There’s no doubt that Thanksgiving is all about the big feast, but it’s also very much about dessert too! Even after indulging in turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and ladlefuls of gravy, there’s a mysterious phenomenon that happens. Call it holiday magic, because no matter how stuffed to the brim you may be from the savory stuff, there’s always room for something sweet.
Whether you’re the person in charge of baking pies year after year, or you delegate the treats to your guests, dessert is an essential part of the holiday spread. Expect to see usual suspects such as apple, pecan and pumpkin pie. (If your family is big on tradition, chances are high that there will be at least one of each.) Without these classic favorites, is it even Thanksgiving?
But don’t get too set in your ways! Prepare to be amazed by elevated wildcards like German chocolate cake, homemade babka and apple tarte tatin. And, of course, make sure to leave room for new twists on old favorites like pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake cheesecake bars and apple pie empanadas, which capture the flavors of the season in fun and creative ways.
In this collection of Thanksgiving dessert recipes, you’ll learn how to make the perfect pie crust, how to level up the classics with surprising new flavor combinations and most importantly, how to bring a dessert that’ll get you invited back to year after year!
Perfect Apple Pie by Maya-Camille Broussard
If you’ve waited all year for a slice of apple pie on Thanksgiving day, this is the recipe to make. Whether you have freshly picked apples from an orchard or just made a trip to the grocery store produce section, put your haul to good use with this classic preparation. Plus, you’ll learn how to make the perfect flaky dough step by step, so you’ll feel like a true baker.
Homemade Pumpkin Pie by Curtis Stone
Don’t be intimidated by making homemade pumpkin pie from scratch. Chef Curtis Stone will walk you through it. Don’t forget to follow this key step: Place the pie on the lowest rack of the oven to ensure that the bottom of the dough cooks through. And of course, top with fresh whipped cream and extra warming spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Pecan Pie Cheesecake by Riley Wofford
For a wow-factor holiday dessert, top creamy cheesecake with gooey pecan pie topping. Not only does the sticky, pecan-studded caramel sauce cover any cracks on the cheesecake’s surface, but it also balances the tangy flavor of the cream cheese-based filling.
Apple Cobbler by Alexis deBoschnek
What makes a fruit cobbler different from a crisp? The answer is that instead of an oat streusel topping, a cobbler is topped with biscuit dough. Once baked, the dough puffs up and rests atop the stewy, spiced apples creating a heavenly bite. If you don’t use apples, the same formula works for any stone fruit.
Traditional pecan pie is out of this world, but this chocolate bourbon pecan pie is in another galaxy. To make it, top store-bought pie crusts with pecans and chocolate chips, then cover with a filling made with dark corn syrup, sugar, bourbon, eggs, butter, cornmeal and vanilla. It’s an even richer, more decadent take on the Thanksgiving staple.
Creamy Pumpkin Pie by UPATNINE and Allrecipes
Are you team pumpkin or apple pie? For those in the former, try this recipe for creamy pumpkin pie. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, use fresh pumpkin, which you can roast and purée in advance, then store in the freezer until you’re ready to bake.
No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake by Carrie Parente
This no-bake pumpkin cheesecake is practically effortless. Unlike traditional cheesecake, it doesn’t call for any eggs, which means that you don’t need to bake it in a fussy water bath . Make this easy option ahead and refrigerate overnight for a hassle-free dessert.
'Buttamilk' Caramel Pie by Jennifer Lyle
Chances are that if you make Jennifer Lyle’s (owner of Detroit’s Lush Yummies Pie Company) sweet and creamy ‘Buttamilk’ Caramel Pie, it’ll become your new favorite dessert. The custard filling is topped with a four-ingredient caramel sauce that will have you wanting seconds.
Heartwarming Apple Crumble by Madeline and Anna Zakarian
Let your kids handle Thanksgiving dessert this year. Not only do you probably already have all the ingredients you need to make it at home, but it’s also super simple to prepare. Plus, both the filling and the topping can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer before baking and serving.
With pumpkin, ginger, pecans, maple and cheesecake, this might be the ultimate holiday dessert recipe mash-up. Whip up personal creamy cheesecakes atop a zingy gingersnap crust and top with homemade pecan and pumpkin seed brittle (plus maple whipped cream, of course).
Cranberry, Apple and Spiced Oat Crumble by Elena Besser
For a no-fuss dessert recipe that’s deceptively impressive, try this seasonal cranberry apple crumble. Combine apples, cranberries, sugar, brown sugar, lemon, warming spices, vanilla, cornstarch and salt for the filling. Then whip together a crumbly oat topping. Whether you’re hosting or bringing dessert, make it ahead, cover and reheat when it’s time for dessert. Just don’t forget the vanilla ice cream.
