Christmas Pudding (Figgy Pudding)

published Dec 6, 2022
Traditional Christmas Pudding (Figgy Pudding) Recipe

This boozy, opulent, steamed pudding is heavily studded with brandy-soaked dried fruits, nuts, candied orange, and lemon peel .


Prep45 minutes

Cook6 hours to 8 hours

Jump to Recipe
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A photo of a whole Christmas Pudding/Figgy pudding (a traditional Christmas round cake made with dried fruit) topped with a holly sprig and powder sugar.
Credit: Tara Holland

In England, my motherland, figgy pudding is usually only referred to as Christmas pudding. This boozy, rich, spiced steamed pudding is heavily studded with brandy-soaked mixed dried fruits, candied orange, lemon peel, and sometimes nuts is traditionally served on Christmas with dessert. I have fond memories of my grandmother wrapping her blue and white striped pudding bowl in a dish towel before steaming. And I vividly remember her kitchen’s delicious smells of brandy, fruit, and spices around that time of year.

Is Figgy Pudding the Same as Christmas Pudding?

Figgy pudding can be referred to as Christmas pudding, or even plum pudding, depending on where you are in the world. And to slightly confuse matters more, the dessert usually doesn’t contain any figs. The reference to plums is thought to be based on the fact that Victorians used to call raisins “plums,” although it could also be linked to prunes (dried plums), which some recipes include.

Credit: Tara Holland

But What Is Figgy Pudding Made of, Exactly? 

Like most traditional recipes, every family will have their own secret recipe — often one that’s been passed down for generations. Although they can differ quite tremendously, most recipes include these common ingredients.

  • Mixed dried fruits: Such as currants, raisins, golden raisins, dates, or prunes.  
  • Candied orange and lemon peel: This is often sold as “mixed peel” in the UK.
  • Brandy: To soak the fruit and pour over the pudding and ignite before serving.
  • Fresh breadcrumbs: This recipe calls for leaving three slices of white bread out overnight to get stale before processing into crumb.
  • Shredded beef suet: A traditional ingredient that can be substituted with vegetable shortening and butter.
  • Eggs: To bind together ingredients.
  • Spices: Such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger, and ground allspice, In the UK, we use a spice blend called “mixed spice.”
  • Brown sugar: The main sweetener.
  • Black treacle (or molasses): For depth and sweet richness.

Christmas Pudding Traditions and Superstitions

Historically, a sixpence was stirred into the pudding batter, and everyone in the family would take a stir of the mix on Stir-Up Sunday, the last Sunday in November before the first advent Sunday. On Christmas day, when the pudding was served, whoever had the coin in their portion, was thought to enjoy good luck and prosperity in the year ahead. In our family, we would wrap a cleaned twenty-pence piece in a small scrap of foil so it protected the batter from the coin’s impurities.

Another tradition (or some might say superstition!) is when it’s time to serve the pudding. The lights are turned off for theatrical purposes, warm brandy is poured over the pudding, and it is lit. Literally! In our family, we believed this burned the devil out of the house.

There are different ways to light a Christmas pudding. One common method is warming and lighting the brandy in a ladle or saucepan and then pouring the ignited brandy over the pudding. But this makes me a little edgy! I always found the easiest and safest way is to pour warm brandy on the pudding, stand back, and light it with a long match or lighter. The warm brandy helps to create a larger flame. 

How Long to Steam Figgy Pudding

You can steam the pudding from anywhere from four hours to eight hours. The longer the pudding steams, the darker the pudding turns. As long as you keep your eye on the water level, you can’t really over-steam it. I find six hours to be the sweet spot! 

What to Serve with Christmas Pudding (Plus What to Do with Leftovers!)

