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60 Thanksgiving desserts for the sweetest end to your feast

These showstopping cakes, buttery crisps, picture perfect pies, irresistible cookies and crunchy crumbles make the most of the classic holiday ingredients.
/ Source: TODAY

Everyone's favorite feast is just around the corner! While the main focus of the Thanksgiving meal might be the appetizers, turkey and sides, we firmly believe that how the meal ends is just as important (or maybe even more so!) as how it starts. A sugary treat is perfect for adding a little sweetness to cut through all savory flavors of dinner. It can also make the whole meal even more memorable. Plus, no matter how full your guests get, there's always a little room left for dessert.

The flavors of autumn are defined by the harvest. Apples are at their peak, pumpkins are ripe for picking, perfectly juicy pears are in season and sweet potatoes are ready to be pulled from the ground. Add a little sugar and a dash of cinnamon to these fall foods and you're already on your way to a winning dessert.

When it comes to turkey day desserts, there are no wrong choices. Feel like adding cheese to apple pie? Why not! Want to jazz up pecan bars with chocolate? Go ahead! Don't want to mess with tradition? Keep it classic! These showstopping cakes, buttery crisps, picture perfect pies, irresistible cookies and crunchy crumbles make the most of the classic holiday ingredients and add creative and unexpected twists.

Anthony Contrino has been making this loaf for as long as he can remember. "My good friend, Dawn, shared her family recipe with me nearly 20 years ago and since then, I've made a few tweaks. It is my most-requested recipe in the fall," he says. "It yields two loaves, which means you can keep one and give another to a friend, neighbor or host. The bread, in my opinion, tastes best two to three days after it's made and stays fresh up to five days."

The interplay of the sweet-tart-molten-frozen elements in this cheesy apple pie served a la mode is really an inspiration. The sage adds herbaceousness and brown butter gives it a unique nuttiness. Melty winnimere cheese is rich, lightly funky triple-crème beauty that tastes like butter and cheese in one, with a smoothness that's reminiscent of ice cream when it melts softly into the warm pie.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

For all you die-hard-pecan-pie-purists, this one may not be for you. But for everyone else, this Chocolate Pecan Pie rocks both worlds and a little adventure is a good thing! It's like a pecan pie-brownie hybrid — if that doesn't make you swoon, I don't know what will. Extra-bittersweet chocolate works great here to cut through the inevitable sweetness. Serve it with crème fraîche for added richness and ooh la la.

A crumble is such an easily customizable dessert. No matter what fruit you use, it always turns out great. This elevated apple crumble cake takes that classic and transforms it to a true showstopper and real centerpiece for special occasions.

Pumpkin Spice French Toast Casserole

Make this casserole ahead of time and just pop in the oven an hour before breakfast. The extra time in the fridge will let the spices marinate throughout the custard and the bread will just melt into it. When guests arrive, the house will be filled with the smell of pumpkin spice, maple syrup and freshly brewed coffee. If you don't like pumpkin, try adding apple butter or fresh berries instead.

Patti LaBelle's Sweet Potato Pie

Singer Patti LaBelle learned this pie recipe from her best friend and hairstylist Norma Gordon Harris. "This sweet potato pie has a thin layer of brown sugar on the bottom crust. This 'black bottom' doesn't just add flavor, it also helps keep the filling from making the crust soggy," she says. "The recipe makes a good amount of the delicious filling — this isn't one of those skimpy sweet potato pies. It tastes like sweet potatoes, not pineapple or raisins or other fillers that some people stick in their pies. Serve it with whipped cream, if you wish."

Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha) Cheesecake

Impress your guests on Thanksgiving day with Marcela Valladolid's stunning pumpkin cheesecake. The filling is actually made with butternut squash, but cinnamon, brown sugar and mascarpone cheese mimic the flavors of pumpkin perfectly. The shards of pumpkin-brown sugar brittle not only add an attractive decoration on top, and they also provide crunchy contrast to the creamy cake.

