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A Buffet for Luck: New Year's Foods From Around the World

By Alice K. Thompson, December 28, 2015  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alice K. Thompson

Kale Salad

Kale Salad Recipe

While I don’t consider myself superstitious, my love of food traditions has made the New Year a favorite holiday for me. Another confession: I don’t always make it all the way to midnight on New Year's Eve. But I still have fun sharing with friends and family some of the many delicious foods that mark New Year celebrations around the world. Most of these ingredients are also very healthy, so stocking up on them could be a bonus for your resolutions as well.

I think a buffet set with an array of dishes with special stories is an ideal way to ring in  the year, whether it’s for late-night revelry or for brunch on January 1st. But just choosing a favorite food or two is a fun way to prepare for the year ahead.

Here are five of the most popular lucky ingredients, plus some absolutely auspicious recipes to share with friends and family. A new tradition or two may be in your future!

Grape Harvest Cake

Grape Harvest Cake Recipe


Eating 12 grapes — one for each stroke of the clock as it strikes midnight — is a New Year custom that hails from Spain but is now marked in Portugal and former Spanish colonies. I first followed this charming custom while celebrating in Barcelona some 15 years ago and have never forgotten it.

You can just nibble some grapes (and pop a few into a loved one’s mouth!) as the ball drops, or have fun by serving an inventive grape dish. These intriguing Blue Cheese and Walnut Dusted Grapes are ideal for a buffet, and you can make them up several hours ahead and chill them. For a baked cake, Grape Harvest Cake, enriched with olive oil and wonderfully tender from buttermilk, is one of my very favorite not-too-sweet treats to bake up.

Hoppin' John

Hoppin' John Recipe

Black-Eyed Peas

Enjoying black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a tradition I grew up with and one I still follow today. My family preferred a hearty winter stew similar to the classic Hoppin’ John. But a few years ago I did a project developing some recipes that combined Sriracha with peas, and I absolutely recommend these to liven up a buffet: Black-Eyed Pea Nachos or Hoppin’ John Salad with Spicy Sriracha Vinaigrette are absolute crowd pleasers. The latter recipe includes ham (also thought to be a lucky food in some cultures), but you could substitute baked smoked tofu or a veggie sausage product.  

Winter Greens

Dark, leafy greens, thought to resemble money, are considered the go-to food for New Year’s prosperity in many cultures. Think kale, collards, chard and mustard greens to promote health and maybe even wealth. A fabulous Kale Salad is about as easy and scrumptious as it gets, or try two-bite, super-healthy Kale-Almond Bruschetta. For a hot greens recipe, double up your lucky foods with Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Green Soup, an ideal dish to keep warm in a slow-cooker on your buffet table.

Lentil, Butternut Squash and Collards Pie

Lentil, Butternut Squash and Collards Pie Recipe


Small, round lentils look something like coins, hence their association with financial reward in the upcoming year in countries from Brazil to Italy and Germany. A dish with guaranteed richness from ground nuts is this Lentil-Walnut Spread, an ideal choice to serve on crostini or crackers.

Another great choice is Lentil, Butternut Squash and Collards Pie, a holiday centerpiece that’s complete with collards, another ingredient linked to good fortune.


Pigs represent progress in a number of cultures, whether because of the animal’s habit of rooting in a forward manner (symbolizing advancement and adventure) or because of its rich flesh, associated with prosperity. Pink marzipan pigs are an irresistible display in shop windows in many European countries and a wonderful treat for children and adults alike.

For a terrific New Year’s nibble, try these Spanish Pork Meatballs. Or go for hog heaven with a superb show-stopper like Crown Roast of Pork with Wild Rice Stuffing, a buffet entrée anyone would be lucky to share with you!

What do you serve on New Years? Tell us about your foods with benefits!

