Our 13 Favorite Food And Drink At Disney California Adventure's Festival Of Holidays 2023

Tis the season for snow, sweets, and surprises, and nowhere pulls it off better than the Disneyland Resort. From the moment you enter the snow-covered gates, you're greeted with holiday cheer everywhere you look. Even the characters are dressed in brightly colored attire. But if cheery décor isn't enough for you, Disney also pulls out all the holiday stops when it comes to food. 

Every year from early November through the beginning of January, the Disneyland Resort comes out with a large array of fun, festive foods to celebrate the season. Numerous bites are available all throughout Disney California Adventure thanks to its annual Festival of Holidays where they celebrate everything from Hanukkah and Christmas to Diwali and Kwanzaa. While there are several spins on Disney's popular churro and classic cold brews, there are also plenty of other new sweet and savory dishes to sample. 

We know you want to taste everything. But with only 12 hours to experience all the Resort has to offer and eight tabs on this year's Sip & Savor Pass, that's not a lot of time to indulge. Luckily, Disney was nice enough to invite us to the Resort so we could sample everything and tell you which items to use your Sip & Savor on at this year's Festival.

Barbacoa Tamal de Res

We love a good tamale where the velvety masa envelops a rich, succulent filling. It's one of our favorite Mexican dishes, and Disney does a great job with this barbacoa version. Covered with a bright green, spicy verde sauce, it's a hearty dish. You could easily enjoy this tamal with one of several beverages and be satisfied for a decent part of the day. While the tomatillo salsa has a definite bite that lingers long after the tamal is finished, we couldn't get enough of it, especially the barbacoa hiding inside. 

The shredded beef has a rich, beefy flavor and is so tender it melts in your mouth. We're sure it was slow-cooked for hours, and while we don't know what spices or sauces it was cooked in, we do know that when combined with the tender cake-like dough surrounding it, it made for one tasty bite. The Oaxaca cheese and crema drizzled over the top, were the perfect finish, giving us just enough to cool our spice-tickled tongues.

Togarashi Karaage Chicken Slider

Every year for the Festival, Disney makes a couple of sliders for its Winter Sliderland kiosk. The brisket slider from last year's Festival of Holidays is back, but there's a new crispy fried chicken one as well — and it's delicious! Disney's answer to the fried chicken sandwich craze, the only complaint we have for this slider is that we wish there were more of it. The chicken is nice and tender,  but the crunchy coating makes this slider a real winner. 

The chefs behind this tasty bite added a healthy dose of the essential Japanese spice, togarashi, to both the chicken and the furikake mayonnaise slaw that's piled on top. That spice, which typically includes dried chile peppers, orange peel, ginger, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds, adds a light tart heat that permeates every bite and tickles every part of our tongue from beginning to end. While the chefs are a little heavy-handed with the mayonnaise, the bread and butter pickles enhance the hints of citrus in the togarashi, making this one slider we'd travel the park for. 

Holiday Turkey Empanada

Ever wish you could have an entire Thanksgiving dinner in just one or two bites? Well, thanks to the chefs at Disney California Adventure, now you can. They've come up with the lip-smacking holiday turkey empanada which is everything you want in a Thanksgiving meal. Yes, tender turkey, savory stuffing, and a luscious gravy really are all stuffed inside that cute fried empanada shell. And that shell is light and crispy without being greasy. We just could not get enough.

If you're wondering about the potatoes, they aren't missed. The combination of gravy and stuffing is so creamy, that we actually thought some buttery mashed potatoes were stuffed inside as well. There was one thing we were missing though: the cranberry sauce. Luckily, the brilliant minds behind this bite make sure that sweet-tart sauce is included in this morsel. It comes in a little container on the side so you can slather as much or as little as you like on top. You could even save it for the end and enjoy it all on its own. After tasting it, we treated it like our favorite condiment and slathered it all over the empanada so we got every last cranberry.  We would definitely get this again.

Impossible Chicken Curry Bites

If you're concerned that there won't be anything to eat if you're vegan or vegetarian, don't be. There are a few dishes throughout the marketplace for you as well. Dishes like these yummy Impossible chicken curry bites. While the chicken itself had an odd texture due to the fact that they were Impossible, it didn't take away from the deliciousness of this morsel. The coating had a nice crunch and was covered with plenty of spice. But it was the lemon raita and coriander chutney drizzled on top that really excited us. 

