25 Desserts That Satisfy Cravings—Minus the Sugar Crash

When I’m really craving a sweet treat, sometimes indulging in store-bought cookies and desserts packed with preservatives can kill the vibe. I’m more for sweets that don’t leave you feeling overly full or with a sugar-induced hangover, especially when the holidays roll around, and healthy eating isn’t always on the table. If a lighter option sounds up your alley, you’re in for a treat—both figuratively and literally.

This collection of recipes might just change the way you formulate desserts. From fruit-filled to creamy concoctions, these light dessert recipes will satisfy your taste buds without the tummy trouble. They’re sweet escapes that prove you don’t have to compromise on indulgence to feel your best.

25 Light Desserts for Every Craving

Most of us tend to go for light desserts during the hot summer months—think popsicles, sorbet, and granita—but these recipes do the trick beautifully all year long. Sometimes, you just need something on the refreshing side, no matter the season. Be sure to bookmark these tasty treats, because each is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. (Even if the crowd in question is simply you and a good book.)

Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Why We Love It: With flecks of dark chocolate and sea salt, these chewy pumpkin cookies boast the perfect amount of sweetness without going overboard. While I love these cookies paired with a PSL, they’re perfect for any time of year.

Hero Ingredient: Pumpkin puree is the hero here.

healthy oatmeal cookies_light desserts

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

Why We Love It: Oatmeal cookies are one of the first recipes that come to mind when I’m craving a lighter dessert option—sometimes, I even grab one of these for breakfast! What’s a better way to start your morning?

Hero Ingredient: Coconut flakes give these cookies a unique texture and sweetness.

cinnamon baked apples

Easy Cinnamon Baked Apples

Why We Love It: The ease of these baked apples makes it hard to resist baking on a chilly evening. Simply toss together the ingredients and let the goodness bake away. Serve with vanilla ice cream for a simple dessert or over yogurt and granola for a light breakfast.

Hero Ingredient: These apples bake in a healthy serving of honey, creating a delicious caramelized sauce that isn’t overly sweet.

chocolate chip tahini shortbread cookies_light desserts

Chocolate Chip Tahini Shortbread Cookies

Why We Love It: This recipe was shared with us by Daphne Oz—who may have just nailed the best light dessert recipe. Shortbread cookies are a year-round favorite, but when combined with savory ingredients like tahini and sesame seeds, they’re a whole different level of indulgence.

Hero Ingredient: Tahini is the star of this show.

no bake white chocolate lemon cardamom slices

No Bake White Chocolate Lemon Cardamom Slices

Why We Love It: No-bake desserts are some of my absolute favorites, and these lemon cardamom slices are no exception. Bound together by the rich flavor of white chocolate and the warmth of cardamom, these bite-sized slices are perfectly balanced and not too heavy.

Hero Ingredient: This no-bake dessert wouldn’t be the same without the added cardamom spice.

no bake pumpkin pie bars light desserts

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Bars

Why We Love It: This may be a controversial opinion, but pumpkin pie shouldn’t only be eaten during the fall months. If you’re not a fan of the pie-baking process, these no-bake pumpkin pie bars are a tasty and simple alternative with the same great flavors.

Hero Ingredient: The pumpkin butter filling adds a light and sweet taste to each bite.

gluten-free pumpkin pie

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Why We Love It: If you do love the pie-baking process, this gluten-free pumpkin pie is a great way to enjoy a classic dessert without some of the heavier ingredients included in traditional recipes.

Hero Ingredient: Cashews form the base of this recipe’s whipped cream. It’s a vegan trick that I can’t get enough of.

apple crumble_light desserts

Healthy & Easy Apple Crumble

Why We Love It: This apple crumble is the best way to satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard. Apple and cinnamon are a great flavor combo, and adding those flavors to a healthy dish creates a delicious make-ahead dessert.

