Christmas in the Philippines is unlike any other Christmas celebration in the world. It is a unique mix of Filipino traditions and Spanish colonial influences. One of the most important parts of Filipino Christmas celebrations is partaking in Noche Buena food, or the meal for the “Night of Good Cheer.” This is the time when families get together to celebrate and enjoy traditional Filipino food.
There are many different dishes that are considered staples of Noche Buena celebrations, but perhaps none is more iconic than lechon. Lechon is a roasted pig that is slow-cooked over an open fire, and it is absolutely delicious.
Other popular dishes include ham, queso de bola (a type of Edam cheese), and pandesal (a type of bread). Desserts are also a big part of Noche Buena celebrations, and some favorites include ube halaya (a type of purple yam pudding), buko pandan (coconut pudding with pandan leaves), and leche flan (caramel custard). These are just a few examples of the most popular Noche Buena dishes, but there are countless other recipes that Filipinos enjoy cooking and eating at this time of year.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the best recipes for Filipino Christmas food, so you can make your Noche Buena even more special! From lechon and ham to pandesal and ube halaya, we have all the delicacies and flavors that will make your celebration truly unique.
19 Delicious Dishes Filipinos Serve as Christmas Handa for Noche Buena
Filipinos are utterly in love with food, whether it’s native, American, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or even European. Without a doubt, the Philippines is a melting pot of various cultures and traditions. That’s why we’ve incorporated our preferred taste to complement a range of recipes from across the globe. This is also why we post more pictures of food on social networking sites above anything else.
Is it appropriate to call ourselves obsessed with food? I think we are! And for good reason.
We never let occasions pass without preparing anything on that day. We try out new recipes and consider it as a tradition to have a feast; to show how grateful we are for the blessings we were granted upon. Filipinos, indeed, are appreciative and blessed.
Haven’t completed your Noche Buena menu list? Maybe this set will help you complete your desired menu. Let’s count down our top 19:
Pork is definitely one of the well-known heroes during Noche Buenas and special events. The Grilled Pork Belly or Inihaw na Liempo needs no introduction in every Filipino household. This is also one of the main courses in a boodle fight.
It is kind of easy to grill pork since you just need some space, patience, and coal, but the marinading process is something you should take seriously because the marination of the pork belly will determine the positive or negative comments on the final product!
Normally, they soak the pork in soy sauce and lemon. They also add salt, ground black pepper, and garlic to make it even more appetizing. The secret is how well you balance all the elements of the dish.
Carbonara is an Italian dish based on eggs, cheese, bacon, and black pepper.
There are a number of theories on how Carbonara turned up to what it looks like now. For example, it was made by woodcutters who made charcoal for fuel or it was because of the food shortages after the liberation of Rome in 1944. Some say the great amount of ground black pepper resembles coal flakes.
From the name itself, alla carbonara or “coal worker’s style,” suggests that it was cooked over a hardwood charcoal fire, and penne was used since it was easier to make with the eggs and cheese.
- Roasted Chicken
Roasted Chicken is sometimes called, “Turbo Chicken” or “Lechon Manok,” depending on how it is cooked.
Here’s one way to make this dish:
- Clean the chicken and pat dry. You may also drain it.
- Rub the whole chicken inside and out with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, calamansi juice, and fish sauce to enrich the flavor.
- Marinade it for at least four hours.
- Next, heat oven to 200°C.
- Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and stuff it with bay leaves and lemongrass.
- Put the chicken inside the oven and roast for 1-1/2 hour, depending on the size.
- Add the oil to the leftover marinade sauce and baste the chicken with sauce for a couple times.
- Check if it’s cooked already and you’re set to go! I mean, eat…
- Best served with gravy or Mang Thomas sauce.
- Hotdogs (with marshmallows!)
Even though hotdogs are usually considered as American food, they were first made in Germany as frankfurters. And did you know that there is a “right” and “wrong” way to prepare and eat a hotdog?
They say you shouldn’t put hot dog toppings between the hotdog and bun – “Always dress the hotdog, not the bread.”
While you usually these weird hotdog sticks during children birthday parties, it won’t be unusual to see this in a Filipino family’s table of Noche Buena food.
With pork, pork liver, potatoes, bay leaves, tomato sauce, hotdogs, familiar condiments, and other typical ingredients such as garlic, onions, lemon, soy sauce, salt, and pepper, you can cook your special version of Pork Menudo.
For those who enjoy eating rice and ulam for Christmas, menudo is always a savory option.
- Fried Chicken
The chicken in the picture above is mastered in the Max’s restaurant’s kitchen. It is normally served with sweet potato cut as thin and long as a human finger. However, Panlasang Pinoy came up with a similar recipe of the delicious and mouthwatering chicken from Max’s.
Why not give it a go this Christmas?
