By Jackie Freeman

Sweet make-ahead magic.

Save time, space, and a little kitchen sanity by preparing perfectly indulgent make-ahead Thanksgiving desserts well before turkey day, then keep them in your refrigerator or freezer until you're ready for them. Discover our favorite make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert recipes, plus a few tips and tricks for flawless preparation, storing, and serving. These recipes can be whipped up three days to one month before the big event, and be kept in the fridge or freezer.

Related: How to Bake and Freeze Holiday Desserts Ahead of Time

1. Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

An alternative to pumpkin pie, a double-layer pumpkin cheesecake actually tastes better when it gets a chance to chill out in the fridge for two or three days. When the kitchen is busy around the holidays with a lot of other dishes to prepare and ingredients to buy, Jill C likes to swap out the pumpkin puree and spices called for in the recipe with a can of pumpkin pie filling, saying it "boosts the pumpkin flavor overall" and saves a bit of prep time. To freeze: Prep and bake cheesecake, let cool completely, and freeze on a sheet pan. When it's frozen, wrap it in freezer wrap and store in the freezer for up to 4 months. To thaw: Leave cheesecake wrapped up and thaw overnight in the fridge. Garnish with whipped cream before serving.

Photo by Cristi

2. Caramel Pecan Pie

Doftharose and many other reviewers suggest skipping the wrapped caramels and saving time by using caramel ice cream topping. Once the pie is set and completely cooled, you can keep it in the fridge for two days, or freeze it, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for two weeks. For fresh-baked flavor, defrost the pie overnight in the fridge than warm it for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven right before serving.

3. Pumpkin Bars with Cheesecake Frosting

For the best flavor, moist and lightly spiced pumpkin bars should be kept refrigerated for a few days before serving, which makes them ideal for a make-ahead dessert. If you don't have a jelly roll pan, Jamie A. says the recipes also works great in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Just make sure to add a 10 minutes of bake time so the cake is cooked all the way through. You could freeze the bars after frosting them if you freeze them on a baking sheet until the frosting is hard, then wrap well and stick them back in the freezer.

Photo by Christopher Ross

4. Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Not only do these biscotti wear their winter holiday colors proudly, these are the kind of cookies that taste even better if they have a few days to dry out before serving. Suzanne likes to swap out the pistachios with slivered almonds and add about 1 teaspoon of orange zest. Remember, if you are using salted pistachios, almonds, or any other nut, make sure to leave out the ¼ teaspoon salt in the recipe.

Photo by Rob Tanner

5. Bread Pudding II

Swap out plain white bread for raisin swirl bread, like KITKA714 does when making this decadent dessert. If you're cooking for a crowd, double this recipe and bake it in a 9- by 13-inch pan. After it is baked and cooled, wrap it tightly and freeze it up to one month. Let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight then warm it the oven or microwave right before serving. For extra lusciousness, serve it with a dessert sauce poured over or on the side.

Photo by TTV78

6. Citrus Shortbread Cookies

Popping with bright orange zest and dried cranberries, these cookies can be baked up to a week ahead of time, completely cooled, and then stored in an airtight container until you're ready for dessert. For fresh-baked cookies, simply freeze the cookie dough logs up to one month. When you're ready to bake, defrost the dough for about 20 minutes, slice, and bake. Home baker Steph suggests skipping the almond extract if it's not something you normally have on-hand, and adding ¼ cup toasted and crushed almond slices to the dough.

7. Apple Pie by Grandma Ople

SCIOTA says this pie is "A++ Decadently Delicious!" Prepare this recipe up until the baking directions, then wrap it in three layers of plastic wrap and a layer of foil. Pop it into your freezer up to two weeks before the main event. When you're ready for dessert, preheat the oven, unwrap the pie, and bake it for an additional 20 to 40 minutes. It's best to use a metal pie dish, as glass dishes may shatter when they go straight from the freezer to the oven.

Photo by Holiday Baker

8. Pumpkin Cake III

Delicately spiced and full of pumpkin flavor this cake can be baked in a sheet pan (as per the directions) or in a decorative Bundt pan (with a few extra minutes baking time). Either way, once it's completely cool, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it up to a month. When you're ready to eat, let it defrost on the counter for a few hours before slicing and serving. ABORSEN likes to whip up a batch of Cream Cheese Frosting II a few days before and top the cake right before grabbing a slice.

Photo by momlovestocook

9. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies III

Your average chocolate chip cookie just got a lot tastier and more festive with the addition of canned pumpkin and cinnamon. Tori Howell likes to add a few additional spices, like cloves, ginger, and nutmeg to make the cookies even more pie-like. You can either bake and freeze the cooled cookies, letting them come to room temperature about 15 minutes before serving. Or, freeze the cookie dough and bake them fresh right before your holiday gathering.

Photo by Emily

10. Chef John's Pumpkin Pie

No Thanksgiving celebration would be complete without pumpkin pie, and this recipe is no exception. If you don't have Chinese 5 Spice on hand (or can't find it at the store), jcfrk01 suggests you use just a touch of cinnamon, allspice, or pumpkin pie spice. Once the pie is completely cool, cover the top with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to three days before serving.

Photo by foodelicious


Related: See our entire collection of Thanksgiving dessert recipes.


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