Unusual recipes

Perfect Thanksgiving Pies

Perfect Thanksgiving Pies

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Everyone saves room for pie at Thanksgiving dinner, right? This year, don't make the same pie again. We took the classics and jazzed them up for a fun new take on Thanksgiving dessert. Pair them with a few new fun, creative pies, and you're sure to have a spread the whole family will love. You need not limit yourself to classic pie or pumpkin versions. Add adventure to your Thanksgiving menu with ingredients like lavender, pomegranate seeds, or chai, and you can take your dessert table from basic to wow-worthy. To save yourself some time (and oven space), you could even add a no-bake pie or pick one that freezes well so you can make in advance and thaw for the Turkey Day meal.

Pecan-Date Pie

Our 100% whole-grain pie shaves more than one-third of the sugar and calories off the classic, and it cuts saturated fat in half. Toasting the pecans intensifies their flavor and adds notes of caramel.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

A quick homemade caramel sauce that’s folded into fresh apple slices and baked in a whole-grain crust takes this classic holiday pie to the next level. A hint of salt in the sauce intensifies the apple flavor and balances the sweetness. Apples contain a natural thickener called pectin; grating some of the fruit will ensure a gooey, cohesive mixture once baked. Crisp, sweet Fuji apples bake beautifully and will contrast the salty caramel. You can also use Cripps Pink or Honeycrisp apples.

Pumpkin-Praline Pie

If you can’t decide between pecan and pumpkin pie, this dessert will give you a taste of both in one slice. A quick brown sugar–pecan streusel tops the pie after it bakes; the topping will set into a crunchy layer as the pie cools. Be sure to use a standard 9-inch pie plate rather than a deep-dish one to ensure an evenly baked crust.

Miso Caramel-Apple Pie

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

You've no doubt heard of--and enjoyed--salted caramel. Miso caramel takes that concept one step further, offering te irresistible salty-sweet flavor combo along with a richness that's unparalleled. You may just love this caramel so much that you want to make a big batch for yourself or to give as holiday gifts; we won't blame you. And even though this pie is rather decadent, it still comes in with 12g less sugar than a popular online version of caramel apple pie. Ever been disappointed by an apple pie where the fruit was still just a little crunchy, not tender as you'd hoped for? This recipe makes sure you end up with buttery-soft fruit by first covering the raw apple slices with boiling water to soften them before they even go in the crust.

Coffee-Hazelnut Pie

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Shake up your Thanksgiving buffet with this incredible offering. Taking inspiration from the best part of classic pecan pie (the sweet goo!), this nutty treat serves several tasty upgrades while still cutting sugar by more than a third. Toasted hazelnuts offer supreme crunch and a sweetness unsurpassed by any other nut, while instant coffee and coffee liqueur deepen the flavor with delightful bitter nuances. And that dollop of chocolate-hazelnut spread? That's simply a touch of sweet genius, as is the sprinkling of flaky salt on top. Make the pie up to a day ahead and refrigerate; be sure to let it sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving to wake up all the flavors.

Chai Carrot Pie

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Staple spice-rack spices create all the depth of classic chai tea in this luscious, carrot-packed, whole-grain dessert. It's a cross between a play on pumpkin pie and carrot cake: The texture and flavor are reminiscent of the former, and the layers--cream cheese mixture on the bottom, spiced carrot filling on top--are inspired by the latter. To get a big head start, you can make and freeze the crust up to a week ahead. A combination of butter and shortening in the crust is ideal--butter for its rich flavor, and shortening to create a flaky texture. We recommend Earth Balance shortening (found with the other shortenings in large supermarkets or health-focused stores) because, unlike most other shortenings, it contains no trans fats.

Chessame Pie

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

A playful and delicious twist on traditional chess pie, this treat gets a triple shot of rich sesame flavor—white sesame seeds in the crust, tahini in the filling, and black sesame seeds on top (feel free to use white sesame seeds there if you can’t find black). These nutty touches allow Darcy to use less sugar than traditional chess pie recipes, which often call for 2 cups. If you’d like to play up the “chess” pie angle, do as Darcy does, and arrange the black sesame seeds in a checkerboard pattern on top of the pie. A touch of vodka in the pie crust is a great baker’s trick; it makes it the crust more flaky and tender, and it evaporates out as the crust bakes so you have no residual alcohol flavor. We like the depth that sherry vinegar adds to the filling, but you can also use apple cider vinegar for similar results.

