These paleo Thanksgiving desserts are made so that everyone at the table will enjoy them! Choose from chocolate or fruity or nutty or caramely flavors – or try a few. Make sure you can share in Thanksgiving dessert this year, even if you are following a paleo diet!
There are people who plan their Thanksgiving recipes for months ahead of the big day and then there are people like me.
You’d think that, being such a Type-A person who also runs a food website, I’d start planning my Thanksgiving meal around April, but the truth is that, with the exception of a loose idea of where I can (probably) procure a last-minute turkey breast and a couple of jars of homemade cranberry sauce in my freezer, I haven’t given Thanksgiving a second thought this year.
Though it may not be clear from my lack of planning or attention, let me assure you that Thanksgiving dinner is actually one of the reasons that I started A Clean Bake in the first place. Imagine me, about 5 years ago, sitting in front of a traditional Thanksgiving spread, low-key panicking over the decision to either (1) be the freak that eats a slice of dry turkey (and nothing else) for Thanksgiving or (2) load up on all of the sides and desserts, knowing full well that I’d better clear my schedule for the next 72 hours because I’d be too miserably sick to do anything.
It’s a horrible decision – and not one that I want anyone else to have to make.
So, ultimately, that’s why we’re here. As you know, this site is dedicated to providing real food recipes that are compliant with a gluten free and paleo diet, but which are also genuinely enjoyable on any diet.
The truth is that, after that agonizing Thanksgiving decision, years ago, I have been bring gluten free and paleo dishes to contribute to dinner parties and holidays and no one has ever complained (and no, I don’t have exceedingly polite friends and family ????).
But you know what they always go back for seconds on? That’s right: the desserts.
In the last five years, I have never not brought a grain free dessert to Thanksgiving dinner and it has never not been devoured by the end of the evening. You know I don’t mess around when it comes to any dessert, but when the stakes are as high as the Thanksgiving meal, your friends and family deserve the best of the best.
And you deserve a recipe that you don’t have to spend hours planning, prepping, and fussing over.
These 10 easy paleo recipes produce mouthwatering desserts that will more than hold their own against the conventionally-made pies.
There’s nothing like a classic. There’s always going to be a Team Apple Pie vs Team Pumpkin Pie standoff at the Thanksgiving dessert table, and you’ll always find me on Team Apple. That’s probably why I created what I not-so-humbly consider to be a recipes for the best paleo apple pie you’ll ever have, while completely ignoring pumpkin. (Not for long, though. I am working on a recipe for paleo pumpkin pie – it’s coming soon!)
But let’s not get distracted from this apple wonder. It starts with a tender almond flour-based dairy-free crust that is par-baked before filling to make sure it is sturdy enough to handle the weight of all the apples. And I do mean ALL the apples – you’ll pack this pie over-full so that when the apples cook down, then won’t disappear. (There’s nothing sadder than a pie with saggy apple filling.)
The best part, though, is the crumble topping. Rather than wrestle with a lattice crust made more stressful by paleo pie crust’s unwillingness to stay together (we’ll get to it, but there’s no need to wrestle the finicky top crust into submission when you’re under enough pressure about the holiday meal), the sweet, thick crumble topping keeps it simple and delicious. Someone told me this is also known as a Dutch Apple Pie, but I call it a stress free paleo apple pie recipe that you HAVE to try this year with your Thanksgiving dinner.
Don’t forget the scoop of ice cream to finish it off!
When I make these around Christmastime, people call them Pecan Tassies. But if you make them in November, they’re just mini pecan pies. Funny how that works, right? (It’s alllllll about marketing ;))
These little pies offer the perfect flavor of fall: toasted nuttiness combined with the slightly caramelized flavor of the maple syrup, nestled in a tender almond- and coconut flour-based grain free crust. They’re portioned out already, meaning you can have as many or as few as you have room for on your plate (or in your stomach), and always come back for more. No more of the dreaded “just a sliver, no maybe a little more” pie-slicing negotiation. Just pop a few on your plate and enjoy!
If your family is more a fan of brighter, citrus-y flavors, this recipe is for you. The sweet-tart cranberries mingle with the juice and zest of the orange, producing a flavor that reminds you of winter and sunshine all at the same time.
