Our 31 Best Thanksgiving Desserts

Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Espresso Dates
Photo: © John Kernick

Pies and tarts may be the tradition when it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, but don't forget to make room for cakes, puddings, and ice cream sandwiches. Pumpkin and apple are classic Thanksgiving flavors, and we've also got dessert ideas that include pears, cranberries, and chocolate. Thankfully, you can even make some ahead of time! Here's our roundup of simple and elegant recipes to give your Thanksgiving a sweet ending.

01 of 31

Cranberry Crumble Pie

Cranberry Crumble Pie
Gerard + Belevender

Give your favorite side dish the dessert table treatment. Cranberry sauce fans will love this jammy fruit pie with the addition of warm holiday spices and a buttery crumble topping.

02 of 31

Pear Sticky Toffee Cakes with Miso-Caramel Sauce

Pear Sticky Toffee Cakes with Miso-Caramel Sauce
Greg DuPree

"When the weather turns colder and I start planning for the holidays ahead, this spoonable sweet is everything I need in the dessert department," says Gail Simmons. "In addition to the traditional dates, I like to add chopped pears to the batter, where they cook down as the individual cakes bake. I add miso to the toffee, which lends a salty savoriness that may sound gratuitous but exceeds expectations."

03 of 31

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle. Photo © Con Poulos
© Con Poulos

Silky chocolate panna cotta brings the richness of cold-weather favorite hot cocoa while the caramelized and spiced pumpkin seed brittle ties this dish in with the fall harvest. Both the panna cotta and the brittle can be made several days in advance.

04 of 31

Sweet Potato Honey Beer Pie

Sweet Potato Honey Beer Pie
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

The different components of this pie can be prepared on different days. Here's a suggested order of steps you might find useful, especially if you make it for Thanksgiving. Day 1: Roast sweet potatoes, reduce the beer, and prepare the pie crust, but don't blind bake (partially bake). Day 2: Blind bake the pie crust, prepare the sweet potato custard, and bake the pie. Of course, you can also do this all in one day.

05 of 31

Apple Cheddar Rye Pie

Apple Cheddar Rye Pie
Gerard + Belevender

Instead of a slice of cheese on top, this apple pie puts cheddar in the crust to provide a bit of tanginess that's balanced out by the addition of nutty rye flour.

06 of 31

Vanilla and Cider Panna Cottas with Spiced Ginger Cookies

Vanilla-and-Cider Panna Cottas with Spiced-Ginger Cookies
© John Kernick

Chef Shawn McClain tops his cinnamon and vanilla panna cotta with an elegant apple cider gelée and serves it with ginger cookies for a contrasting crunch. He equates the dessert to a Creamsicle because it successfully combines both creamy and tangy flavors.

07 of 31

Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon

Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon

Give your holiday staple pecan pie a boost of both chocolate and bourbon with this recipe from Chez Panisse alum David Lebovitz. It's the perfect combination of cocoa, caramel, and crunchy pecans, all nestled into a decadent all-butter crust.

08 of 31

Lemon-Cranberry Pie Bars

Lemon-Cranberry Pie Bars

A beautiful alternative to the classic Thanksgiving pie, this sweet and tangy bar has a simple press-in crust and a lemon curd filling swirled with cranberry puree. elegantly topped with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

09 of 31

Vanilla Ice Cream Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel

Vanilla Ice Cream Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel
John Kernick

This genius bread pudding from ice cream maven Jeni Britton is made with store-bought brioche and melted vanilla ice cream, eliminating the need to make a custard. The simple whiskey-tinged caramel sauce comes together with just four ingredients.

10 of 31

Giant Chocolate Cookie with Cacao Nibs and Flaky Salt

Giant Salty Chocolate Cookie with Cacao Nibs Recipe
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland

Few desserts are easier to prepare than a tray full of cookies, but this chocolatey, salty crowd pleaser makes things even simpler by letting you skip rolling or scooping with just one big cookie you can slice and serve like a pie.

11 of 31

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Brownie Crust

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Brownie Crust
© William Meppem

This eye-catching dessert combines creamy, chocolate-swirled pumpkin cheesecake with a chewy, nutty brownie. It can be easily made and refrigerated up to four days in advance, if you're able to refrain from cutting into it sooner.

12 of 31

Apple Crostata with Brown Butter Streusel

Apple Crostada with Brown Butter Streusel
© Justin Bernhaut

This rustic apple tart recipe has a similar ingredient list to a traditional streusel-topped apple pie, but its assembly makes for an entirely different dessert. The apples are precooked with maple syrup, vanilla bean, and butter, then arranged atop a free-form crust, their juices reserved as an instant sauce for serving.

13 of 31

Chocolate and Fig Cake

Chocolate and Fig Cake
Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

If figs are a holiday favorite in your house, this cake can really pack them in, accommodating as much as 12 ounces of fresh fruit alongside plenty of rich, bittersweet chocolate.

14 of 31

Dried Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dried Cranberry and Chocolate Cookies

Cookies may get all the attention around Christmas, but you can turn classic chocolate chip cookies into an easy Thanksgiving-appropriate dessert with the addition of dried cranberries and rolled oats.

