While so many homemade food gifts are best eaten fresh, these make-ahead food gifts will let you get you into the Christmas spirit right away. I’ve found so many terrific DIY food gift ideas, from your own homemade vanilla extract, to scrumptious rum balls, and even fermented kimchi. But the trick with these is you can’t start on December 24th!
Spend a few hours this week to prepare any one of these make-ahead foods, and hey, check that off your list; you’ll hardly have to think about them again until it’s gift-giving time.
I’ve picked some fun make ahead food gifts for any level — you don’t have to particularly comfortable in the kitchen to whip up any of these homemade edibles. If you can chop and measure and follow a few steps in a recipe, you’ll be set.
During a year when so many of us can’t hug our extended family or even gather everyone around the Christmas tree, we can still show our love through special gestures and gifts like these. After all, the way to your heart is through the stomach, right?
Top photo: The Stay at Home Chef
Make-Ahead Food Gifts: Homemade Extracts
Homemade vanilla extract
Given the price of vanilla extract in the store, making your own and giving it out as a gift is a little like bottling liquid gold for your favorite bakers. I love the straightforward instructions for homemade vanilla extract from one of my favorite TikTokers, Jeremy Scheck of Scheck Eats, which also includes a link to how to get your hands on his favorite beans.
Grab some airtight glass bottles (these are affordable and work great), and get started now then maybe include copies of your best cookie or cake recipe using vanilla extract, so they can try it out themselves over the holiday break.
Other homemade flavor extracts
Want to branch out beyond vanilla extract? I had never realized how easy and affordable it can be to whip up batches of almond, lemon, peppermint, or even coconut extract using the homemade extract instructions from The Stay At Home Chef. There’s even a helpful short video to go along with this post so that you can see exactly what the process should look like as you go along.
Make-Ahead Food Gifts: Fermented Foods
I know my Austrian mom would say Danke Schoen if I were to give her a Mason jar of fermented sauerkraut to enjoy over sausage or in a Reuben sandwich. I like this Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar recipe from The Kitchn, which makes enough for one batch for her — but not so much that I’ll be swimming in fermented cabbage leftovers!
This recipe for Homemade Kimchi from Table For Two produces the most beautifully hued jars of kimchi that you can divide up and give to your friends — or maybe split with one friend and keep the rest for yourself. I won’t tell. She learned the recipe from her friend’s Korean mother, so it’s authentic, which means spicy, ideally. Her FAQ is not just helpful by the way, it’s entertaining. And because it only takes a day to ferment, then keeps in the fridge for a long time, this is one make-ahead food gift that won’t take weeks to prepare.
Homemade hot sauce
Whether or not they keep it in their purse at all times, this homemade fermented hot sauce recipe by Wholefully will be a hit for those who like it hot and spicy. Short on time? There’s a quick version of the recipe too, though fermenting helps give the flavor more complexity beyond just HOT.
Make-Ahead Food Gifts: Homemade Condiments
Homemade pickled pearl onions for a DIY Gibson cocktail kit
You need about a week to prepare a jar of these delightful little pickled pearl onions using this recipe from Snapshots in Cursive. Hint: Makes a perfect addition to a DIY Gibson cocktail kit for any Queen’s Gambit fan. (Not to be confused with gifts for the fans of that other Queen show.) Just pair it with a pretty cocktail glass (looove these!) and some spirits, and they’ll be partying like it’s 1965.
Homemade preserved lemons
I love getting food gifts that nudge me to try new cuisines or flavors, which is why I am so intrigued by this recipe for Ottolenghi Preserved Lemons from OMG Yummy. With only a few steps and some patience, you can use these preserved lemons to flavor many Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes; or check out the many recipes highlighted in the blog post, and include a few of them printed out with your lovely jar of lemons.
Make-Ahead Food Gifts: Boozy Treats
Homemade boozy eggnog
My brother-in-law makes Alton Brown’s insanely decadent and boozy aged eggnog recipe almost every year, and lets it sit in his fridge for as long as possible to allow the flavors to come together — and I know it’s hard not to sneak sips! With a dozen eggs, a pound of sugar, heavy cream, and rum, cognac, and bourbon, even a small bottle handed out to the VIP’s in your life will really pack a punch.
It may be a while before I can return to Sorrento and sip limoncello beneath the lemon trees (sob!), but I love this Homemade Limoncello recipe from The Kitchn which allows us to bottle up and gift little bits of Italy. The sunshiny bright color is so pretty it doesn’t need any gift wrap at all. Just glass bottles and maybe pretty printable labels.
Homemade coffee liqueur
I start every single day with a cup or two of coffee, and would love to receive a bottle of this deep, dark Homemade Coffee Liqueur so that I could finish my day with a bit of coffee. The recipe from Creative Culinary is so easy, but there are tons of tips and tricks in the post, and the comments are worth reading as well.
Homemade rum balls
Of course there are a zillion homemade Christmas cookie recipes that we’ve shared here in the past, but without fail, I get a hankering for Homemade Rum Balls every year. It kicks in right around the 24th of December…and then kick myself that I didn’t think to make them a few weeks earlier. Well this year is different, since I tracked down a recipe from the always reliable My Baking Addiction. Oh sure, you can eat them right away, but aging them makes them taste so much better and mellows out the harshness of the rum, making them a perfect make-ahead food gift for Christmas.
And if you’re like me, keep a few tucked away to enjoy yourself after the holidays have come and gone. You deserve it.