20 Flavorful Holiday Entrees You Can Make for $20 or Less

Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin
Photo: Bibi

The COVID pandemic will inevitably result in the need for smaller holiday celebrations this year. One of the few silver linings of that situation is the fact that meal expenses won't be as high as they've been in the past. Even so, budget-conscious feasts for the December festivities remain a high priority, and we've rounded up 20 bold, seasonal, and special occasion-appropriate holiday entrees that can easily feed a family (or a quarantine pod), all made with ingredients that ring in at $20 or less. From brunches and breakfasts to main courses fit for a feast, click through this collection of budget-friendly Christmas recipes for tasty ideas on what to put on the table this holiday.

01 of 20

Easy Sausage Strata

Easy Sausage Strata
suneha

One simple and satisfying way to reduce holiday meal costs is to trade in the typical dinner party for a brunch fête. Strata, a breakfast casserole reminiscent of a crustless quiche, serves as an ideal main brunch dish for Christmas morning, New Year's Day, or any other festive occasion. This recipe includes only eggs, cubed bread, shredded Cheddar, breakfast sausage, milk, and a few seasonings, making it as low cost as it is craveworthy.

02 of 20

Chef John's Shakshuka

Chef John's Shakshuka with shredded cheese
Baking Nana

Shakshuka, a breakfast dish with North African and Middle Eastern origins, consists of eggs baked in a robust and spicy sauce made of tomatoes and peppers. "This North African one-dish-meal is so fast, easy, and delicious," says Chef John of his shakshuka recipe, which you'll want to serve with plenty of toasted bread or pita for dipping.

03 of 20

Eggs Benedict

eggs benedict

Eggs Benedict is a brunch staple for excellent reasons: it's easy to execute, it hits the spot every time, and, in spite of its simplicity, it gives off an elevated vibe. Therefore, it's a great move for a holiday brunch, and the ingredients involved won't stretch your budget.

04 of 20

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Do your holiday attendees include kids (or adults who love sweets)? In that case, this chocolate croissant bread pudding just might be the perfect brunch entree for your get-together. "My daughters love chocolate, so this was a winner in my house. It's like a combination of a soft brownie [and a] cakey chocolate chip cookie, with a bit of a creamy texture inside," insists recipe creator MichelleD.

05 of 20

Best Ever Crab Cakes

Best Ever Crab Cakes
Jessica

Crab cakes generally get lumped into the "appetizer" category, but if you serve them alongside a green salad with lemon vinaigrette, they turn into a beautiful and refreshing holiday lunch. This crab cakes recipe (which, according to hundreds of reviewers, deserves its "Best Ever" title) sings with bright citrus and fragrant tarragon, and recipe writer LINDACHEK recommends grainy mustard as a complementary condiment.

06 of 20

Pasta Fagioli

bowl of Pasta Fazool (Pasta e Fagioli) on a placemat
Chef John

A staple of Italian-American kitchens, pasta fagioli originated as a "peasant" dish in Italy, as its only necessary ingredients include inexpensive items like pasta and cannellini beans. That said, this soup has more than enough flavor and heartiness to fit into a main course role, especially if you serve it with a salad and a hunk of crusty bread.

07 of 20

Ribollita (Reboiled Italian Cabbage Soup)

This Italian vegetable soup centers around low-cost items like cabbage and kale, but the overnight resting and reboiling processes imbues it with a complex taste profile. Also, the inclusion of soaked French bread offers the soup a substantial texture that transforms it into an entree.

08 of 20

Eggplant Parmesan II

Eggplant Parmesan II
Brittany Kieffer

It's hard to think of a more quintessentially comforting main dish than eggplant Parmesan, and this recipe by Dolores Gentner-Ryan is described by one fan, Elizabeth, as "quick, easy and delicious- what more can you ask for? My husband took one bite, looked at me, and said 'Now, I can tell you I don't even like eggplant, but this is so good.'"

09 of 20

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Vegetarians and vegans deserve holiday dishes with substance and abundant flavor, and this chickpea stew more than delivers on that front. Curry powder and garam masala add aromatics and spice, while potatoes and kale bolster the chickpeas to create an entree worthy of a focal-point spotlight on your holiday dinner table.