Bars are so underrated! They seem simple but they can be so incredibly flavorful. These sour cherry and pistachio bars boast strong cookie, pie and cobbler vibes all in one. While the sour cherry gives a vibrant tartness perfect for wintry gatherings, feel free to swap out with any jam you enjoy. Do not forget the coconut — that's what makes these bars truly shine!

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

Ryan Scott

Wow dinner guests with individual crisps served inside the actual apples. The perfectly portioned treats incorporate all the elements of a classic casserole-style crisp. The unique presentation is festive and perfect for any autumn celebration.

Martha Stewart's individual apple pies topped with golden, flaky crust are the perfect finale for a cozy fall dinner. "Store-bought puff pastry makes them easy; a boozy apple filling makes them totally decadent," she says. "The apple filling can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator; bring to room temperature before using. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream."

Warm cinnamon and sweet pumpkin cakes get rolled up with cream cheese frosting. They're perfect for autumn entertaining. The mesmerizing swirl is almost as hypnotic as the fantastic flavor.

Thanksgiving Sugar Cookie Pies

Can't decide whether to serve cookies or pie for Thanksgiving? Now you don't have to choose! These adorable cookies look just like slices of pumpkin pie. The cookie dough welcomes flavor mix-ins! To make pumpkin spice cookies, just add some cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.

Maple Cream Pie

Maple Cream Pie

Casey Barber

Though pumpkin pie will never be knocked off its pedestal as champion of the Thanksgiving dessert scene, it's time to bring some new contenders to the table this year. Like, say, this easy and oh-so-festive maple cream pie, for instance. It's got the same creamy texture as pumpkin pie and the same simple stir-and-bake assembly as its more famous friend. And it's a little more versatile, too! With its gingersnap cookie crust and billowy clouds of sweetened whipped cream, this pie works just as well for Thanksgiving as it does for any wintry holiday feast.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Bundt Cake

Fall's favorite drink gets a Bundt cake makeover for the holidays. This pumpkin spice late-inspired cake is always moist, it's always delicious and it always tastes just like autumn. You can use yellow cake mix and then add cinnamon if you can't find a spice cake mix.

Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel Apple Pie

Gesine Bullock-Prado

Making the dough for this all-butter pie is easy as, well, pie! It only requires six ingredients and comes together in just a few quick minutes. By adding just one additional ingredient (the heavy cream) to a traditional apple pie filling, this dessert becomes a glorious gooey caramel apple pie.

Sweet Potato and Plantain Pie

Sweet Potato and Plantain Pie

Maya-Camille Broussard

Other than spending time with beloved friends and family, the sweetest part of the Thanksgiving meal is always dessert. And a staple on many Thanksgiving tables? Pie! This sweet potato and plantain pie puts a modern twist on a classic holiday dessert.

Apple Tarte Tatin with Cranberry Caramel

Alex Guarnaschelli's festive tarte tatin is a great show piece in a sea of classic pies. "This is one of the simplest and tastiest desserts on the planet and the cranberry caramel makes it unique and dramatically beautiful," she says. "You will certainly 'wow' when you bring this to the table. Don't worry about the imperfections! In fact, the original story for this dessert tells a tale of two sisters who dropped the tart on the floor and served it, in essence, upside down."

This is a fun recipe that will please everyone, even the pickiest people, on holidays! You can have three different flavors of pie all in one, so everyone is satisfied. Plus, when oven space is at a premium this recipe is perfect because it only needs an hour to bake.

'Buttamilk' Caramel Pie

This unusual pie is not super complicated to make. It uses simple ingredients that are usually around the house to make something truly wonderful. The filling is made of a sweet and tangy buttermilk custard nestled in a wonderfully flaky crust. Sticky, sweet caramel sauce adds the finishing touch.

Once fall rolls around, there are pumpkin-flavored sweets practically coming out of the woodwork. This take on coffee cake is packed with pumpkin, white chocolate and a healthy dose of espresso. Pumpkin is great for baking because it not only provides that signature seasonal color, but it also makes for an especially moist cake. This cake feels like a warm hug with every bite.