The lemon raita, which is a thinner yogurt often found in Indian dishes, had a wonderful tart pop that complemented the savoriness of the chicken while tempering the saltiness of the coating at the same time. But it was the coriander chutney that really got our tongues wagging. That bright green chutney is so enticing, we couldn't wait to dive in and take a bite. We were greeted with a delightful herbaceousness that comes directly from the coriander and whose citrus notes meld perfectly with the lemon raita. 

Kielbasa with Pierogi

Unlike most of the morsels on our list, this tantalizing dish can be found inside Smokejumpers Grill at the end of Buena Vista Street. But just because it isn't part of the Festival marketplace, doesn't mean you can't use your Sip & Savor Pass. This dish, along with several others at brick-and-mortar restaurants throughout the park, qualifies which means you can taste even more holiday goodies than you expect. These pierogi should definitely be at the top of your list. 

Stuffed with potatoes and cheese, this Jewish dish reminds us of some really delicious fried ravioli. The filling possesses a luscious creaminess that coats the tongue like a warm blanket on a chilly night. Since pierogi are usually served with sour cream, Disney does the same but goes one better by adding a little dill for a nice briny tang that complements the saltiness of the potatoes and cheese. 

But pierogi aren't the only thing that comes on the plate. There are also a couple of spicy kielbasa and a wonderfully savory medley of sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions that turn this bite into a full meal. We're sure these pierogi would please any visitor who samples it as it absolutely satisfied us. 

Savory Kugel Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese is one of those comfort foods that no one can ever get enough of and everyone loves. Disney knows this all too well which is why there are always several different versions at the Festival. Just like last year, there are three options and two are brand new. While we enjoyed all three, this spin on the classic savory potato kugel from A Twist on Tradition, was far and away our favorite. It reminds us of the mac & cheese Mom used to make with plenty of white cheddar and heavy cream. It was rich and cheesy without being too salty. An homage to the classic roasted potato, the sour cream and chives sprinkled on top are not only an interesting twist, they're tasty additions as well. 

But what really excites us about this savory kugel Mac & Cheese is the pasta the chefs use. It's not your standard elbow macaroni. Instead, again as an homage to the classic savory potato kugel, the Disney chefs use a fusilli-type pasta which we think is brilliant because it means there are more cracks and crevices for that decadent cheesy sauce to cling to. 

Southern Mac & Cheese

One of the things we love about mac & cheese is all the different things you can do with it. You can keep it totally vegetarian with just cheese and pasta or you can add your favorite meat for a hearty carnivore version. The other new mac & cheese at the Festival this year, the Southern mac & cheese from Merry Mashups, goes for the carnivorous version by adding a healthy amount of andouille sausage to the dish. 

This rendition reminds us of the classic American cheese mac we all grew up with. But it doesn't look or taste anything like the stuff from the box. Instead, the cheesy sauce was pure decadence made with real cream, butter, and cheese. And if that were the whole dish we'd be very happy. But Disney improves the classic by sprinkling spiced Panko and andouille sausage over the top. Since andouille tends to be spicy, we were concerned we'd only be able to take a few bites before we'd have to go in search of a tall glass of milk. Thankfully, this andouille had a subtle heat that complimented the silky sauce of cheese and made for a seriously delightful bite. 

Impossible Albondigas Soup

We love meatballs, especially when they're tender and full of flavor. So you can imagine our surprise when we discovered that the amazing meatballs in this albondigas soup were made with Impossible meat. They were everything we'd want in a meatball made with beef: savory, meaty, and absolutely delicious. Made with seasoned rice and vegetables these balls have a ton of flavor on their own. But once they're cooked in the hearty vegetable broth, they become even more delectable as all the rich flavors from the soup seep into the meat and combine for one amazing bite. 

If the Impossible meatballs were the only delectable thing in this bowl, we'd be totally satisfied. But the vegetable soup is one of the best soups we've ever had. Full of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, and onions, this soup won't just fill you up, it will satisfy even the pickiest eater. Available at the Paradise Garden Grill, we actually wondered if they had prepackaged quarts because we wanted to take it home. 

While you could enjoy this soup at any time during the day, we'd recommend indulging after the sun goes down and the temperatures drop because it's the kind of soup that sticks to your ribs and warms you from the inside out.

Mad Santa Macaron

When it comes to Disney desserts, the macarons are almost as well known as the churros. There are several standard macarons throughout the year, but every holiday season Disney comes out with something special. A flavor that's specific to this festive time of year. Last year it was hot chocolate. This year, it's still chocolate, but it's chocolate from a bizarro world, and it may be the best one yet — especially if you like chocolate, peanut butter, and ... pretzels? Yes, there are actually a couple of salted pretzels hidden at the center of this macaron. 

