What is the most favorite dessert on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a beloved American holiday centered around feasting. The traditional Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and an array of pies for dessert. Of all the delicious dishes served, the dessert course is often the highlight of the meal. But when it comes to desserts, what do most Americans enjoy eating the most on Thanksgiving? Here are some quick answers to common questions about favorite Thanksgiving desserts:

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is certainly one of the most iconic and beloved Thanksgiving desserts. It’s estimated that over 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten during the Thanksgiving holiday each year in the United States. The creamy custard filling flavored with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and other warming spices tucked into a flaky pie crust is practically synonymous with Thanksgiving. So it’s no surprise that pumpkin pie tops many people’s list of favorite Thanksgiving desserts.

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is another quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. Originating in the southern United States, pecan pie features pecans suspended in a sweet and sticky filling made from eggs, butter, sugar and corn syrup baked in a pie crust. Its rich yet simple flavors make it a classic favorite on many Thanksgiving dessert tables across America.

Apple Pie

Apple pie may be considered an all-American dessert staple, but it’s particularly beloved on Thanksgiving. The comforting flavors of fresh apples baked into a double crust or streusel topping represent autumn harvest flavors that pair perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner fare. Additionally, apple pie can be made in many delicious variations like Dutch apple pie, deep dish apple pie, or apple crumb pie.

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie shares similarities to pumpkin pie but has a signature sweet potato flavor. Originating in the southern states where sweet potatoes are grown more widely, this creamy, spiced custard pie has become a favorite Thanksgiving tradition in many families. Topped with toasted marshmallows or pecans, sweet potato pie is a unique twist on classic Thanksgiving desserts.


Cheesecake is a beloved dessert any time of year, but it can be particularly popular on Thanksgiving when cooks often prepare more than one type of dessert. From traditional New York style to pumpkin or pecan pie flavors, cheesecake is a decadent treat many people save room for on Thanksgiving Day.

Ice Cream

One can’t forget about the simplicity of ice cream at Thanksgiving! Whether homemade or store-bought, ice cream is an easy crowd-pleasing dessert to serve. Flavors like pumpkin, maple or pecan can certainly complement the Thanksgiving theme. But classic vanilla or chocolate ice cream are welcome options as well.


Tiramisu provides a nice change of pace from all the traditional pie and custard-style desserts on Thanksgiving. With its layers of creamy mascarpone cheese and ladyfingers soaked in espresso and chocolate, tiramisu is a sophisticated and refreshing choice after a heavy meal.


Trifle is a whimsical, layered dessert made with cake, pudding or custard, fruit, whipped cream or cream cheese, and often jelly or jam between the layers. Spiked with liqueur, trifle makes for a festive and visually stunning Thanksgiving dessert. It can also incorporate pumpkin, apple or pecan flavors representative of the season.

Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies, featuring chocolate cake-like rounds sandwiched with fluffy frosting or cream filling, have become a popular bakery item across America. Around Thanksgiving, pumpkin and salted caramel are two flavors that translate well into whoopie pie form for a fun, hand-held dessert.

Creme Brulee

Creme brulee offers a rich elegance when served at the Thanksgiving table. The creamy, vanilla-scented custard capped with a crispy burnt sugar crust makes for an indulgent ending to the meal. Creme brulee infused with fall flavors like maple, pumpkin or apple cider take this dessert to the next level.


In conclusion, while there is no consensus on the single most favorite Thanksgiving dessert, traditional pies like pumpkin, pecan, apple, and sweet potato consistently rank high among American Thanksgiving revelers. Classic ice cream, cheesecake and tiramisu also make frequent Thanksgiving dessert appearances. Newer trends like whoopie pies and creme brulee offer fresh twists on the traditional Thanksgiving dessert course. At the end of the day, any dessert that can comfortably cap off a Thanksgiving feast is likely to be appreciated and enjoyed by all.

Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved American holidays. Families and friends gather together for a feast centered around roast turkey and other harvest-inspired dishes. But for many, the menu highlight is dessert! With so many iconic and tempting Thanksgiving dessert choices, preferences can vary widely based on family traditions, regional influences, and personal tastes.

This article explores some of the top dessert contenders typically served for Thanksgiving dinner. Factors like historical significance, popularity, universally appealing flavors and versatility with seasonal twists are considered in determining which desserts take top honors in the minds and stomachs of Thanksgiving revelers.

