This Old-Fashioned Christmas Pudding revives a vintage WW2 British recipe from the 1940s. This interesting recipe provided many people with a delicious Christmas pudding during the rationing and food shortages that occurred in Britain during and after the Second World War. Surprisingly, this Christmas pudding features grated carrot and grated potato, but the finished result is an incredibly delicious, moist pudding that tastes like Christmas but with hints of toffee! As food shortages and rationing was in full swing many people experienced a shortage of eggs so many useful tasty eggless recipes were created. You don't have to be vegan or plant-based to appreciate this tasty Christmas pudding - and its certainly not just for the festive seasoning - cook it up for Thanksgiving or for any time of the year whenever you fancy a comforting hot dessert.
Christmas pudding is traditionally prepared on Stir-Up Sunday, which always falls on the last Sunday before Advent (1st December). This recipe can be made in advance and easily frozen until Christmas day. Or enjoy this delicious vintage steamed pudding any day of the year, we do anyway!
📜 Origin of Old-fashioned Christmas Pudding
This Christmas pudding recipe is included within British chef Marguerite Paton's (1915-2015) book Nostalgic Food and Facts From 1940-1954 (2002 Edition).
During the war years and even afterwards, rationing of food limited the ingredients that could be utilised within everyday kitchens, and substitutions had to be found.
Marguerite Paton was a regular on British radio providing listeners with helpful tips and recipes designed to help people cope with rationing, food shortages, and using ingredients in new ,creative ways.
Paton's Christmas Pudding subs in grated potato and carrot while omitting eggs and butter.
Although, you can not actually taste the potato and carrot and likely wouldn't even know they were included if you hadn't followed the recipe.
We have replaced the suet that was listed within the original recipe with ordinary vegan margarine and it works fine.
All the ingredients work together to give the pudding the flavours of a toffee x gingerbread cake x Christmas pudding experience. I even got a hint of Jamaican ginger cake.
We have to say that this Christmas pudding is now one of our family favourites as it is not rich, heavy or stogey which some Christmas puddings can be. Also, one of our kids does not usually like Christmas pudding but they did enjoy the flavours and textures of this one.
So, if you or a family member is not keen on Christmas puddings then we encourage you to give this easy recipe a go.
📖 Quick history of Christmas pudding
Christmas pudding evolved from the medieval British plum or figgy pudding which was a type of pottage. Dried fruits, spices, breadcrumbs, ground nuts was stewed with liquid to create a mushy pottage dish. A recipe for figgy pudding was found within one of the oldest cookery books dating back to the late 1300s.
It wasn't until the Victorian times that Christmas pudding finally evolved into a dish that more resembled today's Christmas pudding. The Victorians also started the British custom of Stir-up Sunday.
Nowadays, Christmas pudding is such an integral part of the British Christmas dinner that is doesn't seem like Christmas at all if you don't have a pudding. Even if you dislike it, its still traditional to have one in!
Traditionally in Britain, leftover Christmas pudding is fried and served with an English cooked breakfast such as sausages, eggs, bacon, etc.
Christmas pudding is just delicious served with pouring cream, custard, or ice cream.
How to prepare
This Christmas pudding is very easy to prepare as its just a case of mixing the ingredients together after they have been prepared. The pudding can be either cooked on the stove-top or in the microwave.
***As we are a vegan family recipe blog all our ingredient suggestions are for plant-based and vegan-friendly ingredients such as plant-based milk, margarine and butter. However, if you have different dietary requirements then can you use your usual ingredients.***
Step 1: Prepare the ingredients - grate the potato and carrot, and prepare the breadcrumbs.
Step 2: Mix two tablespoons of warm plant-based milk with one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl.
Step 3: Place the rest of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl - grated potato, grated carrot, dried fruits, breadcrumbs, plain flour, plant-based margarine, mixed spice powder [or a substitute] and sugar.
Step 4: Grease a pudding bowl or pudding basin with plant-based margarine.
Step 5: Pour the milk mixture into the mixing bowl and stir everything together until it all comes together into a ball.
Step 6: Press the pudding mixture down into the pudding bowl and level the top.
