20 Make Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts that Travel Well

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Make ahead Thanksgiving desserts that travel well are essential if you're the one bringing the dessert to the holiday feast! These easy dessert recipes can be made in advance and then packed in your car and transferred safely to the Thanksgiving dessert table.

The photo collage shows several make ahead Thanksgiving desserts that travel well including a 9x13-in cake in a pan and easy dessert bars.

Thanksgiving weekend is the biggest travel week of the year for good reason.

If you're visiting family and want to bring a make ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will travel with you well, these are the recipes you need.

From portable dessert bars, easy cakes, and yummy treats filled with fall flavors, you're sure to find the perfect match.

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Thanksgiving Dessert Bars

I think an easy dessert bar is one of the best portable desserts to bring to Thanksgiving because they can travel right in the baking pan that made them.

Be sure to wait to slice and serve the dessert bars until just before adding them to the table so they arrive safe and sound.

Be sure to pack a pretty platter to put them on so that the Thanksgiving host has one less thing to worry about.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake Bars

These easy pumpkin gooey butter cake bars taste even better when you make them ahead and chill them.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake Bars
These rich and delicious pumpkin gooey butter cake bars are the perfect make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert. They travel really well if you're in charge of bringing the pumpkin dessert!
5 from 45 votes
The sliced pumpkin gooey butter cake bars are on a white plate. There's a dusting of powdered sugar over the top for garnish.

Shortbread Pecan Bars

Bake a batch of shortbread pecan bars the day before and then just keep them in an airtight container before your trip.

Shortbread Pecan Pie Bars
These rich and chewy shortbread pecan pie bars have a crispy cookie crust, a gooey caramel center, and salty pecans all over the top. Slice up a square to share with friends for fall entertaining.
4.96 from 41 votes
A stack of shortbread pecan pie bars on a cake plate for serving.

Apple Crisp Bars

Don't want to risk an apple pie? Try baking a batch of apple crisp bars, they can travel in a covered container.

Apple Crisp Bars
Homemade apple crisp bars with pecans, oats, and the special secret ingredient: butterscotch chips! This delicious dessert bar is the perfect treat for a fall dinner, Halloween, or even an easy Thanksgiving dessert.
5 from 45 votes
Tiered cake plate serves squares of apple crisp bars with an oat crumble topping and butterscotch chips.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

These easy cranberry bliss bars are a nice and refreshingly tart dessert to mix into all the sweet goodies on the dessert table.

Cranberry Bliss Bars
Sweet spiced cookie bars studded with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips are decorated with a stunning cream cheese icing and a drizzle of melted white chocolate. This copycat Starbucks recipe makes a perfect fall treat for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.
5 from 40 votes
A blue plate has several squares of cranberry bliss bars ready to serve.

Apple Crumble Bars

If you're looking for apple pie flavor but in a portable dessert bar, you'll love these apple crumble bars with a buttery pie crust crumble topping.

Apple Crumble Bars
These deliciously easy apple crumble bars have a light and flaky apple crumble topping that comes together with just three ingredients. Bake these with your kids for a simple Thanksgiving dessert.
5 from 42 votes
A square of apple crumble bars is served on a white plate with a drizzle of caramel sauce over the top.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Treats

Want a no bake treat you could make with the kids? These ooey gooey Pumpkin Spice Cheerios treats take everyone's favorite marshmallow treats and turns them up with melted caramel and white chocolate drizzle.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Bars
These no-bake pumpkin spice Cheerios treats combine melted marshmallow and caramel for a delicious fall dessert. This easy recipe is great to have some fall baking fun with the kids.
4.75 from 4 votes
A wooden platter has 3 squares of pumpkin spice cheerio bars with a ceramic pumpkin decoration.

Crescent Roll Cheesecake Bars

These cinnamon coated crescent roll cheesecake bars can easily be turned into a make ahead Thanksgiving dessert if you add chopped pumpkin spice pecans to the cream cheese filling or canned apple pie filling.