- Lechon Kawali
Ahh, yes. This boiled and deep-fried pork belly will make you wish you were younger again, so you don’t have to be that health-conscious and just gobble this right up.
In a single serving, they estimated Lechon Kawali consists of 100 calories, 9 g of Total Fat, 35 mg of Cholesterol, 100 mg of Sodium and 10 g of Protein – all of which we need to keep our systems functioning. That being said, let us all learn how to eat moderately and never disregard our health.
“Too much, whether it’s food or not, will gravely affect you.” – and we don’t want that! Personally, Lechon Kawali is one of my favorite Christmas handa just because it’s seriously addictive. Especially when my mom cooks it, I know there’s just enough oil that it is safe to eat.
Kaldereta or Caldereta can be cooked with pork, beef, or chicken and stewed in tomatoes. However, the most exotic and conventional main character of the Kaldereta is the goat.
Sisig is a Kapampangan term which means “to snack with something sour.” Through the years, it evolved to what it is today, but back in the old days, it was a salad which includes green fruits with salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar.
Then, it progressed into “Sisig Matua” or “kilawin baboy” of the Tagalogs. According to my grandparents, this dish became popular because expecting mothers believe that the pig’s cartilage in the sisig can make the fetus’ bones stronger.
Is it true? Maybe so. The pig’s cartilage has lots of nutritional benefits like Calcium for the bones, Potassium for the heart, Iron for the blood, and Zinc for the immune system.
Here’s some trivia: Do you know that Angeles City is the “Sisig Capital of the Philippines”? We have Aling Lucing to thank for that! The Sisig queen reinvented sisig and contributed a lot to how it sisig is at present. Her legacy continues until now!
There are so many means and versions of how to make paella, but one of them has chicken, pork, clams, shrimp, and mussels.
A number of people say that the word “paella” can be closely linked with baqiyah, the Arabic word for leftovers, even though it originated in Valencia, Spain. Having said that, the word actually comes from Latin word “patella” that is an offering to the gods.
- Lumpiang Shanghai
It’s a lip-smacking recipe and great to serve as finger food! Lumpiang Shanghai is called spring rolls by other nationalities too, yet what they are always trying to make sure of before they eat it is what these spring rolls have inside.
In-demand during birthday celebrations, lumpiang shanghai has grown to become a favorite in any Noche Buena handa as top-tier finger food.
Chicken, beef, or pork barbecue is definitely one of my much-loved foods! It could be an appetizer, main course, or snack!
You need time to marinate the meat that will be used for it to be savory. Most people usually put soy sauce, garlic, onion, lemon, 7UP or Sprite, ground black pepper, and banana ketchup for added flavor.
Kare-kare is a traditional Filipino oxtail stew in a peanut-based sauce; best served with bagoong or shrimp paste! It is considered a specialty and often served during special occasions. However, the recipe varies from region to region and family to family, complementing what they actually want.
Pampanga, the culinary center of the Philippines, is where the majority of people believe Kare-kare originated. It’s not that surprising, isn’t it? Most of the dishes on this list came from them.
Others suppose it is a noble dish served to elite people before, or that it is similar to Indian curry and an Indonesian dish called Gado-Gado.
Pancit Malabon, Pancit Bihon, or Pancit Canton, these types of noodles will ruin your diet because you will not even notice how much you’ve been eating. This was adopted in our local cuisine ever since the Chinese introduced noodles. Was it love at first taste?
It’s also a popular belief that the birthday celebrant needs to eat noodles to prolong his or her life. As they put it, “Wala namang mawawala kung susubukan.” Birthday noodles are served at Chinese restaurants to back up this way of thinking.
Other than what I’ve mentioned above, there are special kinds of pancit too! For example, there’s:
- Buko Pancit,
- Pancit Lomi,
- Pancit Miki,
- Pancit Morong,
- Pancit Lucban,
- and Pancit Luglog.
- Crispy Pata
Crispy Pata is a Filipino dish consisting of deep-fried pig trotters or knuckles partnered with a soy-vinegar. It is one of the legendary pulutans or beer matches during each drinking session. Make sure that you have some sawsawan!
It is a type of meatloaf prepared Filipino style, making it the local version of meatloaf.
In Spain and Portugal, Embutido is known as enchido. It means that the stuffings such as hashed meat, spices, and herbs are wrapped in the skin of the pig’s intestines, but most are packed in artificial, but edible skin.
The typical ingredients are:
- Ground pork,
- Liver spread,
- Tomato sauce,
- Salt and pepper.
Making Embutido is one of the toughest tasks I know, based on my aunts’ sentiments, especially when you’re going to use the skin of the pig’s intestines. Nonetheless, if you’re making it for the whole family to relish as your Noche Buena food, why not? I’m pretty sure your hard work will be paid off!