Oatmeal Cake with Cinnamon-Pecan Crumble by Kelsey Nixon
Rolled oats are the star of the show in this dessert by Kelsey Nixon: oatmeal cake topped with a cinnamon pecan crumble. The oatmeal cake is moist thanks to apple sauce, eggs and butter, and gets a welcome crunch thanks to the nutty, toasted topping spiced with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Skillet Apple Crisp by Mark Bittman
For a no-fuss crisp, whip out two skillets: one for the apples and one for the topping. (You’ll cut the cook time in half!) Plus, you can save even more time by leaving the skin on the apples.
Coffee Cake with Pumpkin-White Chocolate Glaze by Will Coleman
The limit does not exist when it comes to pumpkin desserts on Thanksgiving. This easy pumpkin coffee cake gets a double dose of seasonal flavor, thanks to the white chocolate glaze made with canned pumpkin purée that’s slathered on top.
Sheet-Pan Sweet Potato, Pecan and Pumpkin Pie by Jocelyn Delk Adams
Why choose between your favorite classic desserts when you can have all three? This sheet-pan dessert created by Jocelyn Delk Adams is a genius solution and features the holiday trifecta of sweet potato, pecan and pumpkin. Plus, she encourages the use of shortcut ingredients like canned sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin and store-bought pie crust to make this project a cinch.
Martha Stewart's Apple-Bourbon Potpies by Martha Stewart
Delight your Thanksgiving guests by whipping out individual apple-bourbon potpies for dessert. If the boozy apple filling isn’t enough, the presentation alone will make everyone’s jaws drop. Would Martha Stewart ever steer you wrong?
Pecan Pie by B.J. Chester-Tamayo
Classic pecan pie is synonymous with the holiday season. This recipe by B.J. Chester-Tamayo walks you through how to make a perfectly flaky crust — but if you need a shortcut, store-bought will do just fine.
Al Roker's Apple Crisp by Al Roker
Use Chinese five-spice powder to make Al Roker’s famous apple crisp! It’s made with a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise and hot Sichuan peppercorns. Up your serving game by dividing the apple filling into individual ramekins so everyone at your table has their own personal dessert.
Pumpkin Marshmallow Sheet Cake by Riley Wofford
If you like s’mores, you’ll love this pumpkin marshmallow sheet cake. The cake couldn’t be easier to prepare. Pile it high with marshmallow frosting and broil it (keeping a close eye to ensure it doesn’t burn!) for that signature s’mores toastiness.
Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting by Casey Barber
Choose your own adventure with this carrot cake recipe: load it with coconut, raisins, nuts and pineapple or keep it simple with just shredded carrots and cream cheese frosting. The choice is up to you!
Spiralized Apple Pie by Casey Barber
Put a new spin on this classic dessert. By spiralizing instead of chopping your apples, you’ll save time and end up with beautiful curled fruit ribbons that add an artful element to your final presentation. For another beautiful touch, try your hand at the lattice crust.
Pecan Bundt Cake by Vallery Lomas
This pecan Bundt cake recipe is straight out of the pages of Vallery Lomas’ cookbook, “Life is What You Bake It.” If you already have a Bundt pan at home, this easy cake made with chopped pecans, crushed pineapple and golden raisins practically bakes itself.
Apple Cider Cookies by Rosanna Pansino
To make these apple cider cookies, combine an apple cider reduction with cinnamon and brown sugar. Drizzle with homemade vanilla icing and enjoy these cookies around the table as you serve your guests coffee and tea after the big feast.
Quick Pumpkin Cake by Katie Lee
We love a recipe name that has the word “quick” in it! The speedy ingredients in this pumpkin cake? Boxed yellow cake mix and a can of pumpkin. Whip up a quick glaze with powdered sugar and heavy cream and you’ve got yourself a dessert that looks like it took a lot more time and effort to put together than it actually did.
Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars by Matt Abdoo
These chocolate pecan pie bars are reminiscent of Kentucky Derby pie in the best way. Thanks to the chocolate- bourbon pecan pie filling with graham cracker crust, your guests will be reaching for square after square come dessert time.
Warm Mini Apple Pie Empanadas by Alejandra Ramos
Reimagine apple pie this year with this fun take: apple pie empanadas! Use store-bought dough to make mini, individual hand pies loaded with apple pie filling. Don’t forget to dunk into warm caramel or butterscotch sauce.
Pumpkin Bars by Joey Skladany
Are you noticing a theme here? Cutting your dessert into portable bites is a delightful way to enjoy dessert on the go. Just cross your fingers that there are some leftovers. These pumpkin bars, topped with cream cheese frosting and walnuts, double as a great breakfast the morning after the big feast.