Every element of this dish is reminiscent of campfire s'mores (minus the chocolate). This spiced pie gives the classic combo festive, seasonal and sophisticated flavor. It's the perfect ending to a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Crunchy Apple Crisp

This recipe is extremely easy, can be prepared quickly and you probably have all the ingredients in your cupboard right now. Most importantly, it's delicious and is sure to be a holiday crowd-pleaser. What a great comfort food!

Maple-Walnut Pie

Maple-Walnut Pie

Gesine Bullock-Prado

This treat showcases Vermonters' liquid gold: maple syrup. The pie is not too sweet, a tiny bit salty and a whole lot of delicious. Thanksgiving kitchens can be so crowded and disorganized, so it's just fine to swap in store-bought crust to save time and counter space.

Roasted Apple-Almond Cake

Roasting the apples before adding them to the cake amplifies their natural sweetness. The fragrant cardamom and crunchy almonds round out the wintry flavor of this warming dessert. It's also gluten-free, but it's so nutty and delicious, nobody would ever guess it.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Curtis Stone makes Thanksgiving's most iconic dessert for the holiday. "Sometimes we just need a classic when it comes to fall-flavored classics," he says. "And it doesn't get more traditional and delicious than homemade pumpkin pie."

After a heavy meal, a light, not-too-sweet and healthier dessert can provide a refreshing reprieve. Here, fresh pears are roasted with a bit of butter, toasty oats and crunchy nuts with a touch of brown sugar. It's a great way to end an autumn meal on a lighter note.

When fall strikes, Christina Tosi longs for cozy, gooey treats. "When I am not down to make a full pie, these little squares deliver big on dessert magic," she says. "Apple butter would make an amazing swap out for pumpkin here."

Spiced Apple Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Giada De Laurentiis celebrates the flavors of fall in this festive dessert. "Big chunks of green apple keep maple-sweetened fruit-and-nut cake moist and tender," she says. "Since it's made with oil rather than butter, this cake is a good choice for any vegan diners (just leave off the cream cheese icing)."

These pumpkin cookies are like fluffy clouds of pumpkin-spice heaven. The pumpkin adds a subtle flavor that isn't too overpowering, while lending to the extremely soft and fluffy texture of these cookies, to make them almost cake-like. Even if you're a pumpkin skeptic, you can't deny the magic that is made when these cakey cookies meet melted chocolate chips — it's a true match made in fall heaven.

Pumpion Pie

Pumpion Pie

Max Miller

This is a recipe that dates back to the 1670s. It's a pumpkin and apple pie hybrid using wine. It's definitely different from a modern recipe, but its old-world charm and seasonal flavors make it a timeless dessert. Depending on the amount of pumpkin you fry, you may require more butter; you can also use lard or vegetable oil.

Martha Stewart takes the humble cobbler up a notch. Slices of quince are cooked in a warm bath of maple and vanilla until tender and sweet, then baked under mounds of cornmeal-spiked biscuit dough. An opening in the center of the topping lets steam escape and reveals the bubbling, rosy-hued filling.

Sweet 'n' Salty Pie

Sweet 'n' Salty Pie

Tara Royer Steele

This pie started as a concept for a cookie. It's salty, sweet and dense. And it can be picked it up and eaten like a candy bar. It's also great served warm topped with vanilla ice cream.

Pecan Bundt Cake

Pecan Bundt Cake

Vallery Lomas

This beautiful Bundt is full of flavor like a carrot cake, has a tight crumb like a pound cake and it comes together quickly and easily. Be sure to use a cake tester or skewer to test to see if the Bundt is completely baked through. Even if it smells good and looks done, only a cake tester will let you know if it's done deep in the center. For even more fall flavor, swap dried cranberries for the gold raisins.

