“Last but not least” is absolutely one of the best ways to describe Thanksgiving dessert. Sure, you’ve made it through your turkey, cranberries, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans and every other possible side dish there is. Dessert, however, need not be an afterthought. You might say it should be a before-thought, because so many of them can be made well in advance.
Pumpkin reigns supreme, of course. And if that classic pie’s your thing, we’ve got worthy options to consider. Still, you don’t want to forget about how many other ingredients can star in that final sweet course. Embrace the season with apples, cranberries and sweet potato. Pecans and maple syrup are always welcome this time of year, too.
Our recipe collection has an almost daunting variety of holiday-worthy desserts. To save you the trouble of scrolling through the more than 80 options in our archives, we’ve pulled out some of the best, and offered a few alternatives, too. Because who has time to sift through all the Thanksgiving stuff in your feed? We’ve done the sifting for you.
Libby’s New-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie With Dulce de Leche and Cardamom: This isn’t your grandma’s back-of-the package recipe. We tweaked the newly updated Libby’s recipe by swapping in dulce de leche for sweetened condensed milk to achieve an ultrasmooth, flan-like texture. The spice blend is very much up to you, but we will never say no to cardamom.
Other pumpkin ideas: Fluffy Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie (gingersnap crust, light and fluffy filling); Vegan Pumpkin Pie With Coconut Cream (with molasses and pureed pecans!); Pumpkin-Caramel Tart With Toasted Hazelnut Crust (featuring a short bake time and a press-in crust); Maple and Pumpkin Custard (made in a cast-iron skillet, meaning it’s ideal for crust-phobes); Pumpkin Hazelnut Bars (easier to transport than a pie).
Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie. This is one of the star recipes from our Voraciously Baking Basics newsletter series by Joy “the Baker” Wilson. A crumb topping means less anxiety than a double-crust pie. The cranberries will soften and burst in the oven, tinting the pie a lovely pink.
More apples: Albemarle Pippin Apple Cobbler (perfect for any tart apple); Tiffany MacIsaac’s Double-Crust Apple Pie (classic!); Apple Gingerbread Cake (one-bowl, mix-by-hand); Turkey-Shaped Apple Tarts (fun to make with kids).
Sour Cream Maple Cake With Maple Buttercream Frosting. It’s not the first Thanksgiving ingredient you might think of, but maple syrup screams fall to us. This cake would be an unexpected yet very welcome addition to your holiday table. Also, it’s one-bowl, which is just the thing you need to cut back your dishwashing on such a busy day.
More maple: Frozen Maple Mousse (like a no-churn ice cream); Maple and Pumpkin Custard (pumpkin pie without the crust, in one pan); Maple Bread Crust Pudding With Salted Caramel Sauce (thrifty and tasty).
Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie. Some may say that pumpkin and sweet potato pies are basically the same thing, but some people may also be wrong. Sweet potatoes lend more flavor, and this pie — you may recall it from its video fame — has more nutmeg than you might be used to. Go with it; it works.
More sweet potatoes: Sweet Potato Cookies With Maple Glaze (soft and caky, more savory than sweet); Brown Sugar-Sweet Potato Cake (dense and moist); Persian-Spiced Sweet Potato Pie (no precooking of sweet potatoes required).
Tiny Tim Cranberry Tarts. This only works in a mini-muffin tin, and you must be sure to use no more than three cranberries per tart. Your reward for such strict adherence to the rules is two-bite tarts with a cream cheese pastry, a crunchy topping and the sweet-tart pop of berries inside.
More cranberries: Cranberry Apple Lattice Pie (with a red-wine-and-cranberry compote); Apple Cranberry Brown Betty (a lighter take on a classic); Cranberry Tart With Hazelnut Crust (guaranteed to be the showstopper on your dessert table).
Bourbon Pecan Pie. Featuring a higher-than-normal nut-to-filling ratio (meaning less goop, more crunch). The filling is sweetened with maple syrup and brown sugar, rather than corn syrup, and it gets a pleasant kick from half a cup of bourbon. This also happens to be vegan.
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