Inspired by the Disney+ series "The Santa Clauses," this mad Santa macaron is the perfect blend of salty and sweet. The cookie is a light and airy chocolate cookie that's crisp on the outside and soft and chewy inside. It would make a delightful dessert all on its own. But then the filling sandwiched between the two cookies takes the dessert to a whole other level entirely. Upon the first bite, we got a decadent dark chocolate ganache. Beyond that is a lighter, slightly salty peanut butter mousse, and then smack dab in the middle, those pretzels for a salty crunch! We know it seems like an odd combination, but trust us, it totally works. 

Chocolate Tart made with Twix cookie pieces

If you love chocolate, caramel, and shortbread cookies but didn't get enough at Halloween, the Festival has you covered with this sweet chocolate tart. Unlike last year's dessert which had hints of bourbon throughout and a layer of caramel as its base, this year's chocolate tart is comprised of a light and airy chocolate caramel mousse that's like eating a chocolate cloud. All that deliciousness is piped into a sugar cookie crust the size of your fist and then topped with Twix cookie pieces and fun, festive holiday sprinkles. It's pure decadence in pie form.

We know it sounds extreme, but we had no problem finishing the tart off all by ourselves. See, even though the mousse is pretty rich, it's tempered by the bite-sized Twix pieces adorning the top of the tart. Those sweet milk chocolate candy bites not only give a nice crunch, but they balance out the bitter-sweet intensity of the dark chocolate mousse creating a chocoholic's dream dessert.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Cake

Just because pumpkin season starts in September doesn't mean it's done when the holidays start. In fact, it's just getting its second wind. Pumpkin pie, anyone? The Disney chefs know this all too well which is why they have not one, but two different pumpkin desserts this year. They've brought back last year's sweet pumpkin layered cheesecake, but have added a new pumpkin option that we think is even better: the pumpkin cinnamon cake.

We honestly couldn't get enough of this dessert. The cake reminds us of a rich, fudgy brownie you'd find at your favorite bakery, but instead of dark chocolate, it's a delightful earthy pumpkin. It's sweet without being cloying and the cake is so moist, it just falls apart. If the cake were all there was to this dessert, we'd be totally satisfied. But there's an extra layer of fall flavor thanks to that delightfully spicy cinnamon streusel sprinkled over the top. The red and green sprinkles add a pop of fun holiday spirit. 

While we could eat this dessert all day every day for the whole holiday season, the best thing about it is the cute little to-go container it comes in. That way you can grab the cake as soon as you get to the park and save it for later. You could even bring it home and have no fear of it falling apart or getting all over your stuff. It really is the perfect Festival treat. 

Glacier Margarita

If Elsa were to create a cocktail, we're pretty sure this stunning glacier margarita from A Twist on Tradition would be it. An icy blue that reminds us of Elsa's beautiful snowflake dress, this tequila cocktail is almost too pretty to drink. But since Southern California doesn't know of seasons, and it was yet another scorching day at the Magic Kingdom, we quickly overcame our trance and sipped the pretty tipple. 

Made of a mixture of Blanco Tequila, blue Curaçao, coconut and rosemary syrups, white cranberry, and lime juices, this margarita is a refreshing drink that's sweet and tangy without being too harsh. In fact, the tequila is so subtle, we almost forgot there was any alcohol in the drink. The coconut syrup adds a nice tropical feel while the rosemary and cranberry keep the cocktail firmly planted in the winter holiday spirit. The three Champagne bubbles gumdrops that garnish the drink are a cute nod to the ice princess and a sweet treat to suck on between sips. 

Cherry Mango Punch

Disney California Adventure may be known for its interesting cocktails, beers, and wines, but it also has some pretty amazing non-alcoholic drinks. We appreciate that the Disney mixologists take the time to come up with interesting non-alcoholic tipples so that those who don't choose to partake can still enjoy a refreshing drink without being stuck with water or soda. This cherry mango punch is the perfect example. 

Not only is the bright red-orange color reminiscent of a stunning sunset, but the flavor is top-notch. The perfect combination of sweet and tart thanks to the mango puree and lemon juice, it's a refreshing tropical punch that's splendid on a sweltering day in Southern California. While the mango puree and peach syrup shone through, we couldn't really taste the cherry syrup. But even without the cherry flavor, we still enjoyed every single sip of this punch. Once we drained the cup, we still had the frozen peach garnish which acted as an excellent exclamation point on this delicious non-alcoholic beverage.