September 25, 2023

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30 Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pies

30 Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pies

Viktory Panchenko/shutterstock

Pies are great and all, but Thanksgiving can get a little overloaded with pies. Everyone’s got to have pumpkin pie, apple pie, and pecan pie, but having those same pies every year gets boring fast. To mix things up, you can use those beloved fall flavors in other types of desserts. Items like cakes, cobblers, cheesecakes, trifles, and puddings are just as good as pies, if not better. So branch out this year with some new Thanksgiving dessert recipes that will make you forget all about pie.

Related: 18 Creative Pie Recipes to Spice Up Your Holidays

Pumpkin Spice Fudge


Homemade candy is a great make-ahead dessert. Pumpkin spice fudge has lots of flavorful pumpkin spice and, unlike the latte, a bit of pumpkin puree, too. 

Recipe: Shugary Sweets

Related: 25 Pumpkin Spice-Flavored Products You’ll Want to Try — and 13 to Skip

Apple Crisp


Make an apple crisp instead of a pie — it’s easier because you don’t have to futz with a crust, and it’s just as tasty. This caramel apple version uses an oatmeal-flecked topping, plus a homemade caramel sauce drizzled over the apples before baking and over the top when it’s done. Make it ahead of time and serve at room temperature, or warm it if you like.

Recipe: My Baking Addiction

Related: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Apples

cheesecake-marbled pumpkin slab pie

cheesecake-marbled pumpkin slab pie

If you’re not into making pie but you know your dinner guests will want a pumpkin dessert, try pumpkin swirl cheesecake. It’s got the same spiced pumpkin flavor as pie, but it’s creamier and feeds a lot more people, too. The simple swirl and gingersnap crust seem fancy, but they’re really easy to do.

Recipe: Sally’s Baking Recipes

Pecan Cobbler

Candice Bell/istockphoto

It’s lovely to use your slow cooker as much as possible for Thanksgiving when oven space is at a premium. Start this slow cooker praline pecan cobbler in the morning, and it’ll be done by dessert time. It’s super simple, too. Just mix a few ingredients and dump them into the crockpot. It even creates its own praline sauce, so serve it warm over vanilla ice cream.

Recipe: 365 Days of Crockpot

Related: 52 Recipes to Keep Your Slow Cooker Bubbling While You’re Busy

Pumpkin Lust Pie.

Pumpkin Lust Pie.

Don’t be fooled by the “pie” in this recipe’s name, because it’s really a no-bake, super simple dessert that you can make days ahead of time. Pumpkin puree and spices are mixed with Cool Whip and then layered with graham crackers, which soften as it sits in the fridge. Try using cinnamon graham crackers to really put the fall flavor over the top.

Recipe: The Recipe Critic

Related: 24 Diabetic-Friendly Holiday Dessert Recipes for Everyone

Dessert Deluxe

Dessert Deluxe

This is a dessert that you can leave out for a while and let your guests graze on until the night is over. It’s like a sweet, peanut buttery cheese ball, and you eat it by dipping graham crackers into it, though other treats like pretzels and Nilla wafers would be good, too. The Reese’s Pieces decoration gives it the perfect fall colors.

Recipe: Delish

Butterscotch Banana Trifle


While the butterscotch pudding is made from scratch, the pound cake in this butterscotch banana trifle is store-bought to save some serious time and effort. The results are just as impressive, though, especially if you crumble banana chips and toffee candy on top. While bananas aren’t thought of as a Thanksgiving fruit, the year-round availability of them makes them great for fall and winter.

Recipe: Country Living

Glazed Apple-Maple Blondies


Consider using maple as a flavoring in desserts and not just for breakfast. These glazed apple-maple blondies are studded with apple chunks and have a full cup of maple syrup in them. It’s in the blondie batter and in the thin glaze that gets poured over the top.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Honey Bundt Cake


Bundts are great for the holidays because they look good and they feed a lot of people. This honey pecan version includes a full cup of honey in the cake, along with orange juice and zest, and a pinch of cardamom, a warm, fragrant spice. The result is a cake with such depth of flavor that it only needs a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.

