How long does Christmas pudding last? Your Christmas pudding questions answered

Making a Christmas pudding just got easy. From storing to reheating to how long they last, we've got it covered...

Close up of Christmas pudding on fire at the Christmas dinner table
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Find out how best to cook and store Christmas pudding, how long it keeps fresh, and how best to eat what's left of it after Christmas Day.

It wouldn't be Christmas without a rich and fruity pudding after the big roast – especially if it's anything like Mary Berry's Christmas pudding. Christmas pudding is one of the most popular Christmas foods and tends to be made weeks in advance, which begs many questions about how to store your pudding once it is done and how long it will last – but don't worry, we have all the answers. 

"I’ve eaten out-of-date puds before, including my Christmas cake, which is a hybrid of a pud and cake – we’ve even eaten this after almost three years and I'm still standing," says baking expert Juliet Sear who shares her tips in partnership with the FAB Flour Easy Peasy Baking Campaign from the National Association of British and Irish Millers.

We will also look at different ways of cooking your pudding – including the slow cooker – as well as how to freeze it, how to reheat it, and inventive uses for leftovers, plus a look at alternatives to the traditional ingredients, and how to make it vegan friendly.

How long does a Christmas pudding last?

"They don’t tend to go off if they are stored correctly in a cool place. Eventually, they may dry out or lose flavour, of course, but the more alcohol the better – if your pudding is soaked in booze, it will stay preserved for a long time. I always do the sniff test, if something smells okay and there are no signs of any mould then it should be okay," says professional baker and expert, Juliet Sear.

How long it keeps fresh depends on the exact contents of the pudding, so check the recipe you use or the package you buy. Any pudding using fresh fruit for moisture will go off more quickly, whereas a Christmas pudding soaked in booze with high sugar and dried fruit content will last much longer. Some Christmas puddings, made with dried fruit in the traditional way, are fine to be eaten as much as two years after they were made.

"Bear in mind if the pudding is alcohol-free, of course, it will last a good while with the sugar content, but it will not last as long without alcohol to preserve it," stresses Juliet.

How can you tell if Christmas pudding is safe to eat?

"If there are any unpleasant smells or signs of deterioration like mould, it's best to avoid them. Put simply, if in doubt, don’t eat anything you’re suspicious of," says Juliet.

If your pudding is shop-bought from last Christmas, say, then make sure it is still sealed. Then, to check whether your pudding is safe, open it up, check that everything looks and smells ok and, if it does, slice a little off the underneath and have a taste. If all is good, cover it and give it a good, long steam before eating. 

Keeping your pudding fresh means storing it properly – once you've steamed and completely cooled it, replace the greaseproof paper and tin foil with a fresh set and seal it very tightly before storing it in a cool, dry place – that is not your kitchen. It doesn't need to be in the fridge, but try the garage, for example, or somewhere else cool and not steamy.

Do you feed a Christmas pudding?

If you are making your Christmas pudding ahead of time, it's good to feed your pudding to keep it moist. Depending on what you use to feed the pudding, it can also act as a preservative and prevent the pudding from developing mould or allowing the growth of any bacteria.

Juliet says: "The way I feed my Christmas pudding is to pierce a few holes over the surface and spoon over 1-2 tablespoons of booze, every 2-3 weeks or so... Make sure you wrap it well, I double-wrap it in baking parchment, then seal it over with a tight layer of foil and store it back in a cool dry place. I keep mine in a box in the pantry. It’s not essential to do this if you’ve already fed it with plenty of booze after the first cook, but it does help to add flavour and moisture to the pudding."

Close up of a festive Christmas pudding sliced in half

Feed your pudding regularly to keep it moist

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What do you pour on a Christmas pudding?

The most popular liquid to pour over a Christmas pudding to feed it is a form of alcohol. Juliet explains: "I favour brandy but some people like whisky or rum, just make sure it’s a spirit with a high alcohol content." 

It's all down to personal preference but Juliet Sear recommends not going too heavy-handed on the pouring. "Just make sure not to soak it too much over and over as you don’t want it super soggy, just add a little every so often."

