Among adults, at least, Halloween is one of the more polarizing holidays. If you love it and all the trappings that go with it—sinking hours into carefully constructing a realistic-looking "open wound," terrorizing yourself with slasher flicks, and festooning your house with all the creepy-and-kooky skull lights and gothic drapery you can find—then you probably really love it. If you're just not that into it, well, there's probably not much that's gonna make you into it. Except, perhaps, for food. Halloween is one of the few times of the year when Reese's cups, fun-size Snickers, and candy corn (speaking of polarizing) are so abundant, so prominent a sight in everyday life, it's pretty much generally accepted that you'll spend the days before and after the holiday ingesting sugar like it's your job, even if you're too old to do any trick-or-treating. (Thanks, coworkers with kids!)
But if you don't want to settle for store-bought temptations, or if you're looking for refreshments that are a wee bit spookier than the mere threat of future caries, you've come to the right place. Below, you'll find 20 recipes for Halloween-themed goodies—mostly sweet, but a few savory, too—that are as delicious to eat as they are impressive to look at. Plus, they cover a broad range in fear factor, from perfectly harmless peanut butter cup pie and cute, cuddly ghost cupcakes to downright gory witch finger cookies and deviled egg eyeballs. Feeling crafty and looking for a really spectacular edible Halloween project? Whip up a batch of our sturdy but tasty Construction Gingerbread, and get to work building the haunted gingerbread mansion of your dreams.
Ghost and Spider Pan Pizza
There's nothing scary at all about our Foolproof Pan Pizza, but a little creative and easy bedazzling transforms it into a great (and great-tasting) Halloween entree. Slabs of fresh mozzarella are readily cut into blobs that look just like ghosts, then paired with black-olive spiders, impaled with rosemary needles for legs.
Deviled Egg Eyeballs
Another classic snack transformed by thoughtful decoration, these deviled eggs are fairly standard to start, blending the hard-boiled yolk with mayo, mustard, and paprika. The fun part lies in using sliced black-olive "irises" and red-pepper "veins" to turn the unassuming egg halves into bloodshot eyeballs. It's not all for show, either—the olives add a nice brininess to the rich egg mixture.
Seafood Ramen With Squid Ink, Mussels, and Salmon Roe
For a more abstract but no less witchy take on Halloween cuisine, try building an ominous-looking bowl of ramen, starting with black-as-night squid ink spaghetti. (Boiling it with baking soda is a surprisingly effective way to give it the flavor and texture of ramen.) We serve it with squishy salmon roe and squid rings, black mussels, and dark, papery nori cut into bat shapes.
Pumpkin Cheddar Crackers
When I was a kid, no holiday was complete without the ritual of cutting out sweet, buttery sugar cookies into festive shapes. But why limit the experience to dessert when you can just as easily apply it to these crisp, flaky golden crackers packed with sharp cheddar cheese? Kids will love stamping out the pumpkins with a biscuit cutter, though slicing the ridges is probably a job best left to grown-ups.
Super-Spooky Halloween Gingerbread House
We tend to think of Christmas when we think of gingerbread houses, but here's a little secret: A haunted gingerbread house is at least as cool-looking and better suited for beginners, since any crooked edges or crumbly corners will only make it look, well, more haunted. Your imagination should steer your decorating process, so this isn't a recipe so much as a handy set of guidelines and tips, plus our free downloadable gingerbread house template. But two recipes are essential before you get started to make sure your eerie mansion doesn't collapse: our crunchy Construction Gingerbread and lean, fast-drying Royal Icing.
Homemade Milk Duds
One of the most exciting features of Halloween is the opportunity to enjoy candy that you don't eat during most of the year. Milk Duds are a case in point: I don't think I've ever eaten them more than a week before or after Halloween. But with a recipe for these chewy, chocolaty, lightly bittersweet DIY versions on hand, not only do I anticipate breaking from that tradition, I doubt I'll need the store-bought kind in the yellow box ever again. The generous dose of cream in these Duds keeps their texture soft but chewy, while tempering the chocolate allows them to stay firm at room temperature.
Vampire Mouth Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies
Who needs cheap plastic vampire teeth when you can have a mouthful that's actually edible? Loosely inspired by s'mores, these grinning cookie sandwiches are easy to make with home-baked chocolate graham crackers, red frosting "gums," and marshmallow "teeth." Fangs made of almond slivers complete the look. They may not be as wearable as the plastic variety, but they're sure to be a much bigger hit at your Halloween party.
Witch Finger Shortbread Cookies With Raspberry Jam
Halloween's the one time of year when it's okay to get a little gross in the kitchen, and these gruesome yet tasty shortbread cookies certainly deliver. As if cookies shaped like long, gnarled severed fingers, with "nails" of sliced almonds, weren't creepy enough, just bite into one and watch in horror/delight as it starts trickling
blood raspberry jam. Ewwww! But do go easy when applying the jam filling, so that it doesn't leak in the oven.