10 of 20

Grilled Eggplant Moussaka

Grilled Eggplant Moussaka
Madams

Moussaka, a Greek potato and eggplant dish similar to a casserole, works beautifully for both vegetarians and meat-eaters as a holiday entree. If your group includes meat enthusiasts, you can add a layer of ground beef or ground lamb. If not, a meat-free moussaka still packs plenty of flavor and richness, especially when the vegetables are grilled prior to the final bake.

11 of 20

Grandma's Polish Pierogies

Grandma's Polish Perogies
RJT

The potato-based dumplings known as pierogies are holiday must-haves for Polish families, and it's easy to understand why. Pierogies work equally well as party bites or as a main course, and if you choose the latter approach, you should serve your pierogies with traditional accoutrements like sour cream, applesauce, and sauerkraut.

12 of 20

Roasted Cauliflower "Steaks"

Simplicity can sometimes result in the finest possible holiday eats, and that's entirely the case with these vegan cauliflower steaks. Reviewer Jeanette Eichele raves that "[these were] delicious. Didn't think [they] could be so good with such a simple recipe, but we were 'mmm'-ing the whole time. Will get 2 heads of cauliflower next time so we can have more!!"

13 of 20

Vegan Stout Stew

Irish beef stew typically includes Guinness and features a warming quality that's ideal for holiday dining, but this particular recipe also gives meat-free diners access to this style of hearty eating. "You'll find some of the most versatile vegetables simmering in a pot of thick Irish beer that, when thickened with flour and sweetened with a bit of brown sugar and soy sauce, becomes a rich and flavorful stew. Serve when it's cold or when you're looking for a hearty stew that will satisfy vegetarian and non-vegetarians alike!" explains recipe creator The Inquisitive Vegan.

14 of 20

Ratatouille

zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant on a white plate
Hannah T

As the Disney-Pixar film explains, Provençal 'ratatouille' refers to a baked dish made by layering eggplant, tomato, onion, and other vegetables into a baking dish and roasting the veggies until they create a beautiful combination of flavors and textures. If you're serving a holiday meal to a group with varying dietary needs (including vegetarians and vegans), then ratatouille could serve as an ideal main course.

15 of 20

Juicy Roasted Chicken

Juicy Roasted Chicken

Roasting a turkey for a holiday dinner can feel like a big financial (and time-related) commitment, but if you're hosting a smaller group (as many of us are this year), then a roast chicken can help you in multiple ways. It's both more affordable and arguably more flavorful than its turkey equivalent. Recipe developer ROBINROCKINGBIRD offers the following endorsement for her roast chicken: "I never have had a chicken this juicy before; this little trick [of stuffing the chicken with celery] works and makes the people eating it go silent."

16 of 20

Chicken Francese

A classic Italian-American entree, chicken Francese provides crunchy breading, cheesy appeal, and a warm, comforting flavor profile that pairs wonderfully with buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, or even grits.

17 of 20

Thai Green Curry Chicken

If your holiday quarantine pod longs for robust taste characteristics and a hint of heat, then this Thai green curry recipe will offer those flavor perks. "In this quick and easy recipe that never fails, the chicken stays moist and tender. Serve over jasmine rice for a satisfying meal," recommends recipe writer laus.

18 of 20

Simple Beef Short Ribs

Simple Beef Short Ribs

When it comes to inexpensive cuts of beef that still provide bold flavor and a toothsome texture, it's hard to beat short ribs. This super simple recipe requires only a few ingredients (many of which you probably already have on-hand), and if you'd prefer to avoid cooking with beer, recipe creator CooperCook insists that "you can braise in basically any liquid you want."

19 of 20

Birria

Birria, a slow-cooked meat stew that's a fundamental element of Mexican cuisine from the Jalisco region, recently became a massive trend in food-truck culture throughout the United States. However, it's also an important holiday dish in its home region, and recipe writer Cynthia says that it's "very delicious [when] served with cilantro, limes, and onion as condiments and Mexican rice or beans as side dishes."

20 of 20

Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin

Balsamic Roasted Pork Loin
Bibi

Pork loin counts among the budget meat cuts that provide the most nuanced flavors and the most consistently positive dining experiences, so we're happy to recommend this sweet-and-savory roasted pork loin recipe as an option for your 2020 holiday repast.

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