- Christmas Ham
It is one of the traditional foods served to the guests or ourselves! Most Filipinos just buy the hamon at the grocery store or order from a friend who sells it. More often than not, we give the Christmas Ham as gifts to our close friends and relatives, don’t we?
It costs around 150 php or maybe the price is higher, depending on the brand of the ham. Though, you can always make your own Christmas Ham. Firstly, you need kilos of a pig’s leg without the bones. Select one with the skin and fat intact. It also involves sugar, salt, honey, msg (optional), Sprite or 7UP, pineapple, and garlic!
Good luck with that!
Many people have their own versions of Spaghetti, and one of the versions of Philippine spaghetti is the sweet one. For foreigners, they prefer it to be a bit sour, but for us, we prefer it to be sweet!
Why is that so? Maybe that’s what our taste buds prefer… Never argue with thy taste buds!
To make matters funnier, we name the meals based on the fast-food chains we eat at, Jollibee style spaghetti, McDonald’s style spaghetti, KFC style spaghetti, and many more! And of course, there is what we call homemade style spaghetti, which can be a combination of different flavors.
What’s a Filipino feast without this? It’s more like a necessity to have one on every occasion! An event without a Lechon is like walking around with just one shoe!
Lechon is also called litsong baboy and came from the Spanish term that means “suckling pig.” The famous lechon makers and sellers in the Philippines are Mila’s Lechon, Lydia’s Lechon, Aling Nene, Pingping, and Mang Tomas.
The Lechon has been part of our culture way back the Spanish era, and there’s no room for wonder that this is the main host or highlight of most events, not only in the Philippines, but also abroad. And don’t forget, you can turn the leftovers into Lechon Paksiw so no part of the roasted pig will be wasted!
Did we miss anything on this list? How about you? What are you anticipating for your Noche Buena handa? Ready to unbuckle your belts?
Given this extensive list of Filipino food for Christmas celebrations, we’re sure that nothing beats the festivities when it’s with your loved ones – including those who fly back home for a few days! Surely, their tummies have missed home-cooked food back in the motherland.
15 MUST-TRY Pinoy Dishes for Our Beloved Balikbayan This Christmas!
Well, if we were to take our balikbayan relatives on a food trip, we’ll probably let them indulge in a lot Filipino food. Or maybe a mix of Pinoy favorites with a little twist; best versions of classic ulam dishes and iconic Filipino restaurants to once again rekindle their romance for good old Filipino flavors.
Of course, like with our other food features, we will only be recommending dishes which we have personally tasted. Here’s a list of our favorite Filipino food for the balikbayan:
I believe this brand doesn’t need any introduction and despite the countless new restos in town, The Aristocrat Restaurant remains as a legend in the industry.
Apart from their signature Chicken Barbeque, we also love their fried chicken, Sotanghon Guisado and Torta delos Reyes.
When it comes to Chicken Barbeque, this one’s the most famous of all! And of course, you can only taste it here in the Philippines. Surely, your balikbayan relatives will appreciate it when you take them here.
- The Kare-Kare at Jeepney Cafe Intercontinental Manila
For your relatives who are craving for authentic Kare-Kare, invite them over at Jeepney Cafe, Intercontinental Manila. We have tasted a lot of Kare-Kare dishes before, but honestly, the Kare-Kare here at Jeepney Cafe is the only one that really leaves an impression.
“Sarap na hahanap-hanapin.”
Ang bilis maubos, because we finished it all! LOL!
Whenever my friends ask me about my recommended Champorado, we always recommend this. Nothing beats champorado with 100% native Tablea chocolate – surely, your relatives missed this a lot!
- “Talong Mo Kay Tulfo” Tortang Talong from 1521 Restaurant (Burgos Circle at Forbes Town Center, Fort Bonifacio)
I believe that a true Filipino loves tortang talong. I think Filipinos abroad often make this, as it’s really easy to prepare, but I’m sure they will be blown away when they taste the “Talong Mo Kay Tulfo” Tortang Talong from 1521 Restaurant.
It’s an oversized version of the usual tortang talong and instead of ground meat, they use sisig! Eat this with newly cooked rice plus banana ketchup… SOLB!
- The Original Avocado Cake by Lia’s Cakes in Season (25-A East Capitol Drive, Brgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City)
Want to impress your balikbayan relatives?
Serve them with a cake like no other. Only in the Philippines and made perfectly by Lia’s Cakes in Season.
- Cebu Lechon Belly from The Hearty Onion
Filipino family reunions and get-togethers will never be complete without lechon. For your relatives who have stayed in countries that strictly eat halal food (no pork), I’m sure they are dying to eat lechon.
The Cebu Lechon Belly at The Hearty Onion is prepared and cooked in Cebu then flown here in Manila, making it authentic and truly a one-of-a-kind experience for your balikbayan.
