How to Make a No-Cook Holiday Dessert Board for Friendsgiving

Wow your friends with this impressive (but incredibly easy) dessert idea.

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A lot of trends are hard to explain, but the recent fascination with charcuterie-style boards is not one of them. There's no cooking involved, the prep work is easy—and, dare we say, even fun—and boards double as eye-catching displays. For hosts, there's the added benefit of being able to lay out a spread that accommodates differing dietary preferences without a lot of fuss, and guests will enjoy getting to pick and choose from a variety of fun finger food, whether for appetizers, the main meal or, best of all, dessert.

A charcuterie board with fruits, cheeses, and Famous Amos Cookies.
Casey Barber

"On Thanksgiving, you usually stuff yourself at the main meal and are pretty full by dessert," says The BakerMama's Maegan Brown, author of Spectacular Spreads: 50 Amazing Food Spreads for Any Occasion. "A board allows you to sample a range of different flavors without having to commit to whole slices of pies."

And while dessert boards can no doubt get decadent, it's also not hard to keep them on the healthy side, says Catherine Perez, RD, a dietitian and founder of Plant Based RD. Seasonal fruit, nuts and dark chocolate can all be good additions.

It's really all about balance. For every sweet item you include (like cookies, chocolate or pieces of pound cake), add in something healthy (such as fresh fruit with a Greek yogurt and honey dip).

Some board basics: While fancy shapes can be fun, there's nothing wrong with showcasing your spread on good old-fashioned cutting boards, says Brown. She likes lightweight boards (like this one from Etsy, $42) because they're easier to move around when loaded down with food, but says that in a pinch, a sheet pan, tray or even roll of parchment paper on the counter or island will work, "as long as it's food-safe." (For absolute charcuterie beginners, Brown sells her signature boards with outlines showing where to place different items.)

She estimates that an average board can serve around four to five people, so you may want several depending on the size of your guest list. Don't fear leftovers—you can always make them into a new board.

Some more healthy, expert-recommended suggestions:

  • Healthier chips and dip: Serve in-season fruit—like apples, pears or grapes—with a caramel or yogurt dip, says Brown. (We like these ones from Bare, $18 for 16 bags on Amazon).
  • Sweet stuffing: Dried fruit like dates and figs can be great solo or stuffed with cheese (like mascarpone) or nuts for some protein and healthy fat, says Perez. Try making our Mascarpone-Stuffed Figs, Almond-Stuffed Dates for a tasty dessert board addition.
  • Party picks: Brown likes to arrange several bamboo skewers of fruit and cheese on her boards for a grab-and-go option that's less messy than dips.
  • Make-your-own s'mores bar: These perennial favorites are not just for campfires. Try setting out fresh fruits or jams, nut butters and smaller cookies or crackers and let everyone build their own.
  • Fondue: Having a molten pot of chocolate people can dip things into is never a bad idea, and when they're dipping fruit or nuts, it's practically health food (right?!). (Need a fondue set? We love this $40 one from Food52.)
  • A cheese tray: An array of dessert cheeses like Brie and aged Cheddar will satisfy guests who lack a sweet tooth, and pairs nicely with fruit and nuts, says Brown. Have some honey and jam to accompany it.
  • Dessert bruschetta: Top whole-grain baguette slices or crackers with flavored nut butters or soft cheeses and fruit, and sprinkle with crushed nuts or granola.
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