Hero Ingredient: Pumpkin pie spice emphasizes the fall flavors.

summer fruit fools light desserts

Summer Fruit Fools

Why We Love It: This fruit fool is a great summer dessert with light and fresh flavors. The fruit is up to your discretion—anything from cherries to mangoes can make a show-stopping dessert. The whipped cream filling is a great complement to the bursting fruit flavors.

Hero Ingredient: Mixing in some lemon zest balances out the sweet fruit with a little citrusy tang.

gluten-free, dairy-free brownies light desserts

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Brownies

Why We Love It: As a kid, boxed brownies were always a staple dessert in my household (no shame there). These gluten-free brownies are worth the little added effort and can be made in just one bowl!

Hero Ingredient: The almond butter calms the sugar rush you’d get from traditional brownies.

plum lavender clafoutis

Plum Lavender Clafoutis

Why We Love It: This beautiful baked dessert is the perfect way to live out your French countryside dreams wherever you are. Not to mention the flavors are light with a hint of sweetness that differs from your typical chocolate and sugar-heavy recipes.

Hero Ingredient: Without question, the crushed lavender petals are the beauty of this dish.

grilled peaches with honey_light desserts

Grilled Peaches with Honey

Why We Love It: Grilled desserts aren’t something you see on every menu, but the peaches’ natural sweetness contrasted by a sprinkle of salt creates the best summery dish.

Hero Ingredient: A drizzle of honey is the perfect sweet finish.

mango lassi popsicles

Mango Lassi Popsicles

Why We Love It: These mango lassi popsicles look and taste ten times better than your typical freezer popsicles, and they only take six steps! Drizzle with melted white chocolate and decorate with rose petals for a pretty finish.

Hero Ingredient: The coconut milk and mango pairing brings out all of the tropical flavors.

rhubarb meringue cake light desserts

Rhubarb Meringue Cake

Why We Love It: Rhubarb is one of my top ingredients to work with during the warmer months. This meringue cake utilizes the bold flavors of this fresh fruit in the best way possible. Stunning doesn’t even begin to explain how we feel about this dessert.

Hero Ingredient: Plain, whole milk yogurt gives your light, fluffy cake a nice little tang.

gluten-free strawberry shortcake

Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake

Why We Love It: The nostalgia that comes with baking strawberry shortcake is unmatched. This cake is fluffy and filled with fresh fruit flavors, and the sweetness isn’t overwhelming. It’s also a bit lighter and flakier than your traditional shortcake.

Hero Ingredient: Opting for maple syrup is a great way to tone down the sweetness in this recipe without eliminating it entirely.

raspberry tiramisu_light desserts

Raspberry Tiramisu

Why We Love It: Tiramisu in any form is the way to my heart. Pairing with a sweet and flavorful fruit like raspberries is a great way to be the star of any summer party.

Hero Ingredient: A light dusting of bittersweet chocolate over top makes this a must-have dessert.

Shrikhand_light desserts


Why We Love It: If you’ve never had Shrikhand (or even if you have) this recipe is a must-try, and it only requires five ingredients! The yogurt’s creaminess pairs perfectly with fruit, nuts, or anything your heart (er, stomach) desires.

Hero Ingredient: This recipe would not be complete without Greek yogurt as its base.

spiced sweet potato cake with cream cheese frosting_light desserts

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Why We Love It: Nothing pairs better than sweet potato desserts and cream cheese frosting. Fortunately for you, this dish contains both—and in cake form! Who could say no?

Hero Ingredient: The tanginess of grated orange zest beautifully supports these sweet, warm flavors.

carrot cake cupcakes

Gluten-Free, Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Why We Love It: Making an entire carrot cake usually doesn’t fit into my busy schedule, but these cupcakes are the perfect alternative. They’re gluten-free and vegan, sweetened by natural flavors, and moistened by coconut oil and flax egg.

Hero Ingredient: The texture in these cupcakes is all due to the walnuts and shredded carrots.

