Can you eat Christmas pudding with alcohol when pregnant?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat Christmas pudding with alcohol when pregnant?”, and what type of foods should be avoided during pregnancy?

Can you eat Christmas pudding with alcohol when pregnant?

No, you cannot eat Christmas pudding with alcohol when pregnant. Sometimes, the alcohol percentage is too small in the dessert and can be safely eaten during pregnancy. 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a term used to describe a range of physical, cognitive and behavioral deficits in the offspring of women who drank alcohol during pregnancy. The prevalence of FASD is estimated to be between 1.06 and 113.22 per 1,000 live births globally. In Canada, active case ascertainment estimated prevalence is 30.52 per 1,000 live births and estimated to cost $169 million per year (1).

In a study in the UK, approximately 95% of women in a group of 350 reported consuming some alcohol and 41% reported drinking 2-3 times per week during the 12 months prior to pregnancy recognition  (1).

Most of the alcohol evaporated during the cooking process due to high heat. The problem with most desserts is that they are not cooked so the alcohol did not have a chance to evaporate. 

In a study, the concentration of ethanol in common Christmas puddings ranged from 0.260 to 1.685 g per 125 mg slice. Although the alcohol amount of a 125 g piece of Christmas pudding is not harmful for a non-pregnant person, it can be harmful and must be avoided by a pregnant person. According to studies, Christmas puddings contain ethanol that does not all evaporate during the cooking process. The rise in blood alcohol content after ingestion of a typical slice of Christmas pudding was negligible and unlikely to affect work performance or safety or impair a health care worker’s ability to make complex decisions (3).

A 100% alcohol does not get removed so you need to be cautious when eating desserts or Christmas puddings made with alcohol. The residue alcohol content of each cooking method is given below.

Cooking method Cooking time Alcohol remaining 
Flambé (Setting fire to neat liquor e.g. crepes Suzette)2-3 minutes (until flames have died down)75%
Simmering 15 minutes 40%
Simmering 1 hour 20%
Simmering 2 hours 10%
vigorous/rolling boil 30 minutes 10%

If you use a low ABV alcohol during cooking, a significant amount of it will be ‘Cooked out’. For example, a sauce made with 12% ABV wine in it would be left with only 2 – 2.5% alcohol after 1 hour. 

However, these numbers may vary according to many factors. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that different cooking methods reduce the alcohol content of food to different degrees, depending on the food matrix and the time of preparation. After cooking, the amount of alcohol remaining ranged from 4 percent to 95 percent (2).

 The following table gives some of the retained alcohol content of foods prepared by different cooking methods, as reported by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (4): 

Added to boiling liquid and removed from heat …………. 85% 

Cooked over a flame ………………………………………………. 75% 

Added without heat and stored overnight………………….. 70% 

Baked for 25 minutes without stirring………………………… 45% 

Mixed, then baked or simmered for 15 min……………….. 40% 

Mixed, then baked or simmered for 30 min……………….. 35% 

Mixed, then baked or simmered for 1 h …………………….. 25% 

Mixed, then baked or simmered for 2 h …………………….. 10% 

Mixed, then baked or simmered for 2.5 h……………………. 5% 

Some fermented foods contain alcohol in minute quantities. For example, the ABV content of soy sauce is 2%, and fermented orange juice has approx. 0.5% ABV. Soy sauce generally produces various contents of alcohols by yeast fermentation. However, conventional soy sauce exclusively prepared from soybeans produces only a small amount of alcohol. There is a lack of salt inhibiting yeast growth (5). These negligible amounts of alcohol are not considered a safety threat during pregnancy.

Tips to make low ABV foods

Avoid using a slow cooker

A slow cooker operates at very low temperatures and does not reach the boiling temperature of most alcohols. Therefore, cook your food on the stovetop or oven to cook out most of the alcohol.

Add alcohol at the start of the cooking process

Adding the alcohol at the start of the cooking process not only helps with the flavor development but also gives alcohol sufficient time to the cook-off. 

Add alcohol sparingly 

You do not have to go extra with the alcohol to get that boozy flavor in your dish. Keep it modest to get a gentle boozy flavor in the end product. If the recipe calls for using 1 cup of red wine for braising, use half wine and half beef stock instead. Improvise and adapt.

Use alcohol substitutes

Alcohol substitutes such as tomato juice, apple juice, aromatic broths or stocks work great in most recipes. A splash of balsamic or apple cider vinegar will add an alcohol-like zing to your dish.

Enquire about the amount of alcohol in restaurant food

When you eat out, ask the chef or staff of that particular restaurant to confirm if the food contains alcohol or not. This advice is not particular for pregnant women but also for people who want to avoid alcohol due to health or religious reasons. 

Which alcohol-containing foods should be avoided during pregnancy?

According to different studies, nobody knows the exact amount of alcohol that is potentially harmful to the developing baby in any trimester. Hence, researchers and health professionals recommend not drinking any amount of alcohol for pregnant women as well as women who are trying to get pregnant, The consequences and safety of low-to-moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy on the fetus is still inconclusive and discordant. On the other hand, multiple adverse birth outcomes have been correlated with hazardous alcohol use during pregnancy, including low birth weight, preterm birth, intrauterine growth retardation, having low weight for head circumferences, and small for gestational age (6).

Some of the best heavier-on-booze dishes that should be avoided during pregnancy are given below.

Bananas Foster: Traditionally made banana foster contains rum flambé having up to 75% alcohol. Reduce the amount when you are making it yourself or ask the staff to keep the rum content low when eating out.

Rum baba: These tiny cakes are soaked in rum syrup. Work with rum extract if you are making rum baba at home. When eating out, it is not likely to ask them to get your rum baba soaked in less rum.

Rum balls: Rum balls or truffles, do not involve any cooking so the amount of alcohol does not reduce in amount.

Crepes Suzette: The same flambé method is used to make bananas foster and Crepes Suzette. Reduce the amount of alcohol when making it yourself or ask the staff to do that for you when eating out.

Bombe Alaska: It is also called Baked Alaska. It is flambéed after topping it with hard liquor like rum or whiskey.

Other dishes that may contain high levels of alcohol include Cherries Jubilee, liqueur/Liqueur Chocolates, Sorbet with alcohol, alcohol flavored ice cream, marinated/preserved fruit, Alcoholic Affogato, Grasshopper pie, etc.


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat Christmas pudding with alcohol when pregnant?”, and what type of foods should be avoided during pregnancy?

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Coathup, Victoria, Lesley Smith, and Mary Boulton. Exploration of dietary patterns and alcohol consumption in pregnant women in the UK: A mixed methods study. Midwifery, 2017, 51, 24-32. 


Brieger, Daniel G., et al. What proof is in your Christmas pudding? Is caring under the influence possible?. Med J Australia, 2014, 201, 702-704.


Regenstein, Joe M., Muhammad M. Chaudry, and Carrie E. Regenstein. The kosher and halal food laws. Comprehen rev food sci food safe, 2003, 2, 111-127.


Park, Su Won, et al. Analysis of ethanol in soy sauce using electronic nose for halal food certification. Food Sci Biotechnol, 2017, 26, 311-317.