  • Serve with brandy butter (or any hard sauce)
  • Pour heavy cream over the warm pudding (a common move in the UK)
  • Scoop some vanilla ice cream on top
  • Serve with créme Anglaise or custard 
  • Slice and serve with a chunk of aged cheddar cheese. (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!)
  • Whizz it up into a boozy milkshake.
  • Crumble a couple of layers into an ice cream sundae, sprinkled with chopped toasted pecans, and drizzled with caramel sauce.

Traditional Christmas Pudding (Figgy Pudding) Recipe

This boozy, opulent, steamed pudding is heavily studded with brandy-soaked dried fruits, nuts, candied orange, and lemon peel .

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time 6 hours to 8 hours

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


For the dried fruit and bread (prepare the evening before):

  • 2 1 /2 ounces

    pitted dried dates (about 9)

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    candied lemon peel

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    candied orange peel

  • 3/4 cup

    golden raisins (4 ounces)

  • 3/4 cup

    raisins (4 ounces)

  • 2/3 cup

    zante currants (3 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup


  • 3 slices

    white sandwich bread

For the pudding:

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground allspice

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1

    medium sweet apple, such as Fuji or Honeycrisp

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1

    small orange

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 tablespoon

    black treacle or molasses

  • 4 ounces

    shredded beef suet (about 1 cup), or 4 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter plus 1/4 cup frozen Crisco vegetable shortening

Serving options:

  • Holly and berry sprig

  • Powdered sugar

  • 3 tablespoons brandy

  • Heavy cream, brandy butter, or hard sauce


Prepare the dried fruit and bread the night before:

  1. Chop the following into small (1/4-inch) dice, placing each in the same medium shallow bowl as you complete it: 2 1/2 ounces pitted dried dates (about 1/2 cup), 1 1/2 ounces candied lemon peel (about 1/4 cup), and 1 1/2 ounces candied orange peel (about 1/4 cup).

  2. Add 3/4 cup golden raisins, 3/4 cup raisins, and 2/3 cup zante currants. Add 1/2 cup brandy and stir to combine. Cover and let sit at room temperature for least 5 hours or up to overnight for the fruit plump up.

  3. Let 3 slices white sandwich bread sit in a single layer at room temperature to dry out overnight. (If you are not using shredded beef suet for the pudding, freeze 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1/4 cup Crisco overnight.)

Make the pudding:

  1. Let 3 tablespoons unsalted butter sit at room temperature until softened. Meanwhile, prepare the parchment and breadcrumb mixture.

  2. Trace the top of a 1 1/2 to 2-quart heatproof, deep bowl or pudding bowl on a sheet of parchment paper, then cut out the round. Tear the bread into large pieces and place in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until fine crumbs form (about 2 cups), about 30 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl.

  3. Add 1 packed cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine, using your fingers to break up any clumps of brown sugar.

  4. Prepare the following, adding each to the bowl of soaked fruit as you complete it: Peel, core, and grate 1 medium sweet apple on the large holes of a box grater. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon and 1 small orange until you have 1 teaspoon each. Juice the orange until you have 1 tablespoon.

  5. Place 2 large eggs and 1 tablespoon black treacle or molasses in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the fruit mixture and 4 ounces shredded beef suet (1 cup); if you are using frozen butter and Crisco, grate on the large holes of a box grater into the bowl, making sure you scrape everything clinging to the inside of the grater into the bowl. Stir to combine.

  6. Add the breadcrumb mixture and stir until combined; this may take a few minutes. Liberally coat the pudding bowl with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Transfer the batter into the bowl. Tap the bowl on the counter and smooth the surface with a spatula. Run one finger along the circumference of the batter to seal and ensure a smooth edge. You should have at least a 1-inch space between the top of the batter and the top of the bowl.

  7. Brush the parchment round with the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and place butter-side down onto the top of the batter. Lightly press down with your hand to ensure the surface of the batter is flat. (If using a pudding mold with a lid, place the lid on top of the parchment round before wrapping the top with foil and parchment and tying it with twine.)

