Thanksgiving desserts

Thanksgiving desserts (Photo by JeniFoto on Shutterstock)

Thanksgiving in the United States is often a celebration of America’s best culinary traditions. Roast turkey, endless side dishes, and, of course, delicious desserts make the menu unforgettable. Our list of the seven best Thanksgiving desserts is a collection of sweet treats that you’ll want to make sure are on your holiday table this year.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time to connect with loved ones, eat some great food, and reflect on our blessings. Oftentimes, though, the hectic nature of preparing for the holiday can lead to more than one mistake, calamity, or embarrassing moment. In fact, a 2019 survey of 2,000 Americans found that the average household will see holiday tasks go wrong. More than half of respondents claimed that the turkey is usually a prime source of problems, admitting that cooking it correctly is one of the hardest parts of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner.

Not finishing everything on your Thanksgiving plate? Good! More than two-thirds of Americans think Thanksgiving dinner leftovers taste better than the original meal. In a recent survey of 2,000 respondents who celebrate Thanksgiving, 45 percent think pumpkin pie is the best leftover after the big meal. Sometimes dessert can seem like an afterthought compared to the rest of the holiday menu goodness. Worry not dessert lovers!

For those who love to skip the entrée and cut straight to the sweets, our list of the best Thanksgiving desserts is right up your alley. Scrumptious pies, wonderful cakes, and endless varieties of pumpkin flavored sweets take center stage thanks to info from our trusted sources. Let us know your favorite Thanksgiving desserts in the comments below!

The List: Best Thanksgiving Desserts, According to Foodies

1. Pumpkin Pie

Without a doubt, pumpkin pie reigns supreme at Thanksgiving. This classic pie is popular nationwide. Ahead of Thyme raves, “Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without a slice of classic Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. There is nothing better than a bite into that flaky crust and smooth pumpkin filling, full of those classic pumpkin spice flavors.”

closeup photo of sliced pie on white ceramic saucer
Pumpkin pie (Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash)

Pipe Dream praises the Costco take on this classic: “For starters, nothing says Thanksgiving like pumpkin pie. You can tell the difference between homemade and store-bought right away. Take caution with a store-bought pumpkin pie, unless it is from Costco. Costco’s recipe, dating back to 1987, has perfected the seasonal spice blend and the creamy pumpkin mouthfeel. You can freeze it until Thanksgiving, knowing the thawing process will go smoothly.”

Let’s Eat Cake exclaims, “Thanksgiving markets itself as a day about the turkey, but we all know it’s really about the desserts… Pumpkin pie is still one of the reigning queens of turkey day. It’s really just a mushy version of your deflated Jack-o-Lantern, but we’re still loading up.”

2. Apple Pie

“As American as apple pie” is an adage that calls out to the deep American history of this classic dessert. Regional apple varieties are available across the nation, and each makes for a unique pie. The New York Times asserts, “Because moisture levels in apples vary so greatly and baking them raw in a pie can lead to soggy crusts or undercooked apples, (Chef) Melissa Clark calls for sautéing them in a little butter first. This ensures that they’re just the right texture: tender, but not mushy.”

brown pie on stainless steel bowl
Apple pie (Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash)

It seems that there is also regional fandom for certain types of apples. “Even though we’ve lived in Florida for three years, I still feel like a Vermonter. My parents send us a bushel of Vermont apples each fall, and we try to visit in the spring to do some sugaring,” according to Taste of Home.

Let’s Eat Cake evaluates Thanksgiving pies with a hot take: “Apple pie is superior to pumpkin. The texture is better, it tastes amazing with a scoop of ice cream, and honestly, there’s nothing more American than apple pie. And that’s why apple pie takes the cake—er, pie?—when it comes to Thanksgiving desserts. No, our DMs are not open.”

3. Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie is another Thanksgiving all-star dessert. Sometimes topped with toasted marshmallows, these tasty pies have many regional variations. Grits and Pinecones comments, “My, oh my, Sweet Potato Pie! Easy Southern Sweet Potato Pie tastes like a cool crisp Fall Day: warm, pungent spices, and Thanksgiving all wrapped up in one delicious and decadent bite. A wonderful alternative to pumpkin pie, it will quickly become a family favorite.”

round sliced pie with cream
Sweet potato pie with marshmallow fluff topping (Photo by Alex Lvrs on Unsplash)

The New York Times adds a baking tip for their version of this recipe, “Baking powder makes this version of the Southern classic from Amanda Hesser extra light and fluffy. Commenters recommend baking the potatoes instead of boiling them and using cream in place of evaporated milk to temper the sweetness even more.”

