Healthy Dessert Ideas
When it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, our dessert recipes take the cake. Sweet and satisfying without the guilt—our confections are both scrumptious and healthy. Sit back and relax because you won't want to miss a bite.
Our first recipe is 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.
You'll love these Chocolate-Mint Bars if you're a big fan of the thin chocolate-mint Girl Scout cookies or Andes candies. Refrigerating the bars allows the mint layer and glaze to set properly. For a more grown-up taste, you can substitute dark chocolate chips for some or all of the semisweet chocolate chips in the glaze.
Texas Sheet Cake
With a presence as large as its namesake state, this humble, easy-to-prepare cake made it all the way to the finals for our best chocolate recipe bake-off. Since it first appeared in the magazine 12 years ago, it's been a staff and reader favorite. This recipe uses butter and buttermilk in quantities that give it the right indulgently moist texture and rich flavor, but keep a serving's fat at just 10 grams and calories at about 300.
Pumpkin Pie Pudding
No time to make pumpkin pie? Try this pudding instead—a faster, easier, and healthier alternative.
"Tastes just like the inside of pumpkin pie!" raves dtougas. "My husband and I both loved it and I'll definitely make it again."
Blackberry Merlot Granita
"This reminds me of summer after catching lightning bugs," says Chef Myers (Comme Ça, Los Angeles). "My family would eat fresh-picked blackberries like candy after dinner as the sun was going down."
Last-Minute Tropical Sherbet
Frozen fruit and yogurt get whirred together to make a tangy sherbet that's the texture of soft-serve. You can make it ahead, but don't freeze overnight; the mixture will become icy.
Chocolate Chunk Bread Puddings
Try not to chop the chocolate too finely so you'll have good-sized chunks to bite into. This pudding uses Hawaiian bread, which is a soft, sweet bread found in the bakery section of most grocery stores.
Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie
We’ve done 30+ choco-pies in the last 15 years alone, but this silky and creamy pie trotted out a spicy note. ¡Arriba!
Nathan’s Lemon Cake
This is a namesake because the recipe developer’s mom baked it for his birthday every year. We've adapted this recipe to trim the fat and calories, and it's still a moist, lemony treat.
Double Chocolate Ice Cream
A combo of cocoa powder and melted chocolate makes for a rich, ultra-chocolaty dessert. We updated the recipe to use heavy cream in place of the half-and-half in the original. Note: If you’re using a 1 1/2-quart tabletop ice-cream maker, it’ll be pretty full.
A deliciously dense almond cake rests underneath the cheesy spiced pumpkin layer. Almond brittle adds a spectacular finishing touch.
Lemon-Scented Blueberry Cupcakes
Studded with plump, juicy fresh berries, these cupcakes are fun for birthdays and special occasions. Be as creative as you want when frosting the cupcakes. For a more homespun look, use a small, flat spatula. Want to be fancy? Pipe frosting onto cupcakes with a pastry bag fitted with a star tip for a fun, swirled appearance.
Unsweetened chocolate and instant espresso powder give depth of flavor to these sophisticated cookies. A dredge in powdered sugar before baking ensures sweetness, and also gives them a unique cracked surface and snow-covered look.
Bourbon-Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle
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.
Though a beloved pie classic, rhubarb has a strong tartness that sometimes needs moderating. Sweet raspberries do that job perfectly here, while a splash of crème de cassis adds even deeper berry flavor. A slice of this pie absolutely screams for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
Cool off on a hot day with a big bowl of creamy homemade ice cream. Perfect for entertaining, this top-rated recipe makes enough for a crowd.
This lighter twist on traditional carrot cake features a tender cake packed with grated carrot, juicy pineapple, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. Cream cheese frosting and a garnish of grated carrot top the cake.
Mint Julep Granita
The classic cocktail provides relief from the heat of a Southern summer, so why not freeze and serve it for dessert? Mint-infused simple syrup and smoky-sweet bourbon combine in a slushy delight that's definitely not for kids.
Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies
This reader recipe was developed by Marcie Dixon of Arlington Heights, Illinois, who recommends using bittersweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate for these decadent cookies. "Not only does it have less sugar," she said, "but it has a deeper flavor, too." Double the recipe and keep these 94-calorie cookies in the freezer for when you're in need of a healthy treat.
Bourbon-Glazed Peaches With Yogurt
If you have the willpower, keep this recipe in the files until July and August, when peaches are most delicious. Then, as the fruit hangs on the trees soaking up sunshine during summer's hottest days, all the magic happens. Crisp flesh softens, and sugar levels rise to balance the tart acidity. No question: Peak peach time is worth the wait. Creamy yogurt is brought to another level when scooped over these peaches.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Torte
Here’s the secret: You can make this pumpkin torte well ahead and freeze it. The sauce is jarred. The cook will be celebrated.