You can experiment with the booze that you use in your Christmas pudding. Juliet says; "Sometimes I do an orange version and add some Grand Marnier or Cointreau, it is down to personal choice." You could try a flavoured gin or even a nod to your favourite cocktails like the classic Negroni.

If you would like an alcohol-free option, you could try soaking your fruit in tea and feeding it with this for added flavour. Juliet suggests a spiced spring tea but you could try something floral like Earl Grey too.

If you want to light the pudding on Christmas Day you will also need to use a high-alcohol-content spirit such as brandy, whisky, or rum. Warm it gently before pouring it into a ladle to light and pour over the pudding.

Is Christmas pudding vegan?

Many traditional Christmas puddings are made using suet, which means they are not suitable for vegans. Always check the label though, as some can be made with vegetable suet instead, with no eggs. 

There are many dairy-free puddings available in supermarkets, or you can make your own vegan Christmas pudding using vegetarian suet.

Is Christmas pudding vegetarian?

The answer here is similar to the vegan question, aside from the lack of an issue over eggs. Make your own using vegetable suet instead of animal suet –  the iconic suet brand Atora has one available widely, and most supermarkets do an own-brand version. 

Our vegetarian Christmas pudding tastes just as good as a classic pud, or most supermarkets cater to all diets in their ready-made puddings. M&S and Sainsbury's both sell vegetarian versions, as well as gluten-free and milk-free varieties. 

Can Christmas pudding be frozen?

You can freeze a Christmas pudding, but if you've made your own in advance of Christmas, it is better to store it in a cool dry place and let the flavours develop. 

If you've bought or made a Christmas pudding that you haven't used, and want to freeze it, it should be safe to freeze for up to a year. If it's leftover pudding from one you've already consumed (and let's face it, there are always leftovers), then slice and wrap individual portions in cling film and put them into a freezer bag before freezing.

To defrost, leave it at room temperature overnight and then steam it again.

Steaming a Christmas pudding

A pudding should be steamed again for a second time after it has been frozen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can Christmas pudding be reheated?

You can reheat a Christmas pudding, and there are several ways to do so. The easiest and most convenient way to do so is in the microwave. The time taken depends on the size of your pud, but we'd recommend placing the leftover Christmas pudding in a microwave-safe bowl, covering it with cling film, and microwaving it on high for 3-4 minutes. Allow it to rest for a minute, then repeat, until piping hot. 

Alternatively, you can wrap your Christmas pudding in foil and reheat it in the oven for 1 hour at 150°C. 

Nigella Lawson also recommends frying it in butter – and since when did butter ever do anything other than enhance the taste of anything? Just make sure that, whatever your method, your pudding is piping hot all the way through before eating.

Can Christmas pudding be eaten cold?

It definitely can't be eaten uncooked, but, once cooked and cooled, you can eat any leftover Christmas pudding cold. This isn't the tastiest way to eat such a fruity festive favourite (in our humble opinion) thought –  it was certainly intended to be consumed warm, covered in something delicious, like custard or brandy cream. 

Having said that, cold pudding is pretty decent paired with a slice of hard cheese – think a crumbly Lancashire or Cheshire or a nice Wensleydale – in much the same vein as fruit cake. 

Another good way to eat it cold would be to make your own Christmas pudding ice cream by whisking together egg yolks and sugar, adding in broken-up pieces of leftover pud, and adding whipped cream, before freezing. Though if that sounds a bit too cold for comfort, you could pop the ice cream over our Christmas pudding crumble.

Can Christmas pudding be made in a slow cooker?

Yes. If the old-fashioned steaming method seems too daunting, you can make your Christmas pudding in a slow cooker. This is an easy, safe, and effective way to make your pud.

Follow your Christmas pudding recipe as you normally would, filling a greased pudding basin with your homemade mixture and covering it with a pleated piece of baking paper and foil to seal the top nicely and tightly. Pour a couple of inches of boiling water into the bottom of your slow cooker. Turn onto high, lower your pudding basin full of Christmas pudding mixture into the slow cooker, and cook for around 8-9 hours.

Juliet Sear also recommends this method of reheating your Christmas pudding, as she says: "I always find on the big day itself I struggle to offer up a hob ring for my pudding to steam for hours. Since I got my slow cooker, it's been a lifesaver as I have it turned on out of the way in the utility room heating the pudding."

