Thanksgiving is when friends and family come together to celebrate and give gratitude for different things in their lives. Naturally, no Thanksgiving feast is complete without a delicious dessert to enjoy and give thanks for. Depending on where you live, you might have different dessert traditions than others who live far away. Regardless of geographical and cultural differences, ten desserts seem to be the most popular across the board.
From classic pies to decadent cakes, there are so many sweet treats to make for the special occasion. We will say that some close runners-up didn’t quite make it to the top ten, such as cream pie, chess pie, hummingbird cake, buttermilk pie, and cherry pie. But, many of the winners on this list have seasonal autumn ingredients like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, pecans, or apples, which is why they are so fitting for the holiday. In this article, we'll look at the ten most popular Thanksgiving desserts and what they offer. Each sweet treat is unique in its own way and appreciated for very valid reasons!
1. Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin and sweet potato pie are assuredly close rivals because of their appearance and similar color. Nevertheless, they each have unique characteristics. Pumpkin pie typically has a flaky crust with a pumpkiny custard base.
The classic ingredients are pumpkin puree, sugar, eggs, cream or milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Sometimes, other elements are added: salt, brown sugar, cornstarch, etc. You can find pumpkin pie spice in nearly every grocery store, indicating its widespread popularity as a dessert. According to Today’s Home Owner, pumpkin pie reigns in 15 U.S. states.
2. Sweet Potato Pie
As the name suggests, sweet potato pie is made with mashed sweet potatoes, unlike pumpkin pie, which uses canned produce. You can use canned sweet potatoes, but the pie won't taste the same. Aside from the root veggie, the pie has a standard pie crust with a custardy filling made with eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cream, or milk.
It has sugar, but much less than pumpkin since sweet potatoes have a natural sugared flavor. Vanilla, salt, and melted butter are also common ingredients. Wide Open Country states this pie is “a clear winner in Virginia, Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, Georgia, and Tennessee”.
Although some folks might opt for a classic N.Y. cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake seems to be the winning flavor for Thanksgiving, understandably! According to Hella Health, pumpkin cheesecake is the most popular dessert choice in states like Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, and more.
Or, at least, these states searched Google for pumpkin cheesecake more than any other kind of dessert when planning their Thanksgiving menu! Interesting, right? This cheesecake typically has a graham cracker crust with a filling made from cream cheese, pumpkin puree, baking spices, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. It’s a rich dessert but not too heavy, making it suitable for when you just had a large meal.
4. Pecan Pie
There’s nothing classier than a traditional pecan pie! This type of pie is extremely decadent and not for the faint of heart. Often, you don’t need a big slice since it is so rich. The filling has sugar, pecans, eggs, corn syrup, butter, and vanilla.
You can bake this type of pie with shortcrust or traditional flaky pie dough, although you can also make it with puff pastry. This pie is usually served with a dollop of whipped cream or simple garnishes, and you can enjoy it warm, room temperature, or cold. This dessert is quite popular in the South, but people from other areas enjoy it too!
5. Apple Pie
Although apple pie is enjoyed in the summertime and during different holidays, it is such a classic that it ranks high at Thanksgiving, too! Apple pie is versatile as you can give it different presentations. For instance, you can make a Dutch apple pie with crumb (streusel) topping, have the crust act as a blanket over the whole filling, or create designs with the dough.
People often make a lattice topping or cut the dough into unique shapes, such as leaves. The filling comprises apples, sugar, butter, baking spices, and often a thickener. Citrus juice is often added to flavor and prevent the apples from oxidizing!
Brownies are a popular dessert choice any time, and Today's Home Owner reports that 15 states prefer them over other Thanksgiving treats. This might surprise you if your loved ones typically only serve pies on Thanksgiving! Nevertheless, a warm, fudgy brownie straight from the oven is the ultimate comfort food, so we can see why it’s fitting for Thanksgiving.
Brownies can be made with cocoa powder as the primary chocolate component, but at other times, you can use melted chocolate or a combination of both. Other ingredients include flour, eggs, sugar, leavening agents, butter, and vanilla. Some people prefer their brownies chewy, while other folk enjoy them cakey! You can also serve them decorated with frosting, powdered sugar, or other toppings to dress them up.
7. Custard Pie
Although sophisticated desserts like cheesecake or apple pie are downright delicious, sometimes you just want something simpler. In this case, bring on the custard pie! This type of pie has a classic pie crust with a smooth, indulgent filling. The base of the pie has eggs, yolks, milk, cream, vanilla, and sugar.
Sometimes, it has nutmeg, salt, or other ingredients, too, but nothing too overpowering that will distract from the essence of the wonderful custard. This dessert is light; you can serve it with whipped cream, berries, nuts, or whatever you wish! KIRO7 reports that this is one of the most popular desserts for Thanksgiving.
8. Apple Fritters
Some people prefer a classic apple fritter on Thanksgiving, although they might be one of many options on a Thanksgiving spread and not the primary dessert. Nevertheless, they are still popular in certain regions. According to Hella Health, Connecticut, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma are some of the states that appreciate this sweet treat on the holiday!
There are a couple of ways to make apple fritters. One type is a donut with apple pieces, while another is apple rings dipped in a batter and fried. Either way, this treat has yummy bread, fresh apples, and often baking spices, too. You can decorate them with cinnamon sugar, icing, or powdered sugar.
9. Pumpkin Rolls
Have you ever had a pumpkin roll? It is a rolled cake with cream cheese icing. Its display is gorgeous because since it is rolled, it has a striking swirled look. Just like pumpkin pie, these desserts are festive for the fall months, especially for Thanksgiving, according to KIRO7.
It is easy to serve to a crowd since the pumpkin roll is sliced into individual portions, and you can assemble them on a platter before the gathering. When making pumpkin rolls, you must be cautious about how thick the cake is and what kind of pan you use. Otherwise, the cake can crack when you roll it up.
10. Carrot Cake
This dessert has many spices that are usually associated with fall, making it a great match for people who want to serve something other than pie on Thanksgiving. Some spices in carrot cake include ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.
It is similar to a spice cake, except it has shredded carrots and can contain other mix-ins like pecans, walnuts, shredded coconut, or pineapple pieces. The most common type of frosting for this dessert is cream cheese frosting. The tangy yet creamy frosting contrasts with the sweet and spicy cake. KIRO7 reports that this is one of the most popular desserts, although it doesn’t necessarily compare to the traditional pies.