15 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts to Save Your Sanity
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.
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 gets busy during the holidays with other dishes to prepare, 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. After baking the cheesecake, let it cool completely before freezing it on a sheet pan. When it's frozen, wrap it in freezer wrap and store in the freezer for up to four months.
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 then warm it for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven right before serving.
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese 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 work great in a 9x13-inch baking pan. Just make sure to add 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.
Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Not only do these biscotti wear their winter holiday colors proudly, but these are also 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.
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 9x13-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.
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 for 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.
Apple Pie by Grandma Ople
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 following recipe instructions, but add an additional 20 to 40 minutes because you're starting from frozen. It's best to use a metal pie dish, as glass dishes may shatter when they go straight from the freezer to the oven.
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.
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.
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 Five 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.
Best Toffee Ever - Super Easy
When stored in an airtight container at room temperature, homemade toffee can be kept for up to two weeks. If your kitchen runs warm, pop it in the fridge to keep it a little while longer. Making toffee can be a bit tricky, so Megan Orsini always tests her candy thermometer in boiling water (212 degrees F) to make sure it is accurate.
Easy Pumpkin Cream Trifle
This top-rated trifle layers spiced pumpkin cake, whipped cheesecake-flavored filling, and a crumbly pecan and toffee topping. Make this dessert up to three days in advance, storing it in the fridge. And because it's served chilled, it takes no extra effort on Thanksgiving.
Sweet Potato Pie I
This top-rated recipe calls for using freshly-cooked sweet potatoes, which you'll have time to do since you're not in a time crunch. (OK, you can substitute canned sweet potatoes if you need to.) Once the pie has been baked and cooled, wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, and then freeze it for up to one month. Thaw it in the fridge overnight and serve at room temperature, or warm it in a 350 degree F oven for a few minutes. Top it off with fresh whipped cream before serving.
Aunt Teen's Creamy Chocolate Fudge
Homemade fudge just might be the perfect make-ahead dessert, no matter what the season. Rich, smooth, and creamy, it can be tightly wrapped and kept in the freezer for a few months. Reviwer HSMOM26 says, "The secret is to use a candy thermometer to be sure the fudge reaches the soft ball stage (234 degrees F)."
Peanut Butter Pie
You can make this Peanut Butter Pie, toppings and all, and store it in the fridge for up to three days. Or, take a cue from reviewer MARPRINC and leave the toppings for Thanksgiving Day: "To make this even more decadent, freeze the pie after you spoon the filling in the crust. After it is frozen solid, add a layer of hot fudge sauce before adding the whipped topping." Let the frozen pie stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.