Dessert

36 Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes That Aren't Your Ordinary Pie

Waiting until the end of dinner to eat these will be a tremendously challenging task!

September 30, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland

Arguably, one of the best parts of the Thanksgiving feast is the array of pies, cookies, and cakes that crowd the dessert table. Resisting the urge to rip off a piece of flaky pie crust or stopping a sneaky fingertip from making its way through the cake icing is a monumentally hard task when faced with these irresistible treats. (And if you're anything like me—you probably end up eating at least a cookie or two before the pastry table has officially been opened to the public.)

To celebrate this happy sneakiness, we're bringing you 36 Thanksgiving dessert recipes. It’s never too early to start crafting your holiday menu, so we hope this gives you a great head start!

1. Lindsey Shere's Baked Caramel Pears

Pear season has finally arrived, which means it's time to get baking. This five-ingredient, 20-minute recipe is super festive, and perfect for when you have your hands full with way too many other Thanksgiving dishes. While the pears roast in the oven, make a quick caramel sauce to slather on top.

2. Bourbon Apple Galette

Equal parts stunning and delicious, this apple galette will have everyone begging you for the recipe. With a crispy crust that holds the soft, bourbon-infused apples, every bite just gets better and better.

3. Sweet Roasted Chestnuts with Vanilla and Fennel

Fill your home with the aromas of unctuous roasted chestnuts, maple syrup, warm butter, and fennel seeds with this sweet, saucy dessert. Spoon over a bowl of tangy yogurt or vanilla ice cream for a nutty topping you’ll soon want to to eat with pretty much everything.

4. Gluten-Free Pumpkin & Coconut Cream Tart

This easy, grain-free pie dough features gluten-friendly ingredients like tapioca flour and almond butter to make a crispy, flaky crust just as good as the real deal. Your gluten-intolerant friends will be thanking you for serving this special treat.

5. Pear Tarte Tatin with Aniseed Caramel

Pile up the caramel-drenched pears to cover this stunning tarte tatin dessert, ideal for bringing to a party. Try using pear varieties like Bartlett, Anjou, or Bosc, which won’t get soggy when exposed to high temperatures.

6. Nik Sharma’s Spicy Chocolate Chip–Hazelnut Cookies

If Nutella were a cookie, this would be it. Made using hazelnut flour, muscovado sugar, and bittersweet chocolate, this recipe has a distinctly similar flavor profile to the iconic nutty spread. The perfect balance between crispy and chewy, a tray of these cookies will disappear in seconds.

7. Teddie's Apple Cake

Substitute-friendly and highly versatile, this virtually indestructible cake can withstand the madness the holiday season typically brings along with it. If you’re in a rush to add something sweet to your Thanksgiving menu, this apple cake will solve all of your problems. Can’t find raisins? Use cranberries. Want more richness? Add olive oil. The options are endless.

8. Fudgy Bourbon Balls

Need something extra to get you through Thanksgiving dinner with your extended relatives? These boozy, fudgy chocolate bourbon balls are guaranteed to put everyone in a good mood, and they really couldn’t be any easier to make. Combine pulverized chocolate cookie crumbs (preferably Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers), good bourbon, sugar, cocoa powder, pecans, and honey. Then roll the dough into bite-size balls for a dessert that will make you feel verrrrry good...if you know what I mean.

9. Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These soft, pumpkiny chocolate chip treats will turn anyone into a cookie monster. Made with warm spices like nutmeg and ginger, these will have you clearing the tray before the party has even started.

10. Last-Minute Fall Hand Pies

Want to bring something other than a standard apple pie to your next Friendsgiving? These fun, single-portion hand pies, filled with either apple, pumpkin, or cranberry, will do the trick. Your friends will feel like kids again as they snack on this adult version of classic Pop-Tarts.

