in a little water until soft. Mash once cooked, if the apples are really bitter or sour add some sugar whilst stewing.
- Mixed chopped citrus peel or candied peel can be replaced with glace or candied cherries.
- The spices can be replaced for what you have available.
- If you have a small food processer or blender its easy to prepare fresh breadcrumbs, simply rip the bread up and whizz until its crumbs. If there is no processor available, then freeze the bread slices and then use a cheese grater to grate the bread into crumbs.
- For this recipe I used wholemeal bread crumbs but white, or half-and-half, can be used instead.
- Fresh orange or apple juice can replace the brandy for both the pudding and the whipped butter sauce. Although do bear in mind that brandy acts as a preservative so if juice is used the pudding will last for a few weeks as opposed to a few months.
- The brandy butter can be frozen for up to 1 month, or stored within the refrigerator for a week.
Prepared this tasty slow cooker vegan Christmas pudding?
Do let us know how you got on by dropping us a comment below.
And click the recipe star ratings above.
All feedback very much appreciated.
Thanks so much, Jacq x
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