Almond and Blackberry Cream Pavlova

Almond and Blackberry Cream Pavlova

Why We Love It: If you’re intimidated by a pavlova, try this scrumptious recipe as an entry point. It’s as easy as it is delicious, promise!

Hero Ingredient: Orange zest and juice in the berry cream bring all kinds of fresh, citrusy goodness to the table.

Blueberry Ginger and Coconut Cream Parfait

Blueberry Ginger and Coconut Cream Parfait

Why We Love It: Take this as confirmation that parfaits aren’t just for breakfast. They’re a perfect light dessert any time of the year—a refreshing cool-off in the summer and something light amidst all the winter holiday indulgence.

Hero Ingredient: Gingersnap cookies bring just the right amount of texture and crunch to these creamy concoctions.

Lavender PIstachio Madeleines, light desserts

Lavender Pistachio Madeleines

Why We Love It: Lavender and pistachio add a bit of summer flair to these classic French cakey cookies. Make them for school lunches, after-dinner desserts, or anytime-snacking. They truly are a madeleine of all trades.

Hero Ingredient: A simple lemon glaze sends these over the edge.

Blood Orange Amaretto Mascarpone Trifles

Blood Orange Amaretto Mascarpone Trifles

Why We Love It: Once you try this absolutely decadent dessert, you’ll be shocked to find that A) it is surprisingly light, and B) it was born of a cake disaster. You have to taste it to believe it!

Hero Ingredient: Three words: whipped amaretto mascarpone.

Raspberry and Pistachio Cake with Lemon Glaze, light desserts

Raspberry and Pistachio Cake With Lemon Glaze

Why We Love It: If you think a cake can’t be light, think again! This gorgeous option has a seriously light vibe.

Hero Ingredient: I just love it when cakes are infused with pistachio flavor. The nut will give your cake a distinctly buttery bite with just the right amount of crunch.

Gluten-Free Lemon Bars, light desserts

Gluten-Free Lemon Bars

Why We Love It: With only ten steps, this lemon bar recipe is absolutely perfect in every way. It uses a thicker crust, which I’ve always preferred, and boasts a perfectly zesty lemon flavor to complement the buttery base. It’ll make your taste buds tingle in the best way possible.

Hero Ingredient: The great thing about powdered sugar is that it’s capable of covering mistakes. But how many mistakes can a dessert really have? Either way, it’s sweet and pillowy and just plain delicious. Plus, it’s so fun to sift over the top.

This post was last updated on February 11, 2023.

17 Thanksgiving Desserts That Are Guaranteed Crowd Pleasers

Turkey is great, and mashed potatoes are delicious, but we all know the real star of Thanksgiving dinner is the desserts. Now, let’s be clear—this isn’t the holiday to pull out a pan of boxed brownies or store-bought cookies (although no shame if that’s how you roll). We know it’s a busy season, but one of our favorite ways to spend a few hours before the big day is setting aside time to bake up some incredible Thanksgiving desserts. Trust us: your future self will be grateful.

From the classics (pumpkin pie) to a new spin on Thanksgiving (salted caramel pots de creme), we have all the Thanksgiving desserts you could conjure up this holiday season. Trust us—these are recipes your guests will be begging you for.

17 Best Thanksgiving Desserts

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Why We Love It: These pumpkin chocolate chip cookies might just win recipe of the year in my book. They’re the perfect amount of chewy, sweet, and salty that no one can resist. Besides, who doesn’t love a good pumpkin dessert? Especially on the holiday that they shine the most.

Hero Ingredient: A little bit of flaky salt is the perfect topping.

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Why We Love It: If you’ve been searching everywhere for the perfect pumpkin pie recipe, you’re welcome. This pumpkin pie with a spicy, buttery gingersnap crust has everything you could want in the ultimate pie. Plus, if you (like myself) are not a big fan of traditional pie crust, you might just change your mind with this one.