Step 7: You can cook the pudding either in the microwave or steam cook in a large pot filled with boiling water, with a lid placed over the top of the pot.
Microwave: Cover the pudding bowl with microwave-safe food wrap, poke a hole in the food wrap, and microwave for 8-15 minutes. Exact times will depend on the wattage of your microwave.
Stove-top: Cover the pudding bowl with a sheet of greaseproof paper and a second sheet of kitchen foil [Aluminium foil] and tie these lids to the bowl with with string. Cook for 4 hours, topping the water up to prevent the pot from running dry, and once cooked leave for at least 10 minutes to settle before popping out of the pudding basin.
🎥 Video for how to prepare a pudding bowl lid:
Once the pudding has rested for a few minutes after cooking it can be removed from the pudding bowl. It is best enjoyed hot.
📋 Recipe Notes
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days. Or frozen, well wrapped, for up to 4 months.
Christmas pudding can be prepped in advance and then reheated on Christmas day. Doing so is a great time-saver. After cooking, cool the pudding, and keep it in the pudding bowl. Wrap the entire thing tightly in kitchen foil and place in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Thaw the pudding before reheating, and once the pudding bowl is at room temperature, place the bowl in a saucepan. Fill the pan with hot water, half way up the sides of the pudding, and simmer for 30-60 minutes.
Enjoy a slice of pudding chilled or reheated. Individual slices can be reheated in a hot oven until warmed through to your liking. Cover loosely with kitchen foil if you'd like to prevent the pudding browning too much.
Or microwave, covered, for about 60 seconds.
Or place slices of pudding onto a panini machine or hotplate or pancake/crepe maker and toast each side until lightly browned and warm through. A little vegan butter spread over is particularly tasty.
Alternatively place pieces of pudding into a skillet or fry pan and dry fry until warmed through. Add a small piece of vegan butter or margarine to the pan to melt while the pudding heats through, if liked.
You can use a heat-proof ceramic, glass, or plastic pudding bowl. If you're cooking in a microwave, ensure the bowl is microwave-safe. Some pudding bowls come with their own lids, which is convenient and reduces the need for creating a home-made lid.
If microwaving, it’s essential the bowl is microwave-safe. You can cover the bowl with microwave-safe cling film or a microwave lid with a vent.
Not all glass bowls are suitable for steaming. Make sure the glass is labeled as heat-proof or tempered for cooking purposes to withstand the high temperatures. We use a Pyrex bowl that is suitable for cooking.
It's not recommended to use metal bowls, especially in the microwave, as they can cause sparks and are not microwave-safe. For stove-top cooking, a metal bowl could be used as long as it’s safe for steaming and doesn’t react with food.
The recipe calls for a 2-pint (1 US quart) size bowl. This is important to ensure the pudding cooks evenly and fits properly within your steaming setup or microwave. Also, you need to use a large pot that is big enough to comfortably sit your pudding basin in.
Yes, when steaming a pudding on the stovetop, it's a traditional to place a heatproof saucer or trivet at the bottom of the large pot before placing the pudding bowl on top.
They are several reasons for this: One, it can- help to prevent the bowl from coming into direct contact with the heat which depending on the material of the cooking pot as well as the heat source, it could cause the bottom of the pudding to burn. And two, it can - help to reduce any rattling during cooking, as the pudding can bobble around if it's not stabilized, which could damage the pot or the bowl.
Traditional recipes often use fresh white breadcrumbs, which provide a light, tender crumb to puddings but wholemeal or whole-wheat breadcrumbs can provide a heartier texture and a nuttier flavour, as well as a bit more fiber. We have tried both and enjoyed both types.
To prepare your breadcrumbs just use ordinary supermarket or home-baked bread and pulse in a food processor until the bread is crumbs, or use a cheese grater to grate the bread into small crumbs. This is a great way to use up stale or a few days old bread. Any extra breadcrumbs can be frozen in a freezer bag to use for future recipes.
During the war era, particularly in Britain during the Second World War, food rationing was a significant challenge, and cooks had to be inventive with the ingredients they had available. Grated potato was often used in puddings for several reasons:
1. Potatoes were more readily available and not subject to rationing as much as other ingredients. They could bulk up the volume of the pudding without the need for as much flour or dried fruits.
