I'm going to be honest—I'm not much of a Halloween fan. I don't like scary movies and have never been one for costumes, and the average Halloween party goes way past my bedtime. I am, however, always on board for food.
You might think Halloween is all about the candy, and we do love a good excuse to pound Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But over the years, we've been inspired to create a whole range of Halloween recipes for homemade treats both savory and sweet.
Below are 20 of our favorites, including some that play within the sugar-overload theme—from witch-finger cookies to the biggest peanut butter cup you've ever seen—and a few more dinner-appropriate items, like a festive orange and black roasted-carrot dish and ghostly pan pizzas. For the crafty among you, we've even got a wicked haunted gingerbread house that's as tasty as it is terrifying impressive.
Savory Halloween Recipes
Roasted Carrots With Black Sesame Dressing
To give roasted carrots a Halloween-appropriate twist, serve them with a jet-black sauce made with earthy black sesame paste, tart lemon juice, and olive oil. The sesame paste is just bitter enough to cut through the sweetness of the carrots, and minced parsley gives the side some freshness.
Ghost and Spider Pan Pizza
Sometimes making a Halloween dish is as simple as adding some spooky decorations to a normal recipe. Here, that means starting with our foolproof pan pizza and topping it with mozzarella ghost cutouts (complete with slivers of black olives for eyes) and black-olive spiders speared with rosemary needles for legs.
Seafood Ramen With Squid Ink, Mussels, and Salmon Roe
Black-as-night squid-ink spaghetti lends itself naturally to Halloween festivities. To make it even scarier, though, we top a bowlful of it with lurid orange salmon roe, squishy mussels, rings of slippery squid, and "bats" cut out from sheets of nori. True, spaghetti generally wouldn't be mistaken for ramen, but we've found that boiling the noodles with baking soda makes them taste remarkably similar.
Pumpkin Cheddar Crackers
Sugar cookies are fun to make and decorate for any holiday, but as I've grown up and my tastes have changed, I'm happy to apply my cookie cutters to a more savory recipe, like these thick, flaky, and buttery biscuit-like crackers. It's a great recipe to tackle alongside your kids, who can go to town stamping out the pumpkin shapes; the knife-cut ridges are probably best left to a grown-up.
Sweet Halloween Recipes
Black Sesame Ice Cream
The secret to both the charcoal color and the surprisingly nutty flavor of this moody-looking ice cream is a Japanese-style black sesame paste—substituting it with the stuff available on supermarket shelves just won't do the trick. The paste is made from roasted, un-hulled sesame seeds, which results in a toasty and ever-so-slightly bitter flavor; we temper it here with a little brown sugar.
Super-Spooky Halloween Gingerbread House
Gingerbread houses are traditionally a Christmas treat, but if you can't wait until December, how about making a haunted gingerbread house? It starts with a crunchy construction gingerbread and fast-drying royal icing that you could use for any gingerbread edifice, but the decorations make it clear what holiday we're celebrating. Our free downloadable template makes it easy to plot out and build your very own house of horrors, even if you're a gingerbread-house newbie.
Homemade Milk Duds
I've always treated Halloween mostly as an excuse to eat candy that I would never buy during the rest of the year—but I might have to stop buying Milk Duds even at Halloween, because these lightly bittersweet DIY versions are so much tastier. Plenty of cream in the caramel means it comes out nicely soft and chewy. Follow Kenji's instructions for tempering chocolate to create a smooth chocolate coating, into which you'll plunge the caramels by hand—this is definitely a recipe for those who don't mind getting a little messy.
Made-From-Scratch Caramel Apples
Ever cracked a tooth on a caramel apple? Yeah, not fun. No risk of that with this recipe: The caramel we use is tender enough to chomp through with ease, even as it's thick enough to fully coat the apple. Its taste isn't overpowering, either; you'll get plenty of caramel depth without completely obliterating the fruit's flavor.
Vampire Mouth Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies
A cross between s'mores and those cheap plastic vampire teeth that pop up at Halloween parties, these impressive sandwich cookies are made with home-baked chocolate graham crackers, red frosting "gums," marshmallow "teeth," and slivered-almond "fangs." We use a tangy cream cheese frosting for the gums, which cuts through the sweetness of the marshmallows and graham crackers.
