17 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts

Pumpkin Cream Pie in a Chocolate Crust
Photo: © John Kernick

From a chocolate-swirled pumpkin pie to a brown sugar-cranberry tart, here are fantastic make-ahead Thanksgiving desserts.

01 of 17

Brown Sugar-Cranberry Tart

Brown Sugar-Cranberry Tart
© FREDRIKA STJÄRNE

The sweet-and-tart berries in the creamy custard pop when you take a bite.

02 of 17

Clay-Pot Tarte Tatin

Clay-Pot Tarte Tatin

Flameware is perfect for preparing this French tart, as an ordinary clay pot may not be able to withstand the high heat required to caramelize the apples.

03 of 17

Macaroon Sandwiches with Poached Pears and Devon Cream

Macaroon Sandwiches with Poached Pears and Devon Cream

Devon (also known as Devonshire) cream is a specialty of Devonshire, England. It's the thick layer of cream that's spooned off the surface of heated and cooled unpasteurized milk. It's very traditional at English tea, served with scones. Here it adds a creamy, slightly tangy dimension to the dessert.

04 of 17

Gingerbread with Quark Cheesecake

Gingerbread with Quark Cheesecake

This clever recipe combines two cakes in one: gingerbread and cheesecake. The cheesecake half is light and creamy, with a pleasant tang from quark (a soft, unripened cheese that's similar to sour cream), while the gingerbread half is fragrant, moist and delicately spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

05 of 17

Skillet-Baked Pear-and-Apple Crisp

Skillet-Baked Pear-and-Apple Crisp.
© David Prince

In the fall, chef James Boyce picks the apples and pears for this cinnamon-spiced crisp.

06 of 17

Maple Custards with Sugared Pecans

Maple Custards with Sugared Pecans

One of José Andrés's favorite American sweets is pecan pie. This twist was inspired by tocino de cielo, a rich, eggy cousin of flan.

Make-Ahead Tip: The custards can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, while the sugared pecans can be stored overnight in an airtight container.

07 of 17

Warm Apple Cider Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Warm Apple Cider Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

The cake and cider sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

08 of 17

Almond Cake with Pears and Crème Anglaise

Almond Cake with Pears and Crème Anglaise
© Simon Watson

For a simple but elegant dessert, a basic sponge cake is baked with fragrant almond flour, split in half and filled with a layer of tender pears. Cooked in butter in a covered pan, the pears steam in their own juices, releasing a syrupy sauce all their own.

09 of 17

Chocolate-Swirled Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate-Swirled Pumpkin Pie
© Frances Janisch

To create a crisp crust on the bottom, Grace Parisi partially bakes the pie shell before adding the filling. If the edge starts to darken too much, cover it with a pie shield or strips of foil.

Make-Ahead Tip: the pie can be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.

10 of 17

Pear-and-Fig Pie-in-a-Jar

Pear-and-Fig Pie-in-a-Jar

Three Babes Bakeshop in San Francisco offers this fun, portable pie: They bake the pastry in a jar, then fill it with fig-and-pear syrup, mascarpone cream, fruit and toasted walnuts.

Make-Ahead Tip: The pie crusts, fruit filling, syrup and cream can be refrigerated separately for up to 2 days.

11 of 17

Frozen Maple-Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries

Frozen Maple-Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries

Pastry chef Kathleen Callahan makes delicious desserts like this frozen pie topped with slow-simmered cranberries.

12 of 17

Flaky Pear Pie

Kentucky Derby Pie Recipes
PHOTO © JOHN KERNICK

Grant Achatz's pie, inspired by his mom's, is as straightforward as it gets, with a melt-in-your-mouth all-shortening crust and a lightly sweetened pear filling with just a hint of spice.

13 of 17

Three-Layer Thanksgiving Cake

Three-Layer Thanksgiving Cake
Con Poulos

To celebrate the myriad flavors of autumn, Food & Wine's Laura Rege layers three separate cakes—pumpkin, candied pecan and cranberry cornmeal—into one giant cake, all finished with a luscious cream cheese frosting. It's got a little something for everyone at the Thanksgiving table.

14 of 17

Mile High Ice Cream Pie

Mile High Ice Cream Pie
ABBY HOCKING

This impressive pie is a fun way to integrate ice cream into your Thanksgiving desserts. Feel free to get creative and swap in other ice cream flavors, too!

15 of 17

Black-Bottom Walnut Pie

Black-Bottom Walnut Pie
Christopher Testani

You can't go wrong with a good old pecan pie, but this chocolate walnut pie adds some unexpected flavors and ingredients.

16 of 17

Tangerine Curd Tart

Tangerine Curd Tart
© Con Poulos

This sunny tart will add some necessary tang (and color!) to a dessert spread that's typically overloaded with sugary cakes and pies.

17 of 17

Pumpkin Cream Pie in a Chocolate Crust

Pumpkin Cream Pie in a Chocolate Crust
© John Kernick

Cookbook author Melissa Clark shakes up classic pumpkin pie with this version, which is made of pumpkin custard held together by a chocolate cookie crust.

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