27 Retro Dishes Guaranteed to Class Up Your Holiday Dinner

Roast Goose in a Baking Pan


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Potato gratin, backed potato slices with creamy sauce. Top view

Season’s Eatings

Meals during the holiday season are, by nature, more elaborate than your traditional weeknight supper. Sadly, though, the creation of elaborate dishes at home has fallen out of favor. Read on for our “soup-to-nuts” menu of fancy fare that just might make your table impress during the holidays but also on any night of the week.

Related: 25 Cheap Appetizers You Can Make for $5 or Less

Golden baked seafood lasagna

Shrimp de Jonghe

Start your meal off on the right foot with this retro-chic appetizer, said to have been invented at the turn-of-the-20th century in Chicago and going on to be a popular cocktail-party feature in the 1960s. Shrimp are a splurge in many homes, and this buttery, garlicky dish signals the meal that follows will be equally special.

Recipe: Food. 

Related: Sheet-Pan Meals That Will Make Dinner Easy

Top view of fresh homemade cranberry cheese spread made with cream cheese, cheddar, dried cranberries, pecans, and chives

Easy Classic Cheese Ball

Sure, a cheese board may be all the rage these days — but take your guests back in time, showing them you created (rather than sliced) their “cheesy” starter. This version features bacon, walnuts, and Ranch seasonings for a memorable first impression. 

Recipe: Natasha’s Kitchen

Clams Casino

Classic Clams Casino

A restaurant favorite, clams casino is a dish rarely prepared at home anymore. Surprise your guests with this “iconic” bacon-topped appetizer that takes only a half hour to prepare and “would be an elegant starter for a dinner party,” says its creator Leslie Pendleton.

Recipe: The Spruce Eats

For more great meal ideas and grocery tips,
please sign up for our free newsletters.

French 75 cocktail with lemon hard seltzer instead of champagne

French 75 Cocktail

The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s website notes this is, “a perfect cocktail to toast...well, anything!” Gin, sparkling wine, and lemon are among the ingredients of this light-yet-zesty way to ring in the holidays.

Recipe: The Pioneer Woman

Healthy vegan cauliflower cream soup. Diet food. homemade healthy organic vegetarian vegan diet fresh food meal dish soup lunch, space for text. top view
Koval Nadiya/istockphoto

Cream of Brie Soup

Soup made from scratch might be more common thanks to the InstaPot craze, but a holiday meal can be the place to showcase this show-stopping, stovetop incarnation of what a first course can be. Brie, heavy cream and butter are what the holidays are all about.

Recipe: AllRecipes

Related: Easy Soup Recipes That Last for Days

French Lobster Bisque Soup

Easy Lobster Bisque

Lobster tails equal splurge, and this soup featuring the classy crustacean comes together in an hour or so with an incredible depth of flavor thanks to a homemade lobster stock as its start.

Recipe: Café Delites

Traditional British Holiday Goose Dinner with Apples and Brussels Sprouts

Roast Christmas Goose

You’ll feel like you’re in the Victorian era when placing the platter holding a roasted goose on the table. Stuffed with orange, lemon, and apple before roasting, the flavors — and aroma — of this entrée will create quite a memory.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Lobster meat with cheese casserole

Creamy Lobster Newburg

If seafood is your family’s thing, then set a place for Lobster Newburg on your holiday table. This retro-fave is a rich interpretation with the seafood complemented by butter and sherry. Ideally served on puff pastry shells or toast points, this dish is all about that decidedly elegant presentation.

Recipe: The Spruce Eats

Duck leg confit
Максим Крысанов/istockphoto

Crisp-Tender Roast Duck with Cherry-Rosemary Sauce

Cherries and rosemary add the zing, while honey sweetens up this decadent main dish offered by Ted Allen of Food Network fame. It may take a long time to prepare, but holidays are all about going that extra mile, right?

Recipe: Food Network

Beef Wellington

Easy Beef Wellington

The creator of this version of the classic dish featuring filet mignon notes that beef Wellington is always a winning dish. Anyone disagree? This recipe makes an impressive dish surprisingly easy to make thanks to a premade puff pastry.

Recipe: The Cookie Rookie

Whole roasted chicken
Katerina Parameyeva/istockphoto

Butter Roasted Chicken

If the last time you served your guests chicken was dishing out a platter of barbecued breasts hot off the grill, then you can expect them to be dazzled by this lavish preparation described as, “the only roast chicken recipe you’ll ever need again.” 

Recipe: The Kitchen Magpie

Baked Ham with Cherries and Pineapples

Ham with Pineapple and Cherries

Ham recipes can be straightforward, simple — and, we’ll say it, boring. Not this one, which livens up the proceedings with cherries, pineapple, and whole cloves along with a sugary glaze for one truly Instagram-worthy presentation.

Recipe: Dinner at the Zoo

Rack of Lamb with Carrots and Green Beans

Classic Rack of Lamb

Those who order lamb every chance they can get but never make it at home will be talking about your version for a long time. As the recipe notes, you “season rack of lamb with rosemary, thyme, and garlic, then slather with olive oil and roast in the oven” to create this centerpiece of the meal.

