A good Christmas pudding is the perfect indulgence: rich, moist, fruity and flavoursome. If you don't have the time (or talent) to make your own, there are plenty of ready-made puddings available from supermarkets, boutique producers and through charities and community fundraisers. But which one is worthy of being the grand finale to your holiday feast?
We blind tasted and reviewed 18 Christmas puddings, from brands including Aldi, Coles, Itha's and the Pudding Lady. Whether you're a seasonal scrooge or prepared to splurge, there's a perfect Christmas pud for you.
According to our experts, these were the three tastiest puddings we tested.
Coles Finest Luxury Christmas Pudding.
Coles Finest Luxury Christmas Pudding
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 84%
- Price: $12.00 ($1.33 per 100g)
- Country of origin statement: Made in New Zealand
- Experts say: "Very moist but doughy". "Rich and generous with fruit and nuts, good as a special occasion pudding". "Looks good". "Open texture which crumbles very easily on cutting".
The Traditional Plum Pudding Co Homemade Plum Pudding.
The Traditional Plum Pudding Co Homemade Plum Pudding
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 78%
- Price: $36 ($6.00 per 100g)
- Country of origin statement: Made in Australia from at least 45% Australian ingredients
- Website: alpinevalleysfinefoods.com.au
- Experts say: "Very fruity and good flavour". "Looks like a traditional pudding: good colour, aroma, fruit and nuts evenly throughout".
Newcastle Pudding Lady Traditional Christmas Pudding.
Newcastle Pudding Lady Traditional Christmas Pudding
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 74%
- Price: $31 ($6.20 per 100g)
- Country of origin statement: Made in Australia from at least 90% Australian ingredients
- Website: puddinglady.com.au
- Experts say: "Moist, very sticky". "Evenly moist in fruit and pudding, pleasant aroma, colour and texture – would be happy to serve this". "Holds together on cutting for presentation".
If you've ever made Christmas pudding at home, you'll know it's not cheap to make. The cost of quality ingredients like dried fruit, butter and alcohol adds up. And they're generally made to a labour- and time-intensive recipe. So, if you're buying ready-made, it's reasonable to assume you might have to fork out a little more for a top-quality pud.
But if you've already blown your budget on the seafood spread or glazed ham, don't despair – our results show you can buy a delicious centrepiece for your Christmas spread and still have change from $20.
The equal most expensive product in our test was the judges' least favourite
The top-tasting pud in our test, Coles Finest Luxury Christmas Pudding, was just $1.33 per 100g (or $12 a pudding).
It was a big leap price-wise from there for the preferred puddings. Those that took second and third place, The Traditional Plum Pudding Co Homemade Plum Pudding and the Newcastle Pudding Lady Traditional Christmas Pudding, were among the most expensive, at $6.00 per 100g and $6.20 per 100g respectively.
The equal most expensive product (by unit price) in our test was the judges' least favourite. Itha's Puddings Traditional Pudding was $6.40 per 100g but scored just 47%. The Pudding Lane Classic Christmas Pudding costs the same per 100g but scored a more respectable 66%.
According to our trusted CHOICE Community, the qualities to look for when choosing a Christmas pudding are lots of fruit, moistness, general flavour and strong spiciness, and it should be matured for at least a month.
Lots of fruit
The two best-tasting puddings in our review, Coles Finest Luxury Christmas Pudding and The Traditional Plum Pudding Co Homemade Plum Pudding, are more than half fruit – a mixture of raisins, glacé cherries and mixed peel.
If you're in the "more fruit is better" camp, here are the puddings that listed their fruit content percentage and how that compared with the taste scores from our experts.
It's no surprise that the top three puddings were reported to have a good distribution of fruit and moistness. There are a few factors that make a Christmas pudding moist, including whether it's steamed or baked in a water bath, the amount of fruit, and the type and quantity of fat. Steaming will keep the pudding more moist over the long cooking time, as will more fruit.
We don't just want sweetness from our puddings. Contributing to the flavour of Christmas puddings, other than fruit, are fat, alcohol and spice.
Fat can come from a number of different sources. Suet, a traditional component of English Christmas pudding, is the fat found around the kidneys of cows and sheep. It provides moisture and a rich flavour. Palm oil is used as an alternative to suet as it creates a similar crumbly texture. Butter is another option to improve the flavour, but it can make a pudding greasy.
Steaming will keep the pudding more moist over the long cooking time, as will more fruit
Only one pud in this test contained suet – the Silver Penny Puddings Traditional Christmas Pudding with a CHOICE Expert Rating of 59%. Palm oil was specified in six of the 18 puddings, and seven contained butter.
The puddings contained a variety of alcoholic drinks for flavour with the traditional brandy in all but one. Some also contained rum, cider, stout or sherry, and two contained port. The pudding with the equal-highest brandy content was our top-scoring Coles Finest Luxury Christmas Pudding (which also contained port), with 9% brandy.
In addition to flavour and aroma, our experts looked at appearance and texture.
