Search form

Donate Today


5 DIY Food-Inspired Holiday Gifts

Homemade gifts — made with ingredients from your kitchen cupboard — are a thoughtful (and budget-friendly) way to give.

December 15, 2017

Growing up, my parents had us make gifts for my grandparents and friends during the holidays. They wanted us to learn that the holidays are not only about giving to others, but spending the time to make something personal (and by hand). These presents ranged from macaroni necklaces to homemade coupon books (“One free lawn mowing!”). And we always had to give our gifts before we received any of our own.

I still make homemade gifts for most of my friends and family. I encourage my stepsons to do the same. There is nothing more personal than receiving a gift from someone who actually took the time to make it, instead of running to the store or hopping online. I like to think that my boys enjoy the process of making something truly personal for whomever they are giving to.

Being a chef, most of my gifts tend to be of the food-variety: I love getting creative with the ingredients that I find in my kitchen. Usually, they are edible; sometimes they are functional; and occasionally, purely decorative. My repertoire has evolved from macaroni necklaces, but the sentiment is still there: from my kitchen, with heart.

Tips for DIYing holiday gifts

Before you start on your homemade gift journey, keep a few things in mind, so your gift is a wonder and not an “I wonder what went wrong?”

Timing is everything

Start much earlier than you think is necessary. Some gifts take longer than others to prepare, infuse, marinate or cure. Make sure that you give yourself enough time (days, weeks, or even months) for your gift to properly work it’s magic, so it’s ready to use when you give it.

Give at your best

Stick with your skills when it comes to making food gifts. Never made jam before? This is not the time to learn.  Are you an amateur brownie-baking champion? Then use what you know and make the best brownies anyone has ever tasted. The holidays are busy enough, without the added task of learning a new skill set.

Keep it classy

Classic combinations of flavors (chocolate and nuts; orange and spice; etc.) are more likely to please the crowds than exotic new flavors. While playing with a few creative flavor combinations can be fun (how about chocolate and Parmesan or peanut butter and hot sauce?!), avoid overly spicy or novel combinations.

Presentation matters

Even though your homemade treats are tasty, you can really up the “wow” factor by presenting your gift in a beautiful bag or box. Think about how you present the gift, as much as what goes into it. Adding a well-written recipe or instruction card is a great idea, if your gift requires a little work on their end (such as adding water, baking instructions, or ideas for use). Adding an ingredient list is helpful for those on restricted diets.

Don’t stress

It really is the thought that counts. Some years, you can make more and fancier items than in other years. Don’t overburden yourself trying to make gigantic gift baskets for everyone you know. Something small, simple and heartfelt can strike the perfect chord. You should enjoy making your gift just as much as your recipient enjoys getting it.

Ready to get started? 

Inspired ideas

Dark-Chocolate Cardamom Kissed Pistachio Toffee

With only six ingredients, this toffee really ups the “wow” factor by mixing in an unexpected (but not unheard of) ingredient: cardamom. Keep the packaging simple, to let the beautiful colors of the toffee and pistachios be the center of attention.


A classic Christmas-time gift, this is a fruitcake your friends will actually want to eat (and not use as a paper weight). Using dried fruit, instead of the candied variety, makes for a more palatable and less sweet treat.

Peppermint Bark

No flavor combination is more universally appealing than chocolate and mint. Plus, using packaged crushed peppermints and the microwave is a huge time saver if you need to make a lot!

Sesame and Flax Seed Crackers

Holiday food gifts don’t always have to be sweet. These crisp crackers are a great accompaniment to an assortment of cheeses or fresh fruit.

Spicy Holiday Pecans

Though the recipe calls for pecans, you can easily substitute walnuts or cashews, depending on your taste preferences or food allergies.  If you like, add a pinch of sugar for a sweet-and-savory twist.


Jackie Freeman

Recipe developer, food stylist and culinary tinkerer, Jackie Freeman has worked in the culinary field for over 20 years as a private chef, cheesemaker, culinary instructor, recipe editor and a radio and video personality.

More stories by Jackie Freeman