Halloween Waffle-Iron S'mores (S'moreffles)
Your homemade treats don't need to be scary to be Halloween-appropriate! If your kids end a night of trick-or-treating with more candy than they can possibly eat (as though that ever happens), we suggest you commandeer a portion of it to make these gooey waffle-iron s'mores. The batter tastes just like graham crackers, thanks to the addition of whole wheat flour and honey. We cook the waffles first, then sandwich chopped candy inside—a combination of chocolate candy, like M&M's or Reese's Pieces, and marshmallow or nougat will produce a proper s'mores effect—and press it until the filling melts.
4-Layer Halloween Ice Cream Cake
If it looks insane, that's because it is, but if you're really into Halloween (and sugar), this is no time to be reasonable or restrained. This is the candy-laden, cookie-coated ice cream cake to end all ice cream cakes. We use a base of Oreo crumbs and butter as the crust, which we top with four different mixtures of ice cream and candy—chocolate/Reese's cups, coffee/Kit Kats, dulce de leche/Twix, and vanilla/Snickers. And that's before we finish it with a drizzle of ganache.
Better Than Snickers Milkshake
There are no actual Snickers in this extra-thick milkshake, but it tastes so much like the classic candy bar that no one would know. It's made by blending softened caramel ice cream, peanut butter, and unsweetened cocoa powder, then topping with a rich caramel sauce, a fluffy cloud of whipped cream, and crunchy chopped peanuts.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Jack-o'-Lantern Cookies
The sweet cousin to the savory pumpkin cheddar crackers above, these adorable jack-o'-lantern sandwich cookies are perfect for kids. It helps that they're really easy to make—just stamp out the cookies with a pumpkin cutter, then cut eye and mouth holes into half of them and stack 'em up with a layer of smooth peanut butter in between.
Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces Blondies
As a topping for baked goods, Reese's Pieces aren't just pretty and colorful—they also stay remarkably crunchy after baking, giving you a nice contrast between crispy and soft-and-chewy. Here, we add a handful to a batch of extra-nutty blondies made with peanut butter and chopped peanuts. I like to slightly under-bake these to maintain that rich, fudgy texture.
Chocolate-Covered Candy Corn Layer Cake
No, it's not filled with or covered in candy corn: This cake is unique because its multihued layers look just like the stuff, and, thanks to extra butter and butter flavoring in the batter and icing, they taste just like it, too. By cloaking the cake in a layer of ganache, you can even keep the candy corn layers hidden until you cut it open, for dramatic effect.
Candy Corn Pecan Pie
I know what you're thinking: Why would you ever add candy—and a particularly sweet candy, at that—to one of the most notoriously sweet pies around? We don't have a good excuse, but there is some method to this madness: As the candy corn melts into the rich filling, it also adds a nice little whiff of vanilla.
Easy, portable, crowd-pleasing, and single-serving, cupcakes are a natural choice for bringing to a Halloween party. If you're handy with a piping bag, you have no shortage of options for giving these chocolate cupcakes a spooky look. But if you're not, or don't want to take the time? A simple ghost face, made with marshmallow frosting and dark-chocolate chips for eyes and mouth, will do nicely.
Chili-Chocolate Spider Cupcakes
If you want a slightly more dressed-up cupcake, these concoctions will score you points for both their cuteness and the serious chili kick that they conceal. The spider bodies are made of chili-spiked ganache, with licorice strings for legs, slivered-almond fangs, and bulging sour-candy eyes. A layer of white-chocolate ganache in lurid green lends the cakes a touch of ectoplasmic color.
Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes
Baked in muffin tins with a crust of vanilla wafer cookies, these creamy chocolate mini cheesecakes are another great option for individually sized desserts. Even when glazed with delicate white-chocolate "spiderwebs," they're pretty enough to be a year-round treat.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
Apart from the fact that it's delicious, peanut butter is a powerhouse secret ingredient in ice cream—it has enough fat and protein to make a stable mixture without requiring a cooked custard. That cuts down on the active time and makes it much easier to prepare large batches, which you'll certainly want to do for this one: a creamy, rich peanut butter ice cream, cut by a ribbon of chewy dark-chocolate fudge and dotted with chopped Reese's cups.
Peanut Butter Cup Pie
Ever fantasized about making the big Reese's Peanut Butter Cups even bigger? Like, dinner-plate big? This pie is essentially just that: a giant-size peanut butter cup, fit for serious PB lovers only. We fill a chocolate wafer crumb crust with a filling based on a blend of peanut butter and cream cheese, then top it off with a dark-chocolate ganache. All that's missing is the mammoth foil wrapper.