Hero Ingredient: The gingersnaps are a game changer.

Pumpkin Cake

Why We Love It: Whether or not you whip this pumpkin cake up for Thanksgiving dinner or breakfast, everyone will be obsessed with this fluffy and nutty loaf. Topped with crunchy pecans that complement hints of cinnamon, it’s holiday spirit in every bite.

Hero Ingredient: Walnuts—because a little crunch goes a long way.

Why We Love It: This cookie tiramisu is an absolute stunner if you’re going for presentation points with your Thanksgiving dessert. Delicious layers of espresso and chocolate chip cookies come together for this whimsical take on the Italian classic.

Hero Ingredient: Any chocolate chip cookies will do!

Salted Caramel Pots de Creme

Why We Love It: Caramel-flavored custard is combined with whipped crème fraîche to build these individual salted caramel pots de creme. If you haven’t tried your hand at this indulgent French dessert, put it on your list for this Thanksgiving.

Hero Ingredient: Salted caramel sauce tops it off.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Why We Love It: If baking a pie doesn’t seem appealing (or perhaps doesn’t fit into your schedule), these pumpkin pie bars are a simple alternative. With all the pumpkin pie flavors you love, you won’t be missing out on anything—including that classic whipped cream topping.

Hero Ingredient: Dust with a pinch of cinnamon.

Walnut Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Why We Love It: You’ll likely find me snacking on coffee cake if someone happens to bring it to Thanksgiving dinner. This crunchy walnut and sweet cream cheese blend will win me over every time. And if you partake in a sweet post-Thanksgiving breakfast, this will easily steal the show.

Hero Ingredient: Sour cream is the secret ingredient that keeps this cake moist.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Why We Love It: When baking for a large crowd, putting out desserts everyone can enjoy is a must. This gluten-free pumpkin pie is just as delicious as your traditional recipe while accommodating those with dietary restrictions.

Hero Ingredient: Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Buttermilk Pie

Why We Love It: Buttermilk pie is a Thanksgiving essential. The creamy, custard-based pie is surprisingly light and airy, and the buttermilk gives it a welcome tangy flavor that perfectly contrasts the pie’s sweet ingredients.

Hero Ingredient: Grated nutmeg adds a special element of nutty spice.

Speculoos Pumpkin Pie Tarts

Why We Love It: Aren’t these pumpkin pie tarts cute as can be? These are the perfect options for those who prefer a more personal touch to their Thanksgiving desserts, and the flavor will still blow you away.

Hero Ingredient: Candied pepitas are the winner.

Healthy Apple Crumble

Why We Love It: Apple cinnamon is a winning flavor combo in any dessert. If you don’t have a house full of pie enthusiasts, this buttery, oat-laced topping is the best alternative to put out on the table.

Hero Ingredient: Date coconut sugar adds a nice touch of sweetness—without the ensuing sugary hanvoer.

Pumpkin Cookies

Why We Love It: Think: mini pumpkin bread. These cookies somehow stay chewy and somehow never dry out. They’re the perfect blend of sweetness and spice that no one will expect for dessert.

Hero Ingredient: Pumpkin puree is a must.

Pumpkin Snack Cake

Why We Love It: This pumpkin snack cake perfectly blends coffee cake vibes with a crunchy streusel topping. It all gets dusted in a soft snowfall of powdered sugar that will look and taste the part.

Hero Ingredient: The streusel is the best part of this cake, and this recipe has all of our best tips on how to perfect it.

Tres Leches Cake

Why We Love It: Tres Leches is the perfect holiday cake because it can be prepped a day or two in advance, only getting better with time. If you’ve loaded your menu with too many things to cook during the holiday season, this recipe will be your savior.

Hero Ingredient: A little bit of espresso adds a caffeine kick to this cake.

