Maybe you shouldn't have room for dessert after you've just consumed a huge Thanksgiving dinner, but let's be real—most of our stomachs contain a sort of magical cupboard that always has a slot available for a slice of pie. It's precious little space, though, which is why you shouldn't allocate it to just any ol' waxy supermarket number. If you're going to invest in that most classic and comforting Thanksgiving dessert, you ought to make it a really good homemade one.
Fortunately, reports of how hard it is to make a terrific pie have been greatly exaggerated. Start with your choice of our two pie dough recipes: one super-quick and easy, using a food processor, or one made the low-tech, old-fashioned way. Both result in pie crusts that are flaky, tender, and buttery, baking up into a lightly crispy golden shell around your filling of choice. And, as you'll see from the list below, we have a lot of fillings to pick from—from improved versions of the holiday usuals, like pumpkin and apple, to screw-tradition-I'm-eating-what-I-like options, like Snickers and crème brûlée. Need a little extra reassurance? We've even included step-by-step photo guides for some of our favorites.
Classic Thanksgiving Pies, Step by Step
Extra-Smooth Pumpkin Pie
The unpleasantly wet and grainy consistency that characterizes your typical store-bought pumpkin pie has generally steered me away from that most iconic of Thanksgiving desserts. A good start on preventing that texture is adequately puréeing the filling and making sure not to overcook it. This recipe has one other trick up its sleeve, though: Blending cream cheese into the pumpkin filling makes it smooth and creamy, gives it a mild tanginess, and keeps the moisture level in check.
Perfect Apple Pie
For a fall-perfect apple pie with a filling that's juicy yet firm, par-cook the sliced apples in boiling water (or cider) before baking, which activates an enzyme that helps prevent the fruit from turning to mush in the oven. We season our apple pie very simply, with just a pinch each of cinnamon and salt.
Classic Pecan Pie
With its creamy texture and butterscotch-y sweetness, pecan pie filling is not only delicious (intense, yes, but delicious!), it's also one of the easiest pie fillings you can make. The simple corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla mixture comes together with just a single bowl and no par-cooking. Be sure to cover the pecan topping with foil for part of the baking time to keep it from burning.
Cranberry Apple Slab Pie
Even though our Easy Pie Dough makes the process approachable, pie isn't the easiest dish to scale up for large groups. For that, you need a slab pie, which can be made in a large sheet pan just as easily as in a smaller one. This rustic dessert—layered with sliced apples and fresh and macerated cranberries, then topped with a sweet brown-sugar crumble—is enough to feed 16 (provided everyone limits themselves to one piece, that is).
Classic Pumpkin Pie
A simple pumpkin pie is the most familiar of all Thanksgiving desserts, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved upon with good technique and quality ingredients. We recommend using homemade pumpkin purée for greater complexity of flavor and smoother texture; if you're going store-bought, look for pure pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie filling. Process it thoroughly with the evaporated milk, brown sugar, and spices to get it completely creamy.
Pumpkin Mousse Pie
Pie may be a mandatory part of any Thanksgiving feast, but after a gut-buster of a meal, it makes sense to keep yours on the more delicate side. This recipe does the trick, folding whipped cream into a pumpkin custard to create an airy, creamy texture in the filling. The cookie crust, spiced with ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, complements the mellow pumpkin flavor and keeps the entire dessert pleasantly light.
Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Pie
You may never have experienced pumpkin and chocolate paired in a dessert, but don't write the combination off—they go together wonderfully, the rich, bittersweet cocoa offsetting the squash's natural sugars. Making it is as easy as adding a swirl of chopped chocolate melted with butter to a basic pumpkin pie filling.
Gooey Apple Pie
Prefer your apple pie smooth and syrupy inside, rather than juicy? Here, we cook down the apples to remove excess moisture and add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to turn the filling gooey and thick. The result is a pie that slices cleanly and holds its shape, revealing tender apple slices that remain intact in a just-sweet-enough sauce.
Caramel Apple Pie
Caramel and apples are always a winning combination, and adding a creamy, slightly bitter homemade caramel to your apple pie is a sure way to make it extra special. It's also not as hard as you think—just keep the sides of your pot clean and keep a careful eye on the heat. This caramel pairs especially well with Northern Spy apples, for a nice sweet/tart contrast.
Apple-Pecan Bourbon-Caramel Pie
For those of us who just can't choose between apple and pecan pie, this recipe offers the best of both worlds: a rich pecan/bourbon/caramel topping that adds just enough sweetness to earthy sautéed apples without overwhelming them. And it's surprisingly easy, too, since each component is prepared separately, then stacked.
Rustic Apple-Cranberry Pie
Too harried to consider all that careful pressing and crimping of pie crust? Here's your solution: a freeform pie (a.k.a. galette) that's as easy as it is delicious. Simply roll out a large dough round and place it on a sheet pan, spoon the tart-and-sweet apple-cranberry filling into the center, and fold the edges over and inward. As a bonus, all those exposed edges of crust will get deeply golden brown and crisp in the oven.
Cream and Custard Pies
The Ultimate Snickers Pie
Tradition, schmadition. If Halloween wasn't enough to satisfy your lust for candy, drop all pretense of adhering to the usual pumpkin and pecan and go for this Snickers-inspired pie, which mimics the flavors of the candy bar with caramelized condensed-milk ice cream, chocolate caramel sauce, and white chocolate peanut butter. A sprinkling of chopped peanuts to finish gives it a nice crunch.
Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
Sugar cream pie isn't widely known across the country, but it has a special place in the hearts of folks from Indiana. It's a sweet and simple mixture of sugar and cream in a butter crust; we use equal parts white, light brown, and dark brown sugar, and thicken the filling with flour.
Double-Crusted Buttermilk Pie
For a dessert with a custardy consistency similar to that of sugar cream pie, but a little more restrained on the sweetness front, try buttermilk pie—you get the same custardy texture, while the tanginess of the dairy balances out the sugar in the nutmeg-scented filling. Though it's usually a single-crusted pie, we add a top crust here for extra crispy texture. Make sure to cut a little opening in that top crust, mainly so that you can tell when the custard has set.
Crème Brûlée Pie
Thanksgiving is a time to eat family-style; who wants to bother with fussy little individual ramekins for dessert? That's how this pie was born. Though crème brûlée's creamy richness makes it a great pie filling, the typical formula leaves it too runny, so we enrich it with an extra egg white. Blind-baking the pie shell is necessary for avoiding a soggy crust.