Overall, the expert taste testers complained that the puddings lacked the characteristic spiciness of a Christmas pudding. Surprisingly, there was one pud that didn't list any spices on its ingredient list: The Traditional Food Company Steamed Pudding. Perhaps its lack of spices contributed to its lower score of 62%.
Maturing is the action of leaving the pudding until the flavours have developed. Maturing causes some of the compounds in the pudding to break down to release new compounds, which taste sweet and caramelised with fruity aromas and flavours. None of the top three scoring puddings specified that they were matured.
The matured puddings in our test were the Woolworths Classic Matured Pudding, matured for nine months, earning a CHOICE Expert Rating of 68% and described as rich and fruity by the expert taste testers; the IGA Traditional Christmas Pudding (which earned 62%), matured for six months; and the Coles Christmas Festive Matured Pudding (49%), matured for nine months.
Our own home economist Fiona Mair answers some frequently asked questions about Christmas pudding (including how long it'll keep) so you can nail it on the big day.
Can you steam Christmas pudding?
Yes, and some brands will have steaming instructions on the package. If the pudding is packaged in a plastic pudding bowl, don't remove or pierce the seal. Place the pudding directly into a saucepan with water halfway up the pudding bowl and put on the saucepan lid. If the pudding is not in a pudding bowl, it can be wrapped in foil tightly and use the same method. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 1.5–2 hours.
Do you have to reheat a Christmas pudding?
Yes, pre-packaged Christmas puddings require reheating. If a small portion is needed, it's best to heat individual servings and leave the rest covered in the fridge. The pudding will last longer, and you shouldn't be reheating the pudding several times in the microwave as this can dry out the pudding or overcook it in areas.
How do you reheat a pudding in a microwave?
To reheat a steamed pudding in a microwave, remove the seal from the pudding container or any foil packaging. Some puddings that are wrapped in plastic will require piercing in a few spots. If the pudding is in a pudding bowl, invert it onto a plate, but don't remove the pudding bowl.
Reheat the pudding on medium (60–70%) power for 2 minutes for a 1000W microwave, 2.5 minutes for 800–900W; or 1.5 min if the wattage is 1100–1200. Allow the pudding to stand for 2 minutes covered, then remove the packaging and serve.
Can you reheat Christmas pudding in a slow cooker or pressure cooker?
Reheating a pudding in a slow cooker is similar to steaming in a saucepan on the stove. However, the time needed will be at least 2.5 hours on the high setting.
If you're making your own Christmas pudding from scratch, you can cook it in a pressure cooker, but I wouldn't recommend reheating a steamed pudding in a pressure cooker.
How long does a Christmas pudding last?
Christmas pudding can last wrapped for up to a year. If it's opened and heated, then it will be best to consume it within a few weeks.
Can you freeze Christmas pudding?
Yes, Christmas pudding is perfect for freezing. It's best to cut it into individual serves, wrap them in plastic and store them in a well-sealed freezer-safe container.
Our expert tasters: Adam Moore, Jan Boon and Brigid Treloar.
Jan Boon is a home economist who has been involved in the food industry for more than 40 years. She is a Royal Agricultural Society (RAS)-recognised judge for the Fine Food Show and Easter Show and has been judging for local, interstate and regional shows for over 35 years. This year she was recognised by the Penrith Show Society for her continued service in judging.
Brigid Treloar has been a freelance food consultant for over 30 years. The author of eight cookbooks, she ran a cake business for 10 years for private, corporate and commercial clients and also contributes to newspapers and magazines, reviews restaurants, and judges cookery and recipe competitions, including the RAS Fine Food Professional Bakery Competition. Brigid is an industry assessor for Le Cordon Bleu, advises many of Australia's food companies on product and recipe development, and also provides recipes and cooking information for company websites.
Adam Moore is a prolific culinary judge. His credits include judging for Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and RAS Fine Food competitions across a range of categories. He has formal qualifications in pastry, charcuterie and butchery, sensory evaluation, food styling and food photography. With more than 25 years in the industry, Adam has worked in restaurants, food service, retail, food manufacturing, marketing and sales. He's a certified global executive chef, and culinology director at Culinary Revolutions.
Experts independently judged all 18 Christmas puddings without knowing the brands.
We tested 18 Christmas puddings, from high-end offerings by specialist producers to supermarket brand puddings that are available nationally instore or online. Price is based on the price we paid for one pudding (not including postage and handling where applicable) in October 2022.
We re-heated puddings in the microwave according to the directions on the pack.
Our experts tasted the Christmas puddings 'blind' (without knowing the brands). They assessed the puddings for appearance and quality of finish, moistness, flavour and aroma, texture, and quality of the mixture.
The experts were looking for good shape; weight; balanced fruit, spice and alcohol flavours; even distribution of good-quality fruit ingredients; and puds that held their shape when cut.
The CHOICE Expert Rating is made up of 90% sensory attributes (appearance/quality of finish 30%, flavour and aroma 25%, mixture quality 25%, moistness/texture 20%) and 10% nutrition (determined solely by the Health Star Rating).
We recommend products with a CHOICE Expert Rating of 70% or more.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.