Can't Be Beet Tart with Goat Cheese

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

This is the dessert you cook when you want to make a big impression. Everything about it, from the ginger kick in the crust to the sweet earthiness of the beets in the filling to the rich goat cheese in the topping, comes together in beautiful harmony. Be sure to use an 11-inch tart pan to accommodate the filling; a 10-inch pie plate will work in a pinch. Look for buttermilk powder on the baking or with the powdered milk.

Lavender Rice Pudding Tarts

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

In a stroke of pure genius, Darcy transforms the homey, comforting dessert of rice pudding into pie. And why not? Rice pudding is a starchy, creamy delight, so it makes a perfect pie filling—especially when it’s going into a pine nut–flavored crust. Some traditional rice pudding recipes use lots of sweetened condensed milk, but this one uses just 1/3 cup sugar for a not-too-sweet treat. Dried lavender, used judiciously, adds just the right amount of floral essence to lend an air of elegance, while blueberry jam spooned on at the end brightens with a tangy, fruity lift (raspberry jam would be delicious as well). If you don’t have rectangular tart pans, you can make 2 larger tarts in 14- x 41⁄2-inch pans.

Roasted Pumpkin Pie

By roasting the pumpkin whole, you avoid cutting it open and scooping out the seeds and membrane. If you'd like, serve pie with a dollop of lightly sweetened 2% reduced-fat yogurt.

Pomegranate-Orange Tart with Pistachio Shortbread Crust

Photo: Christopher Testani

A handful of blueberries boosts the color of the filling and deliver irresistible sweetness.

Double-Crust Apple Pie

A double crust seals in the apples' natural juices as the pie bakes for full-on apple flavor. Tossing the apples with apple juice keeps them from browning as you peel and slice them, and it adds a boost of apple flavor.

Cranberry-Orange Tart

This fall dessert takes you straight into winter with its citrus flavor and warm berry filling. It makes a beautiful finale for a dinner party, or a memorable weeknight treat.

Maple Pumpkin Pie With a Message

To use up the leftover pumpkin, try adding some to a breakfast smoothie, or stir into pancake batter. Or combine with a splash of half-and-half, season with sage, and toss with pasta.

Port-Glazed Pear Tart with Rosemary-Cornmeal Crust

The shortbread-like crust stands up well to a luscious ricotta filling that's topped with pretty port-stained pears. Larger pear wedges (as shown) are stunning; you can also cut the pears into thin slices and arrange spokelike on top. Prepare the crust and pears up to 1 day ahead and refrigerate. Assemble just before serving.

Hasselback Apple Tart

We already love our Hasselback Apples but we thought, how can we take this individually sized dessert and turn it into something that is easy and portable for holiday dinners? By following our recipe, we just took it a step further by nuzzling each cinnamon-streusel apple onto a sheet of puff pastry. The final result? The Hasselback Apple Tart.

Maple-Walnut Cranberry Pie

While the buttery, maple-scented filling is inspired by classic pecan pie, we swap in toasted walnuts and add chopped fresh cranberries for a beautiful pop of color and tart flavor contrast that cuts the sweetness.

Maple-Pecan Pie

Photo: Courtesy of Oxmoor House

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a pecan pie. If you have gluten-free family members, this pie will be a real treat for them.

Mocha Pie with Coffee Whipped Cream

This pie comes together quickly and won't hog oven space as it chills and sets in the fridge (a great make-ahead option). You can use decaf instant coffee granules instead of regular, or leave them out entirely for a silky-smooth chocolate pie with vanilla topping.

Sweet Potato Pie

Photo: Courtesy of Oxmoor House

An alternative to the old-fashioned pumpkin pie, this gluten-free sweet potato dessert is seasoned to perfection with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Serve with a large dollop of light whipped topping dusted with nutmeg, and savor each heavenly bite.