This recipe is like having the most delicious cloud of pumpkin pie. It's light and fluffy yet with all the deep flavors of the heavier classic version. Exactly what you want after eating an indulgent meal.

This is a great sweet bite that's evocative of baklava or strudel but with its own personality. This combines those two flavors, and then adding the chocolate-hazelnut dip really brings it all together. This is a good dessert for beginners since you can pre-make these rolls and freeze whole for later use.

There is no Thanksgiving without a really good sweet potato pie! This recipe takes a classic sweet potato pie to the next level. It is full of indulgent fall flavors with an extra dose of everyone's favorite campfire treat: s'mores! Thanksgiving is the ultimate pie holiday and this is truly a dream dish for pie lovers.

Spiralized Apple Pie

Keep this pie classic with 100% apple flavor or toss in a few handfuls of dried fruit or nuts to make your pie taste even more like fall. One caveat: Don't try this with pears, since they're too soft in texture to make it through the spiralizing process intact.

Martha Stewart's berry-studded cake is festive enough for the holiday table but comes together so easily, you can mix it up anytime. "Pop it in the oven as you're sitting down for dinner," she says. "If you have leftovers, no one will judge you for digging in at breakfast the next day."

Olive Oil Cake with Lambrusco-Poached Pears

This cake from Stefano Secchi is so fragrant and fruity that the smell alone will make your mouth water. "Fresh citrus zests perk up the rich olive oil cake while warm cinnamon and red wine add depth to the juicy pears," he says. "It's absolutely irresistible!"

Pecan Paht Pie

Pecan Paht Pie

Joanne Molinaro

The answer to creating a less cloyingly sweet filling for pecan pie is simple — paht! The red bean paste is far less sugar-y than the typical custard-like filling of a traditional pecan pie. It's a fun, international twist on a classic holiday dessert.

Biscotti is absolutely the perfect thing to go with afternoon coffee or tea. These festive Italian cookies also make a wonderful housewarming or holiday gift when wrapped up in a cellophane bag with ribbon.

Sweet Potato Coffee Cake

Sweet Potato Coffee Cake

Jocelyn Delk Adams

This coffee cake is a lovely switch-up from pumpkin flavor for the autumn season. It is so comforting with warm spices throughout. It's perfect for any fall dessert, breakfast or brunch.

Spiced Apple-Cranberry Lattice Pie

Cranberries add tangy flavor and a gorgeous holiday color to Curtis Stone's classic apple pie. "Juicy fresh cranberries add a delightful tang to a classic apple pie in this delicious dessert," he says. "Making a lattice on top of the pie isn't as tricky as it may seem, and this recipe has an easy to trick to fool everyone into think you hand-wove the dough!"

Streusel Topped Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is easy, and it can be made in advance so you have more time to spend with your family on Thanksgiving Day! The streusel topping changes up the usual look and taste of pumpkin pie. Change it up even more by swapping mashed sweet potatoes for the pumpkin.

Valerie Bertinelli's Pumpkin Pudding

Valerie Bertinelli gives pumpkin pie the trifle treatment for Thanksgiving. "This creamy pudding is one of favorite desserts to make in the fall," she says. "The warm spices complement the sweet pumpkin perfectly."

Try this deep-dish pumpkin pie from Martha Stewart when you need to please both traditional and modern palates at the Thanksgiving table. "Adding Chinese five-spice powder to the filling may seem unorthodox, but two of its components (cinnamon and clove) can already be found in standard pumpkin-pie spice," she says. "The dramatic crust is delightfully easy to create. Just brush butter onto sheets of store-bought phyllo and layer them at different angles in the pan. Finish with freshly whipped cream and you'll have one mighty fine, crowd-pleasing dessert."

Everyone laughs at the end of Thanksgiving dinner about how they're so full but, somehow, they still have room for dessert. This pie, an ode to a classic flavor combo, couldn't be simpler to make. Whether it's eaten warm out of the oven or cold the next morning for breakfast, everyone will go crazy for it!