Carrot Cake Cheesecake Bars by Nina Elder
Torn between carrot cake and cheesecake? Enjoy both in one bite with these easy carrot cake cheesecake bars. Practice your swirling skills by dolloping cake batter on top of the cheesecake layer. Let melt in the oven slightly, then gently swirl together with the tip of a sharp knife.
Unfussy Apple Pie by Erin French
What makes this apple pie “unfussy? There’s no lattice, no crimping — you don’t even need a pie dish. Just roll out store-bought dough onto a baking sheet, top with spiced filling, then fold the edges over into a rustic galette. And here’s a handy party trick for you: Slice it with a pizza cutter for easy serving.
Vegan and Gluten-Free Pecan Bars by Samah Dada
Say hello to these vegan and gluten-free pecan pie bars that don’t require baking! This no-bake recipe tops a sticky date and pecan crust and with a filling made from applesauce, pecan butter, coconut sugar, almond milk, coconut oil and cinnamon.
Apple Crumble Cake with Caramel and Apple Icing by Donal Skehan
Elevate the more rustic apple crumble by turning it into a cake! To assemble, put one cake layer on a serving plate then spread with icing. Scatter with caramelized apples and the crumble topping, then repeat with the second cake layer and the rest of the frosting and crumble topping.
Spiced Apple Coffee Cake by Riley Wofford
If you’re a fan of chai-flavored anything, you’ll definitely want to make this apple coffee cake that’s infused with ground cardamom, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Full of fall flavors, this bundt has large chunks of fresh apple throughout and is topped with a streusel crunch.
Carrot Halwa Bars by Samah Dada
In Indian culture, halwa is made by simmering veggies, fruits or flours with ghee, sugar and milk. This version is made with carrots and paired with carrot cake with creamy cashew frosting. The result is a no-bake treat that will delight the senses!
Roasted Pears with Pecan Crumble by Lauren Salkeld
Sure, you may have had an apple or berry crumble, but have you ever made one with stone fruit? Give this recipe for roasted pears with pecan crumble a go. Instead of dicing the fruit, use halved pears as the base for the gluten-free streusel topping made of toasted pecans and oats. And don’t forget a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.
Apple Butter Thumbprint Cookies by Mike Costello and Amy Dawson
Classic thumbprint cookies have stood the test of time. This version swaps apple butter for more typical jam. To make it even more interesting, the dough has a blend of buckwheat flour, sugar and ground walnuts for added sweetness and texture.
Rosemary-Lemon Pecan Bars by Gail Simmons
Rosemary isn’t just for savory recipes! The fragrant herb is a key ingredient in these lemon bars, which balances out the sweetness with a welcome earthiness. If you’re not a fan of rosemary, swap it for thyme or sage.
German Chocolate Cake by Riley Wofford
To make German chocolate cake, take sweetened condensed milk, toasted pecans and shredded coconut, along with a homemade sweet and rich frosting. To prevent it from being too sweet (because there is such a thing!), balance it out with unsweetened dark chocolate in the cake batter.
Apple Loaf Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting by Elena Besser
Make this apple loaf cake well in advance of the big feast and stow it away in your freezer. When it’s time to enjoy, let it thaw and whip up a homemade cream cheese frosting to top the spiced apple cake.
Coffee Cake Babka by Becca Jacobs
Celebrate the beautiful marriage of coffee cake and babka with this stunning treat. The babka base is made with sour cream, which balances the cinnamon, butter and sugar throughout. Top with cinnamon streusel for everyone’s favorite part: picking off the topping.
Caramel Apple Dapple Cake by Shauna Sever
Old school apple dapple cake is packed with so many apple chunks that the surface of this supremely moist cake has a rippled effect. And that’s a good thing! This way, the ridges in this cake can soak up puddles of powdered sugar icing, which complements the coffee in the batter.
Apple Slab Pie by Marcela Valladolid
To make this apple slab pie, layer thinly sliced apples spiced with brown sugar and cinnamon on a simple pastry dough. Top with additional circles of pastry dough cut into fun shapes like festive leaves or pumpkins. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Tassies by Elizabeth Heiskell
It doesn’t get more nostalgic than homemade pecan tassies. The crust is simple: combine butter, cream cheese and flour. Then fill with a pecan pie-style filling spiked with bourbon, vanilla, chopped toasted pecans and chocolate chips.
Pecan and Pear Roll-Ups with Chocolate-Hazelnut Dip by Zane Holmquist
Reminiscent of baklava or strudel, these flaky phyllo roll-ups stuffed with spiced pear and pecans are a delight. Make sure to make the chocolate-hazelnut dip, which adds even more of a wow-factor to this dessert.
