15 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts to Save Your Sanity

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts to Save Your Sanity
Photo: Allrecipes

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.

01 of 16

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

a slice of cheesecake with a plain layer and a pumpkin layer, garnished with a rosette of whipped cream, on a white plate

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.

02 of 16

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

closeup of frosted cake bars garnished with a mint sprig

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.

03 of 16

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

pieces of Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti lined up
Rob Tanner

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.

04 of 16

Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding

Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding in a white dish

This recipe is a combination of two classics — pumpkin pie and bread pudding — baked in a 9x13-inch pan, making it perfect for a crowd. After the bread pudding is baked and cooled, wrap it tightly and freeze it for 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 whipped cream, cinnamon ice cream, or a dessert sauce poured over top.

05 of 16

Crustless Cranberry Pie

crustless cranberry pie baked in a cast iron skillet
Blair Blanks

Cranberries can do so much more than just sauce, and this easy and unique cranberry pie freezes beautifully. It's full of Thanksgiving flavor yet offers a nice change from the norm and makes a nice addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table. Allow the pie to cool completely after baking, then wrap in plastic wrap and then foil. Place in the freezer for up to one month and defrost overnight in the fridge.

06 of 16

Apple Pie by Grandma Ople

slice of Grandma Ople's Apple Pie on a turquoise plate

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.

07 of 16

Pumpkin Cake III

A slice of cake baked in a bundt pan topped with cinnamon dusted whipped cream,on a white plate

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.

08 of 16

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies III

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies III on a white and orange plate
Leah Joy

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.

09 of 16

Chef John's Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream and cinnamon on paper plate
Laura Kissel

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.

10 of 16

Best Toffee Ever - Super Easy

pieces of homemade toffee topped with nuts

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.

11 of 16

Easy Pumpkin Cream Trifle

Easy Pumpkin Cream Trifle in a glass bowl
Holiday Baker

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.

12 of 16

Sweet Potato Pie I

Sweet Potato Pie I on a white and blue plate
Mackenzie Schieck

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.

13 of 16

Caramel Pecan Pie

Caramel Pecan Pie with lace placemat

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.

14 of 16

Aunt Teen's Creamy Chocolate Fudge

Aunt Teen's Creamy Chocolate Fudge on a white dish
My Hot Southern Mess

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)."

15 of 16

Peanut Butter Pie

two slices of peanut butter pie on a table

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.

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