Crescent Roll Cheesecake Bars
Layers of flaky crescent rolls surround a creamy cheesecake filling topped with a crispy cinnamon sugar coating. This easy dessert tastes like two treats in one: a delicious rich and creamy cheesecake and a crispy cinnamon churro!
4.98 from 37 votes
Two churro cheesecake bars are stacked on a blue and white plate in front of the baking dish of treats.

9x13 Thanksgiving Cakes

Thanksgiving and "cake" may not be the first thing you think of together but you're seriously missing out.

These 9x13 cakes can travel right in their baking pan and arrive safe and sound to the holiday table.

They'll taste better when you make them ahead since the flavors have a chance to really mingle!

Fresh Apple Cake

My fresh apple cake recipe is amazing with brown butter frosting and chopped pecans on top. Make it ahead the day before and keep it chilled in the fridge. It can be transported to the feast right in the baking pan.

Fresh Apple Cake
This easy apple cake is bursting at the seams with fresh apples. It’s the perfect way to use your orchard haul this fall. Top it with nutty brown butter frosting or easy cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans for an amazing make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert.
5 from 40 votes
A square slice of apple cake topped with soft frosting and pecans sits in front of the metal baking pan it came from. A bite is missing.

Freezer Friendly Apple Crisp

While not a cake, my freezer friendly apple crisp does travel well in a baking pan.

You should definitely ask the host whether it is ok to bring it ready to bake or if you should bake it before you arrive. The recipe will work great either way!

Freezer Friendly Apple Crisp
This freezer apple crisp will change your holiday baking forever. Make one big batch but split it into two smaller desserts -- one to bake now and one to stash in your freezer for later. Perfect quick and easy Thanksgiving dessert. 
4.34 from 86 votes
A freezer-friendly metal pan holds an 8x8-inch apple crisp with crumble topping.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres leches cake is soaked in three sweet milks and has a cinnamon sprinkle on top of the whipped cream frosting. It absolutely must be made ahead the day before so the cake can soak up all that sweet goodness.

Tres Leches Cake
Tres leches cake, a classic Latin American dessert, can be made from scratch or from a boxed cake mix. Soak the vanilla cake in the traditional three milks sauce and frost with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
5 from 41 votes
A square slice of tres leches cake is on a plate with a fork. You can see the three milks drizzling down the side of the vanilla cake and cinnamon is sprinkled on top of the whipped cream frosting.

Almond Cake

My favorite almond sheet cake with almond icing on top is a blank palette just waiting to be turned into a simple Thanksgiving dessert. While in the summertime I top it with fresh berries, for fall you could add blackberries or even just some pretty toasted almonds.

Almond Cake
This old fashioned almond sheet cake has a delicious fluffy almond icing. Serve it with fresh raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries for a quick and easy dessert in under 30 minutes.
5 from 38 votes
A square of almond cake with white almond icing is on a blue plate and topped with fresh strawberries. A fork is taking a bite.

Thanksgiving Pies

I think part of the reason Thanksgiving and pies are such a solid partnership is that pies travel well if you choose the right ones.

These classic Thanksgiving pies are the perfect make ahead travel-friendly desserts to bring.

Pumpkin Pie

If you're looking for the totally traditional Thanksgiving dessert, my easy pumpkin pie is perfect for making ahead the day before and taking on the go.

Easy Pumpkin Pie
This easy pumpkin pie recipe takes just 10 minutes to prep and is perfect for a first time pie baker. Make a delicious Thanksgiving pie to add to the family feast in just minutes.
5 from 6 votes
A pumpkin pie in a white pie plate.

Pecan Pie

Perhaps even more portable than pumpkin pie, a sturdy easy pecan pie is even easier to travel with. Bake this the day before and just let it sit at room temperature on the counter, I usually cover mine with foil to keep it fresh.