Witch Finger Shortbread Cookies With Raspberry Jam
Fake vampire fangs a little too cutesy for you? If you're more into the blood-and-gore side of Halloween, these shortbread cookies are the ticket. They're shaped like severed gnarled fingers, which makes them pretty gross to start. But the real kicker comes when you bite into them and they start "bleeding" a filling of raspberry jam.
Four-Layer Halloween Ice Cream Cake
This monstrous ice cream cake could have you in a sugar coma before you even head out trick-or-treating. So save it for afterward, when you'll have Halloween candy you'll need to get rid of anyway! An Oreo crust is topped with four different layers of candy-packed ice cream—we combine chocolate ice cream with Reese's cups, coffee ice cream with Kit Kats, dulce de leche with Twix, and vanilla with Snickers. But we also drizzle the whole thing with ganache, just for good measure.
Better Than Snickers Milkshake
This milkshake won't require you to dip into your Halloween haul. Rather than using actual Snickers, we simply mimic the flavors of the classic candy bar, blending together caramel ice cream, peanut butter, and unsweetened cocoa powder. A topping of caramel sauce, whipped cream, and chopped peanuts (and a maraschino cherry, naturally) finishes it off.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Jack-o'-Lantern Cookies
More cute than creepy, these kid-friendly jack-o'-lantern sandwich cookies are super easy to make—just stamp out the chocolate dough with a pumpkin-shaped cutter, carve out eyes and mouths in half of the cutouts, then sandwich one cut and one uncut cookie around a layer of creamy peanut butter.
Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces Blondies
Reese's Pieces are wonderful for topping baked goods because, apart from adding a nice touch of color, they remain surprisingly crunchy after coming out of the oven. The crispy candy provides a nice textural contrast to the blondies, which we under-bake slightly so they come out soft and fudgy.
Chocolate-Covered Candy Corn Layer Cake
The monochromatic icing on this cake hides a surprise—cut it open, and you'll find three layers of cake colored to look just like candy corn. The cake has the intensely buttery flavor of candy corn, too, thanks to a couple sticks of actual butter and several tablespoons of butter flavoring.
Candy Corn Pecan Pie
Sure, it could seem like overkill to add a notoriously sweet candy to a notoriously sweet pie, but Halloween isn't a time for moderation in sugar (did you see the ice cream cake above?). If you really need an excuse, I will say that the candy corn gives the pecan pie filling a pleasant vanilla note as it melts. But the real reason for this pie is the fact that Halloween comes only once a year. Embrace the sweetness.
Chili-Chocolate Spider Cupcakes
Options for decorating Halloween-y cupcakes are limited only by your imagination and your patience. This recipe, for instance, is a little bit more involved than the previous one, but it's guaranteed to be a hit at any party. We top green-frosted chocolate cupcakes with spicy chocolate spiders made with ganache, licorice-string legs, slivered-almond fangs, and sour-candy eyes. A small amount of chili flakes added to the ganache for the spider bodies gives the cupcakes just enough kick.
Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes
Cupcakes aren't the only option if you want an individually sized dessert, and trust us, no one is going to complain if you show up to a party with mini chocolate cheesecakes baked in muffin tins. Made on a vanilla wafer cookie base and topped with lacy white chocolate "spiderweb" designs, these cheesecakes are the perfect treat for a more elegant Halloween shindig.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
Peanut butter is a godsend when you want ice cream without putting in the work of cooking a custard—all of its fat and protein lets you make a stable no-cook base. It also tastes pretty good, especially when paired with dark-chocolate fudge and chopped Reese's cups, for a Halloween candy–centric dessert.
Peanut Butter Cup Pie
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups come in a variety of sizes, but I bet you've never seen one quite like this. To make a pie-sized peanut butter cup, we start with a chocolate wafer crumb crust, spoon in a peanut-butter-and-cream-cheese filling, and top it all with dark-chocolate ganache. The recipe doesn't say to wrap the whole thing in decorative foil to complete the effect, but I'm not going to tell you not to do it, either.