I'm a Dietitian & These Are My Favorite Dessert Recipes for Thanksgiving

Cranberry Clafloutis
Photo: Eric Wolfinger

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. What I love the most is that people get to share a delicious meal with their loved ones and reflect on things they're grateful for. The holidays are not a time to worry about the foods you're eating, and there are several ways to enjoy all the foods you love (including dessert!) while aligning with your health goals. These are some of my seasonal favorites that help round out the big day with something sweet. If you like the ever-controversial pumpkin pie, you'll love our Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie and our Coconut-Rum Pumpkin Pie (which I'm planning to make this year). If that's not your style, try something more unique like our Cranberry Crumble Bars or Fried Apple Pie Rolls. Recipes like our Pumpkin Cheesecake for Two and Caramelized Spiced Pears can even be scaled down to one or two servings if you're having a smaller celebration. Plus, many of these recipes can be made in advance so that you can save oven space on that day. Whatever foods make it to your table next Thursday, I hope some of these recipes can help you have a happy start to the holiday season. For more budget- and beginner-friendly cooking tips and tricks, check out Thrifty.

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Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie

Some sweet potato pies call for boiling these root vegetables, but here they're roasted to concentrate their flavor. This helps the earthiness come through, which we enhance with the nuttiness of browned butter. The overall effect is a sweet potato pie that's more complex and a little less sweet.

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Cranberry Clafoutis

Cranberry Clafloutis
Eric Wolfinger

One of Colorado chef Eric Skokan's favorite desserts is this simple French dish. The sweet, custardy cake is a wonderful foil for tart cranberries.

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Coconut-Rum Pumpkin Pie

Coconut-Rum Pumpkin Pie
Victor Protasio

This take on the classic Thanksgiving pie has the familiar warming spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, plus rum and coconut for a tropical twist.

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Cranberry Crumble Bars


These cranberry-orange bars freeze well. Make a batch on a free afternoon and pop them in the freezer so you'll always have a healthy dessert on hand when company calls.

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Fried Apple Pie Rolls

Fried Apple Pie Rolls

In this healthy take on apple pie, egg roll wrappers stand in for pie crust, saving you calories and the headache of rolling out dough. We like to use Granny Smith apples because they hold their shape and provide tart balance to the sweet filling. Try dipping these handheld crispy treats in whipped cream.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake for Two

Pumpkin Cheesecake for Two

Single-serving pumpkin cheesecakes are the perfect way to finish off a Thanksgiving meal for two (or any other meal, given that they take just 15 minutes of active prep time!). You can make them a day or two ahead of time and keep them tucked away in the fridge in their sturdy ramekins until you're ready to enjoy them.

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Caramelized Spiced Pears


Serve these caramelized pear slices over ice cream, stir into plain yogurt or enjoy as a topping for pancakes or waffles. Brown-skinned Bosc pears hold their shape during cooking, but any variety of pears tastes delicious.

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Custard Pecan Pie

Custard Pecan Pie

While every bit as delish as the classic pie, this one has less sugar. Cane syrup, a toasty alternative to corn syrup or molasses, sweetens the pie along with brown sugar. Because the filling for the pie is wet, we brush the crust with egg white and par-bake it to create a barrier to prevent sogginess.

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Easy Apple Galette

Easy Apple Galette recipe on a blue cloth

This simple apple-cinnamon galette is easy to make thanks to premade pie crust—no need to make your own dough! Serve it for Thanksgiving dessert or after any fall meal.

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Vegan Pumpkin Pie


This easy vegan pumpkin pie gets its structure from aquafaba (the leftover water from a can of chickpeas) whipped up into a meringue-like foam. When it's combined with pumpkin and poured into a gluten-free pecan crust, you would never know beans had anything to do with this vegan pumpkin pie recipe.

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Riesling Baked Pears


Here's an elegant yet simple twist on the autumn classic. Pears are oven-poached in Riesling wine, which is known for its floral accents and aromas and hints of honey and pear. Serve this dessert with lightly sweetened ricotta cheese. Delicious hot, room temperature or chilled.

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Spiced Pumpkin Cookies


The deep flavors of molasses, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg make these wholesome pumpkin cookies delicious without the addition of butter--and they lend themselves beautifully to the inclusion of whole-wheat flour. They are also the perfect texture for a sandwich cookie--fill them with a slightly sweetened cream cheese frosting.

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