Christmas baking ingredients

While the ingredients are similar, a Christmas cake and a Christmas pudding are not the same

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is Christmas pudding the same as fruit cake?

Christmas pudding and Christmas cake are very similar due to the spices used and they both form an integral part of Christmas for many of us. However, the key difference is in the way the two sweet dishes are cooked. Christmas cake is baked in an oven and is often topped with marzipan and/or royal icing, while Christmas pudding is steamed and is only decorated with a piece of holly traditionally. Some people also like to use fresh red currants and berries.

Christmas cake generally only includes dried fruit, whereas Christmas pudding can include a mix of grated fresh fruit and dried fruit that has been soaked in alcohol or tea. You can make Christmas cake ahead of time and feed it with alcohol in a similar way to Christmas pudding. 

We've got lots of Christmas cake ideas to make your cake a truly special centerpiece for your festive table, as well as our unique Christmas present cake.

Can you have Christmas pudding without fruit?

If you're a purist, then, no, you can't. But if you aren't sold on the idea of a traditional Christmas pudding, there are many riffs on the classic as alternatives. 

Make a chocolate pudding or a steamed syrup pudding in the same shape. Or try our great alternative Maltesers Christmas pudding – it looks like a Christmas pudding but is made of chocolate cake – and Maltesers, obviously  – with a white chocolate drip.

Or for a pudding that still looks like an authentic Christmas classic, there are methods using candied pumpkin in place of the usual sultanas and currants.

What can I use instead of stout in Christmas pudding?

The stout in a Christmas pudding can be replaced with any type of ale, or can also be substituted with brandy or sherry, which is particularly helpful if you are gluten-free. 

However, if you would prefer to eschew the booze in your pud, then orange juice is a great substitute. Strongly brewed tea, left to go cold, is another good option instead of stout. This way your pudding will be friendly to the kids around the table as well as anyone who doesn't drink alcohol. 

What is traditionally put in a Christmas pudding?

There's no one absolute definitive recipe, each varies a little, but there are some elements that always stay the same in a traditional Christmas pudding. There will always be dried fruit, such as currants and sultanas, as well as spices such as cinnamon and cloves. 

Other dry ingredients include flour, breadcrumbs, sugar, and suet,  there will usually be fruit zest and candied peel, and it will all be bound together with beaten eggs. There is classically booze in there too, whether that be sherry, brandy, barley wine, and/or stout.

Can you overcook a Christmas pudding?

As steaming is such a gentle form of cooking, it's not as easy to overcook your pudding as it is with something baked in an oven, for example. But, while more minutes aren't likely to make much difference to your bake, more hours could well see it past its best. 

The pudding won’t dry out if it’s steamed for too long, but there's a chance that some of the ingredients could be spoiled by too much cooking, and a Christmas pudding does becomes increasingly dense and sticky the longer it steams, so it's best not to overcook or you could end up with a rather claggy pud to finish off Christmas dinner.

Find out where to buy the best Christmas puddings this year and how to steam a pudding - for those of you making your own. And if you want to offer an alternative dessert after Christmas dinner, they don't come better than a classic Christmas trifle. You could even try a festive Yule log courtesy of the Hairy Bikers.

Specialises in cakes, bakes and showstoppers
Juliet Sear author image
Specialises in cakes, bakes and showstoppers
Juliet Sear

Baking expert and best-selling cookbook author, Juliet Sear, certainly knows a thing or two when it comes to making, baking and decorating cakes. She has over 15 years experience working in the baking industry. Alongside her passion for baking, Juliet is a mum-of-three.

Jessica Ransom
Senior Food Writer

Jessica is a freelance food writer, stylist and recipe tester. She previously worked as Senior Food Writer at Future. While at Future Jessica wrote food and drink-related news stories and features, curated product pages, reviewed equipment, and developed recipes that she then styled on food shoots. She is an enthusiastic, self-taught cook who adores eating out and sharing great food and drink with friends and family. She has completed the Level 1 Associate course at the Academy of Cheese and is continually building on her knowledge of beers, wines, and spirits. 

With contributions from