Chocolate Pecan Slab Pie

Why We Love It: Unlike your typical pecan pie—doused in corn syrup—this chocolate pecan slab pie uses melted butter and a generous amount of dark brown sugar to create a richer, deeper caramel flavor. If you need a last-minute dessert, make this your go-to.

Hero Ingredient: Cheers for pecans!

Brown Butter Bourbon Apple Crisp

Why We Love It: This apple crisp is simply mouth-watering. When baking with apples, mixing a variety of sweet and tart is the key to success. Who doesn’t want the best of both worlds? 

Hero Ingredient: We recommend Granny Smiths and Pink Ladies/Gala for this crisp.

Chai Carrot Cake

Why We Love It: This carrot cake is cardamom-forward, not too sweet, and the perfect canvas for a tangy cream cheese frosting. Fresh carrots are essential for the best light and fresh flavor everyone will enjoy.

Hero Ingredient: Almond milk brings a little bit of subtle creaminess to this delectable cake.

The 18 Best Pumpkin Desserts to Make This Fall

Pumpkin decor, pumpkin carving, pumpkin desserts—they’re all an essential part of any fall bucket list. It seems that every year the internet has a plethora of new pumpkin recipes to celebrate the onset of the season, and I’m here for it. And since I know I’m not alone in taking full advantage when pumpkin season rolls around, we’ve compiled a list of the most mouth-watering pumpkin desserts to sweeten up your season.

Pumpkin desserts aren’t limited to your typical pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice latte. Fresh (and even pureed) pumpkin has infinite potential in the kitchen, making it a great ingredient to have on hand. From loaf cakes to chewy cookies, these pumpkin recipes will get you excited for all the best flavors of the season.

Featured image by Suruchi Avasthi.

18 Pumpkin Desserts to Spice up Your Season

Pumpkin Snack Cake

Why We Love It: Kicking off our list is this pumpkin snack cake (which is essentially a slice of fall heaven). If you’re like me and crave pumpkin cake at all hours of the day during the fall, this is your answer. It has a soft, moist texture, topped off with a spiced cinnamon streusel. It’s perfect for breakfast, as an afternoon snack, or a post-dinner treat.

Hero Ingredient: A tiny bit of ginger goes a long way.

Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Why We Love It: If there’s one dessert you try on this list, make it this pumpkin loaf cake. (But really, you should try them all.) This recipe is the perfect blend of fall spices and balanced sweetness. A sweet cream cheese frosting is always a good idea when incorporating warm flavor to create a cozy treat.

Hero Ingredient: Garnish with crunchy toasted pecans and thank us later.

Pumpkin Bread

Why We Love It: When I have pureed pumpkin on hand, this pumpkin bread is the easiest way to turn it into something delicious. The caramel sauce drizzle that tops this bread is optional—but I highly recommend it for a moist and sweet cake that won’t disappoint.

Hero Ingredient: A bit of citrus zest from the orange adds a touch of bright flavor.

Chewy Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Glaze

Why We Love It: What’s better than a pumpkin spice latte? Pumpkin spice cookies! These soft pumpkin cookies are super simple to throw together for any fall festivities. Homemade cookies for the win.

Hero Ingredient: High-quality vanilla brings the cinnamon glaze together.

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Bars

Why We Love It: If you’re short a pie pan, grab your baking dish and try these no-bake pumpkin bars. Pro tip: use fresh spices for the pumpkin filling, as your pumpkin butter helps to concentrate all of the good flavors from ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Hero Ingredient: Cream cheese brings the filling together and mellows out a strong lineup of spices.

Banana Pumpkin Muffins

Why We Love It: Thanksgiving desserts are a great time to use pumpkin, but I love making these banana pumpkin muffins year-round. They’re a healthy breakfast that I can grab and go during busy weeks but also enjoy in the evenings with a hot chai latte or cup of tea.

Hero Ingredient: Oats are a great textural addition to these delicious muffins.

