Christmas puddings are a little like Marmite: you either love them beyond all measure, or you’d be perfectly happy if one never crossed your path again. But, unlike Marmite, there are dozens on the market to pick through – and given that most of us will only eat one a year, it’s important to get the right pudding for you. We’ve taste-tested more Christmas puds than one person should ever eat to bring you the best of the best.
Best overall pudding runner up: Aldi Specially Selected Marc de Champagne Christmas Pudding, 400g, £4.99
What they say: A celebration of vine fruits, glacé cherries and nuts blended with cider brandy, Champagne and a splash of Marc de Champagne brandy. Sprinkle with silver glitter to finish.
What we say: This is, in some ways, a silly pudding. It comes with a little sachet of silver glitter to sprinkle over the top once cooked – but we couldn’t help loving it. As well as being fun and festive, it tastes great, with the cider brandy and winey flavours coming through strongly. The cherries on top are both a pretty and delicious addition.
Waitrose No 1 Christmas Pudding, 400g, £7
What they say: Richly fruited Christmas pudding with COURVOISIER® VSOP Cognac, cream and pecans. Made with plump vine fruit, cream, pecan nuts and a generous splash of Fine Champagne Cognac, and matured for a year to develop a rich, rounded flavour.
What we say: The constituent parts of this pudding are great: it’s delicious, and boozy, with big, juicy generous bits of fruit, and we loved the pecans. It turns out beautifully, but on serving lacks structural integrity, so the last couple of portions crumbled, and were more deconstructed Christmas pudding than we would have liked.
Morrisons The Best 9 month matured, 400g, £5
What they say: Rich and flavourful, packed with plump vine fruits, pecan nuts, walnuts and almonds. Laced with cider, rum and sherry, traditionally steamed and matured with Cognac.
What we say: This is a pleasing Christmas pud, firm and rounded, and turns out beautifully, retaining its shape. It’s a dark pudding, not too sweet, and tastes slightly old fashioned; the mix and crunch of pecans, walnuts and almonds is lovely, and sits well against the spice and alcohol.
Co-op Irresistible 12 Month Matured Christmas Pudding 400g, £4.00
What they say: Richly fruited with walnuts, almonds, and a splash of brandy, sherry and rum.
What we say: This is a really enjoyable, classic Christmas pudding. It’s well-balanced, with a good texture, that doesn’t just crumble on cutting – and the walnuts are a welcome addition. For the price point, it’s a great buy.
Best overall pudding: Tesco Finest Cherry Topped Christmas Pudding 400G, £5
What they say: This wonderfully moist pudding comes from specialists who've been making Christmas puddings for more than 100 years. It's made with Cognac, Cider, Amontillado sherry and Ruby Port for a deeper flavour. Our rich pudding is topped with crunchy pecan and almonds and hand decorated with Kirsch soaked glacé cherries for extra texture. Matured for 9 months so each mouthful is packed with flavour. Infused with Cider, Amontillado Sherry and Ruby Port for a deep, rich flavour.
What we say: We really loved this pudding: it had great texture, a nice hit of booze, and generous, plump fruit. The literal cherries on top are the figurative cherry on top – sweet, juicy, pretty, and like a handful of scattered jewels.
Betty’s Medium Classic Christmas Pudding, 360g, £13.50
What they say: The rich, fruity pudding starts with plump, juicy fruits - golden glacé cherries, citrus peel and vine fruits - flaked almonds and mixed spices, all soaked overnight in brandy and Yorkshire ale. After steaming, our puddings are then left to mature for several months, allowing those sumptuous flavours to develop fully in time for Christmas.
What we say: This is a fantastically spiced pud, with the Medieval clove coming through alongside the citrus and ale notes. This is darker and denser than most of the supermarket puddings (in a good way), and tastes homemade.
Sainsbury's Winter Berry Clementine & Gin Christmas Pudding, Taste the Difference 700g, £10
What they say: Christmas pudding made with vine fruits and Gin, topped with winterberry and gin sauce, whole blonde glace cherries and dried apple juice infused blackcurrants.
What we say: This sits somewhere between a twist on a Christmas pud, and an alternative pudding for the big day: the sponge is blonder than a traditional Christmas pudding, but still recognisably festive. It was a little too sweet for some of our testers, but its flavours are unusual and interesting, with a beautifully soft texture. It’s a particularly pretty pudding, thanks to its bundt shaping and berry glaze when you turn the pudding out – it would make an impressive and unusual addition to the Christmas table.
Best overall pudding runner up: Marks and Spencer M&S Collection Christmas Pudding 12 Month Matured 907g, £12
What they say: An exclusive M&S recipe bursting with vine fruits, brandy soaked cherries, Braeburn apples and nuts, enriched with brandy and rum. Finished with M&S VSOP Cognac, this pudding is perfectly matured for 12 months to develop a rich and balanced flavour.
What we say: Fruity, moist, and well-balanced; we loved the whole cherries in the mix, and sitting alongside the apples and nuts. It made for a particularly delightful texture, and meant that every mouthful was different.
Best pudding to gift: Fortnum & Mason King George Christmas Pudding, 907g, £36.95
What they say: Handmade at every stage, our superb King George Christmas Pudding contains real beef suet, as well as Fortnum's Cognac and Pusser's Full-Strength Navy Rum.
What we say: This is a pudding with lineage, made to the original royal recipe first published in 1911. Packed full of cinnamon, nutmeg and booze, it tastes as old fashioned as it is, dark and dense, and benefits from steaming over microwaving, as it’s cakier than some of the more modern puddings. It’s not a cheap choice, but it comes in a ceramic bowl with the proper mop cap and disc of waxed paper, which makes it a handsome pud, and a great gift. Note that this pudding contains beef suet, and so is not suitable for vegetarians.
Best alternative pud: Harvey Nichols Really Chocolatey Christmas Pudding 454g, £10.95
What they say: Boozy, chocolatey and Christmassy – all in one gorgeous pudding. Packed with juicy vine fruits, cherries and Belgian chocolate chunks, then finished with a shot of crème de cacao. Share nicely.
What we say: This is the Christmas pud for those who swear blind they don’t like Christmas pud. That’s not to damn it with faint praise: Harvey Nicks have achieved a true marriage between Christmas pudding and chocolate pudding, neither domineering nor disappearing into the other. Beware: it is very rich, but frankly, that’s only right and proper when it comes to a hybrid chocolate and Christmas pudding.
Booths Extra Fruity Christmas Pudding, 907g, £9
What they say: Perfectly matured, packed with juicy sultanas, brandy, cherries, almonds and walnuts.
What we say: A very traditional Christmas pudding, that turns out beautifully and is just itching to be set alight and carried aloft to the table. There’s no glitter, no cherry-topping, no add-ins, but then there doesn’t need to be: the fruit, brandy and nuts speak for themselves. It’s also vegan.