Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on August 20, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

Pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving dessert. Want to add some other options? Try these three.

  • Personal-sized lemon cranberry pudding cakes
  • Holiday shortbread
  • Gingerbread muffins

Personal-Sized Lemon Cranberry Pudding Cakes

If you can't find fresh or frozen cranberries, you can substitute 1/3 cup dried cranberries.


  • Canola cooking spray
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature, separated (1 yolk discarded)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons whipped butter (room temperature) or less-fat margarine with 8 grams fat per tablespoon
  • 2 tablespoons egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk (2% or whole milk can also be used), divided
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • Light whipped cream (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center of the oven. Coat the inside of six, 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins or custard cups with canola cooking spray. Arrange the cups in a 9x13-inch baking dish.

2. Add 3 egg whites to large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer (if using standing mixer, use the whisk attachment) on medium speed until the whites are foamy (30-60 seconds). Increase speed to high and beat until whites hold soft peaks (about 1 minute more). With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly add 1/4 cup sugar (take about a minute to do this). Scrape sides of bowl before beating on high speed for 30 seconds longer. Spoon egg whites into medium bowl and set aside.

3. Add butter or margarine, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 2 egg yolks, and 2 tablespoons egg substitute to large mixing bowl with whisk beater (instead of the paddle) and beat on medium speed until smooth (at least 1 minute). Add 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup of milk and beat on low speed to blend into the egg mixture. Beat in remaining milk and lemon juice until smooth.

4. Add a third of beaten egg whites and lemon zest to the egg yolk mixture. Folding in by hand with spoon or spatula until combined. Continue incorporating the remaining egg whites into batter.

5. Divide batter among the prepared cups (the cakes won’t rise, so you can fill them to within 1/8 inch of the top). Sprinkle 1/8 cup cranberries over top of each cup. Press them 1/4 inch down under the surface. Pour hot water from tap into 9x13-inch baking pan so water reaches halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until tops of cakes are light golden. When you touch the top with your finger, they will feel spongy (25 to 30 minutes).

6. With oven mitt or tongs, move cups to a rack to cool to room temperature. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to serve chilled. Add dollop of light whipped cream if desired.

Yield: 6 individual cakes

Per serving: 195 calories, 5 g protein, 34 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1.3 g saturated fat, 1.8 g monounsaturated fat, 1.4 g polyunsaturated fat, 72 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 175 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 22%. Omega-3 fatty acids = 0.2 g, Omega-6 fatty acids = 1 g.

Holiday Shortbread

Buttery but still light, this holiday shortbread is another way to showcase the ultimate Thanksgiving fruit -- cranberries.


  • 1/2 cup whipped butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup less-fat margarine with no trans fat (8 grams fat per tablespoon)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Continue reading below...
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat an 8-inch tart dish with scalloped edges (if available) with canola cooking spray; set aside.

2. In mixing bowl, using electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream whipped butter, margarine, and 3/4 cup powdered sugar together on low speed until blended, then increase to medium speed for about 20 seconds. On low speed, add vanilla and dried cranberries. Slowly add both flours and beat only until combined.

3. Spread dough into prepared pan by dusting top of dough with a tablespoon of powdered sugar and then pressing with your fingers to evenly fill the pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until just light brown around the edges. Let cool about 15 minutes. Cut into 16 wedges and serve.

Yield: about 16 wedges

Per serving: 154 calories, 2 g protein, 18.5 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g monounsaturated fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 81 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 45%. Omega-3 fatty acids = 0.2 g, Omega-6 fatty acids = 1.6 g. Weight Watchers points = 3.

Gingerbread Muffins

There’s something magical about the smell of gingerbread welcoming guests as they walk through the door. This gingerbread recipe makes muffins, more so than a cake, because it calls for less sugar and a lot less fat than is normally used in gingerbread cake.


  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or substitute 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (fat free or light) or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses (mild flavor if available)
  • 1 large egg, higher omega-3 if available
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • Powdered sugar for dusting over the top of the muffins (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put muffin liners in 20 muffin cups.

2. In a small bowl, combine baking soda with boiling water and stir briefly; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, salt, and baking powder.

3. Fit electric mixer with paddle attachment. In large mixing bowl, beat canola oil and sour cream or yogurt on medium speed. Switch to low speed and add molasses, baking soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in egg and egg substitute.

4. Fill muffin cups each with about 1/4 cup of batter. Bake until the top center of a muffin barely springs back when gently pressed (about 22-25 minutes). Let muffins cool, then dust with powdered sugar.

Yield: 20 muffins

Per muffin: 150 calories, 3 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 3.1 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 1.9 g monounsaturated fat, 0.9 g polyunsaturated fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 250 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 18%. Omega-3 fatty acids = 0.3 g, Omega-6 fatty acids = 0.6 g.