This easy dessert comes together in a few minutes if you purchase orange sections from the refrigerated part of the produce section. Prepare the parfaits in the morning and refrigerate, covered, for up to four hours; sprinkle with wheat germ just before serving.
Lemon-Earl Grey Squares
Lemon squares are a tried and true summer classic, but you know we've got to mix it up. Try these decidedly different sweet treats and you won't look back.
The cranberry steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere for the sparkling, jewel-like effect. You can use the liquid drained from the cranberries in cocktails or over ice cream. If you can't find mascarpone cheese, use regular cream cheese.
Vanilla Cheesecake with Cherry Topping
In this rich cheesecake, we use the entire vanilla bean, so none of it is wasted: The seeds flavor the cheesecake, and the bean halves flavor the topping.
Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies
Double Chocolate Soufflés with Warm Fudge Sauce Recipe
These chocolate soufflés are an uber-decadent dessert and the perfect finishing touch to dinner parties or a quiet romantic dinner. You can even prepare the ingredients ahead, spoon the batter into soufflé dishes, cover, and freeze until you're ready to cook them. They can go straight from the freezer to the oven. Make the sauce ahead, too, and simply warm it before serving.
Truffles typically have the added richness of cream and butter. These ingredients help stabilize chocolate, which tends to scorch, separate, or become grainy if not heated carefully. We add corn syrup and evaporated milk for smooth, creamy confections.
Apple-Cinnamon Bundt Cake
A homey comfort classic made special with a dusting of sugar and a hidden filling of apples and nuts.
The custard base will be thick, but whipped topping is folded in to give it the classic airy texture of a mousse. Because this dessert needs time to chill, it is a terrific make-ahead option.
Pumpkin Pie Cake
To lighten this stunning dessert, we cut out three-quarters of a cup of oil and combined whole eggs and egg substitute. Now with only 223 calories per slice, this centerpiece is a nutritional masterpiece.
Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes
Top tender apple cupcakes with a sweet and crunchy topping of brown sugar and almonds, then drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze. The amaretto adds an even more distinct almond flavor to the cupcakes, but if you don't have it, you can use almond extract instead.
Minted Watermelon and Lemon Ice Pops
Juicy-tangy watermelon ice pops somehow taste more of melon than the fruit itself.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Instant coffee intensifies the chocolate richness of these cupcakes and dense cream cheese frosting adds creamy texture and an indulgent topping. Chocolate lovers can rest assured that these cupcakes pack all of the decadent flavors of chocolate, but using calorie-saving ingredients like fat-free buttermilk, egg substitute, and fat-free cream cheese. If you're hosting a holiday or birthday party, top them off with themed candies or sprinkles. For thicker frosting, cover and chill for 10 minutes before spreading on the cupcakes. Refrigerate frosted cupcakes overnight; cover lightly with plastic wrap, or store them in an airtight container.
Lemon Cream Pie
Fluffy topping, silky filling, and crisp crust: This cream pie is a truly dreamy finish to any meal.
Double-Ginger Pumpkin Flans
Unsweetened pumpkin and fresh ginger add an unexpected twist to creamy classic flan (also known as crème caramel).
A sprinkling of fresh, fragrant thyme leaves on ripe apricots helps bring this flat cake to staff-favorite status. Food Editor Ann Taylor Pittman agrees: "The addition of thyme is an absolutely ingenious, delicious touch."
This is pure chocolate indulgence, with a whiff of hazelnut. Keep in mind that fondue is more versatile than you may think—it’s a warm sauce to drizzle over cake, ice cream, or yogurt. Be sure to start with a high-quality chocolate for the best flavor and texture.
Frozen Orange Tortes with Cranberry Compote
Our Frozen Orange Tortes with Cranberry Compote feature a jeweled cranberry topping that cascades down a fluffy ice cream filling that's a dreamy citrus cloud.
For those who say it's not dessert if it's not chocolate: Creamy milk chocolate mousse is sandwiched between intensely chocolaty cake layers.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
It's hard to beat the sweet-salty goodness of this indulgent yet light caramel ice cream. Light ice cream has evolved from its watery ice-milk days. In the Test Kitchen, we like to get creative with ingredients and flavors, but we hold fast to settling for nothing less than smooth, creamy, rich results.
Canola Oil Pound Cake with Browned Butter Glaze
Heart-healthy canola oil helps lighten this classic dessert. And an ingenious technique of soaking a vanilla bean in the oil adds deep, rich flavor. Serve this as a sweet finish to a delicious dinner.
"Simple to prepare, this salad is a light and refreshing way to end a meal," said reader Liz Brown. "The cinnamon-orange combination is a great one. You can also serve this over ice cream or frozen yogurt."