Cheddar-Apple Pie

Photo: Courtesy of Oxmoor House

Tart and tangy, sweet and spiced, this intensely flavored homemade apple pie is thickly layered into a sharp cheddar cheese-enhanced crust. It's a gluten-free remake of an American classic.

Double-Banana Cream Pie

Photo Courtesy of Oxmoor House

Thick vanilla custard is layered with ripe bananas in a sweet arrowroot-cookie crust. You'll hear "mmm" with each bite.

Cranberry-Walnut Tart

Photo Courtesy of Oxmoor House

This tart has a great basic gluten-free crust. The white rice flour and tapioca flour have a neutral taste that allows the flavor of the butter to stand out, while the shortening ensures flakiness. Fresh cranberries and walnuts in the filling make this the perfect tart to serve around the holidays.

Sweet Potato Pie with Spiced Cream Topping

Tangy cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk combine for a creamy contrast to the sweet potato layer. You can prepare this pie up to two days ahead and refrigerate.

Shaker-ish Lemon Pie

Traditional Shaker lemon pie uses the whole lemon, pith and all. This version uses only the rind and the meaty-juicy lemon part, leaving the pith for those hearty Shakers. Macerating the rinds in sugar for 24 hours tenderizes them and reduces bitterness. There's rich caramel flavor in the golden cane syrup; light-colored corn syrup will work fine, too, but the flavor won't be quite as rich.

Chai Cream Pie

Cinnamon, ginger, and black tea combine for an enticing and unexpected blend of spices and flavors in our Chai Cream Pie. Serve with after-dinner coffee for a new dessert that is sure to become an instant favorite.

Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

The Meyer adds a gorgeous tang to a tasty twist on classic citrus curd.

Mississippi Mud Pie

It may not be the prettiest pie, but many folks speculate this cross between a chocolate-bottomed pie and a chocolate cake was named for its textural similarity to the rich, gooey mud found all along America's greatest river.

Silky Sweet Potato and Pecan Pie

Toasted pecans make a delicious garnish, adding crunch and adorning it like a necklace.

Double Nut-Chocolate Tart

Photo Courtesy of Oxmoor House

This dark, almondy, and rich-tasting tart requires much less sugar and butter than the standard fare. It's almost a flourless chocolate cake, but a little bit of brown rice flour is added to give it some structure and help it develop a nice crust.

Rich Chocolate Pudding Pie

Melted chocolate binds cookie crumbs for the crust—and makes it extra delicious. Substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for the rum.

Gingery Cranberry-Pear Pie with Oatmeal Streusel

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Combine the best of fall and winter flavors in this must-try pie recipe. The oatmeal streusel topping shines as a crunchy companion to the tart-sweet filling.

Honey-Pecan Tart with Bittersweet Chocolate Drizzle

Traditional pecan pie gets a delicious flavor update, with honey's sweet-tangy touch countered by bittersweet chocolate. If you'd like a more casual pie, you can make this in a 9-inch pie plate; you'll probably need to bake the filling an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

Meringue-Topped Cranberry Curd Tart Recipe

Making perfect pastry depends mostly on how well you coat flour proteins with fat—more difficult in a low-fat recipe. You want to leave small clumps of fat in the dough (here, from vegetable shortening) so they'll melt during cooking and give off steam, creating luscious layers. Meanwhile, we melted the butter so it would coat more than it would in solid form.

Spiced Apple Two-Bite Tarts

The nutty pastry is absolutely delicious, like pecan shortbread. You can make the tart shells and filling the day before and assemble just before serving: Place the shells in an airtight container and chill the filling, bringing it to room temperature before placing it in the shells so it's not ice-cold. The crème fraîche dollop is more than just a pretty garnish; its rich, tangy flavor makes these sublime.

Rustic Apple Tart

Purchased piecrust dough is a convenient time-saver. We like the flavor combo of sweet Golden Delicious and tart Granny Smith apples, but you can use any apple variety (or combination of apples) you like.

Chocolate-Walnut Meringue Pie

This is a pie that's dressed up for the prom. Inside, it's an old-fashioned, dense, sweet chocolate pie, but it's encased in a refined walnut crust and topped with elegant toasted meringue.

