9 Thanksgiving Desserts

These Thanksgiving desserts span traditional pies as well as a few unexpected surprises to ensure you end up with just the finish you crave for your holiday meal.

A maple cream pie topped with whipped cream, two plates of red wine poached pears, a scoop of pumpkin meringue pie ice cream, and a cranberry apple crostata.

While I may be the family aficionado of marvelously carb-y Thanksgiving side dishes, The One takes the cake when it comes to the dessert table.

Literally.

His favorite dessert is my pumpkin cake with maple-cream cheese frosting. I’ve been making it for 29 years, ever since I developed it for the Los Angeles Times. And whenever we host Turkey Day, he orders me to soft pedal offering guests Thanksgiving dessert doggie bags.

He wants it all for himself!

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He adores pumpkin so much that I’ve made glazed pumpkin pound cake, pumpkin pie babka, and pumpkin swirl cheesecake bars throughout autumn and winter for him.

The one dessert he forbids me to bake? Classic pumpkin pie. None, he says, compares to those sold at (bangs head on keyboard)…Costco.

But The One cannot live by pumpkin alone, which is why we’ve included cranberry crostata, pecan pies, cheesecake, and, yes, a pumpkin ice cream below. But this is a cold play on our pumpkin meringue pie–pumpkin ice cream, marshmallow swirls, and shards of pie crust. (The One made me do it.)

The word "David" written in cursive.
A whole maple cream pie, topped with whipped cream on a round wire rack.
Celebrate maple syrup season with this maple cream pie, made with sweet, creamy maple custard nestled in a flaky butter crust and topped with whipped cream.
Recipe
Two Southern pecan pies in pie plates with a bowl of whipped cream in between them.
This Southern pecan pie recipe from James Villas is not as sweet as most. Which is a good thing. And, of course, it does contain the requisite pecans, rich filling, and flaky crust. Try it for Thanksgiving.
Recipe

This pecan pie is extraordinarily simple and quick to prepare, and it has a perfect balance of flavors. It isn’t overly sweet, and the subtle vanilla custard goes beautifully with the pecan topping. It’s ideal for the holiday season. I’ll be adding it as a new Thanksgiving favorite.–Naomi

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A cooked cranberry apple crostata on a piece of parchment.
Cranberry apple crostata is so easy to make and so unexpectedly lovely to experience it may end up displacing the more familiar dessert offerings at your Thanksgiving table.
Recipe
A slice of drunken pumpkin bourbon tart on a white plate with a fork beside it and a mini pumpkin and leaves in the background.
Drunken pumpkin bourbon tart. Exactly the sort of Thanksgiving dessert that will make the relatives a heck of a lot more tolerable.
Recipe
A slice of cheesecake topped with cranberries on a silver cake lifter.
This cranberry-orange cheesecake from Bon Appetit is scented with vanilla and orange and topped with sweetened fresh cranberries. A perfect holiday dessert.
Recipe

I have made this cheesecake recipe for several years and it is excellent. Foolproof and so festive for the holidays. Orange in the filling is just perfect. Cheesecakes are the perfect dessert for a party as they can be made ahead and really are very easy.–Linda

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A container of Pumpkin Meringue Pie Ice Cream with a scoop
Pumpkin meringue pie ice cream is the ultimate mashup of pumpkin ice cream−spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and mace−creamy-dreamy meringue, and crunchy bits of Oreo-cookie crust. Think frozen pumpkin-spice latte.
Recipe
Four plates of rum pecan pie in a flaky crust, topped with whole pecans and vanilla ice cream.
This rum pecan pie is all grown up thanks to a little splash of rum in the sweet and crunchy pecan filling. Just like traditional pecan pie. Only better.
Recipe
Two blue plates with red wine poached pears and a drizzle of sauce over them.
Red wine poached pears are a stunning—and stunningly simple—dessert made from booze and fruit and sugar and not a lot else.
Recipe

Thanksgiving Dessert FAQs

How many desserts should I serve at Thanksgiving dinner?

It depends on the number of people at your table, but we suggest at least 2, even for a small gathering. To be safe, plan on 2 slices of dessert per person. A pie usually has 8 slices in it, so plan to have one dessert for every 4 people.

What can I make for my gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan guests?

Ideally, you want to have a dessert that everyone can enjoy, without making anyone feel singled out. We love poached pears because they can be served to almost anyone, and can even be topped with a dollop of coconut whipped cream.

Our indulgent pumpkin pots de crème are gluten-free if served without the cookie crumbles. Making a pear-cranberry crumble with vegan butter is also a great choice if you’ve got dairy-free or vegan guests.

How should desserts be stored?

If they’ve got eggs, milk, or cream in them, keep them in the fridge before and after serving. Other desserts can usually be stored at room temperature.

Desserts are arguably the most important (or at least most anticipated) part of the Thanksgiving meal. They often can be made a couple of days in advance, making them also one of the least stressful parts of hosting Thanksgiving dinner. So, pick a couple of the above Thanksgiving dessert recipes, get baking, indulge, and let the accolades roll in. You deserve it.

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