Fresh Coconut Cake
Even though fresh coconut is sublime, you can use Goya brand coconut water in place of fresh coconut water and buy coconut flakes in the baking aisle. A cooked Italian meringue does big-time nutritional pinch-hitting for a high-fat cream-based frosting.
Banana Cream Pie Smoothie
Frozen bananas, graham cracker crumbs, and vanilla extract are a few of the ingredients that make this smoothie a rich dessert in a glass. Because it calls for low-fat yogurt and fat-free milk, one serving of this drink gives you about the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk.
Lemon Curd with Berries
In this custard, citrus juice stands in for milk as the base liquid, thickened by egg yolks. Butter gives the curd a glorious sheen. Garnish with mint leaves for a spot of green color.
Our Blueberry-Peach Cobbler is like a blueberry muffin canoodling with fresh peaches. Be sure to use peaches that aren't superripe for this recipe so they'll hold their shape when cooked. The baking dish will be brimming with fruit and topping, so it's a good idea to place it on a foil-lined baking sheet before putting it in the oven.
A perfect dessert dialectic: crunchy and creamy textures, sweet and bittersweet flavors.
Tiramisu is Italian for "lift me up." And its indulgent creamy, mocha-tinged flavor is indeed uplifting. With layers of ladyfingers, coffee, mascarpone cheese, and shaved or grated chocolate, traditional tiramisu is a cross between a trifle and bread pudding. Our lightened version is less than 300 calories per serving, and makes for a sophisticated dinner-party treat.
Roasted Banana Pudding
Many folks say banana pudding is best the next day, after the flavors have blended overnight and the cookies have softened. In our classic recipe makeover, roasting the bananas in the peel intensifies the flavor.
Fresh Mint Ice Cream
This make-ahead creamy treat makes an ideal dessert for summertime entertaining. Not a mint fan? Substitute toasted coconut for mint.
Maple-Gingerbread Pots de Crème
The crackly counterpoint to the silky custards occurs when you sprinkle a thin layer of sugar on top and broil to melt. The caramel hardens as it cools.
Custard-style puddings, like this one, often call for egg yolks because they possess thickening qualities and add rich flavor to the final dish. We also use corn starch in combination with the eggs because it adds a pleasing silky sheen in addition to thickening the mixture.
No-Bake Fresh Strawberry Pie
Glorious spring berries are the focus here—tons of them, piled atop a layer of creamy filling and a chocolate wafer cookie crust.
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
"I remember discovering lemon verbena one summer at the greenmarket in New York," says Chef Hatfield (Hatfield's, Los Angeles). "The smell is intoxicating, and it stays with you forever."
Banana Snacking Cake
Loaf cakes hold up well during shipping, and a slice can stand in for breakfast on a busy morning. This healthy version is made with potassium-packed bananas, canola oil, low-fat yogurt, and just 1/3 cup of sugar.
Fresh tart cherries can be hard to find, which is why we add some dried ones to boost the flavor of this crisp. If you have access to fresh tart cherries, use 3 pounds and omit the dried fruit. Serve with vanilla low-fat ice cream, if desired; a small (1/4-cup) scoop will add 55 calories and 0.5 grams of saturated fat to each serving.
Warm Apple-Buttermilk Custard Pie
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.
Roasted Pear Crème Brûlée 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
Mush together purchased ice cream, lemon curd (found near the jellies and jams), and limoncello, and you get a delicious lemony version of a Creamsicle—fruity-tangy and creamy-milky at the same time. Meringue cookies add welcome crunch.
A mighty fine cookie. Bittersweet edge, nice and rich. It's also easy to prepare and keeps for several days in an airtight container.
Banana Split Ice-Cream Sandwiches
Crisp vanilla cookies add a textural twist to conventional banana split ingredients in this delightful sweet treat.
Peach and Basil Shortcake
This company-worthy shortcake is both beautiful and delicious. We love the unexpected flavor that basil brings to the table.
Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies
How do you improve the perfect chocolate chip cookie? Make it bigger! These ample treats bring out the little kid in everyone when paired with a glass of milk and a mug for dunking. Each batch makes only 6 cookies, so you might want to double the recipe for a crowd.
Chipotle Peanut Brittle
This smoky-sweet brittle is a great snack; substitute pecans or almonds, if you prefer. For plain peanut brittle, omit the chile powder.
Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart
Nestled in a creamy filling and crumbly graham cracker crust, strawberries shine in this delectable tart.
"OUTSTANDING!!!" said MegLee. "I made this as a birthday treat for my mother, everyone loved it, especially her!!! I can't wait for an occasion to make this again."