A cross between pumpkin pie and French toast, this super-decadent caramel pumpkin bread pudding is an awesome addition to any Thanksgiving dessert spread. A rich base of eggy and buttery challah is key when it comes to making this comforting baked dessert. For the pumpkin, a blue skinned Jarrahdale pumpkin is awesome if you can find it, otherwise, butternut squash is a perfect substitution. Bonus: Griddle up some slices of leftover bread pudding and drizzle with maple syrup for Black Friday breakfast.

Cranberry-Orange Upside-Down Cake

Cranberry-Orange Upside-Down Cake

Robeisy Sanchez, recreated by Kristen Kish for S.Pellegrino

Kristen Kish, "Top Chef" winner and restaurateur, re-created this eye-catching upside-down cake from her sous chef, Robeisy Sanchez, which was adapted from Cook's Illustrated. "I felt so proud cooking it. It's a beautiful recipe, very festive. Everything about it," she says. "To watch her, watch me make it: It's a weird warm and fuzzy feeling that's hard to explain."

The buttery crumb topping in this delightfully decadent — and gluten free! — dessert is sweetened with coconut sugar and gets a wonderful crunch from chopped walnuts. Plus, with just a touch of cinnamon, the fresh apples speak for themselves.

Natalie's Pumpkin Flan

Creamy, light and no-fuss, flan is the perfect way to end a Thanksgiving feast. This recipe keeps it straight to the point with vanilla and condensed milk but gives it some added fall flair with pumpkin pie flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg. Each bite feels cool going down with a warm touch.

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

Maya-Camille Broussard

A popular dessert at Thanksgiving, this pie is an interpretation of a beloved classic. It is rich in chocolate filling with nutty undertones from the pecans and sweetened coconut flakes. In other words, it's an absolute dream.

These mini tarts from Siri Daly are classically delicious with juicy apples and hints of warm cinnamon and nutmeg. "They are not overly sweet, so the salted caramel sauce provides the perfect touch and gives them a modern twist," she says. "But my favorite part, they are mini and individual, which makes them the perfect dessert to serve at a big family Thanksgiving."

Hoda's Mom's Baklava

Hoda Kotb loves her mom's baklava recipe. "Sure, spending time with family and friends is great, but we all know that one of the best parts of the holidays is eating sweet, butter-laden treats," she says. "My mom, Sami, always made flaky, nutty, syrupy baklava for special occasions and it remains one of my all-time favorite indulgences."

This pie takes the idea of a creamy, orange dessert, reminiscent of a Good Humor Creamiscle bar, and adds a salty crust made from pretzels for good measure. It is sweet and citrusy with a good dose of salty crunch from the crust. It's easy to make and is even better served with whipped cream.

These gooey, sticky and utterly decadent pecan pie bars are an incredible substitute for a tradition holiday favorite: the pecan pie. However, you don't even need an oven to make this recipe because it's totally raw!

Perfect Apple Pie

Perfect Apple Pie

Maya-Camille Broussard

There isn't a soul that doesn't love a good slice of classic apple pie. Making an apple pie very well is the difference between a good baker and a great baker. This pie will help you remain great.

The combination of fruit and cheese is a very common pairing. But not usually when it comes to pie. Surprisingly the cheese doesn't add savory notes as much as a creamy tang, and the cranberries add tartness and a pop of color.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

When most people think of Kentucky, they think of the Kentucky Derby. Now, they'll have something a little sweeter to think of. A chocolaty, bourbon-y pecan pie with a graham cracker crust, this dessert is richer than the winner of the Derby. Pro tip: Toast the pecans first to add an extra nutty flavor.

Heartwarming Apple Crumble

Heartwarming Apple Crumble

Madeline and Anna Zakarian

Well-suited for a group, apple crumble can lovingly end a meal in a way that no other dessert can. To save time, make the filling and topping ahead and store separately in the fridge for up to one day. Or you can completely assemble and bake the crumble, then freeze to serve at a later date.