These bars aren’t too sweet, so they’re a perfect ending to a rich meal like Thanksgiving dinner. Better yet, there is no added sugar in these bars, aside from the naturally-occuring sugar in the fruit. The bars are sweetened with granulated monk fruit sweetener (or you can use granulated stevia), and the crust consists of an almond flour, coconut flour, and butter (or coconut oil) shortbread base, so these bars are actually a pleasantly low-glycemic end to an otherwise very rich meal!
(adapted from the muffin recipe)
Remember those pumpkin muffins I just posted? Of course you do!
Well, that recipe is incredibly versatile and can be converted into just about any kind of pumpkin dessert you want it to be:
- Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins: add chocolate chips, leave off the streusel and sprinkle additional chocolate chips over the top before baking. Serve them for breakfast on Thanksgiving day or the day after (or for dessert – no judgement!)
- Pumpkin bread: Instead of dividing the batter into muffin tins, pour the whole batch into a lightly greased 8.5″ loaf pan and bake for 60-75 minutes. Your baking time will be a little less if you don’t add the streusel topping.
- Pumpkin cake: Divide the batter between two lightly-greased 6″ round baking pans and bake until a tester comes out clean (around 30-40 minutes). Cool the layers complete before stacking and frosting them with your favorite chocolate, vanilla, or spiced frosting.
- Pumpkin cupcakes: Follow the recipe as written, but omit the streusel layer. Bake for about 25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Or make the muffins as-is and serve them for dessert! After their first bite, I doubt anyone will question it! ????
I hear so many people say “by I’m not a baker!” when it comes to tackling Thanksgiving dessert. While I 100% believe in your ability to absolutely kill this T-day dessert game, it’s also probably not worth the stress to learn to bake, like, this week of all weeks.
Thank goodness for no-bake desserts. Chocolate bark is actually the easiest dessert in existence, short of something you bought in a box at the grocery store. It only calls for five ingredients:
- Chocolate (dairy free, ideally)
- Pumpkin spice
- Pepitas (dried pumpkin seeds)
- Dried cranberries
You might even have all of these ingredients in your pantry already, meaning this recipe could actually be easier than a store bought dessert, since you don’t even have to leave your house!!
All you have to do is melt the chocolate in the microwave, stir in the salt and pumpkin spice (and a little bit of instant espresso powder, if you have it. But you can skip it if you don’t). Then spread the melted chocolate mixture on a piece of parchment or a nonstick pad (like a Silpat) and sprinkle the pepitas and cranberries over the tip. Let it set while you’re doing something else entirely, and break it up by hand. It’s really that easy!
I’m going to assume that this beautiful tart needs little introduction so here’s the quick version: imagine the same grain free crust that you’ve seen me use again and again, pressed into a fluted tart pan and filled with a rich, sweet filling with subtle caramel undertones, and topped with crunchy pecan halves arranged into a hypnotically beautiful pattern. Who can resist a slice?
Normally, I’d roll my eyes at such a fussy pecan arrangement, but I think Thanksgiving dessert calls for a little extra pizzazz. You’ll be relieved to know that this arrangement doesn’t take too many extra of your precious, Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner Cooking Minutes, and really wows the dinner crowd. If you ask me, it’s worth it.
By the way, if you want to fancy up this recipe even more, you could add a white chocolate drizzle to the baked and cooled tart. All you need to do is melt some good quality white chocolate and use a spoon or a pastry bag (I like to use a sandwich bag with a tiny corner snipped off) to drizzle the melted chocolate in a zig-zag pattern over the top of the tart. Voila: white chocolate pecan tart!
You can also use this recipe to make pecan pie bars. Instead of pressing the dough into the tart pan, press the batch into a lightly greased 8″x8″ baking dish and pre-bake the crust (covered with parchment and dry beans or other pie weights) for about 10 minutes before pouring the filling over the crust, sprinkling roughly chopped pecans over the top, and baking until set, about 35 minutes.
There are some who will tell you that hazelnuts are strictly a Christmas flavor. Ignore them.
In fact, hazelnuts are a special-occasion flavor, whether that special occasion is Christmas or Hanukkah or Thanksgiving or your Friday night ice cream craving. Hazelnuts always taste fancy.
