How silly. Almost immediately I realized the answer: dessert.
The only real problem with a later Thanksgiving meal was it didn’t leave much time or room in my stomach for dessert. When you eat earlier in the day, by the time late afternoon or, let’s be honest, evening rolls around, you’re ready to eat again. And, yes, there have been plenty of years when my “dinner” has been a combination of pumpkin-caramel tart, chocolate peanut butter pie and peppermint ice cream (a seasonal favorite of my husband’s late grandfather).
Regardless of when your main meal is, these desserts from our archives are worth saving room for. They’re just a mere sampling of the more than 80 options we’ve published in recent years. You’ll find many classic flavors and ingredients, including pumpkin, apple, pecan and sweet potato — some in ways you’ll recognize, some totally unexpected. So while you have the time now, pick a few recipes, make a plan and then eventually get baking. One of the many great things about Thanksgiving desserts is that they can often be made in advance. Less stress, more sweetness.
Creole Pecan Praline Bars. These bars are inspired by the New Orleans treat and capture the spirit of the pie in an easy, slab format.
Apple Sharlotka. No one will complain about the ease with which you can throw together this one-bowl cake — it’s that delicious. Serve with some cinnamon whipped cream, perhaps?
Apple Tarte Tatin. Consider this stunning dessert as a pie alternative. You do use pie dough (homemade or store-bought), which is draped over the top of the apples while baking, before the whole thing is flipped over for serving.
Libby’s New-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie With Dulce de Leche and Cardamom: This isn’t your grandma’s back-of-the package recipe. We tweaked the newly updated Libby’s recipe by swapping in dulce de leche for sweetened condensed milk to achieve an ultrasmooth, flan-like texture. The spice blend is very much up to you, but we will never say no to cardamom.
Pumpkin Creme Brulees. These elegant little desserts are steamed under pressure in a multicooker (such as an Instant Pot) before getting browned under the broiler or with a kitchen torch.
Sour Cream Maple Cake With Maple Buttercream Frosting. It’s not the first Thanksgiving ingredient you might think of, but maple syrup screams fall to us. This cake would be an unexpected yet very welcome addition to your holiday table. Also, it’s one-bowl, which is just the thing you need to cut back your dishwashing on such a busy day.
Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie. Some people may say that pumpkin and sweet potato pies are basically the same thing, but some people may also be wrong. Sweet potatoes lend more flavor, and this pie — you may recall it from its video fame — has more nutmeg than you might be used to. Go with it; it works.