Easy Pecan Pie Recipe
This easy pecan pie recipe can be made with or without corn syrup if you use the simple substitutions. A splash of bourbon adds depth of flavor but could also be omitted if you desire. This classic holiday pie is filled with salty crunch and an ooey-gooey filling everyone will love.
5 from 6 votes
The homemade pecan pie is in a white pie dish on a blue background.

Apple Pie

When you need a pie to feed a feast, my apple slab pie is a perfect pick. Baked in a rectangular pan, this one is easy to travel with.

Apple Slab Pie
This freezer-friendly apple slab pie is a delicious fresh apple dessert any time of year. The flaky pie crust and juicy apples are great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!
5 from 40 votes
A square piece of apple pie has a fork taking a bite.

Cherry Pie

A fun alternative to apple pie, my cherry slab pie can be made with fresh or frozen cherries. You can assemble the whole pie in advance and freeze it and just bake it the day before Thanksgiving.

Cherry Slab Pie
A simple way to feed a crowd, this delicious cherry slab pie can be baked with frozen cherries or fresh cherries during the peak of the season.
4.93 from 57 votes
A cherry slab pie sits in a metal baking pan and has heart-shaped cut outs for the top crust.

No Bake Desserts

If you've got your hands full with other Thanksgiving prep, a no bake dessert is a solid solution for saving time.

These easy recipes travel well and definitely work best as make ahead desserts. They taste best after being chilled.

Snicker Salad

When I was driving across state for our first Thanksgiving with my husband's family, my Minnesota mother-in-law told me to bring snicker salad as my holiday contribution. For good reason! This sweet treat serves as a no bake Thanksgiving dessert or even a funny side dish to add to the feast.

Snicker Salad
Snicker salad is right at home on your holiday table. Is it a side dish or is it a dessert? No one knows for sure, but no matter what it is a tasty part of your holiday meal.
4.77 from 34 votes
A bowl of Snicker Salad next to marshmallows and green apples.

Banana Pudding (No Bananas!)

If you've been to any gathering in the south, you know how important the banana pudding is. If you're not sure bananas belong at Thanksgiving, I have good news. My banana pudding has NO bananas! This sweet vanilla dessert has crispy Chessman cookies on top and would be just right for the holiday.

Banana Pudding {No Bananas}
This easy potluck dessert recipe is a classic southern church dessert. While it usually features fresh bananas layered in the creamy pudding mix, this recipe is completely banana free for anyone who has an allergy or strong aversion to banana flavor.
4.91 from 53 votes
A slice of banana pudding sits on a stack of white plates. You can see that there are no bananas in the layers.

Cheesecake with Toppings

The easiest make ahead dessert for Thanksgiving? Go grab a plain vanilla cheesecake from the grocery store or Costco and prep ahead my triple berry sauce or one of these other delicious cheesecake toppings for the holiday.

Triple Berry Sauce
This simple triple berry sauce is so easy to make using fresh or frozen blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Drizzle it over cheesecake or your favorite dessert.
4.48 from 21 votes
A slice of plain cheesecake has fresh strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries sprinkled over the top and on the table. A drizzle of dark purple triple berry sauce is dripping down from the top. A pitcher of sauce is nearby.

Salted Caramel Sauce

My homemade salted caramel sauce keeps for a week or longer in the fridge (if your family doesn't gobble it up before then!) This would be a thoughtful hostess gift to bring to the Thanksgiving host family. It's easy to travel with right in its own mason jar. Use it for drizzling over practically any Thanksgiving dessert on the buffet table or stirring into your after dinner coffee.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
This addictive homemade caramel sauce makes an excellent ice cream topping or dessert sauce for fall treats.
4.98 from 46 votes
A mason jar filled with homemade caramel sauce with a spoon.

More Thanksgiving Ideas

Now that you've got your make ahead Thanksgiving desserts all picked out, what about the rest of your meal plan?

Don't miss my other easy Thanksgiving recipes for your family feast:

The photo collage shows 4 travel friendly make ahead Thanksgiving desserts including apple cake, pumpkin and pecan pies, apple crisp bars, and a vanilla cheesecake with apple toppings.


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