Which makes these low-key hazelnut chocolate chip bars the perfect Thanksgiving dessert. On the one hand decadent hazelnuts and silky dark chocolate make these bars elegant enough to feel right at home alongside the holiday spread. But, on the other, the recipe – which goes something like this: bowl-stir-bake-all-in-the-same-pan-no-extra-effort-necessary – is easy enough to make whether you’re making the whole meal and need a stress-free dessert idea, or are bringing dessert and, well, need a stress free dessert idea.
Another bar recipe, yes, but these are – for better or worse – not a simple bar recipe. They require multiple components and, therefore, a little extra time and effort. The most labor-intensive component is the caramel, which isn’t actually that difficult – it is just a small project in and of itself, that takes a bit of extra attention and care. But it’s worth it.
The caramel is completely dairy free and refined sugar free, and tastes absolutely nothing like the stuff you buy at the store to squeeze over your ice cream. Trust me: you’ll want to spend the extra time making this caramel for the magic bars.
The good news is that the homemade caramel can be made ahead of time, and if you wanted to pre-bake the crust (yes, you guessed it: the same dairy free, coconut-oil based crust you’ve seen on this list several times already because it’s that versatile!) the day before you assemble and bake the bars, you can feel free to do that too.
The rest is just a matter of assembly, then baking, then – of course – the agonizing wait for them to cool before you can cut the bars and sample them on behalf of your guests. For quality control, of course. ????
Call me crazy, but sometimes after a big meal, all I want is a small, palate-cleansing (read: not too sweet) bite to dunk in some coffee as the conversation around the table dies down (read: everyone starts to fall into their food coma). These shortbread are just the thing.
The shortbread base is very similar to the base of the cranberry-orange shortbread bars I mentioned above and, like all shortbread, the ingredient list is simple and straightforward: flour(s), fat, a bit of sweetener, a dash of cinnamon, and a smattering of finely chopped pecans.
Am I making them sound too boring? I certainly hope not! They’re rich and feel a little fancy (as fluted cutout cookies always do), warmly spiced with cinnamon, and get a little bit of crunch from the chopped pecans in the batter.
They’re not boring, but they are simple, relaxed cookies that aren’t too overwhelming to a palate that has just gotten a serious turkey-based workout.
Oh, and these cookies are keto-compliant, too!
I always like to save the best one for last. I’ve you’ve read this entire 2,600+ word post, you deserve a treat!
People always ooh and ahh at the turkey at Thanksgiving, but this tart forces the attention right back where it belongs: on dessert! It’s the drizzle. Nothing doesn’t look fancier with a drizzle.
I don’t even know how to describe this heavenly tart, with its silky smooth chocolate ganache filling – but I’ll try. The whole thing starts with the same crust that I rely on for everrrrrrything (as evidenced by its repeat appearance in almost ever recipe in this post)! It’s easy, low carb, and comes together in the food processor, meaning there is almost no effort required on your part.
You’ll bake the crust before filling it with, well, what amounts to pure chocolate magic: melted chocolate and coconut milk, which will set into a perfectly smooth ganache. Please try to resist face planting into it.
At least resist long enough to add sliced strawberries and a chocolate drizzle.
For planning purposes, note that this is NOT a great make-ahead option. You can make the crust up to 24 hours in advance, and you can fill it. But do not add the strawberries more than a couple of hours before you plan to serve the tart. Why? The moisture in the strawberries will start to seep out, turning the ganache under and around the berry slices to a really unappetizing brown mush. It still tastes ok, but it doesn’t look very enticing.
Ideally, you would make the crust the day before, fill it either right away or the morning of the meal, and then arrange the strawberries and add the chocolate drizzle immediately before diners start digging into the appetizers. That way, by the time everyone is done with the main course and ready for dessert, the chocolate drizzle will have set just enough – but the strawberries will still be in good shape. In other words: it will be time to dig in to this tart!
10 Paleo Thanksgiving Desserts to Love
You’ll notice that this list doesn’t have a paleo pumpkin pie on it (yet – that and a paleo apple crisp) are coming soon! But chances are, someone already has that covered.
Instead, I hope you’ve found the perfect, crowd-pleasing, easy paleo Thanksgiving dessert recipe to add to your table this year!