Our Best Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

We here at New York Times Cooking believe that there’s a Thanksgiving dessert for everyone. You may love pie or hate it. You may think of pumpkin as the pinnacle of flavor, or you may be a classic apple pie die-hard. Whatever your preference, the recipes below should satisfy your sweet tooth with something tried-and-true or something thrillingly new to you.

1. Ultimate Pumpkin Pie

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Erika Joyce.

In 2021, Melissa Clark set out to make the ultimate pumpkin pie, so she turned to butternut squash — really! It turns out that your favorite canned purée is probably made from a variety of squash that’s quite close in flavor to butternut squash. By using it in this recipe instead of fresh pumpkin, you not only get that traditional flavor you know, but you also get a party fact that’ll blow your loved ones’ minds.

Recipe: Ultimate Pumpkin Pie

2. Brown-Sugar Layer Cake With Cranberry Buttercream

Yossy Arefi’s brown sugar buttermilk cake with cranberry buttercream.Credit…Joseph De Leo for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Impress everyone at the table with this pretty-in-pink layer cake from Yossy Arefi. Don’t skip the sugared cranberries for a lovely and delightfully lip-puckering garnish. MARGAUX LASKEY

Recipe: Brown-Sugar Layer Cake With Cranberry Buttercream

3. Sweet Potato Pie

Credit…Craig Lee for The New York Times

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.

Recipe:Sweet Potato Pie

4. Rose-Apple Tart

Credit…Joseph De Leo for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

You could make an apple pie, but why hide all of those farmers’ market apples underneath a heavy crust? Yossy Arefi arranges thin layers of apples in a rose pattern for a stunning and sophisticated result. The crust, a simple press-in version of the classic, is easy work. MARGAUX LASKEY

Recipe: Rose-Apple Tart

5. Cranberry Lemon Bars

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Susan Spungen.

Genevieve Ko had a brilliant idea: What if you paired two sweet-tart favorites with a vanilla cookie base? These cranberry lemon bars do just that, and are the ultimate crowd-pleasers, a deeply lovable take on traditional lemon bars, with even more oomph.

Recipe: Cranberry Lemon Bars

6. Dolester Miles’ Coconut Pecan Cake

Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

The pastry chef Dolester Miles is revered for many reasons. This rich showstopper of a cake is just one of them. Toasted ground pecans join ground coconut flakes in the cake batter, which are baked, then layered with a filling of sweetened condensed milk, egg and more coconut. It’s the perfect thing to make if you’re in charge of dessert — and want to steal the show.

Recipe: Dolester Miles’ Coconut Pecan Cake

7. Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist:Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Christina Lane.

This recipe from Dorie Greenspan delivers on its promise: The resulting cheesecake is tall! And creamy! Play with its flavor, using all heavy cream or all sour cream to tweak the tanginess or mellowness. You can also top your cheesecake as you wish, with swirls of chocolate or jam, or fruit and nuts.

Recipe: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

8. Skillet Caramel-Apple Crisp

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Eugene Jho.

Not everyone loves pie. And that’s OK. For them, there’s this skillet caramel-apple crisp from Yossy Arefi. The recipe yields a good amount of caramel sauce — for sweetening the apples, for serving alongside and for devouring later.

Recipe: Skillet Caramel-Apple Crisp

9. Carrot Cake

Credit…Craig Lee for The New York Times

Those who love cake at any occasion should try this carrot cake from Dorie Greenspan. It’s warmly spiced with cinnamon, packed with coconut, raisins and nuts and finished with a tangy cream cheese dressing.

Recipe: Carrot Cake

10. Maple-Honey Pecan Pie

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Erika Joyce.

Melissa Clark swaps maple syrup and honey for the traditional corn syrup and calls for double the pecans in this take on the classic. To quote one commenter, “I’ve been making pecan pies for 48 years — and hands down, this is the BEST BEST BEST pecan pie I’ve ever had!”

Recipe: Maple-Honey Pecan Pie

11. Cranberry Curd Tart

Credit…Evan Sung for The New York Times

A radiant beauty, David Tanis’s cranberry curd tart makes an elegant statement on the Thanksgiving table. Make it a few days in advance and wow your loved ones by breaking it out on the holiday.

Recipe: Cranberry Curd Tart

12. Chess Pie

Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Roscoe Betsill. Prop Stylist: Getteline Rene.

Yewande Komolafe took cues from the great Edna Lewis for this buttermilk pie, a Southern classic. Yewande adds a little citrus and black pepper and urges you to cook by feel: You’ll know when it’s ready when it jiggles just out of the oven.

Recipe: Chess Pie

13. Pecan Pie Truffles

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Falling somewhere between pecan pie, rum balls and a traditional truffle are these sweet little treats, which Tara Parker-Pope adapted from the food writer Hannah Kaminsky.

Recipe: Pecan Pie Truffles

14. Classic Apple Pie

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Erika Joyce.

Because moisture levels in apples vary so greatly and baking them raw in a pie can lead to soggy crusts or undercooked apples, Melissa Clark calls for sautéing them in a little butter first. This ensures that they’re just the right texture: tender, but not mushy.

Recipe: Classic Apple Pie

15. Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Credit…Mark Weinberg for The New York Times

You don’t need a water bath or a springform pan for this creamy dessert from Erin Jeanne McDowell. The recipe yields 15 bars, but leftovers keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. Make them in advance, or save them for a week of sweet snacking.

Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

16. Crème Brûlée Pie

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

It may come as a disappointment to some, but this pie from Jerrelle Guy does not require a blowtorch. It’s finished under the broiler, just before serving. That said, it still maintains the (other) best parts of crème brûlée: the crack of a sugary shell and a delicate filling.

Recipe: Crème Brûlée Pie

17. Bourbon Pecan Pie

Credit…Craig Lee for The New York Times

For some, there is little finer in life than a slice of pecan pie. This version, from Julia Reed, is a classic: The alcohol evaporates, leaving behind a filling that’s equal parts tender and crunchy. “The goo,” one commenter wrote, “is excellent.”

Recipe:Bourbon Pecan Pie

18. Pumpkin Layer Cake With Caramel Buttercream

Credit…Joseph De Leo for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Here’s something no one at your table can argue with: Yossy Arefi’s cake is a stunning way to end the meal. A caramel sauce is tucked between the cake layers, as well as ladled on top. You can make your own, or use store-bought, but note that the latter may be a bit sweeter.

Recipe: Pumpkin Layer Cake With Caramel Buttercream

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