Recipe: The Beach House Kitchen

New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding With Bourbon Sauce


It’s the holidays, so why not celebrate with bourbon? This bread pudding has a triple dose of bourbon: The raisins are soaked in it; it’s in the custard; and it’s in the sauce. While it makes a big 9-by-13-inch pan and a good amount of creamy bourbon sauce, you might not want to serve this one to kids.

Recipe: Brown Eyed Baker

Related: Top Bread Makers and Other Bread-Making Supplies for Baking at Home

Apple Cider Cupcakes With Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

Brycia James/istockphoto

Nothing says fall like hot apple cider, and that’s what these cupcakes are imitating. Apple cider and cinnamon are used in the cupcake batter to give it a fresh apple flavor, and the frosting includes brown sugar for rich caramel notes and more cinnamon. Cupcakes are also easy to send home with your guests if they’re too full after the meal.

Recipe: Wishes and Dishes

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Lara Hata/istockphoto

For something new, try a dessert from across the pond. Sticky toffee pudding is a classic British dessert. It’s a cake made with lots of chopped dates and topped with toffee sauce. This version makes one large cake that’s cut into pieces instead of the typical individual portions and includes chopped pecans in the toffee sauce.

Recipe: Good Housekeeping

Related: Babka to Yorkshire Pudding: 25 International Baked Goods to Try at Home

Red Wine Poached Pears

Anna Makarenkova/istockphoto

If a chic, plated Thanksgiving meal is your thing, poached pears are a classy dessert option. In this recipe, they’re poached in red wine, giving them a beautiful dark ruby hue. Other fall flavors like orange, cloves, and cinnamon make the pears — and your house — fragrant. Serve them in a pool of their poaching syrup, along with whipped mascarpone or cream.

Recipe: The Flavor Bender

Related: 50 Great-Tasting Red Wines Under $20

Chocolate Gingerbread, Pumpkin, and Sticky Toffee Trifle

Chocolate Gingerbread, Pumpkin, and Sticky Toffee Trifle

A trifle in a big glass bowl is a show-stopping dessert. This ginger-pumpkin version includes a homemade pumpkin pudding, fluffy mascarpone cheese cream, and gingersnaps with rum and coffee, making it reminiscent of tiramisu. If you’d prefer individual desserts, you can layer the ingredients in small cups instead.

Recipe: Coastal Living

Related: A Surprising Ingredient Makes These Desserts Irresistible

H.C.'s Rice Krispie treats with cranberries

H.C.’s Rice Krispie treats with cranberries

Crispy treats aren’t normally considered a special occasion dessert, but you can dress them up really easily into something more impressive. These crispy treats include white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, chopped nuts, and a pinch of nutmeg for a treat full of mix-ins. If you want to make them even more special, drizzle them with the optional marshmallow topping.

Recipe: Better Homes and Gardens

Butterscotch Pudding


After a huge meal of turkey, stuffing and all the accoutrements, it’s possible that you’re not even in the mood for a big dessert. If that sounds like your family, then try some butterscotch pudding. It’s silky and smooth, not too sweet, and you can eat as much or as little as you like. It’s a fall-like dessert that won’t weigh you down.

Recipe: Smitten Kitchen

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies


Chocolate lovers usually get overlooked when it comes to Thanksgiving desserts. But pumpkin swirl brownies are here to save the day with a mix of chocolate fudge brownies and a spiced pumpkin swirl. Pumpkin and chocolate are not a typical combination, but it’s better than you think.

Recipe: Laura Fuentes

Related: 20 Essential Baking Tools That Every Aspiring Pastry Chef Needs

Cranberry Port Ring


Forget the wobbly, neon-colored Jell-o molds of the past. This cranberry port ring is an update of those vintage recipes, but doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients. You make a fresh cranberry sauce flavored with fresh ginger and cinnamon sticks, then add port wine and unflavored gelatin. It’s refreshing and light, and you can make it up to four days in advance.

