30+ Last-Minute Holiday Desserts
Got company? These quick and easy desserts using on-hand ingredients are perfect for hectic holiday entertaining.
Butternut-Nut Butter Bars
If zucchini and pumpkin can make a name for themselves in the dessert realm—why not butternut squash? These gluten-free cookie bars pack an impressive level of toasty, fall flavor into every bite thanks to a combination of nutty brown butter, roasted butternut squash, nut butter, and a downright addictive creamy cashew butter-cream cheese icing (seriously, you’re gonna wanna spread this on everything—make a double batch) that’s elevated with a crunchy topper of toasted pepitas and cashews. We opt for rice flour over all-purpose because this gluten-free alternative can better absorb moisture from the squash to yield a delightfully tender—not wet or overtly cakey—texture. While roasting fresh squash contributes a depth of caramelized flavor you really don’t want to miss out on, you can find canned butternut squash in some supermarkets and online if you need a speedier swap; in fact, you could even use canned pumpkin in place of the pureed squash. In short, these brown butter butternut blondies will give every bit of convincing you may need need to believe that golden, sweet butternut squash deserves a spot on the holiday dessert table as much as any pumpkin-based treat.
The oreo sandwich just got some major upgrading. Layers of cream cheese over chocolatey wafers result in a sinful, sweet treat. Top with berries and repeat with 4 more wafers.
Addictive chocolate-hazelnut spread stars in our two-tone version of chocolate bark. Making bark is easy--just melt chocolate, spread it out, and add your favorite toppings. We added one important step, though: tempering the chocolate (carefully melting and cooling it to specific temperatures while adding large chunks of unmelted chocolate) so the bark stays shiny and snappy. The temperatures for dark chocolate and white chocolate are a bit different, so follow directions carefully for best results. For other flavor options, try Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark or White Chocolate, Pistachio, and Apricot Bark.
Peanut Butter Wreaths
Looking for the ultimate easy cookie? These no-bake peanut butter wreaths should do the trick. The oats and peanut butter add buttery and salty notes, making these almost like a praline. Toasting the oats beforehand really enhances the flavor and prevents the oats from getting soggy. Since these cookies are so easy and make a huge batch, you can get creative with your toppings—try other candies, like chocolate chunks, or fun holiday sprinkles to give these some serious spirit.
White Chocolate, Pistachio, and Apricot Bark
Brightly colored fruit and nuts decorate this festive version of holiday bark. Making bark is easy--just melt chocolate, spread it out, and add your favorite toppings. We added one important step, though: tempering the chocolate (carefully melting and cooling it to specific temperatures while adding large chunks of unmelted chocolate) so the bark stays shiny and snappy. For other flavor options, try Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark or Nutella Bark.
Hershey's Kiss Cookies
Here’s a really tasty peanut butter cookie with a delightful milk (or whatever you want!) chocolate nugget smack dab in the center. It’s slightly chewy, with a little crunch from the sugar-coating, and a creamy, melty center. These can be eaten warm, but if you’re taking them somewhere, wait until the cookies have cooled completely before transporting.
Sheet Pan Oatmeal Toffee-Orange Cream Bars
These toasty-sweet, sheet pan sandwich cookies are fantastic for potlucks or tailgates—heck, whip a batch up on the weekend and enjoy for after-school snacks or dessert throughout the week. Toffee bits and cinnamon kick up the flavor of a traditional oatmeal cookie, while adding fresh orange zest to the filling adds a special touch or bright flavor to these tasty bars. Be sure the cookie is completely cool (out of the pan) before cutting it, or it will crumble. And to ensure a smooth cut, you’ll want to chill the filled cookie really well before slicing into bars.
Peach-and-Blueberry Crispy Crumble
"In my family, fruit is just an excuse for lots of topping, so I've devised what I call a crispy crumble. As the divide between what constitutes a crisp versus a crumble is totally murky, I've given up attempting a definition and simply combined the two toppings for my take on an old-fashioned favorite." Bake the crumble on a parchment paper- or foil-lined baking sheet to catch any fruit that may bubble over.
Single-Serving Pumpkin Spice Latte
What if we told you that you could make your favorite, Starbucks-inspired pumpkin spice latte, right there in the comfort of your own home kitchen? Rather than calling for a big batch of homemade pumpkin spice syrup, we've streamlined the process so that you only make as much pumpkin syrup as you need for one latte. Feel free to scale the recipe up if you're preparing more. If you don't have access to an espresso machine, any strongly-brewed coffee will do. In addition, alt-milks or lower-fat milks can be substituted, although whole milk will be the richest and most satisfying.
Pears with Rosemary Sugar
Top pear wedges with a drizzle of orange juice and a sprinkle of rosemary and sugar for a sweet and savory treat that's ready in about five minutes.
Rocky Road-Peanut Butter Candy Cups
"Rocky road" gets its name from the combination of chocolate, miniature marshmallows and nuts. It take about 5 minutes to make these candy cups, then they can chill while you're having dinner.
Sometimes after a big holiday meal, a luscious coffee drink is the perfect dessert.
Quick Pear-Ginger Crisps
Use what you have on hand--canned pears, gingersnaps and walnut pieces--to make these quick and easy fruit crisps.
Let bruschetta take a turn as a dessert instead of an appetizer as you top the toasted bread slices with chocolate and orange rind.
Baked Compote of Winter Fruit
Classic seasonal fruits really shine in this simple dessert. Top sliced apples and pears with a sweet-and-tart sauce made from cranberries, wine, apple cider, lemon rind, and applesauce and bake. For an even richer treat, serve with creamy vanilla ice cream.