Recipe: Simply Recipes


Best Vegetable Lasagna

Lasagna is an often-served, crowd-pleasing casserole, with everyone having their own favorite recipe. Sometimes that “recipe” comes in a cardboard box found in the freezer section (hey, we’ve all been there). This elevated version, ideal for vegetarians, is a special night-worthy, veggie-heavy take on the pasta staple complete with carrots, peppers, zucchini, onions, and spinach.

Recipe: Cookie + Kate

yorkshire pudding

Yorkshire Pudding

We don’t know that he has British roots, but celebrity chef Tyler Florence’s recipe for this British classic sounds utterly authentic – and quite easy. The most important ingredient? Pan drippings from a roast.

Recipe: Food Network

Sauteed green beans on big plate

Lemon Parmesan Green Beans

Forget the canned soup-laden green bean casserole that is slung onto many a holiday table. This luxurious treatment of green beans will leave your guests, vegetarian or not, feeling like they are participating in a five-star meal where attention is paid to every detail, even the side dishes.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Thanksgiving Stuffing

Best-Ever Oyster Stuffing

Stuffing is something that seems intertwined with the holiday season, starting at Thanksgiving and going all the way through New Year’s Day. This recipe notes freshly shucked or canned oysters work equally well as the featured ingredient never fails to give, “a briny, super savory flavor to your stuffing that will keep your guests coming back for second and third helpings.”

Recipe: Delish

Potato gratin, backed potato slices with creamy sauce. Top view

Classic Rich and Silky Potato Gratin

There’s something to be said for a creamy potato casserole. It’s not a simple baked potato or a tray of roasted potatoes. This indulgent take on scalloped potatoes sounds like quite the splurge with ingredients including both heavy cream and whole milk, and Parmegiano-Reggiano and Gruyère cheeses. Oh, yeah, there are potatoes, as well.

Recipe: Food.

Christmas wreath salad

Christmas Salad with Citrus-Champagne Vinaigrette

When you take the time to make everything on the table special, your family and guests feel pampered. Don’t ruin an elegant meal with a routine iceberg salad served with, gasp, bottled dressing. Instead, try this seasonal specialty that features mixed greens surrounded by pistachios, orange sections, pomegranate arils, and goat cheese all topped with a light and refreshing dressing.

Recipe: Two Healthy Kitchens

Salad with beet, blue cheese, nuts and vinaigrette.

Balsamic Roasted Beet Salad

You just know that celebrity chef Ina Garten’s meals, no matter the time of year, are classy affairs. Even the simplest ingredients are elevated in her hands, and this beet recipe offers plenty of proof, a refined side dish enlivened with Dijon mustard and Marcona almonds.

Recipe: Food Network

Diagonal Cast Iron Skillet with Brussels Sprouts

Decadent Smoky Brussels Sprouts

Hands up if you’ve recently had Brussels sprouts at a local restaurant. Yes, this vegetable has been having a moment. Bring that moment home with this recipe, a skillet twist on roasted sprouts. It’s a version that includes brown sugar, paprika and smoked almonds and is designed to please.

Recipe: Cooking Light

Stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms can be an appetizer, a lunch when paired with a salad, or a lush side dish to most any meal. This version features a cheesy, herby and garlicky filling baked until golden with crumbled pecans on top. You may want to double the recipe.

Recipe: Downshiftology

Cranberry Sauce

Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

How many times have you served (or eaten) canned cranberry sauce alongside the featured main course? Sure, it fits the bill, but maybe it’s time to spruce things up. This elegant interpretation, which takes some 30 minutes to make, features fresh berries simmered with Grand Marnier liqueur and orange juice to create, “a jammy sauce full of tart, juicy berries.”

Recipe: What’s In the Pan?

Baked pears in syrup on a white plate with a mint leaf close-up
Alexander Bashkirov/istockphoto

Easy Butter Roasted Pears

Bosc pears, dry white wine, star anise, and more are featured in this dessert that leaves no doubt you’ve had a restaurant-quality meal. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream to really put it over the top.

Recipe: Inspired Taste

raspberry charlotte cake with Savoiardi close-up. horizontal

Charlotte Russe de Raspberry

This “do-ahead” dessert may remind many at the table of the old-fashioned fancy desserts that used to be the norm when Mom was preparing a special meal, a household take on the centuries-old European delicacy. Light and airy, this is one cake that seems to still please no matter the era.

Recipe: Betty Crocker

Vanilla souffle. Close up

Classic French Vanilla Soufflé

Making a soufflé at home is a clear testament to how special you want your guests to feel. As this recipe description notes, “We may think of soufflés as a fancy dessert that we have to preorder in an elegant restaurant because it takes time and is certainly not something we could possibly make at home and serve. But this recipe for a vanilla dessert soufflé may change your mind.” See if you agree.

Recipe: The Spruce Eats

Cake pistachios and fresh mint

Chocolate-Mint Icebox Cake

A touch of mint, from an after-dinner liqueur to an airy dessert, seems to put a bit of an exclamation point on a menu. Have those around your table utterly satisfied with this finale that combines the classic dessert flavors of chocolate and mint with a vintage air.

Recipe: Today