How Do I Choose the Best Thanksgiving Desserts?

K. Testa

Some issues to think about when trying to decide which Thanksgiving desserts to enjoy at your celebration include the type of gathering you will host and whether the dishes served will have a culinary theme; another consideration might be whether it will be a casual buffet or a formal sit-down meal. Depending on your location, certain traditional or regional dishes are often served. The budget, the number of guests and estimated preparation time are three more factors that might be considered when deciding on Thanksgiving desserts. Furthermore, the time concerns might dictate whether some items are store-bought or homemade, and health issues might require you to make adjustments for any special dietary needs.

A homemade apple pie made with seasonal fruit can be a sweet ending to a Thanksgiving meal.
A homemade apple pie made with seasonal fruit can be a sweet ending to a Thanksgiving meal.

In the U.S., traditional Thanksgiving desserts tend to vary according to the geographic area, but there are many common themes among Thanksgiving dishes. For instance, regardless of whether you're in New England, the Midwest or the Deep South, pies are popular Thanksgiving treats. Four of the most familiar varieties are pumpkin, apple, sweet potato and pecan. Many people also enjoy cheesecakes, cupcakes and cookies. Other popular desserts include pastries, bars, breads and candy.

Although different regions might emphasize certain traditional or local dishes, several Thanksgiving desserts feature certain common ingredients. For instance, pumpkin appears in many traditional Thanksgiving foods — it is most often used in pies, breads and cakes. Apples and pears are also popular ingredients that can be baked into pies, fruit crisps and similar dishes. Other Thanksgiving desserts incorporate a variety of sweet and savory flavor combinations, including sweet potatoes, cranberries and pecans.

Aside from the flavors and traditions that you want to incorporate, your choice of Thanksgiving desserts might also be influenced by certain logistical issues, such as the number of guests and the amount of preparation time needed. While many people look forward to homemade pumpkin pie and other desserts all year, others are content with store-bought creations. If such decisions depend on budget constraints, it might help to suggest a potluck, rather than placing the burden on one person to prepare everything.

In addition, you might face certain health considerations when planning your Thanksgiving desserts. For example, you might need to accommodate vegetarians or others with special diets. Allergies and food sensitivities might also influence your dessert choices. If you're seeking healthier options overall, you can consult cookbooks and online sites to find plenty of recipes for low-calorie and low-fat versions of your favorite Thanksgiving desserts.

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Discussion Comments


Last year instead of making pies or some of the more traditional Thanksgiving desserts, I made a very elaborate layered cake. I had never tried a baking project that ambitious, but I figured that Thanksgiving is a special occasion and it would look striking to have a really beautiful cake to serve at the end of the meal.

It was a white cake with a lemon cream icing. I made little yellow flowers on the outside. It was a huge hit and I got all kinds of compliments for both the flavor of the cake and the design. People were a little confused at first because who serves fancy cake on thanksgiving, but by the end of them meal everyone loved the idea.


@tigers88 - I know what you mean about pie being traditional, and for that reason I never serve pie for Thanksgiving. I figure it has been done before and anyone who is older than 20 is probably sick of eating turkey and pie.

I like to go non traditional and make cakes, sorbets, flans, torts, cobblers and everything in between. I use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to get adventurous with my dessert. Most of the year I am just making brownies or cakes out of boxes so Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to get creative. Not all of my creations have been successful but I think my guests appreciate my ambition.

For me you can't go wrong with the classics. Pie, pie and more pie. I can remember family Thanksgivings when we had more pies than we had eaters. But Thanksgiving is a little bit about the excess so why not fill up the dessert table.

My personal favorite is pecan with a big dollop of whipped cream. But other popular and traditional pies include cherry, apple, pumpkin and coconut cream. But you can make whatever kind you like.

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