11. Pumpkin Pavlova with Pecan Brittle

Pie who? Really step up your Thanksgiving dessert game this year with this layered spiced meringue recipe that will have your guests impatiently waiting to get to the final course of the meal. Spread a coat of pumpkin-maple whipped cream on top of the crisped meringue, then generously sprinkle with pecan brittle for an excitingly crunchy dessert.

12. Crème Brûlée Pie

If you’re a little bored of making pecan or apple pie, steal the show with this oh-so-fancy crème brûlée pie. Fill a buttery crust with rich vanilla custard and bake until the custard just begins to set. Sprinkle with a generous coat of granulated sugar, then let the kitchen torch work its caramelizing magic.

13. Raw, Vegan Pecan Pie

Make this zero-guilt vegan pecan pie that requires absolutely no baking or heat in the kitchen. Packed with heart-healthy pecans and walnuts, and sweetened with fiber-rich medjool dates, this pie will be the perfect finale to a decadent Thanksgiving feast.

14. Triple-Chocolate Olive Oil Brownies

If your chocolate-loving soul is discontent with the idea of pumpkin spice stealing the Thanksgiving dessert show yet again, this recipe is for you. Made with not one but three types of chocolate, your cocoa-obsessed sweet tooth will be very thankful to find this among the Thanksgiving spread.

15. Ginger Cake with Apple Butter "Frosting"

Already made applesauce, apple cider, and apple pie with your orchard pickings? How about apple butter “frosting” to coat a spicy ginger cake? If not, just reduce pink applesauce to the consistency of butter and use as a sweet, fruity alternative to traditional cake icing.

16. Scoops Ice Cream Pumpkin Pie

Repurpose three store-bought ingredients into an ice cream pie for a frozen Thanksgiving dessert your family will think took you hours to make. Combine crushed Nabisco Ginger Snaps cookies with melted butter to form the pie crust, then fill with pumpkin ice cream for this truly “easy as pie” recipe.

17. Roasted Pear Cake with Browned Butter Glaze

Become the baker of your dreams with this super-moist pear cake glazed with a picture-worthy layer of browned butter icing. Though the glaze is optional, the author believes that Bundt cakes always benefit from a bit of frosting to coat the top.

18. Applesauce Parfait with Cinnamon Bread Crumbs

In large, clear containers or glasses, layer applesauce, cinnamon sugar bread crumbs, and yogurt to create a trifle-like dessert inspired by a similar Norwegian treat. Fortunately, you can enjoy this breakfast parfait any time of day.

19. Pumpkin Pudding (aka No-Pie Pumpkin Pie)

If making the perfect pie crust proves to be the most stressful part of Thanksgiving every year, how about you don’t make one at all, and instead try this genius no-pie recipe with all the same beloved flavors? The light and fluffy whipped pudding is absolutely foolproof and a guaranteed win.

20. Butter Pecan Cookies

You won’t be able to resist eating one after another of these crumbly, nutty, sugar-coated butter pecan cookies. Made with four simple ingredients that you likely already have at home, these easy cookies will melt in your mouth on repeat all season long.

21. Double Layer Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake

End your Thanksgiving meal on a fruity high note with this double-layer cranberry ginger upside-down cake that is both refreshing and comforting. The vibrant cranberries add beautiful color to the top layer, while the ginger adds spicy zing to the moist vanilla cake.

22. Butterbeer

Transport into the wizarding world of Harry Potter with this velvety, cider-based butterbeer recipe. This nonalcoholic version is safe for the kids to chug. Meanwhile, the adults can whip up a boozy batch with hard apple cider or spiced rum.

23. Apple Chips

When you’re feeling too stuffed to even make your way to the dessert table, crunchy apple chips may be just what you need to end the meal on a slightly sweet note. Sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon, these healthy, crispy chips are the perfect bite to end on while you digest the large feast you just devoured.

24. Boozy Belly Pumpkin Cupcakes

If you do happen to leave enough room for dessert, you may want to reach for these rum-infused pumpkin cupcakes. Loaded with a gooey cream cheese center, this cupcake recipe has all of the favorite fall flavors—especially the boozy ones.

