10 Quick-fix Holiday Brunches

By: Victoria Vogt

These quick-fix brunch themes are heavy on creativity and light on effort.
These quick-fix brunch themes are heavy on creativity and light on effort.

Cultures throughout the world celebrate holidays with special meals that people plan for months in advance. Some dishes take hours or even days to prepare, but what happens when you need to play hostess to the in-laws or long-lost cousin Bessie on short notice? Not to worry: As these holiday brunch ideas suggest, it's all about the presentation. As a popular chef or successful salesperson does, sell the sizzle. In other words, we're all working with the same basic food ingredients, so what takes a meal from good to great is the creativity we bring to the table (no pun intended).

One fail-proof way to set the mood for an unforgettable dining experience is with fresh flowers, fine tableware and pressed linens. Set the table with your fine china to make any brunch seem more special. While you're at it, put on a white dress shirt, tie and apron, like a server in a fine-dining restaurant would wear. Choose music that supports the theme to enhance the ambiance.


We've got 10 holiday brunch themes you'll love. On the next page, learn how to style leftovers into a perfect fusion of breakfast, lunch and good taste.

10: Twice as Nice

Spending hours cooking with family and friends to put on a holiday dinner can be fun. But once the party's over, you may be wondering what to do with your bounty of leftovers. You've already spent hours toiling over a hot stove, so why not retool the fruits of your labor to save time, resources and energy? Give your guests the second helpings they're craving -- with a fresh approach. Here are a few examples of restyled leftovers.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Turkey, dressing and cranberry sandwiches, or roast beef and mashed potato sandwiches served on leftover dinner rolls or toasted cornbread

Side dishes: Sweet potato fries or chips, vinaigrette coleslaw with golden raisins and fruit compote

Beverages: Eggnog, hot cocoa and coffee with assorted toppings, such as whipped cream, chocolate flakes, cinnamon and nutmeg

Holiday accent: Blend leftover cranberry dressing with whipped cream cheese, and serve on toasted bagels.

Recipes to try:

  • Best Cue Coleslaw
  • Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Apricot Dipping Sauce
  • Raspberry Eggnog

9: Southern Hospitality

One thing many people look forward to at the holidays is homemade meals. Even if you're not from the Southern region of the United States, you can appreciate that there's something about its down-home style of cooking that comforts and nourishes. Put a twist on your holiday brunch with flavors and flair reminiscent of traditional Southern cuisine. Set the mood with a red and white checkered tablecloth.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Fish and grits

Side dishes: Black-eyed pea (see recipe in sidebar) or fruit fritters, fried green tomatoes and sliced canned peaches

Beverages: Southern sweet tea or cola

Holiday accent: Cut your choice of fried fish into appetizer-sized planks. Pour grits in a martini glass, place a cooked egg on top and garnish with the fish sticks. You can also offer shredded cheese, minced green onions and crumbled bacon bits for the grits martinis.

Recipes to try:

  • Blueberry Dream Fritters
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Ham and Cheese Grits Soufflé

8: French Connection

Millions of people flock to France each year to enjoy its world-famous food and wine. Haute cuisine, like the kind you'll find in Paris, epitomizes the ultimate upscale dining experience. However, you don't have to be a famous chef to put on a fancy feast. What better way to impress your guests than with a French-themed brunch?

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Monte Cristo sandwiches or crepes filled with your choice of cream cheese, ice cream, yogurt or whipped cream, topped with fresh fruit

Side dishes: Green salad, fresh fruit salad and assorted cheeses with crackers

Beverages: Espresso, wine or champagne

Holiday accent: Use tent cards to label each course: l'entrée, le plat principal, le cafe, le fromage, le dessert. In the tradition of French dining, follow the main course with salad, and serve nuts after dessert. You may also want to toast with a French martini.

Recipes to try:

  • Monte Cristo Sandwiches
  • Creamy Strawberry Crepes
  • Herbed Vinaigrette

7: Big Ben

A proper English tea service makes brunch a formal affair.
A proper English tea service makes brunch a formal affair.

England offers old-world charm, including its traditions of elegant, formal meals and tea time. You can wow your guests and appeal to sophisticated tastes by opting for a British theme. Put on your favorite herringbone or tweed driving cap, and take a fantastic voyage with this royal brunch.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: English muffin breakfast sandwiches or corned beef hash and eggs

Side dishes: Porridge (boiled oatmeal) or shredded wheat cereal, topped with fresh or dried fruit, and an array of scones, crumpets and toast with assorted jellies, jams, marmalade and butter

Beverages: English breakfast and Earl Grey teas, hot toddies

Holiday accent: Tea time gets its own hour in Britain, but you can incorporate a tea service into brunch. Fill a silver or porcelain teapot with hot water for tea. Load a sugar bowl with brown and white cubes, and fill a matching creamer with cream. Don't forget the dainty teacups for hot beverages. For those who don't drink tea, serve their cold beverages in silver goblets.

Recipes to try:

  • Complete Corned Beef Hash
  • English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches
  • Pumpkin-ginger Scones

6: Fiesta Brunch

Put a fun spin on holiday brunch by making it a fiesta. You can create a memorable ambiance around Mexican food. Use a colorful falsa blanket as a tablecloth, and hang a sombrero on the back of each chair. Tuck maracas under each guest's napkin; they might be inclined to play after a round of margaritas. The most festive part of this fiesta theme is that you can whip up these menu items rather quickly, making this a winner in the realm of quick-fix holiday brunches.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Breakfast burritos, quesadillas or omelettes

Side dishes: Potato-zucchini pancakes with warm corn salsa or fruit salad with cottage cheese and a dash of cayenne pepper

Beverages: Mexican hot cocoa with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, margaritas or cranberry-lime margarita punch

Holiday accent: Make Mexican shrimp cocktail with jumbo shrimp and garnish with fresh lime and cilantro.