Individual Chocolate Melting Cakes
Baking these decadent, 5-star cakes in muffin tins makes it easy to divvy them up among your guests. For the best texture, be sure not to cook them for too long; you want the cakes to still be gooey in the middle. Serve with storebought caramel sauce and coffee ice cream for the ultimate indulgence.
Dark Chocolate Mulled Wine Sauce
Chocolate and red wine make for a great date, so why not let this classic pairing inspire your next dessert? Red wine mulled with holiday spices lends intense depth to the chocolate flavor in this easy homemade sauce, perfect for serving over ice cream.
Brandy-Vanilla Cheesecake Dip
Serve this delicious 3-ingredient dip in a fancy dish alongside fruit and cookies, and your guests will never guess how easy it really is! Simply mix brandy and vanilla extract with ready-to-eat cheesecake filling and voila! You're done.
Hello Dolly Bars
These easy bar cookies are also known as "Magic Bars" or "Seven-Layer Bars," depending on where you live. Layer semisweet chocolate chips, butterscotch morsels, sweetened coconut, and toasted, chopped pecans over a homemade graham cracker crust and soak with fat-free sweetened condensed milk. Bake at 350º and in just 25 minutes you'll have a sugary, sticky goodness that guests are sure to devour!
Mini Strawberry Shortcakes
Instead of biscuits or shortbread, this sweet concoction uses packaged ladyfingers, which give it a light texture that's good on blazing days. Individual desserts are easy to serve—no cutting or scooping—and easy to eat. (They'll disappear in a flash!)
No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
These super soft cookies contain hints of caramel and molasses thanks to dark brown sugar. Using unsweetened peanut butter allows the other flavors to shine and keeps the sweetness in check. Old-fashioned rolled oats work best here, but you can also use quick-cooking oats—just don’t use instant. Give these ample time to set in the fridge. Otherwise, they’ll be difficult to eat.
Instant Pot Rice Pudding
This super simple Instant Pot rice pudding is creamy, rich, comforting, and has just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. The recipe is pretty much hands off, but thanks to your pressure cooker nobody will be able to tell you hardly put in any effort. It’s perfect for a cold winter night, but it would also make a wonderful breakfast since it’s not overly sweet.
Christmas Lights Bark
This adorable treat is the perfect holiday project to tackle with the kids.
From the Kitchen of Jennifer Heichel, Andalusia, AL
Chock-full of dried fruit and pecans, these chewy two-bite nibbles won't be relegated to the re-gift pile.
Easy Chocolate Babka Buns
These aren’t your typical babka buns—crescent roll dough makes the cooking process much easier and yields buns that are bready rather than dry. The chocolate filling is rich and deliciously swirled throughout the buns. If you’re eating them warm, they’d be fantastic paired with a chocolate ganache glaze. Plus, they’re so cute and tasty nobody will care that you used a shortcut.
Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patties
We’re not exaggerating when we say these peppermint patties knock York’s out of the water. These are perfect to make with kids because they’re easy and—let’s face it—messy. They make a sweet after-dinner treat, mid-day pick-me-up, or even cookie swap contribution. If you’re not crazy about peppermints, try leftover candy canes, crushed, nuts, sea salt, or sprinkles as toppings.
Classic Peanut Brittle
Turn to this old-fashioned brittle recipe when you want to make homemade candy. With both microwave and stovetop instructions, this candy recipe is so easy to make in large batches for holiday gifts. Drizzle with dark chocolate and candy corn or crunch it up and sprinkle on a candied apple for a Halloween treat. These are a gluten free dessert and a pleasant alternative to holiday cookies.
Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies
You’ve probably heard of olive oil cake, and if you’ve ever tasted one, you know how much rich character olive oil can bring to a dessert. And that’s certainly the case for these anything-but-average chocolate chip cookies. With their crispy edges and perfectly gooey center, they’re downright dreamy. Fruity olive oil subtly shines, complementing the melt-in-your mouth chocolaty factor in this distinctly delicious twist on the cookie jar classic. Although it’s tempting to go straight from the bowl to the oven, it’s important that the cookie dough is thoroughly chilled before baking. Not only will this step make scooping the cookies easier, but refrigeration solidifies the oil, which keeps the cookies from spreading too fast and becoming too thin. Being that olive oil is the star ingredient in this chocolate chip cookie recipe, be sure to use a good quality oil.
Cinnamon Roll Swirl Cake
Easy Pumpkin Pie Squares
Pumpkin pie, meet dump cake. These pumpkin bars taste like pumpkin pie with a sweeter, slightly crunchy crust. They’re slightly rich, so they’re perfect after a big meal, and make the perfect bite. Best of all, they’re way easier to make than pie and the perfect treat for a crowd.
Warm Cinnamon Apples
This simple spiced apples recipe is perfect for so many applications. The tender, brown sugar-sweetened fruit slices are great served at breakfast, make for a warm and tasty side dish (especially for kiddos), are the ideal flavor complement spooned over pork chops or a pork loin, and are an amazing seasonal addition to a bowl of vanilla ice cream. If you can't find McIntosh apples, substitute another baking apple such as Rome or Gala; or to change things up, try a crisp, tart green apple such as Granny Smith.
No-Bake Coconut-Citrus Snowballs
Looking for an easy Christmas cookie to make with the kids? These creamy and tangy citrus snowballs should do the trick. With ingredients that are easy to find and a melt-in-you-mouth texture, these snowballs make a festive snack, dessert, or even gift.