German Chocolate Pecan Pie by Maya-Camille Broussard
According to recipe developer Maya-Camille Broussard, this pie “is an absolute dream.” And I can’t imagine that a pecan pie with a rich chocolate filling and sweetened coconut filling could be described any other way. If you have a tree nut allergy, try making this recipe with unsalted peanuts.
Brown Butter Apple Crostata by Anne Burrell
If you’re in the mood for a multi-step baking project, try celebrity chef Anne Burrel’s recipe for brown butter apple crostata. While the recipe has a lot of steps, the end result is super impressive and, dare I say, a masterpiece.
Pecan Paht Pie by Joanne Molinaro
This Korean take on pecan pie, excerpted from The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes From Omma's Kitchen, uses paht: a red bean paste that tamps down the sweetness compared to more customary pecan pie filling. The vegan-friendly filling is also made with pecans, cinnamon, ginger and sesame seeds.
Dulce de Leche Apple Pie by Melissa Clark
Just when you thought you’ve seen every variation of apple pie, enter: Dulce de Leche Apple Pie. If you can’t get your hands on a can of dulce de leche, it’s surprisingly easy to make your own using a can of sweetened condensed milk. If you’d rather go a different route, store-bought butterscotch or caramel sauce make great swaps, too.
Mini S'mores Pies by Maya-Camille Broussard
For a s’mores experience without having to sit around a fire, try these mini pies. In individual ramekins, top the graham cracker crust base with a light and fluffy chocolatey filling. Top with a mountain of mini marshmallows, of course. Bonus: These treats only take less than 10 minutes to bake.
Gluten-Free Apple Pie by Camila Alves
Have gluten-free guests this year? Rest assured that the dessert options don’t have to be any less delicious! This gluten-free apple pie recipe has a buttery crumb topping and a delicious crunch from toasted chopped walnuts.
Ina Garten's Pecan Shortbread by Ina Garten
Excerpted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, this shortbread cookie recipe is inspired by NYC establishment Zabar’s. She gives the shortbread a festive twist with pecans, which she roasts first for added flavor. (A great tip to remember when baking with any type of nut!)
Maple-Pecan Pie by Briana Carson
For an added depth of flavor, add maple syrup to this classic southern pie recipe. Combine melted butter, brown sugar, salt, maple syrup, corn syrup, vanilla and eggs. Strain, add orange zest, then pour over the pecan-studded crust. Bake until the filling has set and then wait for your guests to ask for the secret ingredient.
Crunchy Apple Crisp by Lucy Pollock
Let’s say the worst case scenario happens: No one shows up with dessert. Don’t worry, you probably have all the ingredients you need to make this crunchy apple crisp. Raid your pantry and spice cabinet for rolled oats, flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and slice the apples hanging out in your fruit bowl. This crisp might be low on effort, but it’s big on flavor.
Donut Loaf by Shauna Sever
True to its name, this cake tastes exactly like a giant powdered sugar donut. The secret ingredient is nutmeg, which really drives home the donut flavor in this pound-cake style cake dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
Yes, you read that right: this apple pie contains cheese. And it’s absolutely delicious. This savory spin on classic apple pie combines sweet apples with nutty brown butter, earthy sage and creamy Winnimere cheese. Definitely don’t knock this until you try it.
Classic Scotcheroos by Shauna Sever
Midwestern folks might recognize this sweet treat with an equally sweet name. To make these scotcheroos, melt creamy peanut butter in a pot with corn syrup, brown sugar, butter vanilla and salt, then stir in crispy rice cereal. Spread in a baking dish and cover with melted chocolate and butterscotch chips. Let the mixture set, cut into bars and store in an airtight container until you’re ready to enjoy.
Butter Brickle Semifreddo by Catherine De Orio
Mix up your dessert table with a light, airy and creamy semifreddo, which means “half frozen.” You can make the base up to a week in advance and store in the freezer. For this version, top with Butter Brickle which is a fun name for toffee bits.
Maple-Apple Tarte Tatin by Bill Yosses
Feeling ambitious? Make this classic French dessert your friends and family will flip over. The apples soak up the maple syrup which makes for a stunning dark golden hue. Each bite of flaky crust, tender apples and maple whipped cream will have you wanting more.
Pumpkin Rolls by Matt Abdoo
Impress your friends and family with an elegant roulade-style pumpkin cake. While it’s still warm, roll this cake into a stunning spiral. Once cut, each ginger cream cheese-frosted slice reveals a pretty pinwheel.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Samah Dada
It’s not Thanksgiving unless everything is pumpkin flavored — including chocolate chip cookies! The pumpkin purée makes these cookies extremely soft and moist, and creamy almond butter adds a subtle nuttiness. I bet you didn’t guess these were gluten-free and vegan either!
This article was originally published on TODAY.com