Pear Tarte Tatin

This dessert may be just as beautiful as it is delicious. Pears, always a festive holiday fruit, are surrounded by crispy sheets of phyllo dough to create an absolute palate pleaser.

Oat-Crusted Pecan Pie With Fresh Cranberry Sauce

The pie and sauce can each be made up to two days ahead. Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil for the last eight minutes of baking if it begins to brown too much.

Pecan Pie With Spiked Cream

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Brown rice syrup is a sweetener with a soft, delicate flavor. It is sold in jars in the baking section of large supermarkets or health-food stores. You can substitute dark corn syrup in its place. You can make and freeze the unbaked crust up to a week ahead; bake the pie up to a day in advance, and refrigerate. Remove it from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to serve it.

Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie

We love the combo of deep, rich chocolate and the tingly pinch of cinnamon and red pepper. We also enjoy the ease and forgiving nature of a graham cracker crust, which is less fussy than pastry. If you can't find espresso granules with the coffee, look in the Latin-foods section (that's where we sometimes find them).

Lighter Key Lime Pie

There's an addictive quality to Key lime pie's finely tuned balance of the sweet and the tart, the creamy and the crunchy, all crowned with fluffy cream. It seems so airy, but it's 500 calories of airy. Time for a makeover, indeed.

Shoofly Pie

The name for this Pennsylvania Dutch treat likely came from the flies it attracts when it's pulled from the oven and left to cool on a breezy windowsill.

Bourbon-Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Pecan pie is often purely sweet with no undertones, but the bourbon, molasses, and chocolate in this beautiful centerpiece dessert all add complexity of flavor. It's also somewhat thinner than a pie, meaning you get more buttery, flaky crust in each bite.

Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie

Maple syrup and bourbon infuse the pie with distinctive sweetness. For a decadent treat, top warm pie with low-fat vanilla ice cream.

Cranberry-Apple Pie

This juicy double-crusted beauty combines two favorite fall season flavors. We suggest using Grade B maple syrup in the pie filling because it is less refined and has stronger maple taste, though grade A will work just fine in this recipe.

Ginger Pumpkin Pie with Toasted Coconut

Ginger and coconut add warm, flavorful accents to this Thanksgiving classic. If you'd like a dollop of something creamy, top with fat-free whipped topping.

French Apple Tart

The free-form apple tart is mighty easy because it works from a store-bought crust—yet it's just spectacular, and so evocative of the season.

Quince Tart with Pine Nut Caramel Glaze

For that elegant dinner, consider a pine nut-studded quince tart—an exotic Old World sweet to give thanks for. Quince is a hard fall fruit with sweet-tangy flavor. You'll find quince paste in specialty stores and most supermarkets.

Coconut Cream Pie

With flavors better than the traditional version, the Cooking Light Test Kitchen shaved over 200 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat off this coconut cream pie while still maintaining its creamy, fluffy Italian meringue.

Walnut-Crusted Apple Pie

One of our first apple pies after launching this magazine had an interesting walnut crust, filled with healthy fats and nutty flavor. We remade this class pie and developed a version that has a few more calories than in 1987, but still has only half those in a typical bakery pie.

Frangipane Pear Tarts

Sheets of crisp, paper-thin phyllo dough encase a filling of toasted ground almonds, with red-skinned pears as the crowning touch. We call for Anjou, but you can also use Bartlett, Bosc, or Concorde pears.

Caramel Apple Pie

An iconic holiday dessert served with a quick caramel sauce, this pie won’t be on your table for long. Who can resist the crunch topping that blankets the even more irresistible sweet and delicious apple filling?

Chocolate-Cream Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This lightened version of classic chocolate cream pie features a smooth, rich chocolate filling and a creamy topping, but has only 8 grams of fat per serving.

Key Lime Pie

Billowy meringue crowns a sunny citrus filling in a pie with about one-fourth the fat of classic versions. Vastly lighter but with that crucial balance of lime and sweetness. Best enjoyed the day it’s made.

Pear-Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This pie's strength lies in the amalgamation of many different textures and flavors. Crisp pear and tart cranberries are held in an ooey-gooey brown-sugar filling, topped with a crunchy, nutty streusel. Using a premade crust means there's almost no work involved. Assembly takes maybe five minutes―throw it in the oven, and you're done.