- Two-Way Pork Adobo Ribs at Cafe Juanita (Burgos Circle at Forbes Town Center, Fort Bonifacio)
Ultra-tender pork ribs braised in Cafe Juanita‘s secret sauce and topped with crispy pork adobo flakes… Diet? What diet? Highly recommended for people who can’t get enough of Adobo.
- Pinakbet-ter Than Best of 1521 Restaurant (Burgos Circle at Forbes Town Center, Fort Bonifacio)
In this season of feasting, be sure to balance it out with healthy vegetable dishes like this special “Pinakbet-ter Than Best” from 1521.
As you can see in the photo below, their Pinakbet is composed of a combination of slow-cooked ingredients with chunks of fresh tomatoes, crispy pork meat, and pork cracklings for that added crunch.
- Arroz Caldo Buffet at Nurture Wellness Village Tagaytay (Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II West ,Tagaytay City, Cavite)
For your visiting relatives who have stayed abroad for ages, I highly recommend you take them to Nurture Wellness Village Tagaytay to rediscover their Filipino heritage through the GABRIELA Experience.
Here at Nurture Wellness Village Tagaytay, you and your relatives will get to rediscover our native Pinoy dances, games, our native “kakanins” or rice cakes, and indulge in the best arroz caldo in the world. Highly recommended for family reunions!
Learn to dance the Carinosa. (Photo credit: muckingaroundmanila.com)
Learn to walk on stilts… (Photo credit: muckingaroundmanila.com)
and try the BEST Arroz Caldo in the World!
Made with all organic ingredients! (Photo credit: muckingaroundmanila.com)
Paired with crispy tawilis, tapa, sardines, and even kale siomai! The best talaga! (Photo credit: muckingaroundmanila.com)
- The Homemade Ice Creams at Milky Way of Malate (Tuscany, Upper Mckinley Road, Mckinley Hill, Taguig City)
I know ice cream can be found anywhere in the world, but the ones made by Milky Way has this certain distinct character which sets them apart from the rest. These flavors will surely take you back to your childhood and will make your balikbayan relatives miss the Philippines more.
- Puto Bumbong Cake by Lia’s Cakes in Season (25-A East Capitol Drive, Brgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City)
Make your Christmas “handaans” more colorful and unique by bringing this to the table! Another unique creation by Lia’s Cakes in Season. Available only during Christmas makes it a must-have! Best enjoyed with hot tea or coffee.
- Coco Sisig Kineme at Star-BAKS (Bukidnon St., Bago Bantay QC near Sto. Nino Parish church)
I just really have to include this because you cannot find this anywhere. Herks Umali’s unique Coco Sisig Kineme is the sisig with coconut cream and tender juicy hotdog bits! If your relatives grew up loving TJ hotdogs, then I’m sure they will adore this. Only P75 with rice and egg!
- Empanada de Kaliskis 1820 at Adarna Food & Culture (119 Kalayaan Ave., Diliman District, Quezon City)
I’d like to call this as the Ultimate Empanada. The empanada recipe which dates way, way back in 1820, and is now only made by two old ladies in Bulacan. A Filipino gem indeed – only in the Philippines!
- Quezo de Bola Cheesecake at Cheesecakes by Guy (Eastwood Mall)
Same with ice cream, cheesecakes can also be found practically everywhere, except for this kind I believe, making it another must-have for the holidays. Not too sweet, their Dulce de Leche and Ube flavors are also nice, but since I’m a big cheese lover, I prefer the Quezo de Bola Cheesecake.
- Puto Bumbong Pancake at Early Bird Breakfast Club (Eastwood Mall)
Whoever thought about this is an absolute genius! I’ve heard about Bibingka Pancakes before, but Puto Bumbong? Looks amazing and tastes amazing as well; I’m sure balikbayans will go crazy over this Filipino treat!
Paskong Pinoy: Christmas Food for Noche Buena is Like No Other
Well, that’s our list of Christmas handa! Christmas in the Philippines is a truly unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. This is because of the country’s rich culture and diverse traditions, which come together to create a festive atmosphere that is enjoyed by people of all ages, and the Noche Buena is the culmination of this feast.
No matter what dishes you decide to make, it’s important to remember that the most important part of Noche Buena is spending quality time with your family and friends. So, kick back, relax, and enjoy all the delicious food that comes with a Filipino Christmas celebration! Happy Holidays!
When in Manila, whether you’re spending Christmas at home with your family or out enjoying one of the many holiday celebrations, there is something for everyone to enjoy, which is why balikbayans love our homeland. So, if you have relatives who are looking for an interesting and fun-filled way to spend Christmas, be sure to invite them over to your home!
Be sure to share this article with your relatives abroad and ask them which ones they would like to try.