What do the Royals eat on Christmas Day?

Will it be turkey, salmon or even meat-free, here's what the Royal Family eat on Christmas Day

Princess Charlotte, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Camilla, Queen Consort, Prince Louis, Prince George, King Charles III and Prince William, Prince of Wales attend the Christmas Day service at Sandringham Church on December 25, 2022 in Sandringham,
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Have you ever wondered what the Royals eat on Christmas Day? While we at home tuck into traditional Christmas food, are the royal family sharing a similar festive feast? Or do they have their own traditions?

We all have our own family Christmas traditions and the royal family are no different. From Prince George, Charlotte and Louis opening their Christmas presents before their cousins to the strict rule that means King Charles can confiscate his grandchildren's toys.

The senior family members rarely break royal Christmas traditions - except for when the Queen decided not to have the family festive gathering at Sandringham in 2020. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles and Queen Camilla might now do things their way, and it includes a 'boring' lunch according to former royal senior chef, Darren McGrady. He sheds light on how Prince William and Kate, their children and the whole Royal Family enjoy their festive fare.

So, as Christmas fast approaches, aside from the royal family's favourite foods, find out what the Royals eat on Christmas Day - you may be surprised at some of the less traditional elements...

What do the Royals eat on Christmas Day?

Former royal chef, Darren McGrady has revealed what the royal family eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Christmas Day. Speaking to OK magazine, he said, "It was the same meal every year. They're actually boring when it comes to festivities. They didn't do hams or anything, just traditional turkeys.

"We did three turkeys for the Queen and her family in the royal dining room, one for the children's nursery and then more for the 100 or so staff, so everyone had a Christmas lunch."

There’s no worrying about being too "full up" for the big lunch in the royal household as the family enjoys a full-cooked breakfast before they go to church together, as is tradition on Christmas day.

But Kate Middleton chooses a lighter breakfast of fruit and toast. Darren says the men and women in the family tend to be separated for breakfast. The women tend to get their breakfast of commonly lighter foods delivered to their rooms, whereas the men have a fuller and heartier breakfast of eggs, grilled kidneys, kippers and bacon.

Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte, Prince George and Kate Middleton attend church Sandringham

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When they return from church, then it is time for the main Christmas meal. When she was alive, the Queen always used to enjoy a roast turkey with all the trimmings for Christmas Day lunch, as well as a "salad with a shrimp or a lobster". But which trimmings, exactly?

Darren revealed, "Usually it was homemade sage and onion stuffing, Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts, sometimes parsnips and carrots – it varied year to year – mashed potatoes and roast potatoes, homemade gravy." There’s no garlic though, as garlic is one of the few foods royals are banned from eating.

Like most families who chose one of the best Christmas puddings, the royals have theirs with brandy sauce and enjoy a festive afternoon tea later on in the day. As we know that chocolate is one of the Queen's favourites, the cakes included in the afternoon tea are hardly a surprise: "[the afternoon tea] always included a chocolate Yule log, a Christmas cake made by the chefs in the kitchen and a selection of chocolatey pastries." 

As if that wasn’t enough delicious food, the royals enjoy a "buffet dinner" of 15-20 different items - including a variety of roasted meats, seafood, cooked vegetables and gingerbread cookies - with the chefs at the table carving the meats.

Chef Darren McGrady attends BritWeek's 10th Anniversary VIP Reception & Gala at Fairmont Hotel on May 1, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"Right before the Christmas buffet, the senior chef on duty goes into the dining room and carves the rib roast or turkey or ham and once he’s done, Her Majesty presents the chef with a glass of whiskey and they toast," Darren explains.

"That’s the only time the chef goes into the dining room and has a glass of whiskey with the royal family. It’s one of the chef’s favourite traditions."

Their favourite dishes include Potted Shrimp, Beef Bourguignon, Shredded Brussels sprouts with onions and bacon, Bubble and Squeak and Date Apple Pastry.

What time does the King eat Christmas dinner?

King Charles will dine on a personal breakfast before the whole family gathers at 11 am and attends the morning church service at St. Mary Magdalene, the King and family sit down for lunch at 1pm.

Darren reveals, "They opened their Christmas presents the day before, on Christmas Eve. So after breakfast, they’d go to church, come back and go on to lunch."

He told Mail Online, that later on, there is the unboxing of a royal Fortnum and Mason Christmas hamper and time to watch the monarch's Christmas message on TV followed by a supper of roasted hams and boar's head.

To round off the day, the palace's staff will meet for an evening of disco and drinks for the rest of the night.

But Christmas dinner isn't the only festive meal the King will feast on. A grand black-tie dinner is usually held on Christmas Eve at their Sandringham residence. The adult-only event kicks off with pre-dinner martinis, followed by a four-course dinner including a starter and a beef course plus a helping of cheese. Dessert is often chocolate, as this was the late Queen's favourite but King Charles could choose a new sweet.

King Charles' passion for organic food could see more of the produce being served up this year. According to nutritionists at bulk.com, there are many benefits in indulging in organic foods; for example, by choosing organically farmed produce, you are ultimately reducing the risk of digesting any nasty pesticides which can be extremely harmful.

Organic foods are also brilliant for your immune system and can help you work more efficiently for extended periods as injections of harmful chemicals are entirely avoided in organic foods so that you can guarantee an altogether safer and happier growing environment for the foods.

King Charles delivers Christmas speech for 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is it like working for the royal family at Christmas?

Darren McGrady joined the royal household in 1982 and worked his way up through the ranks to become senior chef for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip - a job he enjoyed until 1993.

On spending the festive period at the Palace, Darren explains, "We worked alternate Christmases. You would be at Sandringham for two weeks. So, if you wanted to celebrate with your family, you’d have to celebrate with them before or after because usually you’d be up there from December 22 until after New Year."

Despite being away from his own family, Darren said the royals more than made up for it.

“They (the royal family) always made it special for you... The staff would have lots to drink and there would be loads of food and chocolate – and you’d have the full turkey roast, so you weren’t really missing out because you were enjoying the celebration too.”

In other royal news, there's Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s ‘riotous’ Christmas celebrations that broke many historic royal traditions and Royal butler admits ‘I was in the firing line’ as he reveals Prince William’s unexpected Christmas antics as a child.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)