No holiday meal would be complete without a decadent dessert or two (or three) for Thanksgiving. Fortunately, there are a number of cheap and easy Thanksgiving dessert recipes you can make at home so you don’t spend a fortune at the bakery.
By combining some shortcuts from the grocery store and baking your desserts at home, you can save time and money.
Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes: Pies
Of course it’s cheaper to make your own pie crust dough, but if saving time is your priority the store bought crusts work just as well. To give your pies a more bakery feel, use the extra pie dough to decorate the top of the pies.
1. Pumpkin Pie: A Thanksgiving Dessert Requirement
This is a traditional favorite that makes the most of the autumn pumpkin harvest. You can make it from scratch if you have the time. Buy pumpkins from a farm, cut in half, roast until tender, and scoop out the pumpkin puree.
Each pumpkin should yield several cups, making it far cheaper than buying puree or pumpkin pie filling at over $3 per can. You will have to add seasoning to it, but this means that you will get exactly the taste you want.
If you are pressed for time, the canned pumpkin works well too. They are even nice enough to include the recipe on the can.
2. Pecan Pie
This classic Southern favorite is festive and tasty. There are several twists you can run with like Chocolate Pecan Pie or Bourbon Pecan Pie, or Mini Pecan Pies, all are delicious. Pecans can be expensive, however, so buy in bulk online.
3. Sweet Potato Pie
This is another classic Southern favorite that is similar to pumpkin pie, but uses yams and their natural sweetness for the pie filling. Making it from scratch means you can season it as you wish.
4. Apple Pie
This is another pie you can either make from scratch if time permits, or use the can filling for a quick treat. An apple pie is especially impressive if you add the lattice crust and can serve it slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
To make the lattice strips, it’s easiest to use a pizza cutter. I break the pizza cutter out for more than just pizza. It also works great for cutting my dumplings for Chicken and Dumplings, and when I am cutting noodles for lasagna. This keeps my lines straight and it is super quick.
5. Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon meringue is a combination of an easy lemon custard and a sugary meringue on top. The meringue will require quite a few egg whites, but eggs are inexpensive. If you plan on making a meringue, plan on plenty of patience and a stand mixer. You’ll thank me later!
Planning another dessert like bread pudding helps use up the unwanted egg yolks from this recipe.
Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes: Cakes
Personally, I prefer cake to pie, but cakes certainly take a little longer to prepare than pies. I usually bring one of each for Thanksgiving. Our family certainly has no shortage of desserts on holiday dinners.
6. Carrot Cake
Carrot cake is a traditional cake option for Thanksgiving dessert in my family. It’s filling and hearty, and anything with a cream cheese frosting will be a hit. It’s made with carrots so we can call it healthy right?
7. Traditional Cheesecake
Cheesecake works well on its own, with chocolate, and with any fruit topping you like. Buy the cream cheese when it is on sale. You can also lighten things up by adding sour cream. This is also a great alternative if you are observe a keto lifestyle like I do. Most people would never know it’s a healthier alternative.
8. Pumpkin Cheesecake
If you’re looking for a un twist on a more traditional option, this is it. Pumpkin is an excellent ingredient for cheesecake, giving color, moisture and healthy fruit and fiber to a cake that can otherwise be very high in calories and quite dense and fattening.
9. Angel Food Cake
This is a light, fluffy cake that gets its texture from egg whites. It is low in calories and an ideal pairing with most fruits. Fresh strawberries or blueberries and a little whip cream give you a lighter, yet still sweet option.
10. Pineapple Upside Down Cake
One of my favorites by far, and not just because I have the perfect pineapple shaped pan. It makes individual pineapple upside down cakes in the shape of pineapples. Of course food tastes better when it’s pretty.
This is a very festive-looking cake thanks to the topping of bright yellow pineapple rings with red maraschino cherries in the center of each ring. If you know you will be making this, you can buy canned pineapple when it is on sale and save a little.
Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes: Other
Looking for something non-traditional? Here are a few crowd favorites that I have used over the years.
11. Crème Brulee
This dessert is basically a custard with browned sugar on top. It is served in small individual containers called ramekins, making it an elegant addition to your holiday table.
12. Apple Crumble / Apple Crisp
Instead of a buttery pie crust, use brown sugar, flour and spices as a crumble topping. An apple crisp uses oats. Both are very filling and great with cream or ice cream.
13. Pumpkin Bread / Pumpkin Spice Bread
Pumpkin is very moist and makes a great cake or loaf. You can make it as spicy as you like to suit your taste. You could also frost or glaze it to make it look more festive. This would a perfect option for breakfast the next morning as well with a hot cup of Koa Coffee.
Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes: For the Kids
If you will have tons of kids at your Thanksgiving dinner, don’t forget to bake something that their little palettes will enjoy. These can be simple or elaborate, but making something from scratch will definitely save you some money.
14. Thanksgiving Cupcakes
Most kids (and adults) love a cupcake. A simple box cake mix would work, and it’s something I always have in my house for a quick treat for the kids. If you are using vanilla icing, add in a few drops of orange food coloring to make them extra festive. If using chocolate icing, add on some festive sprinkles for a pop of color.
Pre-bought dough would work easy here, or whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I almost always have all the ingredients and can recite the recipe from memory I have made them so many times.
Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe Ideas
Homemade desserts are not just less expensive, they are often more delicious than the bought option too. Use these ideas to give your guests a real Thanksgiving treat. For other ways to save money on hosting your Thanksgiving dinner, check out our other articles.