Variety of Christmas cookies and sweets. Top view over a dark stone background. Holiday baking concept.

(© Jenifoto -

NEW YORK — While in-person dinners with extended family may not be on the menu this holiday season, famous family recipes still are. In fact, three out of five Americans are certain their family would “throw a fit” if one particular dish wasn’t present at a holiday gathering.

According to a OnePoll survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, 75 percent of families typically indulge in a combination of old and new recipes during this time of year, with an emphasis on traditional favorites. Only six percent enjoy a “completely different” holiday feast each time they get together.

holiday recipes

As 2020 comes to an end, however, even households whose menus are typically set in stone will have to adapt. Fifty-nine percent of respondents plan on breaking tradition in “one or more ways” this year and 53 percent will specifically be trying something new in the kitchen.

Everything is better when mom makes it

The poll, commissioned by Bob’s Red Mill, also discovered that two in three Americans (68%) look forward to a specific food brought by someone else in the family. Common favorites include pies (especially pumpkin, apple, and pecan), cheesecake, and chocolate desserts, most commonly made by mothers or grandmothers. While 53 percent say the person who usually makes their favorite dish won’t be attending this year’s festivities, 67 percent say they still expect the dish itself to make an appearance.

Nearly half the poll (47%) add they already expect to take on a traditional family recipe by themselves for the very first time. As anyone who’s tried to decipher the handwriting on a decades-old recipe card can attest, trying to match exactly what another family member does in the kitchen can be a difficult task.

“You don’t have to be a diehard fan of reality cooking shows to know that a ‘good bake’ depends on lots of factors beyond skill level,” says Sarena Shasteen, Culinary Content Specialist at Bob’s Red Mill, in a statement. “Even if you follow the recipe exactly, your dish can be affected by the oven you use, the ingredients you buy and even the climate you live in, which might be why family recipes can be so tough to recreate.”

Keeping family tradition alive in quarantine

holiday recipes

More than four in 10 respondents (44%) have already tried their hand at a traditional dish — only to find that it didn’t look right (28%), didn’t taste right (28%), or didn’t have the right texture (26%) as the original. Given that half of those surveyed (49%) will only be spending the holidays with their immediate family this year, they’ll have to adjust to some variation of their favorite desserts.

If you’re still heading to a holiday gathering in 2020, expect peanut butter to make a bigger appearance than usual. Twenty-six percent of respondents will bake peanut butter cookies this year, compared to 20 percent in 2019. Surprisingly, the most popular treat that respondents plan on baking is one that’s usually available all year round.

“It’s hard to beat the classic chocolate chip cookie,” Shasteen says. “They might not have the traditional spices and flavors we associate with winter, but they’re easy for the whole family to bake together with just a few high-quality ingredients.”

The familiarity of the chocolate chip cookie may also keep it safe from scavengers. Only 25 percent admit that they’ve stolen a treat or two from the stash reserved for Jolly old Saint Nick.

“I told my daughters that I was taste testing for Santa,” one respondent caught in the act says. “Boy, they got mad at me.”

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink


Chris Melore


Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor