Serious question: Why does fruitcake still exist? Crammed with the rejects of the dried fruit world, roughly the weight of a small truck, and filled with an average adult’s yearly sugar quota, it’s no wonder the booze-soaked bread brick is high on the list of worst holiday foods ever.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of alternative breads to celebrate the festive season. From chocolaty loaves to cheesy biscuits, these tastier, better-looking, and healthier bread recipe options are guaranteed to keep spirits bright.
With a white chocolate drizzle and cranberries on top, this banana bread is all dressed up for the holidays. Don’t let its indulgent appearance mislead you, though: Whole-wheat flour, reduced-sugar dried fruit, and nonfat dairy make it healthier than it looks, meaning you don’t have to feel bad about skipping a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast to have this instead.
Fulfill part of your daily fruit quota with this cross between pastry and bread. With reduced sugar and oil, it can pass as a breakfast option, but the cinnamon-spiced, nutty apple mixture in the middle totally tastes like dessert.
This recipe makes sure your holiday loaf is a beta-carotene powerhouse, with the addition of sweet potato purée and grated carrots. It really doesn’t get better than chowing down on carby goodness and knowing that you’re getting a ton of antioxidants in the process.
This nutty loaf is the poster child for unrefined sugars, using dates, coconut sugar, and molasses to get all the necessary sweetness without setting your blood glucose up for a nasty crash later. Plus, if you’ve never used aquafaba (chickpea water) in baking before, this is a great, non-intimidating way to start.
Put leftover cranberries to good use by throwing them into the batter for this easy quickbread. It’s a great way to add festive flair to snack time or breakfast, and the fresh orange juice, walnuts, and whole-wheat flour make sure that a slice is as hearty as it is tasty.
There are just seven grams of sugar and almost five grams of fiber in a generous serving of this lighter loaf, which packs in all the spicy, rich gingerbread flavor without turning into an empty-calorie bomb. Simple but classic, a slice of this with a cup of coffee or tea will never disappoint.
What’s a holiday-related roundup without something pumpkin? We’re not talking about artificial flavorings, either. From two cups of pure pumpkin to hearty spelt flour, ground spices, and unrefined sweeteners, this bread is real food at its finest.
Rolls and Buns
Ginger and nutmeg join cinnamon to give these breakfast buns even more warm spice, and the substitution of coconut oil and coconut sugar for the butter and brown sugar makes them a better-for-you option. They may look exactly like Cinnabon creations, but as far as taste goes, these are in a league of their own.
Modeled after mini-pumpkins, these adorable buns make for quite the show-stopping breakfast, but it’s so much easier to get those ridges and stems than it looks. All you need is a pair of kitchen scissors and some cinnamon sticks. The end result so worth the extra bit of effort.
Celebrate the holidays, Swedish-style, with these swirly, saffron-scented Scandinavian rolls. The reduced sugar and butter in this recipe actually work to keep them lighter than traditional St. Lucia buns, and the combination of the slightly floral saffron and the sweet raisins is perfection.
It may not be traditional, but babka in bun form is easier and offers better portion control—which might be helpful, given that these babies are pretty hard to resist, with their big chunks of chocolate swirled into fluffy rolls of dough. Seinfeld would totally approve.
How can anything called “sticky pecan buns” be remotely healthy, you ask? Try just half a tablespoon of butter in a whole-wheat dough, nonfat milk, and unrefined maple syrup for the caramel-like glaze and filling. The best part is, there’s no waiting for the dough to rise and they’re made in a slow-cooker, not the oven, so you don’t have to stand around and keep an eye on them as they bake.
At some point during the holidays, everyone’s likely to have sweet potatoes on hand. Instead of baking them into yet another casserole, turn them into these soft, fluffy dinner rolls. Sweet from the tuber and the maple syrup, but slightly earthy from the sea salt and rosemary, they’re the perfect side for any festive table.
These dinner rolls look simple but have so much going for them. Whole-wheat flour gives them some added fiber, molasses provides a deep but not-overwhelming sweetness, and there’s just enough cocoa powder for that irresistible golden-brown color, but not so much to make them taste like chocolate bread. Be prepared for these to outshine even the entrée.
Holiday cooking doesn’t need to hike up your stress levels. If you’re not a from-scratch baker, go easy on yourself without phoning it in with the help of some cornbread mix. Jazzed up with cheddar and a mouthwatering garlic butter, these biscuits may only take a jiffy (literally) to make, but don’t taste it at all.
Turns out that a savory spin on babka is just as delicious as the traditionally sweet bread, especially when there’s goat cheese involved. With that braided finish and the flecks of mixed herbs throughout the loaf, it’s guaranteed to be a hit at any end-of-year party you serve it at.
These biscuits are packed with butter… nut squash. Despite being lower in fat, the puréed veggie keeps them from becoming dense, cardboard-like rocks, and gives them a totally natural golden-yellow tint. Take 'em to any holiday gathering and we guarantee even your most curmudgeonly uncle will be blown away.
Eggs are one of the main ingredients in regular challah, but this recipe is looking out for the vegans, with no eggs in the batter or the glossy top oat, and olive oil instead of butter for that garlicky crust. It might just be your new favorite garlic bread, non-vegans included.
Gluten-free friends, get in on the homemade bread-baking with this satisfying loaf. Almond and coconut flours step in for the wheat, and with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin purée, rosemary, and coconut sugar, the sweet and savory balance make this just as good for breakfast as it is as a side for turkey.
These dinner rolls are a refreshing departure from the overload of sweet pumpkin recipes during the holidays. With olive oil, cumin, thyme, and just a tablespoon of brown sugar, the flavor combo here is hard to find at any ordinary bakery.
A bread-based roundup may be an unlikely place to find a ketogenic recipe, but thanks to almond flour, there’s no need to leave carb-cutting diners out. With sour cream, butter, eggs, and cheese meeting all those high-fat, moderate-protein needs, these biscuits are a keto eater’s dream.