Pumpkin Morning Glory Muffins

Why We Love It: Morning Glory muffins are a great way to use up the healthy ingredients you may have sitting around in the fridge or pantry. Feel free to swap ingredients in and out to minimize your grocery store trips.

Hero Ingredient: Chopped pecans are the crunchiness I need in my morning muffins, but feel free to include any nut of your choice.

No-Bake Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie

Why We Love It: Looking for a pumpkin pie that requires less oven time while still featuring the great flavors and textures of the dish you know and love? Look no further than this no-bake pie filled with creamy mascarpone cheese.

Hero Ingredient: While a store-bought pie crust will do in a pinch, we always recommend graham crackers for the most authentic pumpkin pie experience.

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Why We Love It: Let’s face it—Thanksgiving is traditionally a tough holiday for the vegan and gluten-free communities. Luckily, each year, the internet has a repertoire of new Thanksgiving dishes that virtually everyone can enjoy. This vegan pumpkin cheesecake is no exception.

Hero Ingredient: Raw cashews are an unexpected but extremely delicious ingredient in this cheesecake.

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Why We Love It: Last year, our food editor Suruchi took on the challenge of finding the best pumpkin pie recipe. The result came from Food Network—the creamiest and richest filling with a good spice blend and delicious crust (but all of these recipes are worth a try!).

Hero Ingredient: Heavy cream is the secret to this custard-like filling.

Pumpkin Pie Tartlets

Why We Love It: Mini pumpkin pies? Yes, please. Britt Maren’s sweet and oh-so-cute tartlets use Speculoos (aka Biscoff cookies) for a deliciously simple pie dough alternative.

Hero Ingredient: This pumpkin pie filling uses a bit of nutmeg for a warm spiced experience with every bite.

The Best Pumpkin Cookies

Why We Love It: While pumpkin pie is synonymous with the season, we love getting the iconic fall flavor any way we can. Enter: the best pumpkin cookies—ever. The winner had a mildly sweet brown sugar frosting and the best-balanced pumpkin and spice flavor of the bunch.

Hero Ingredient: Using milk instead of cream cheese for the frosting keeps the topping from becoming overly sweet.

Pumpkin Date Caramel Cups

Why We Love It: When I see a pumpkin dessert like this, I immediately add it to my fall dinner party recipe list. These will complete your Thanksgiving dessert table with their perfect size and delicious pepita crunch.

Hero Ingredient: Medjool dates are a must.

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls

Why We Love It: When fall rolls around, all I want to do is bake (if you can’t already tell). Cinnamon rolls are always a fan favorite in my family, and adding in a bit of pumpkin pie spice brings them to a whole new level.

Hero Ingredient: Make sure to include maple syrup to complete your spiced maple icing.

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies from Half Baked Harvest

Why We Love It: If you’ve ever had pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, you know that they’re highly addictive. I’m personally a lover of blondies over cookies due to their dense and chewy texture, and this recipe is the perfect fall twist.

Hero Ingredient: Pumpkin butter might become your new pantry staple.

Pumpkin Tiramisu from Foodie Crush

Why We Love It: This pumpkin tiramisu will make sure your canned pumpkin doesn’t go to waste this fall. Pumpkin liqueur and freshly brewed coffee are complemented by delicious fall spices for a classy and irresistible dessert.

Hero Ingredient: There’s just something about mascarpone cheese and pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie Parfaits from Minimalist Baker

Why We Love It: Single-serve desserts just look stunning on display at a dinner party or gathering. Who needs crust when you have layers of coconut whipped cream and pumpkin butter?

Hero Ingredient: Candied pecans and fall are the ultimate pairing.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars from Eating Bird Food

Why We Love It: Highly addicting and healthy, these pumpkin oatmeal bars should be a staple on your fall dessert menu. Throw all the prepped ingredients together in one bowl and save for your mid-day snack!

Hero Ingredient: Quick oats are key to a speedy and healthy recipe.