  8. Wrap and tie the pudding bowl (here is a video to help visualize, you do not need to butter the paper as in the video): Cut a 6-foot long piece of kitchen twine. Place a 16-inch long sheet of aluminum foil on a work surface with a short side closer to you. Top with a 14-inch sheet of parchment paper, also with a short side closer to you and centering it on the foil. Create and fold a 1-inch crease halfway down the foil and parchment (the steam will expand the fold during steaming, allowing extra space).

  9. Flip the parchment and foil onto the pudding so the foil is on top, positioning the crease across the center of the bowl. Press down on the foil onto the edges of the bowl to seal. Wrap the kitchen twine around the bowl near the top twice, then tie tightly to secure. Create a handle by pulling the excess kitchen twine across the top of the bowl and tying it to the twine on the other side; cut off any excess string.

  10. Trim off all but 1-inch of the excess foil and parchment with kitchen shears. Tuck the remaining excess foil under itself, pressing it against the outside of the bowl to create a tighter seal. If the twine around the bowl doesn’t feel very tight, tie another piece of twine around the bowl to make sure it is fully sealed.

  11. Place a heatproof trivet or flat steaming rack in a large, deep saucepan or small pot that will fit the bowl with a lid on top. Place the bowl on the trivet. Fill the pan with enough cold water so it reaches halfway up the sides of the bowl.

  12. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to low to gently steam for 6 to 8 hours (you can’t really over-steam it). Check the water level every hour or so and add more boiling water as needed to keep the water level halfway up the sides of the bowl. Do not take the foil cover off at any point.

  13. Grasping the kitchen string handle, carefully lift the bowl out of a pan and place on a wire rack or heatproof surface. Let rest for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the string and uncover the pudding. Invert onto a serving plate. (If you are not serving it right away, uncover and let it cool in the bowl. See Recipe Notes for storage options.)

  14. To serve, top the pudding with a holly and berry sprig and dust with powdered sugar if desired before slicing. If you wish to light the Christmas pudding, make sure the pudding is sitting on a heatproof plate. Gently warm 3 tablespoons brandy in a small saucepan over low heat (it helps create a larger flame). Remove the sprig, pour the warm brandy over the pudding, stand back, and carefully light with a long lighter or match. Serve the pudding warm with heavy cream, brandy butter, or hard sauce to pass at the table to pour over the warm pudding.

Recipe Notes

Oven drying the bread: Drying out the bread helps the bread pulse better in the food processor, so they don’t stick together due to the moisture. If you forget to dry it out, lightly toast the bread with no color in the oven so it dries out slightly.

Covering the pan: If you do not have a tight-fitting lid, place a large sheet of damp paper towel over the top of the pot, cover with the lid, and fold the excess paper towel back onto the lid so it doesn’t catch fire.

Substitutions: Dark rum or bourbon can be substituted for the brandy. For an alcohol-free pudding, use 1/2 cup apple juice plus 2 teaspoons rum extract or 1/2 cup good-quality no-alcohol liquor (such as Lyre’s Spiced Cane Spirit) instead of the brandy, although the flavor will not be as intense. Store an alcohol-free pudding tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Make ahead: Christmas pudding is the perfect make-ahead Christmas dessert, as it is usually made 4 to 5 weeks in advance. The longer it is stored, the more mature the flavors will be. The pudding can be steamed again (following the same method) on the day of serving for 1 1/2 hours or until the center registers 16ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Or it can also be reheated in the microwave, inverted on a microwaveable plate, and lightly covered with a damp paper towel on medium-low power (about 40% to 50%) for 10 to 15 minutes.

Storage: Due to the alcohol content in the pudding, you can store it in a very cool, dark place for up to 5 weeks: Wrap the top of the bowl in a fresh piece of parchment paper and another layer of aluminum foil. Top with a second layer of foil to completely cover the bowl. Place in a large zip top bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 months or freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw overnight in the fridge before rewarming.