38 Unexpected Thanksgiving Desserts

Why limit yourself to pumpkin pie for dessert when there’s endless options

By SAVEUR Editors

Updated on January 13, 2021

Think outside the pumpkin pie this year as you plan the sweet side of your Thanksgiving feast: Guests will delight in any of our seasonal desserts, from sweet potato cake with marshmallow meringue icing, praline sauce, and candied pecans, to pears poached in spiced port wine, to a simple but elegant maple pot de crème.

Crepes Cajeta

Cajeta, a homemade caramel used in traditional Mexican desserts, is a terrific sauce to have on hand for drizzling over ice cream or baked treats.

Pecan Cream Cake

Packed with coconut and pecans and covered in cream cheese frosting, this cake is a specialty of Georgia home cook Cile Ellis.

Pumpkin Halvah (Assidat al-Boubar)

Like many traditional Emirati desserts, luscious pumpkin porridge (in Arabic it's a halvah, or sweet food) straddles the line between sweet and savory. The dish thickens as it cools, so be sure to serve it while it's still quite warm.

Pumpkin Pecan Gingersnap Ice Cream

Use up leftover pumpkin or squash puree in a sweet, spiced ice cream.

Sweet Potato Cake

Layers of spiced sweet potato cake alternate with marshmallowy meringue icing in a rich dessert that's a riff on the classic Thanksgiving side.

Pumpkin and Bourbon Mousse

All the traditional flavors of pumpkin pie combine in this satisfying, creamy mousse.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Rum and gingersnaps add a spicy, warming flavor to this rich fall dessert.

Nutmeg Ice Cream

Serve this spiced ice cream on its own or scooped on top of warm fruit crisps, cobblers, or pies, particularly apple or pumpkin.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap and Hazelnut Crust

The dessert's delicate texture is achieved by cooking the cheesecake in a bain-marie, a water bath made by surrounding the springform pan with boiling water.

Navy Bean Pie

The silky, custardlike base of this autumnal pie is made from sweetened navy bean purée spiced with nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Pumpkin Bread (Fein Tau Weiyema)

A dense, pudding-like pumpkin bread makes a rich and satisfying dessert. Use leftover butternut, acorn, or pumpkin squash purée.

Maple Pot de Crème

Creamy custard sweetened with maple syrup makes a lovely ending to any meal.

Spice Applesauce Cake

Applesauce adds moisture and sweet apple flavor in a lovely cinnamon-spiced, autumnal cake.

Mexican Bread Pudding (Capirotada)

This satisfying dessert uses piloncillo, a type of brown sugar used in Mexican cooking.

Roasted Sugar-Glazed Pears

Roasted pears stuffed with almonds, currants, and raisins make a simple yet elegant dessert.

Carrot Rice Pudding

Shredded carrots turn soft and sweet in this cardamom-spiced rice pudding.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Mascarpone

This batter also makes delicious muffins, perfect for a day-after-Thanksgiving brunch.

Walnut Spice Cake

For this striking two-toned dessert, alternating layers of snow-white and mahogany-brown spiced cakes are sandwiched with a rich, chocolate fudge icing and decorated with walnut halves.

Apple Cider-Cinnamon Ice Cream

A spiced, autumnal ice cream that tastes like the essence of apple season.

Spiced Pumpkin Cake

A welcome addition to the holiday table, this simple frosted layer cake can be made with either canned or homemade puréed pumpkin.

Apple and Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes

This recipe, from Fore Street restaurant in Portland, Maine, calls for using six 4" steel blini pans. But you can make a single cake in an 8" cast-iron skillet, if you prefer. If fresh or frozen cranberries aren't available, use reconstituted dried berries.

Cinnamon Rice Pudding

There's nothing like homemade rice pudding—creamy, sweet, and comforting. The brown sugar lends a caramel-like sweetness, while cinnamon and rum-soaked raisins add warmth and depth.

Macerated Fruit Conserve (Rumtopf)

This sweet-tart conserve is a luscious accompaniment to ice cream. It also adds a fruity dimension when stirred into champagne.

Olive Oil Quatre Quarts with Chopped Fruit

This variation on a classic French pound cake, in which ingredient quantities are determined by relative weight, uses olive oil instead of butter for a light, fresh flavor. The recipe was developed by SAVEUR contributor Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who recommends using a Polder Kitchen Scale for accurate measure.

Bratapfel mit Walnusseis (Baked Walnut-Stuffed Apples with White Wine)

Apples roasted in wine and butter are a staple of holiday markets throughout Germany.

Rum Bundt Cake

A supremely moist, boozy Southern bundt cake fitting for any holiday spread.

Glazed Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Dough studded with dried cranberries and a drizzle of sweet, cinnamon-spiced glaze take oatmeal cookies from ordinary to perfect.

Pecan Pie Brittle

This twist on traditional pecan pie provides a snack-able ending to any holiday feast.

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

In this version of the classic English dessert, adapted from one in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), dates are soaked in stout beer and then pureed, resulting in a super-moist crumb.

Chocolate Spice-Cake Pudding

Replacing bread with chocolate spice cake adds richness and dark chocolate flavor to this pudding.

Honey-Nut Tart with Chocolate Rye Crust

The gooey filling in this tart is held together by a rye flour crust that gets its structure, and depth, from chocolate.

Maple Syrup Dumplings

The warm flavor of maple syrup enhances rich dumplings in a super-simple, comforting dessert.

Acadian Syrup Cake

Ken Smith, the executive chef at Upperline restaurant and an avid home baker, often serves this spiced, cane syrup-sweetened cake. On special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas he pairs it with a sauce made from satsumas, a clementine-like citrus fruit that grows in Louisiana and is available in the late fall.

Russian Punch Cake

Impress your guests with a show-stopping layer cake stuffed with a luscious custard filling and topped with meringue frosting.

Honey Ice Cream

Serve this simple, elegant ice cream with fresh fruit or on top of warm bread pudding.

Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce

Fuji apples hold their shape perfectly when baked and coated in caramel.

Indian Pudding

Vanilla ice cream makes the perfect topper for a warm, molasses-sweetened Indian Pudding.

Squash Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

This Mexican take on a Cajun-style bread pudding is studded with cubes of squash and plump raisins.

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