2. Potatoes have a natural starchiness that helps bind the ingredients together, which was particularly useful in the absence of eggs.
3. Grated potatoes release moisture as they cook, which can help to make the pudding moist and prevent it from drying out, compensating for the reduced fat content due to the scarcity of butter and other fats.
4. When cooked, potatoes can add a subtle sweetness to dishes, which was beneficial when sugar was in short supply.
5. Potatoes are nutritious, providing vitamin C and B vitamins, which were essential in a time when the population's diet was limited. Besides Potato Pete was in full force during the war years - Potato Pete was a cartoon potato guy promoted by the government whose aim was to campaign for people to eat more potatoes!
Hot custard is the ideal accompaniment for a slice of warm Christmas pudding, although some vegan cream is also delicious, as is a scoop of plant-based ice cream, or a syrupy toffee or chocolate sauce, or a fruit coulis or compote.
Brandy butter is a traditional accompaniment and we have an easy dairy-free recipe for Brandy butter over on our Slow Cooker Christmas Pudding recipe.
👩🏽🍳 More vegan wartime era recipes
During the British Second World War years, food was scarce, so folks had to get creative with what little they had. They relied on lots of veggies like potatoes and carrots because they were easier to come by than meat or butter, which were often rationed tightly. This way of cooking, focusing on plants and not so much on meat or dairy is what many people try to do today especially with the high cost of groceries. It's amazing to think that the inventive home cooks back then were making veggie dishes that many of us are recreating today in our own kitchens, without even realizing they were ahead of their time. Their resourcefulness with simple, home-grown ingredients can inspire us to whip up tasty vegan meals that are not only delicious but also much kind to the planet.
A classic war era tea bread is this Golden Syrup Loaf which is tasty spread with vegan butter or toasted, and enjoyed with a nice cup of tea.
We also love this Chocolate Vinegar Cake as its so easy to whip up and perfect for a quick dessert served with hot chocolate or vanilla custard.
Vinegar cakes were also popular during the US Great Depression era [1929-1939] as well as in Britain during the 1940s war era, and even into the 1950s as although the war was over food shortages and rationing of certain ingredients continued until 1954! For example, bread although not rationed during the actual war years was rationed for 2 years after the war had ended!
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Old-Fashioned Christmas Pudding
- Mixing bowls
- Cheese grater
- 2 pint (1 US quart) heatproof pudding bowl If your pudding basin comes with a lid then you won't need to prepare a lid from paper, foil and string. ***Youtube video in recipe notes above this recipe which details how to prepare lid***
- parchment paper for creating a lid for pudding bowl
- kitchen foil to cover the pudding bowl lid
- string for tying pudding lid to bowl
- microwave safe food wrap only required if microwaving pudding alternatively use a microwave lid with a built in vent if you have one that will cover your bowl
- Large cooking pot with lid, big enough for your pudding bowl to fit,
- heatproof saucer or trivet
- 115 grams plain flour [all-purpose flour]
- 50 grams breadcrumbs [any breadcrumbs can be used, such as wholemeal or white]
- 145 grams mixed dried fruit [use a Christmas dried fruit mix that contains chopped fruit peel or use a mix of raisins, currants, sultanas, etc]
- 190 grams sugar [use any sugar such as granulated, caster, or light brown sugar]
- 60 grams plant-based margarine [plus extra to grease pudding bowl] (The original recipe uses suet so you can use vegetable suet instead)
- 150 grams potato [grated]
- 110 grams carrot [grated]
- 3 teaspoona mixed spice powder [or replace with pumpkin pie spice mix, or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc]
Prepare before mixing all ingredients (mix the bicarbonate of soda and hot milk together) :
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda [baking soda]
- 2 tablespoon plant-based milk [hot, or your usual milk]
- Stir the bicarbonate of soda through the hot milk in a small bowl.1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 2 tablespoon plant-based milk
- Add the rest of the ingredients to a mixing bowl, pour the milk mixture in, and stir well.115 grams plain flour, 50 grams breadcrumbs, 145 grams mixed dried fruit, 190 grams sugar, 60 grams plant-based margarine, 150 grams potato, 110 grams carrot, 3 teaspoona mixed spice powder
- Scoop and pack the pudding mixture into a greased pudding bowl, smoothing out the top.