Roasted Pear Creme Brulee Tart

"Since most people make an effort to save room for dessert, I came up with something special. This tart combines elements of every good dessert--flaky crust, crunchy caramelized sugar, creamy custard, and soft roasted fruit. You can make all the components ahead of time, but brûlée the pears just before serving." —SaBrina Bone, Test Kitchen Professional

Caramel-Apple Crumb Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This is a variation on the classic apple pie; it has a rich caramel syrup drizzled over the apples and is topped with a crunchy streusel.

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Refrigerated pie dough makes this classic pumpkin pie recipe simple to prepare. Bake the pie on a baking sheet in the lower third of the oven to encourage a crisp crust.

Peanut Butter Pie

The reader who submitted this for the Reader Recipe column compared its flavor to a chocolate peanut butter candy bar. We agree, and also think this uncomplicated pie is such a snap to prepare that it's perfect for any occasion, from a birthday to an I-just-feel-like-pie day.

Black Bottom Banana-Cream Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Make the ultimate cream pie by adding a chocolate layer to the creamy banana pie filling and topping with chocolate curls.

Peanut Butter-Banana Pie

Add sweet, nutty flavor to a basic banana cream pie by stirring peanut butter into the pie filling. Bananas that are firm rather than extra-ripe work best in this pie.

Adreena Barmakian and Jayne Cohen's Apple Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Barmakian and Cohen teamed up to create this traditional pie. They used Cortland apples; we found that Pacific Rose apples also work well.

Double-Chocolate Cream Pie

You can use the cookie crust from Peanut Butter-Banana Pie if you don't want to make this homemade pastry crust. Grate the chocolate with a handheld grater or zester, or use the smallest holes on your box grater.

Cinnamon Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Pie

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Condensed milk helps create a dense, moist, and creamy filling for this pie. Add the topping of pecans, oats, and spice, and you've got the perfect marriage of luscious and crunchy. Hearty and filling, this pie is a real taste of the season.

Graham Cracker Pie

Pair with fresh seasonal fruit for a light and delicious dessert that won't leave you feeling like you've overindulged.

Harvest Pie

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This treat replaces traditional pumpkin with butternut squash, to addictive effect if you ask reader Julie: "We loved this recipe. We served it warm that very night and ate it again for breakfast the next morning. I would absolutely recommend this."

Double-Crusted Apple Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

With crust above and below, this classic apple pie offers ample flaky crispness as a counterpoint to the soft, moist, tart-sweet filling made of Granny Smith apples.

Pecan and Date Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

The unexpected addition of dates to this classic pie gives the filling more body and a smooth sweetness. Don't use packaged chopped dates, which are rolled in sugar. Instead, use moist and sticky whole dates. Coat your knife with cooking spray for easy chopping.

Classic Pecan Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

To pack lots of pecans in the filling, we kept the fat in this easy piecrust to a minimum, resulting in a biscuitlike crust.

Oatmeal Pecan Pie

Pecans make it nutty, oats make it hearty, and together they make this pie a classic whenever you want something sweet and delightful.

Five-Spice Sweet Potato Pie

Five-spice powder is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns that can be found in the spice aisle of most supermarkets. If five-spice powder is unavailable, use pumpkin pie spice.

Café au Lait Chiffon Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Boiling coffee down to a concentrated syrup, then mixing it with milk in an airy chiffon filling makes this chocolate-graham-cracker-crusted pie a dessert that's sure to give you a buzz.

Warm Apple-Buttermilk Custard Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Warm, cinnamon apples combine with a creamy custard for a fun twist on apple pie. Tip: The key to both a flaky piecrust and crisp streusel topping is to keep them as cold as possible before putting them into the oven.

Café con Leche Cream Pie

Brew triple-strength coffee for the best flavor. The combination of sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese will cut any bitterness.

Chocolate Fudge Pie

This gooey, chocolaty treat is made from ingredients you may have in the pantry or refrigerator right now, so if all these mouthwatering pies have made you hungry, you can get baking immediately.

Apple-Cider Pie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This top-rated pie is a beautiful combination of fall ingredients. Reducing the apple cider gives concentrated flavor to the filling that keeps the apples moist and delicious.

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