Most Popular Thanksgiving Desserts

Here are some of the desserts that stand out as perennial favorites on the Thanksgiving table:

  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Apple pie
  • Sweet potato pie
  • Cheesecake
  • Ice cream

These are considered the most iconic and beloved desserts traditionally served on Thanksgiving. But many other sweets like pies, cakes, custards, cookies, and confections also make regular Thanksgiving appearances depending on family customs.

Reasons for Popularity

So what makes some desserts more popular Thanksgiving choices than others?

  • Nostalgia and tradition – Some desserts like pumpkin, pecan, and apple pie are historically tied to Thanksgiving.
  • Wide appeal – Universal flavors like vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and nutmeg are crowd-pleasers.
  • Comforting – Warm, familiar desserts offer a cozy ending to a hearty meal.
  • Simplicity – Easy no-fuss desserts allow focus on main dishes.
  • Fall flavors – Seasonal flavors like pumpkin, apple, and pecans suit the theme.
  • Variety – Having options and choices satisfies more palates.

By mastering universal flavors and showcasing seasonal ingredients, these popular Thanksgiving desserts earn their place at the holiday table year after year.

Traditional Thanksgiving Desserts

Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the tried-and-true Thanksgiving desserts and why they continue to be favorites.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie ranks at the top of most people’s Thanksgiving dessert lists. In fact, an estimated 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten during the Thanksgiving holiday each year in America! The signature pumpkin pie spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves add comforting warmth and familiarity. Its velvety texture and mildly sweet flavor makes pumpkin pie a benchmark Thanksgiving dessert.

Pecan Pie

There’s a reason pecan pie is often called “the official pie of the South.” It rose to popularity in the early 20th century once Karo syrup became widely produced. The gooey filling of corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, and pecans baked in a pie shell is decadently rich. The nutty crunch of pecans balances out the sweetness. Pecan pie has secured its place as a quintessential Thanksgiving dessert nationwide.

Apple Pie

From McDonalds to mom and pop diners, apple pie is one of America’s most iconic desserts. So its widespread popularity on Thanksgiving comes as no surprise. Fresh apples signify fall harvest season. Their sweet-tart flavor and fragrant aroma are hard to resist, especially in a flaky double crust. Simply add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla and you have the perfect finale for a Thanksgiving meal.

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie is sometimes called “yam pie” and shares many similarities with pumpkin pie. Originating in southern soul food tradition, it’s like a sweet potato twist on the classic pumpkin pie. Smooth, velvety custard sweetened lightly and spiced with flavors like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla makes this an autumnal treat. Toasted marshmallows or pecans on top add extra flair.

Dessert Serving Size Calories
Pumpkin pie (1 slice) 1 slice (1/8 of 9″ pie) 323
Pecan pie (1 slice) 1 slice (1/8 of 9″ pie) 503
Apple pie (1 slice) 1 slice (1/8 of 9″ pie) 411
Sweet potato pie (1 slice) 1 slice (1/8 of 9″ pie) 314


Cheesecake is a dessert loved all year round, but it can be one of the most popular options at Thanksgiving dinner tables. Its rich, decadent and smooth texture is a nice contrast from all the traditional baked pies. From pumpkin cheesecake swirled with gingersnap crust to classic New York style topped with cherries, cheesecake is a fabulous way to indulge on Thanksgiving Day.

Ice Cream

It’s easy to overlook humble ice cream when considering Thanksgiving desserts. But a variety of ice cream flavors can perfectly cap off a Thanksgiving feast. Vanilla, chocolate, or butter pecan all fit the bill. For more seasonal flavors, pumpkin, maple walnut, or cinnamon apple varieties echo Thanksgiving themes. The cool, creamy simplicity of ice cream balances out a heavy, savory meal.

Modern Thanksgiving Dessert Trends

While traditional desserts like pies, cheesecake and ice cream continue to be Thanksgiving favorites, some new dessert trends are emerging and gaining popularity at the holiday table:

Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies feature chocolate cake rounds sandwiched together with creamy frosting or marshmallow filling. Pumpkin and salted caramel are two flavors that translate deliciously into whoopie pie form and pair well with Thanksgiving themes. The hand-held size and cake-like texture provides a fun, new spin on dessert.