To cook on stove-top:
- Cover the bowl with your homemade lid - a layer of greaseproof paper covered with a layer of kitchen foil and both tied tightly around the pudding bowl rim with a double knot of string. See the instruction video above this recipe card, in the recipe notes, for a useful visual instructions.If you have a pudding basin with a lid then the home-made lid can be omitted and the pudding lid placed over the pudding bowl.(For extra protection from water, you can add an extra layer of kitchen foil around the lid. Just scrunch and press the foil around lid. However, this is optional)
- Add a heatproof saucer or trivet on to the bottom of the cooking pot.
- Place the pudding bowl on top of the saucer or trivet in the pot.Pour boiling water down the sides into your pot being carefully not to pour any water over the pudding.Add enough water so that it sits about ½ to ¾ of the way up the pudding bowl sides.
- Bring the water back to the boil and then turn the heat to medium.Place the lid over your pot, leaving a small gap for excess steam to escapeGently boil for 4 hours.
- Check your water level regularly to maintain the water at least half of the way up the pudding bowl.Top the water up when necessary with more boiling water.
- After 4 hours turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly before removing the pudding basin from the pot.
- Remove the lid and check the pudding for doneness. Watch out for escaping steam. If the pudding looks too wet or not completely cooked in the middle then steam again for 30 minutes and check again.
- Tip the pudding upside down and place on a serving plate. If the pudding does not slide out easily, use a butter knife and loosen the sides and tip upside down. It should easily slide out.
- To reheat, place the pudding back in the pudding bowl and steadily simmer for 30 minutes to reheat.
- Cover the pudding basin tightly with microwave-safe cling-film or Seram wrap. Pierce the wrap several times to allow steam to escape.
- Cook for 4 minutes. Then another 3 minutes. Check to see if your pudding has cooked, stick a skewer in to see if uncooked mix sticks to it.The middle part will take longer to cook.If not cooked, cook for 2 minute bursts and check each time.
- We have a 700 Watt microwave and our pudding took 11-12 minutes to cook. Higher Watt microwaves will result in a faster cooking pudding.
- Pudding is cooked when the sides begin to shrink away, the top is dark brown, and the middle of the pudding has set, and a skewer comes out clean.
- The cling-film can be removed for the final few cooking minutes to help the middle cook.
- Once cooked remove the pudding from the microwave and leave for 10 minutes before popping out of the bowl.
- Run a knife around the edges and place a small plate under the bowl and carefully remove.If some of the top part of the pudding sticks to the bowl just scrape it out and press it back onto the pudding.If your pudding domes in the middle simply press the dome part down with a spoon so that the top levels out.
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Leftovers can be stored refrigerated for up to 4 days, and eaten chilled or reheated.
- Reheat by placing in a hot oven, cover the pudding in kitchen foil, and reheat for 20 minutes or until warmed through. If reheating a whole pudding, place back in the pudding basin, add the lid, and simmer in boiling water for 30-60 minutes.
- Slices of pudding can also be toasted or warmed through on a panini, pancake maker, or hot-plate. Or in a fry pan or skillet and dry-fried until warmed, although you can fry in a little vegan butter.
- Serve Christmas pudding with vegan custard, cream, yogurt, or ice-cream.
- As we are a vegan family recipe blog all our ingredient suggestions are for vegan and plant-based options but if you have different dietary requirements you can use your usual ingredients.
- We have a video above this recipe card [in the recipe notes section] that demonstrates how to prepare a cover for the pudding bowl with parchment paper, foil, and string.
- You can use a heat-proof ceramic, glass, or plastic pudding bowl or basin. Some pudding bowls come with a lid especially plastic ones.
Prepared our Old-Fashioned Christmas Pudding recipe? Do let us know how you liked the recipe by dropping us a comment below and clicking the star ratings. It's very much appreciated. Thanks so much! Love Jacq x