Recipes to try:

  • Potato-Zucchini Pancakes with Warm Corn Salsa
  • Sunny Day Breakfast Burritos
  • Cranberry-lime Margarita Punch

5: Tropical Brunch

Transport your guests to an island paradise with a tropical brunch. No passport necessary.
Transport your guests to an island paradise with a tropical brunch. No passport necessary.

Venture off the beaten brunch path of eggs Benedict and quiche with an island theme. Even if you live in a cold climate, you can bring a warm, sunny glow into your holidays by going tropical. Simply stock up on fresh fruit, and with the staples you keep on-hand in your pantry, you should be able to pull off this theme in a snap. To up the ante, wear tropical-print clothing and place leis on each of your guests.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Aloha sandwiches or Hawaiian breakfast pizza

Side dishes: Muesli with yogurt and dried or fresh fruit, or waffles topped with tropical fruit

Beverages: Coffee, pineapple juice or water garnished with sliced fresh fruit

Holiday accent: Mix various juices to make nonalcoholic cocktails, like tiki punch or piña colada punch. Garnish glasses with pineapple, cherries and mini umbrellas.

Recipes to try:

  • Aloha Sandwiches
  • Hawaiian Breakfast Pizza
  • Piña Colada Punch

4: Catch of the Day

Fishermen take the legwork out of harvesting scrumptious seafood like salmon, crab and tuna, so all you have to do is make your selection at your local grocery store and bring it home. Seafood cooks quickly, making it a perfect choice for when you need to put together brunch in minutes. Be sure to check with your guests beforehand to see if anyone has food allergies; this way, you'll know which dishes to avoid. For example, if a guest is allergic to shellfish, in place of shrimp, you can substitute imitation crab meat, which is made of pollack, a fin fish.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Seafood Crepes, crab cakes Benedict or salmon croquettes

Side dishes: Hash browns, shrimp cocktail, toast or English muffins

Beverages: Apple cider, tomato or vegetable juice and a Bloody Mary bar with all the fixings

Holiday accent: Serve champagne or sparkling white wine with a dash of cranberry juice, or drop a few fresh cranberries in each glass for a pop of color.

Recipes to try:

  • Seafood Crepes
  • Seafood Tacos with Fruit Salsa
  • Speedy Salmon Patties

3: To Be or Not to Be

A parfait made with Greek yogurt, granola, honey and fresh fruit is a cinch to prepare.
A parfait made with Greek yogurt, granola, honey and fresh fruit is a cinch to prepare.

Brunch is a time when you can while away hours finding out the latest news from loved ones you haven't seen in a while. But it can also take a lot of work to put together a great spread. To reduce the time spent prepping and cooking and give yourself more time to enjoy your friends and family, a Mediterranean menu is the way to go. Taking cues from Greco-Roman and African cultures, you can present a mid-day meal in a matter of minutes that's as delicious as it is interesting.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Steak and eggs topped with basil and crumbled feta cheese, spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese pie), tyropita (cheese pie) or frittata

Side dishes: Couscous, Greek yogurt with honey and salad or assorted stuffed olives

Beverages: A variety of herbal teas, including jasmine, chamomile, hibiscus and lemon verbena, or a classic martini.

Holiday accent: Create a Mediterranean parfait by layering Greek yogurt in a tall glass with alternating rows of honey, fresh fruit and granola.

Recipes to try:

  • Fruited Couscous
  • Greek Spinach and Feta Pie
  • Turkey Gyros

2: Kid-Friendly

Sometimes, parents worry that their children aren't eating healthfully and getting the proper nutrients. Also, it can be hard to find kid-friendly fare in a lavish brunch setting. At the kids' table this holiday season, cater to the little ones. One way to appeal to a picky eater is to get a little creative, like preparing food in bite-sized portions or with child-friendly colors and ingredients.

Suggested Menu:


Entree: Apple quesadillas topped with vanilla yogurt, peanut-butter-banana burritos or mini bagel sandwiches with egg and cheese

Side dishes: French toast sticks with chocolate or strawberry syrup for dipping

Beverages: Fruit smoothies or chocolate milk

Holiday accent: Spread large sheets of paper on the kids' table, and put a bowl of crayons in the center. Ask each child to draw a picture of his or her favorite food. Or, turn the table into a self-serve breakfast burrito bar or sandwich station if the kids are old enough to help themselves. Provide tortillas and toast and bowls of scrambled eggs, salsa, crumbled sausage and shredded cheese.

Recipes to try:

  • Apple Cinnamon Quesadillas
  • Peachy Keen Smoothies
  • Breakfast Banana Split

1: Nuts and Berries

A hot veggie quesadilla will win guests over.
A hot veggie quesadilla will win guests over.

Your holiday brunch will be a lot less merry if you're serving thick slices of Canadian bacon to a table of vegetarians. Consider your guests' dietary needs when planning your menu. This fresh nuts and berries theme will appeal to anyone with a meatless diet and those guests getting a jump start on New Year's resolutions to watch their waistlines. Best of all, it takes minutes to prepare.

Suggested Menu:

Entree: Grilled veggie quesadillas and whole-wheat waffles topped with walnuts, whipped cream and syrup

Side dishes: Silken tofu and fruit parfait, and baked brie with honey and pecans, served with sliced apples and multigrain crackers

Beverages: Pomegranate juice, herbal tea and Viennese coffee

Holiday accent: Add fresh ginger and lime to ginger ale for a bubbly, nonalcoholic beverage, or serve up mojitos with fresh mint and lime.

Recipes to try:

  • Veggie Quesadilla Appetizers
  • Viennese Coffee
  • Nutmeg Pancakes with Lemon Spiked Berries

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

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