10 French Desserts for Thanksgiving

Tired of pumpkin?

Marron glace candied chestnuts recipe

The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

If you think Thanksgiving desserts are simply based on pumpkin, then take a look at these French recipes. These classic favorites range from simple sweets and easy baked goods to elaborate traditional French fare. There's something here to fit every autumn-themed menu and not a pumpkin in sight.

  • 01 of 10

    Opera Cake

    French Opera Cake

    The Spruce

    There is much debate as to who, exactly, invented the original opera cake recipe and where. Some culinary historians have set it as far back as the 1890s, while others put its creation at a Paris shop in the mid-twentieth century. Whatever it may be, you must agree that this opera cake recipe is well worth the time investment. Layers of light almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache make it the showstopping dessert.

  • 02 of 10

    Creme au Caramel

    French creme caramel
    Jose A. Bernat Bacete - Getty Images

    Creme au caramel, also known as creme caramel, is a wonderful dessert recipe for dinner parties. Not only is the flavor mellow, sophisticated, and versatile; this bistro classic can be made up to one day in advance. Served in an impressive pool of homemade caramel, it needs no garnish other than an attractive plate.

  • 03 of 10

    Dark Chocolate Truffles

    Handmade chocolate truffles
    Jose A. Bernat Bacete - Getty Images

    Soft melting dark chocolate ganache lavishly dusted with cocoa powder is a treat unlike no other. These French dark chocolate truffles are the epitome of that treat, and once tasted will never be forgotten. This dark chocolate truffle recipe is so rich, so flavorful, that they require eating slowly.

  • 04 of 10

    Almond Tart

    French apple tart
    Elaine Lemm

    This almond tart makes a caramelized, delicately crunchy dessert. If you want to serve the tart as individual pastries, simply pour the filling into tartlet pans. A little dollop of Chantilly cream served with the dessert makes the ideal treat.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10


    Stunning croquembouche
    Brian Hagiwara - Getty Images

    Croquembouche is a traditional French wedding cake, but it is also served for special occasions and for the holidays. The traditional croquembouche recipe is made with vanilla pastry cream and decorated with sugared almonds. Modern croquembouches are made with creative pastry cream flavors and decorated with flowers, sugar art, and even melted chocolate

  • 06 of 10

    Candied Chestnuts

    Marron glace candied chestnuts recipe

    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

    If chestnuts roasting over a crackling fire are evocative of happy times and holidays, then candied chestnuts are their luxurious cousins, served only as the most indulgent of treats. So beloved is the flavor in France, that the Berthillon Glacier in Paris usually sells out of their dreamy marron glacé within hours. 

  • 07 of 10

    Poached Pears

    Poached Pears
    Carlo A - Getty Images

    Poached pears with chocolate creme Anglaise make for an exceptional, appealing dessert. This recipe showcases fresh pears poached in wine syrup until they turn buttery soft and a gorgeous, ruby red color and served with chocolate sauce. Delicious. 

  • 08 of 10

    Individual Chocolate Souffles

    Chocolate souffle
    Diana Miller

    The best first French recipes to learn must be a simple individual chocolate soufflé. The soufflé is a magical, airy, delicious, and complex confection that perfectly rounds out any meal. Served fresh out of the oven, it delights young children and impresses your dinner guests.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Apple Cider Pound Cake

    Apple cider bundt cake
    Paul Poplis - Getty Images

    Take one bite of this apple cider pound cake and you'll be transported to the orchards of Normandy. This deliciously spiced quatre quarts cake was inspired by a drive on La Route des Cidres, in Quebec, which, like Normandy is dotted with apple orchards, cider houses, and picturesque inns.

  • 10 of 10

    Brioche Bread Pudding

    Brioche bread pudding
    Tastyart Ltd Rob White - Getty Images

    This country-style brioche bread pudding is an easy alternative to elaborate dessert recipes. Simply whip up an easy custard and toss it with pieces of day-old brioche, a rich, sweetened egg bread. This bread pudding is a delightful finish to a hearty supper, but it makes an equally delicious way to start the day, as well.