Creme Brulee

With its rich vanilla custard and crisp burnt sugar topping, creme brulee is a sophisticating ending to a Thanksgiving feast. The contrast of silky creaminess and crunchy caramelized crust makes it a unique dessert choice. Infusing the custard with maple or pumpkin puree and garnishing with fresh fruit or nuts puts a seasonal twist on this elegant dessert.


Trifle is a whimsical take on traditional Thanksgiving desserts. Layers of cake, custard or pudding, fresh fruit or berries, whipped cream, nuts, and jelly or jam create a visually stunning dessert. The use of pumpkin, apple cider, cranberry or pecan flavors maintain a seasonal Thanksgiving vibe. Trifle allows creative freedom for both cook and guest to build their own personal dessert.

Dessert Bars

For hosts looking to minimize last minute work, dessert bars can be a convenient and enticing option. Recipes like pecan pie bars, pumpkin cheesecake bars, apple streusel bars, and cranberry oat bars condense popular Thanksgiving dessert flavors into easy transportable servings for guests. The variety of textures and help-yourself size make dessert bars fun.

Seasonal Cupcakes or Cake Pops

Cupcakes and cake pops make for easy single-serve, hand-held desserts that appeal to guests of all ages. Creative autumnal flavors like caramel apple, pumpkin roll, maple walnut, or cranberry spice translate well into cupcake or cake pop form. They offer lighter dessert options without compromising on seasonal flavors.

Regional and Family Favorites

While there are many universally popular Thanksgiving desserts, preferences can vary considerably by region. Here are some regional twists on Thanksgiving desserts:


The South has strong attachments to desserts like pecan pie, sweet potato pie, bourbon sweet potato pie, Lane cake (a white cake with bourbon and coconut), and banana pudding. Coconut cream pie is also a favorite Thanksgiving dessert in southern coastal states.


Midwestern Thanksgiving desserts tend to feature regional fruits and flavors like Michigan cherry pie and cranberry walnut tart from Wisconsin. Other Midwestern favorites include pear gingerbread crumble, persimmon pudding, and regional specialties like Indiana sugar cream pie.


The Northeast features desserts that utilize fresh fall harvest produce like apples, cranberries, pumpkins, and maple syrup. Favorites include maple apple upside down cake, cranberry pear cobbler, Concord grape pie, and regional specialties like shoofly pie from Pennsylvania and whoopie pies from Maine.

Beyond Region – Family Traditions

More than geographical region, family traditions often dictate Thanksgiving dessert preferences. Recipes passed down for generations or favorite desserts designated by a particular family member frequently make recurring Thanksgiving appearances. These can range from great-grandma’s famous fudge to Uncle Stan’s secret pecan pie recipe. Food evokes nostalgia, so traditional family recipes will always have a place at the table.

Nutrition Factors

With so many tempting options, how do you choose a Thanksgiving dessert that satisfies your tastebuds and waistline? Here are some tips for making smarter and more nutritious picks:

  • Select lighter desserts like fresh fruit, sorbet, or angel food cake over heavy items like chocolate cake or cheesecake.
  • Enjoy small portions or splits – you don’t need a whole slice of pie!
  • Balance indulgences with more virtuous sides like whipped cream versus ice cream.
  • Substitute ingredients when possible – apple sauce instead of butter or oil, whole wheat flour over white.
  • Incorporate nuts, whole grains, and fresh fruit into desserts for more fiber and nutrients.
  • Consider gluten-free and vegan options like fruit crisp or chia pudding.

You can still enjoy all your cherished Thanksgiving desserts, just pay mind to portions and ingredients. Adding a nutritious salad or vegetable side can also help compensate for splurging on desserts.


Thanksgiving dessert is many people’s favorite part of the iconic American holiday feast. While preferences vary based on family heritage, home region, and personal taste, a few desserts like pumpkin, pecan, apple, and sweet potato pie have secured their places as traditional Thanksgiving favorites across America. At the same time, new dessert trends add fresh twists like whoopie pies, creme brulee and trifles. Balancing nostalgic flavors and family food traditions with seasonal, nutritious ingredients can help make your Thanksgiving dessert table satisfyingly sweet.

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