25. Caramel Rice Pudding with Brown Butter and Crème Fraîche

Infused with brown butter and crème fraîche, this luscious, creamy dessert ain’t your ordinary rice pudding.

26. Brown Butter & Cheddar Apple Pie

This Food52 award–winning pie pays “homage to apples in their purest form.” The creator of this recipe avoids adding traditional fall spices in favor of letting the fresh, seasonal apples steal the show instead. To better complement the sweet apples, she adds a heaping handful of grated cheddar and a bit of lard for a slightly savory twist to the crust.

27. Butternut Sage Scones

Instead of making pumpkin scones this year, the creator of this recipe came up with a delicate butternut sage scone. Make this Scottish-born pastry to pair alongside a serving of fresh seasonal jam (like cranberry or apple), a dollop of clotted cream, and a warm cup of chai.

28. An Old-Fashioned Apple Spice Cake

Though you might break into a tiny sweat as you whisk the meringue that coats this old-fashioned apple spice cake to stiff-peak consistency, it will all be worth it in the end. The moist cake is reminiscent of carrot cake, just with grated apples in place of carrots. Meanwhile, the meringue “icing” creates a crumbly, sweet coating that seals in the moisture of the cake for a heavenly combination.

29. Brown Sugar Apple Upside-Down Cake with Apple Cider Caramel & Spiced Walnuts

A guaranteed crowd-pleaser, this apple upside-down cake is infused with apple cider caramel, and is topped with a spiced walnut mixture that is impossible to turn down. The author, Erin Jeanne McDowell, recommends using a silicone cake pan to ensure the top layer of your cake comes out intact.

30. Drunken Honeyed Figs with Lemon Mascarpone Whipped Cream

These syrupy figs with lemon mascarpone cream can be made ahead of time, ideal for when you’re juggling so many different dishes at once. The author recommends using dried figs that can be soaked in brandy overnight before simmering in a mixture of honey, aniseeds, and orange juice.

31. Earl Grey Ice Cream with Blackberry Swirl

If you have time to spare this holiday, try making this Earl Grey–infused ice cream swirled with blackberry jam to serve next to a slice of warm pie. The author adds a tablespoon of a neutral-flavored vodka to help keep the custard creamy as it churns in the ice cream machine.

32. Brown Butter & Butternut Loaf

Bored of pumpkin bread? Try this brown butter butternut loaf: nutty, rich, and great with a cup of hot tea or coffee. Much like the author’s coworkers, your family will likely gobble up this tasty dessert so fast you’ll barely get a slice yourself.

33. Salted Pumpkin Caramels

If your guests are too stuffed for dessert, send them home with individually wrapped salted pumpkin caramels for the perfect Thanksgiving goodie bag treat. Sweet, nutty, and slightly salted, these spiced pumpkin caramel chews embody the essence of the season. You’ll be able to taste fall with every bite!

34. Apples Baked in Cider

While dinner is underway, simply pop these apples in the oven to bake in a soul-warming reduction of apple cider syrup. Serve these hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and store the leftovers—if there are any—for breakfast the next morning.

35. Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes (for Dessert!)

Transform the leftover sweet potatoes that didn’t make it into the Thanksgiving casserole into this luscious dessert. As the root vegetables slowly roast in the oven, they begin to caramelize, releasing a decadent sweetness that pairs well with a large spoonful of coconut skyr yogurt, orange zest, spicy black pepper, and a swirl of maple syrup.

36. No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Bars

Give your oven a much-needed break with these no-bake pumpkin pie bars that can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Vegan and gluten-free, this dessert is not only easy to make, but also very healthy.

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dessert recipe? Let us know in the comments.
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Maki Yazawa

Written by: Maki Yazawa

Food Writer & Recipe Developer

1 Comment

Susan September 30, 2020
Thank you for publishing ahead of Canadian Thanksgiving! Much appreciated as we celebrate the harvest a little earlier than our southern neighbours.