15 of 31

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Caramel Swirl

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Caramel Swirl
© Alexandra Rowley

Food & Wine Culinary Director at Large Justin Chapple tops these chocolate-crusted bars with a homemade caramel that sinks into the pumpkin cheesecake batter during baking.

16 of 31

Apple Cake with Toffee Crust

Apple Cake with Toffee Crust
© Anna Williams

This mouthwatering dessert has all the makings of autumnal holiday indulgence: an ultra-moist apple cake with a buttery toffee glaze, brandy-tinged toffee sauce, caramelized apples, and vanilla ice cream.

17 of 31

Purple Sweet Potato Pie with Coconut and Five-Spice

Purple Sweet Potato Pie with Coconut and Five-Spice
Christopher Testani

Add some color to your Thanksgiving dessert table by swapping regular sweet potato pie with this gorgeous purple one.

18 of 31

Apple Pie à la Mode Ice Cream Sandwiches

Apple Pie a la Mode Ice Cream Sandwiches
Eva Kolenko

Get all the flavors of apple pie in an innovative, fun-to-eat ice cream sandwich, made with apple pie-spiced vanilla ice cream and snickerdoodle cookies.

19 of 31

Pecan Pie with Candied Ginger and Rum

Pecan Pie with Candied Ginger and Rum

For a wonderful contrast to the sweetness of her pecan pie, master baker Alice Medrich adds minced candied ginger and a splash of rum to the filling.

20 of 31

Pumpkin Layer Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Pumpkin Layer Cake with Mascarpone Frosting
© Con Poulos

Ditch the pumpkin pie and try out this moist, delicately spiced pumpkin layer cake, which trades plain old vanilla buttercream for a tangy mascarpone frosting.

21 of 31

Dutch Apple Pie

Imaginative Ways to Cook with Apples
Tina Rupp

To vary the flavors and textures in this iconic dessert, be sure to use a blend of different apples, such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Golden Delicious.

22 of 31

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Classic Pumpkin Pie
© Frances Janisch

To create a crisp crust on the bottom, we partially bake 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.

23 of 31

Pear and Cranberry Slab Pie

Pear-and-Cranberry Slab Pie
© Con Poulos

Instead of making a traditional two-crust pie in a pie plate, Food & Wine Culinary Director at Large Justin Chapple makes this free-form, fruit-filled, ginger-laced pie on a baking sheet.

24 of 31

Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie

Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie
Abby Hocking

Since it's technically a custard, a smooth and creamy consistency is the goal, and processing the pumpkin helps break up any fibers for a smoother filling. The addition of browned butter gives the pumpkin a subtle butterscotch flavor.

25 of 31

Pear Tarte Tatin with Red Wine Caramel

Pear Tarte Tatin with Red-Wine Caramel
© John Kernick

Instead of apple pie, chef Shawn McClain ends his Thanksgivings with this stunning tarte Tatin. Because the recipe calls for store-bought puff pastry, it's quite easy to prepare.

26 of 31

Boozy Bourbon-Pecan Tassies

Boozy Bourbon-Pecan Tassies
Alison Miksch

"These diminutive pecan pie poppers, with a higher crust-to-filling ratio, offer the perfect bite," says cookbook author Andrea Slonecker. "I spike them with bourbon to both cut through and complement the sweetness. And you (yes, you) can get this cream cheese crust right 100% of the time. The dough is forgiving as can be, no rolling pin needed."

27 of 31

Apple-Pomegranate Cobbler

Apple-Pomegranate Cobbler
David Cicconi

This juicy and bright apple cobbler — made from Granny Smith apples and pomegranate juice — is just the right amount of sweet, with an irresistibly tender and crunchy crust on top. Serve sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and topped with vanilla ice cream.

28 of 31

Goat Cheese Cake with Wine-Poached Cranberries

Goat cheese cake with red wine poached cranberries
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Crowned with candied pistachios and draped in tart, glistening cranberry gelée, pastry chef Claudia Fleming's holiday cheesecake is extra creamy thanks to a combination of tangy goat cheese and mascarpone. Be sure to beat in the mascarpone at low speed to preserve its extra-smooth texture.

29 of 31

Honey-Pear Sweet Cream Galette

Honey Pear Sweet Cream Galette
Erin Kunkel

A mix of alternative flours — here, two kinds of rice flour and arrowroot — delivers a gluten-free crust that is flaky, buttery, and crisp. The floral sweetness from the honey and pears is nicely balanced by tangy cream cheese. Be sure to let the baked galette rest at least 30 minutes to give the filling time to firm up for easier slicing.

30 of 31

Skillet Apple-Ginger Crisp

Skillet Apple Ginger Crisp Recipe
Antonis Achilleos

"There are few things better (or easier) than a fruit crisp," food stylist and cookbook author Susan Spungen says. "It's extremely hard to mess it up — even if you aren't a baker."

31 of 31

Sweet Potato Pie with Honeycrisp-Kabocha Salad

Sweet Potato Pie with Honeycrisp Kabocha Salad Recipe
Marcus Nilsson

With more eggs than a traditional pumpkin pie, this version is much richer. It's a magnificent match for the optional licorice ice cream accompaniment but is delicious served simply with the honeyed apple-squash salad.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles