It’s Christmas market season once again. It’s a time small wooden sheds are constructed, adorned with fairy lights, filled with Christmassy goodies and plonked in city squares all over Europe (and increasingly, elsewhere).
Here in Britain, Christmas markets are extremely popular. London is home to several and Birmingham, the UK’s second city, hosts the world’s largest German Christmas market outside of Germany. Whichever Christmas market you visit, you’re always guaranteed to find stalls selling bratwurst and currywurst, but what about veggie treats? Is there anything a principled eater can enjoy at a Christmas market?
We’ve been touring Christmas markets across the country to find the answer to this question. Thankfully, we discovered the answer is a resounding, ‘yes!’ Below, we’ve listed the vegetarian Christmas market treats that we’ve discovered so that you can enjoy them on your next Christmas market visit.
1. Mulled Wine/Cider
Browsing a Christmas market simply wouldn’t be right without a Mulled Wine or Cider in tow. Thankfully, as well as being comforting and warm, these Christmas market staples are also meat-free. A steaming cup of Mulled Wine or Cider is sure to keep you rosy-cheeked against a harsh northerly breeze while you browse the baubles. Don’t worry if you’re driving or you’re not much a drinker as you’re catered for too. Look out for warm spiced apple juice or fruit punch. It’s so good!
2. Fried Potatoes
Of course, you’ll want a savoury vegetarian Christmas market treat to accompany your mulled wine. On our visit to Birmingham’s Christmas market, we ordered a portion of fried potatoes and were surprised just how good they were. Soft and fluffy throughout and crispy on the edges, they were just perfect. While we were munching our potatoes, we were drawn towards the ‘make-your-own’ hotdog stand where people were helping themselves. Not wanting to miss out, we drizzled our fried potatoes in mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce (which reminded us of the sauce normally found on currywurst). We then sprinkled crispy onions on top and discovered we had made an already tasty treat into something even more delicious.
You can rely on there being a stand selling crepes at any Christmas market you visit. Most focus on the sweet varieties (mostly a smothering of Nutella) but some also make savoury ones. The beauty of crepes is in their simplicity and also that they’re always freshly made to order. There will inevitably be a queue, but don’t let this put you off. Crepes are always a reliably delicious vegetarian Christmas market treat, so they’re worth waiting for.
Raclette is a cheese that’s semi-hard, but it’s normally only ever seen in its melted form. That because melted raclette is a stringy, oozy, squidgy wonder whose presence at any Christmas market should be celebrated with gusto. The cheese starts its gooey journey as a wheel of cheese. A heat lamp is held over the cut surface of the wheel for a minute or two. The melted cheese is then cut away from the non-melted part, normally onto a baguette, but occasionally over fried potatoes. It’s not quite what the Swiss intended when they invented this dish (they would ask where the gherkins and pickled onions are), but it doesn’t matter. If anything’s going to warm you up (and get your heart beating a bit faster), it’s Raclette. Put simply… Yummy!
Pretzels come in all sorts of sizes and varieties, but we don’t think you can beat the original salted one for sheer baked pleasure. Sure, a sweet one will increase your blood sugar and give you a rush, but there’s something respectful and maybe even wise about a traditional pretzel that you simply can’t ignore. Pay this knotted stalwart of the bakery world its dues and eat one with the love and affection it deserves.
6. Candied Nuts
These won’t necessarily fill you up, but my goodness they’re good. You are almost guaranteed to find paper bags full of these sweet and crunchy nuggets of joy at any Christmas market you visit. At the larger markets, you’ll be spoilt for choice as the traders seemingly coat every nut imaginable in baked-on sugar. At the smaller markets, peanuts might be the only choice, but that just means you’ll be spending less time deciding and more time eating. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch them making a batch of candied nuts. Apparently, all you need are nuts, sugar and something that looks suspiciously like a cement mixer. A truly scrumptious vegetarian Christmas market treat if ever there was one.
7. Poffertjes (Mini Dutch Pancakes)
Thank you, Netherlands! You could have kept these fluffy smile-makers to yourselves, but you decided instead to share them with the world. We salute you. Or, at least we would if we were able to stop eating all of your mini pancakes for a second.
The entire process of making and eating Poffertjes is a sheer joy. To start, batter is poured into a custom-made iron pan. Halfway through, the pancakes are flipped over to ensure they are cooked to perfection. Then they are popped out, served in a paper plate with frilly edges and drizzled with melted butter and dusted with icing sugar. We like to share our Poffertjes, but we wouldn’t blame you for guzzling down a portion all to yourself while your friends and family stare at you with disdain. They’re just that good!
8. Toasted Marshmallows
Who’d have thought a marshmallow and a blowtorch were a match made in heaven. They so are though, right? Whether you can eat marshmallows depends on how much of a veggie you are. There are vegetarian marshmallows out there, but they might not be provided at Christmas markets. You should still ask though, just in case, as you wouldn’t want to risk missing out on a stick of slightly burnt sugar sponges.
9. Gingerbread and Doughnuts
Still some room left? Fill in the gaps with some trusty gingerbread and some fat-laden sugary doughnut goodness. If you’re in any doubt, think of it as an early Christmas present to yourself. Ginger is great for digestion and for soothing muscle pain, whilst sugary doughnuts are good for keeping dentists in business. Everybody wins, so tuck in!
Tell us about your favourite vegetarian Christmas market treats
We hope you’ve found this list of vegetarian Christmas market treats useful. If you have any other suggestions, please add them in the comments below.