Recipe: Good Housekeeping

Related: 25 Betty Crocker-Era Holiday Recipes That We Secretly Love

Pumpkin Bars


Pumpkin bars are perfect if you’re feeding dessert to a crowd. The thin cake, spiced with cinnamon, is baked in a sheet pan, so you’ll get a lot of servings. Bright cream cheese frosting looks great against the dark orange cake, and it adds creaminess and a little tang.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Sweet Potato Cobbler


If your family loves sweet potato dessert but you’re bored of pie, try sweet potato cobbler. It’s a unique recipe where you boil sweet potatoes with sugar and spices like ginger, vanilla, and nutmeg. That forms a syrup that goes into the baking pan along with the potatoes, and then it all gets a biscuit-like topping.

Recipe: Delish

Chai Snickerdoodle Cookies


Snickerdoodles are usually rolled in cinnamon alone, but this chai version uses an assortment of spices that are normally used to flavor tea. Cardamom, ginger, and cloves are added to the mix for warmth, and the edges are chewy with a soft middle. They make a great potluck dish if you’re heading somewhere for Thanksgiving.

Recipe: Averie Cooks

Indian Pudding


Indian pudding is a New England dessert made with cornmeal and molasses that’s baked and often served warm. It’s great for fall because it’s comforting and hearty. This version is full of ginger, cinnamon, and dark brown sugar, giving it toffee-like notes on top of the rich molasses. Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top.

Recipe: Food and Wine

Cranberry Orange Upside-Down Spice Cake

Lara Hata/istockphoto

Upside-down cakes are always impressive once they’re turned out of the pan, so why don’t we make them more at Thanksgiving? This version uses canned mandarin orange segments and fresh cranberries for a brightly colored topping. The cake is spiced with ginger and cinnamon and made with Greek yogurt to keep it moist.

Recipe: Better Homes and Gardens

Oatmeal Ginger Cream Pies


Similar to a whoopie pie or those commercially made oatmeal cream pies, these oatmeal cookies are sandwiched with cream cheese filling. The oats in the cookies are toasted in the oven, making them crispy and nutty tasting. The filling gets a sprinkle of crystallized ginger for bites that pop with flavor.

Recipe: Country Living

Chocolate Turtle Apple Slices


Kids will love chocolate turtle apple slices. They’re a little like chocolate-covered caramel apples, only in smaller, individual portions. Apple slices on a stick are coated in melted chocolate, then drizzled with caramel and chopped pecans. They’re super simple, but fun to eat and relatively healthy.

Recipe: Mom Loves Baking

No Bake Cranberry Orange Cheesecakes

Vichai Phububphapan/istockphoto

Cranberry sauce is a great side dish to dinner, but it also makes great desserts, too. These no-bake, individual cranberry orange cheesecakes start with a gingersnap crust layer. It gets topped with a simple cheesecake filling flavored with orange zest and a big spoonful of homemade cranberry sauce.

Recipe: My Baking Addiction

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes


These cupcakes are really not cake at all. They’re more like pumpkin pie filling that’s baked in a cupcake liner without a crust. The edges set up and get a little cakey, but the middle is moist and custardy, just like pumpkin pie. Don’t be alarmed when the middles sink as they cool, that’s just more space for whipped cream.

Recipe: Delish

Turkey Oreo Balls


Desserts that look like turkeys are super fun, let’s face it. These turkey Oreo balls start with Oreo truffles, and then get decorated with candy corn tails and even a little red icing wattle from the beak. You can make them a couple days ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. Put one at each guest’s place setting.

Recipe: A Pumpkin and a Princess

Pecan Pie Brownies

Lynne Mitchell/istockphoto

Putting chocolate chips in a pecan pie is not unusual, so why not amp up the chocolate with brownies? For pecan pie brownies, you make a batch of brownies, either homemade or with a box mix, and then bake a layer of pecan pie filling right on top. It takes simply adding pecans to brownies to a whole new level.

Recipe: Back to My Southern Roots

Old Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies


Christmas is generally the cookie holiday, but there’s no reason Thanksgiving can’t be as well. Old fashioned soft pumpkin cookies are cakey and tall, and drizzled with a vanilla glaze. While they’re good just as they are, feel free to add mix-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, or even dried cranberries.

Recipe: Libby’s

Related: 25 Simple Depression-Era Desserts That Actually Are Indulgent



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