Turkey may be the main event on every Thanksgiving table, but even when you feel stuffed full of food you can always find room for a little dessert after dinner.
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, finding an easy dessert recipe will cut your hours in the kitchen and give you more time to spend with family. And if you’re a guest who’s bringing dessert, your host will appreciate your sweet creativity.
Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pie
The go-to dessert for millions of Americans is the classic Thanksgiving pie, be it apple, pumpkin or a nutty variety like pecan. But why be predictable when you can come up with a thoughtful Thanksgiving dessert your guests will be talking about all year?
Chocolate Thanksgiving Desserts
After partaking in a savory feast all day, a sweet, chocolate-based dessert can make the perfect finishing touch to your meal.
Chocolate tarts look a little fancier than pies and can be adapted to suit any special dietary needs your guests might have. Go back to your pastry-baking basics to make a light rough puff base for your tart.
If your guests are simply too full to eat another bite, baking chocolate brownies for your visitors to take home can make an ideal snack during a long drive or an indulgent breakfast treat for Black Friday.
Use dark chocolate cocoa powder and raw sugar as substitutes if you’re baking for vegans. Try alternative flours like almond, chickpea or coconut as simple baking swaps if your guests need a keto-friendly or gluten-free dessert this holiday season.
For Thanksgiving gatherings in cooler locations, offer your visitors a cozy hot chocolate treat before they leave or as a delayed dessert option a few hours after dinner. Squirt some whipped cream on top and sprinkle a few marshmallows on for your youngest visitors, or liven up the evening with a splash of bourbon or rum for an adult-only twist.
Pumpkin Desserts for Thanksgiving
Prepare for the holidays ahead of time and start thinking about your pumpkin desserts just after Halloween. When you’re carving Jack O’Lantern’s, scoop out the center of your pumpkin and freeze everything inside. Smaller pumpkins tend to be sweeter, so keep this in mind as you’re picking out your fall decor at the grocery store.
Come Thanksgiving day, defrost your fresh pumpkin and turn it into a puree good enough to rival any canned varieties. From there, there are plenty of pumpkin-based Thanksgiving desserts ideas to pick from.
For desserts you can all share together, a pumpkin spice mousse is a light alternative to ice cream, keeping calories low and palatespalettes cleansed. A pumpkin and carrot cake can easily turn savory vegetables into sweet treats.
Cakes and breads made in a loaf tin can be quite dense, which don’t always make the best post-turkey desserts, but can be a good choices for something to send home with your guests. Decorate your cake with fall themes like leaves or little turkeys using piped icing.
Cranberry Thanksgiving Desserts
Nothing says Thanksgiving more than cranberries. This humble red fruit can be used in every course and works in both sweet and savory dishes.
Cobbler is a crowd-pleaser across the country, and guests will be especially grateful for a warm dessert if they’re heading outside soon after dinner.
Mix your cranberries with pear instead of apple for a twist on a classic apple-based dessert. Pears are usually only in season until the end of October, so stock up ahead of Thanksgiving by cooking and freezing your cobbler filling before the big day. Alternatively, use your cobbler filling inside a handmade tart base.
While cranberry sauce will be a staple on your table, sometimes you end up with more than you think you need. Set aside any extra to make a cranberry coffee cake to enjoy with a post-dinner mug of tea.
If you still have sauce left by the end of dinner, get a jumpstart on your Christmas cookies over the next few days by making a shortbread-style cranberry sugar cookie.
A pie may be a common use for fall’s most delicious fruit, but you can get the same effect with less work and fewer carbs by baking an apple crumble instead. Mix oats seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg into your flour before baking to add extra seasonal flavors.
For guests who might be missing a traditional pie, apple dumplings made with store-bought crescent rolls have the same flavor profile, but are quicker to make and less filling. Serve with vanilla ice cream to balance out the tartness of Granny Smith’s or sweetness of any caramel in the sauce.
If you have some leftover apple slices that don’t fit into your baking pan, dry them out in a hot oven until they’re crisp, and string them together to create a Thanksgiving-themed garland. You can even eat it once your guests have headed home—talk about a sustainable decoration!
Creative Dessert Ideas
Some of the best Thanksgiving desserts are the easiest to make. And when you’ve been cooking all day, sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
But easy doesn’t have to mean boring. Experiment with ingredients you already have in the fridge or pantry to save time and money. Your guests will still be impressed with the fun creations you’ve put together.
No-Bake Thanksgiving Desserts
If the mere thought of more cooking exhausts you, a no-bake dessert will be your savior to wrap up the meal. Cheesecake is an excellent option, as they can be adapted to feature any flavor combination and use up some of your leftover ingredients from earlier dishes.
For smaller get-togethers with only a handful of guests, make a cheesecake in a cup instead. Layer your ingredients in a glass to create a picture-worthy dessert that takes less than five minutes to put together.
No-bake options can also be a good choice when it comes to gluten-free Thanksgiving desserts. Pure oats typically have no gluten and, when combined with a binding agent like caramel or honey, form a solid base for dessert bars and no-bake cookies.
Themed Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas
Win the prize for cutest Thanksgiving dessert ever by turning your creations into adorable turkeys.
Anything round will work well for this—think apple donuts, pumpkin cupcakes and cranberry muffins to throw some googly eyes on and amuse all the little (and not-so-little) kids at the party.
You don’t even need to do any baking for a turkey-themed dessert. Simply pull an Oreo apart, stick another Oreo vertically into the half and melt a Reese’s cup onto the front. Finish up with a few pieces of candy corn to create a tail and you have yourself a chocolate turkey!
Save the Best for Last
Thanksgiving is all about spending time with your favorite people, enjoying each other’s company and eating until your pants are a bit too tight. Dessert is the grand finale of a lovingly prepared meal, so take time to decide what treats will work best for your party and be the perfect conclusion to your dinner.