Food & Wine details another favored technique and serving suggestions, “With more eggs than a traditional pumpkin pie, this version is much richer. It’s a magnificent match for the optional licorice ice cream accompaniment but is delicious served simply with the honeyed apple-squash salad.”

4. Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake is popular both at retailers and with home bakers. This rich dessert might be best in small slices. Let’s Eat Cake says by way of a cheeky take, “Cheesecake is the dark horse of Thanksgiving desserts. The pumpkin flavor makes it seasonally appropriate, and the dairy content will have us spending the rest of the night in the bathroom. And, what’s more ‘Thanksgiving’ than gastrointestinal issues?”

Pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin cheesecake (Photo by JeniFoto on Shutterstock)

According to Eat This, Not That!, “We bet you never thought of having cheesecake as a Turkey Day dessert, but this pumpkin cheesecake is the perfect finishing touch on your Thanksgiving meal. It’s light and creamy, and it even has that festive fall color.”

Her Campus elaborates, “Thanksgiving is so close; I can almost taste it—quite literally… This made me question, which desserts are best to squeeze in after your filling dinner… Pumpkin cheesecake? As if we need another pumpkin flavored food out there. (But who can resist, really?)”

5. Apple Cobbler

Cobblers are topped with a crust and are a bit of a reverse-pie. They can also be topped with biscuit dough in some regional versions. Pioneer Woman compliments this fine dessert, “No matter how much turkey and mashed potatoes you’ve piled on your plate during Thanksgiving dinner, there’s always room for a little dessert… Who says cobblers are just for summer! This recipe made with seasonal apples, maple syrup, and apple pie spice just screams fall!”

Apple cobbler
Apple cobbler (Photo by PosiNote on Shutterstock)

Ahead of Thyme assures, “Even after an epic Thanksgiving dinner, there is always room for dessert. From classic pies, to cakes, to cookies and more, I have got you covered… Sweet and tart cranberry-apple cobbler with biscuits is packed with fresh fruit and a buttery biscuit topping. This holiday favorite is easy to make.”

Food & Wine articulates on an elevated take on this classic, “This juicy and bright apple cobbler – made from Granny Smith apples and pomegranate juice – is just the right amount of sweet, with an irresistibly tender and crunchy crust on top. Serve sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and topped with vanilla ice cream.”

6. Pumpkin Spice Cake

Sometimes an easy spice cake is the best solution. Simple to make, and easy to serve up, spice cake recipes are usually jam-packed with fall flavors. Taste of Home explains, “We sometimes call this pumpkin spice cake ‘Thanksgiving Cake’ because it’s a tasty alternative to pie, but we don’t relegate it to just that holiday. I think you’ll agree it’s delicious any time of the year.”

Iced pumpkin spice cake
Iced pumpkin spice cake (Photo by Diliara Garifullina on Unsplash)

The Pioneer Woman offers, “You can’t beat this homemade pumpkin spice cake or the indulgent caramel glaze that’s drizzled on top.”

Grits and Pinecones offers a gluten free variant with apples, “With all the wonderful Fall flavors going on right now, you’re guaranteed to love this homemade Apple Pumpkin Spice Cake! It features apples and pumpkin mixed with ground cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, topped with creamy butter and spiced rum glaze.”

7. Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin bars can be great little bites at the end of a holiday meal. These treats are simple to prepare for groups. Eat This, Not That! claims, “These pumpkin bars are pretty much like individual servings of pumpkin pie, but even better. The crust is buttery, while the filling truly melts in your mouth. The pumpkin season won’t last forever, so this recipe is a great excuse to take full advantage of Thanksgiving in the best way.”

Pumpkin bars
Pumpkin bars (Photo by cindeecollette on Shutterstock)

Grits and Pinecones relates a paleo friendly adaptation, “Paleo bars filled with pumpkin and spice! These little squares of heaven taste just like pumpkin pie! And they’re paleo:) Which means they’re gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free. They taste like fall in a bite and are topped with a light maple frosting you will be drooling over.”

The Pioneer Woman reviews a recipe that is closer to cake than the traditional bar: “This one-bowl treat is an easy way to incorporate the flavors of fall to your holiday dessert spread. The pumpkin bars are made even better when topped with a beautiful, fluffy, and tangy spiced cream cheese frosting.”

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