When you think of Thanksgiving, the first dessert that probably comes to mind is a picture-perfect
fall pie. But some of our best sweet Thanksgiving recipes don’t have a crust at all. These surprising desserts like squash pudding cooked in a cast-iron skillet or a pumpkin cake will prove that you don’t need pie as your final bite at the Thanksgiving feast. Top off your meal with our best Thanksgiving dessert recipes that aren’t pie.
At Zulya Kazimova’s bakery in Baku, pakhlava—the Azeri version of baklava, which she cuts into a diamond shape—is made using 14 layers of a dense yeasted dough rolled out so thinly and painstakingly that it becomes translucent.
Get the recipe for Almond-Cardamom Pakhlava »
This luscious, cakelike pudding, made with milk-poached butternut squash batter and crowned with caramel-drenched delicata, rides the line perfectly between side dish and dessert, “kind of like yams with marshmallows,” says Joe Beef’s Red Morin, who serves it with caramel sauce or sweetened whipped cream. For an easy caramel sauce and squash topping (pictured right), double or triple the quantities of delicata and granulated sugar, and repeat step 4 as needed. Or if you want to amp up the savory nature of the dish, nix the caramel and offer grated cheddar at the table.
Get the recipe for Cast-Iron Squash Pudding »
Wood-Roasted Apples with Burnt Cinnamon Caramel
Southern chef Vivian Howard developed this cake with breakfast in mind, maybe something to share with family over coffee. But when she first made it, her kids named it corn-candy cake and called for it after supper. She obliged and put some whipped cream on top. Whenever you choose to eat it, feel good about baking it a day ahead. It keeps beautifully and is as satisfying at room temperature as it is warm.
Get the recipe for Cornbread Coffee Cake with Fresh Figs and Walnut Streusel »
Clafoutis is a French dessert that’s trickier to pronounce than to make. A simple mixture of flour, eggs, dairy, and a little sugar, it’s like a pancake, but more custardy, and it’s baked instead of griddled. It looks and tastes impressive the way classic French desserts often do, but it’s simple enough to whip up any weeknight. Rum-soaked dried apricots, figs, and raisins add their caramelized and honeyed flavors to this creamy version, perfect for cold weather when there’s no fresh fruit around.
Get the recipe for Dried Apricot and Fig Clafoutis with Rum »
These sticky, caramelized pears get served warm with a glug of fresh chilled cream for a richly-flavored variation on poached pears.
Get the recipe for Honey-and-Butter-Baked Pears with Cold Cream »
Fresh mango, mixed into the base and fanned on top of this warmly spiced pumpkin dessert—chef
Pierre Thiam‘s version of his wife’s classic pumpkin cake—adds a tropical brightness and dramatic presentation to his Thanksgiving table. Get the recipe for Mango and Pumpkin Spice Cake »
Just three ingredients—pumpkin, coconut milk, and salt—combine to make a simple spoon pudding, sweetened with cardamom-scented golden syrup and topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds.
Get the recipe for Pumpkin Spoon Halva with Cardamom Syrup »
Use this bittersweet caramel brittle as a topping to kick up store-bought pumpkin pie—substitute dried coconut flakes and chopped macadamia nuts to pair with a Key lime pie, or dried lavender and slivered almonds for a chocolate cream pie. It also makes a great gift: a fall party favor, wrapped in cellophane and handed off as your guests make their exit.
Get the recipe for Peptia-Sage Brittle »
Creamy custard sweetened with maple syrup makes a lovely ending to any meal.
Get the recipe for Maple Pot de Crème »
This tart is traditionally made with apples, but firm-fleshed pears make a delicate and delicious alternative.
Get the recipe for Pear Tarte Tatin »
If you find yourself with a surplus of fresh cranberries, these elegant cakes are the perfect solution. They can be cooked in individual miniature pans, or in a single skillet for convenience.
Get the recipe for Apple and Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes »
All the traditional flavors of pumpkin pie combine in this satisfying, creamy mousse.
Get the recipe for Pumpkin and Bourbon Mousse »
Rum and gingersnaps add a spicy, warming flavor to this rich fall dessert.
Get the recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake »
Applesauce adds moisture and sweet apple flavor in a lovely cinnamon-spiced, autumnal cake.
Get the recipe for Spice Applesauce Cake »