Updated Dececember 28, 2015




Bethany says ...
I have always been subjected to Pork and Kraut I really do not like kraut much anymore due to the fact that it bothers my stomach reading this article and looking into some of the good luck dishes puts a new meaning on changing the tradition of kraut and pork unless someone has a really good recipe that would not affect my stomach as bad!
12/30/2013 12:17:38 PM CST
R Allan Hagman says ...
In north west Ohio pork and sauerkraut
12/30/2013 4:04:28 PM CST
Jennifer says ...
In the south, you have to eat black eyed peas. They' re goooood, too. And I also make collard greens and cornbread, but didn't know they are good luck as well.
12/30/2013 4:06:28 PM CST
Jim says ...
In the good Ole South, I was raised on pork of some kind, black-eyed peas, turnip greens and cornbread all for good luck, prosperity and wealth for the New Year. Like so many, had to force it all down as a child but came to like and eat with ease.as an adult. In fact to ensure my daughters and their families had the New Year good luck, as a tradition, always fixed the New Year meal. Glad to hear of other options and ideas from around the world. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!!!
12/30/2013 4:16:04 PM CST
Kelly says ...
In our family we always had some form of cabbage, either slaw or cooked cabbage and meatballs with veggies. Sometimes my Mother would have both, she said you could never have to much luck.....
12/30/2013 4:51:01 PM CST
Tim says ...
black eyed peas! mix with greens or corn bread or stewed tomatoes or serve just by themselves - no matter what they are paired with, or even just solo, always are symbolic of good luck when eaten on New Year's Day.
12/30/2013 4:53:58 PM CST
Cindy says ...
Pork and sauerkraut - cut an apple up and add along with a little brown sugar and caraway seeds to the kraut and cook over low heat for at least an hour. One eats pork because unlike animals that scratch backwards in the dirt, pigs root forward, and one wants to go forward into the new year.
12/30/2013 5:20:37 PM CST
Carol says ...
I'm from Pennsylvania, and it was almost a state law that you had to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day to insure good luck in the coming year. I don't like sauerkraut "straight" so I add a little applesauce, brown sugar, butter, and diced onion to mine and heat it in a casserole dish in the oven. Always served with pork roast and mashed potatoes. Yum!
12/30/2013 5:55:39 PM CST
Colette Kokron says ...
Pork and sauerkraut from my husband's Polish side and pork pies from my mother's French Canadian roots.
12/30/2013 6:05:30 PM CST
LolaBlanche says ...
The Cuban tradition is 12 grapes at midnight the 31st !
12/30/2013 7:24:04 PM CST
grace l perkins says ...
These are wonderful. It didn't occur to you to send them out a little earlier so we would have time to plan and shop. Pity. Happy New Year, g
12/30/2013 7:42:10 PM CST
Jill Wagner says ...
My mother-in-law was from Ireland an she had to have cabbage on New Years Day for good luck. That was the first time I had heard of food as good luck for the year. On Christmas day who ever fished or served the almond out of the mashed potatoes or what ever my mother put it in was blessed but we never had good luck! I made stuffed cabbage leaves with what ever was fashionable at the time: could be a tofu based stuffing or meat. Tomato juice not sauce over, so it was light not dramatic. I love the notion of long noodles for longevity!
12/30/2013 9:08:16 PM CST
Kim F says ...
Banga Cauda from the Italian side of the family and Corned Beef and Cabbage from the English side!
12/30/2013 10:25:14 PM CST
Andrea says ...
Eastern European customs always included pork, sauerkraut, pickled herring, BUT NO CHICKEN, CRAB OR LOBSTER because they move backwards or scratch backwards, and it's a sign of setbacks, and anything round (fruit,breads,etc)because they symbolize life coming full circle and eternity. Happy New Year!
12/30/2013 10:47:57 PM CST
Sharon Esmont says ...
In my late husband's Polish family it was good luck to eat pork, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes on New Year's Day. My father was from Tennessee and his family always had whipperwill or crowder peas as their lucky charm for the New Year. So I would serve all four items on the 1st day of each year.
12/30/2013 11:32:27 PM CST
Elizabeth Joslin says ...
Usually what we eat for New Years or for good luck is what most southern people eat in USA. We also eat them during the year. My family eats good ole Black Eye Peas, cornbread, pork ribs with a few snips of rosemary and sauerkraut mixed in with the ribs after they are done. We also fresh green spinach and the colored lettuce with onions and tomatoes and iced tea with lemon and lime and fresh mint leaves. I have also liked the meal with a small green salad with the tomatoes and onions and fried bacon broken into small pieces, and lots of herbs like basil and fennel sprinkled over the salad with some lemon squeezed on top. I also have grown fond of hot herbal teas that take the place of the coffee I use to drink. I found the tea has a much better taste and leaves me with a smooth after taste. I use splenda sweetener and no milk or cream. I think a person should try to bring their own good luck on and not depend on fate. Deep faith also helps with lots of good prayers and good clean living.
12/31/2013 3:54:31 AM CST
Gail Green says ...
In Mississippi a tradition is to eat hog jowls New Year's Day.
12/31/2013 4:33:27 AM CST
kyle samperton says ...
so glad you have done this!!
12/31/2013 5:45:35 AM CST
M Johnson says ...
Growing up in Western Maryland,(Allegany and Garrett Counties) with its PA Dutch influence, New Years meal was always pork and sauerkraut. It was supposed to bring good luck.
12/31/2013 6:48:39 AM CST
Jeannie says ...
Cabbage! And of course, black-eyed peas, and greens (collard, turnip or just good ol' spinach)!
12/31/2013 7:50:35 AM CST
Miriam P. says ...
In South American, you eat 12 grapes at the stroke of Midnight on New Years's Eve for luck in the new year.
12/31/2013 7:54:38 AM CST
Gloria Kelly says ...
Herring is a "must have" good luck food on New Year's Day. This is a Czech tradition.
12/31/2013 10:03:18 AM CST
Janine Fitzgerald says ...
Please edit your comments better. I believe the term is 'sheer out of luck', not shear , which means to cut hair or wool.
12/31/2013 10:47:00 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JANINE - Thanks for catching that! We have updated the spelling.
12/31/2013 11:31:47 AM CST
Cynthia says ...
Fun to read about these food traditions, eating some pickled herring brings good luck and prosperity, in my home - a German tradition.
12/31/2013 11:35:51 AM CST