Sautéed Grape Napoleons with Port Reduction
The layers of flavor in this dish add up to something incredible―with sweet-tart grapes, a tangy goat cheese mixture, earthy walnuts, and a honeyed port sauce all layered between airy and crisp phyllo, who could ask for anything more?
Peach and Raspberry Pavlova Parfaits
At home, mature peaches will continue to ripen at room temperature—increasing in juiciness and flavor, though not in sweetness. To make crumbs, place cookies in a plastic bag and gently crush with a rolling pin.
Rum-Spiked Grilled Pineapple with Toasted Coconut
Perfect for a backyard cookout with friends, just six ingredients make one delicious dessert in less than 10 minutes. Grilling caramelizes the sugars in the fruit for a light treat that is delicious on its own or served with low-fat vanilla ice cream.
Vodka keeps the sherbet from freezing rock hard, but it's optional. For a delicious garnish, boil julienne strips of grapefruit rind in simple syrup for 30 minutes; drain and toss in sugar.
Bittersweet Chocolate-Cherry Sorbet with Fresh Cherry Compote
Tart-sweet cherry and strong dark chocolate flavors meld beautifully in this surprisingly rich sorbet crowned with juicy fresh cherries. Use a high-quality jam for the sorbet, and be sure to start the process a day ahead for the best flavor and texture.
Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread
Melted chocolate chips add an elegant (and tasty) swirl to this gorgeous bread, making it a perfect candidate for gifts and guests.
Chocolate Almond Cherry Crisps
These no-bake cookies taste like bite-sized candy bars and are terrific with a cup of coffee. Prepare them up to two days in advance, and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Simple Strawberry Mousse
This light and airy dessert will leave you feeling satisfied and refreshed. It is the perfect way to showcase delicious strawberries.
Coconut Cake with Buttercream Frosting
This coconut cake recipe is one of our readers' all-time favorites. The frosting is also popular for several other cupcake and cake flavors like carrot, spice, and basic white.
Seared Figs and White Peaches with Balsamic Reduction
Ripe figs and peaches have naturally high levels of sugar, which means they'll caramelize beautifully without additional sugar or copious amounts of fat. This simple yet elegant dessert is a great way to maintain the texture and floral flavors of these delicate fruits. Toasted whole black peppercorns add an interesting savory flavor to this dish.
Sponge Cake with Orange Curd and Strawberries
Matzo and almond flour sponge cake is delightful—floral and sweet, with lemon, orange, and tangy berries.
Gingered Blueberry Shortcake
Crumbly shortbread and homemade whipped cream elevate a simple berry to a memorably indulgent treat. The components of this dish can be made in advance, then assembled just before serving.
Hello Dolly Bars
These bar cookies—also known as seven-layer bars—take less than 30 minutes to make and call for just eight ingredients, making Hello Dolly Bars the perfect dessert for taking along, well, just about anywhere!
Reviewer dmpeace received a little help with these in the kitchen: "These were a fabulous treat and fun to make with my 2 1/2 year old. She got a kick out of sprinkling the toppings. Very rich, and very sweet."
Strawberry Angel Cake
Make a store-bought angel food cake beautiful and utterly delicious by dressing it up a bit. Whether you are planning a large gathering or just serving a special dinner for two, this tasty creation must be on the menu.
Margarita Ice-Cream Sandwiches
Fresh lime zest and coarse sea salt mimic the flavors of a margarita in this treat that kids and adults will love.
Originally appearing in an issue from 1997, this Cinnamon-Apple Cake is one of our most loved recipes and can be served as dessert or a breakfast coffee cake. The cream cheese in the batter gives the cake lots of moisture. We recommend using mild-tasting Rome apples.
Strawberries in Meyer Lemon Syrup
Meyer lemons, available through May, have sweeter, more aromatic juice than regular lemons. To ensure the dessert doesn't get too tart if substituting regular lemon juice, begin with 2 tablespoons juice, and taste; add more juice if desired. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
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.
Roasted Banana Bars with Browned Butter-Pecan Frosting
Put those ripe, speckled bananas to good use. This dish starts with roasting bananas, which adds caramelized notes to their tropical sweetness. The bananas flavor the light-and-fluffy bars, which are topped with cream cheese icing and chopped pecans for the perfect amount of tanginess and crunch.
Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet
The deep chocolate flavor and rich consistency belie this dessert's low-fat status. Freeze the sorbet up to two days in advance; let stand at room temperature 15 minutes to soften a bit before scooping.
Strawberries with Orange-Ricotta Cream
Prepare the orange-ricotta cream early in the day; it is best served very cold over ripe strawberries. You'll have a half cup of the cheese mixture left over. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Baklava is a classic Mediterranean dessert that traditionally features layered phyllo dough, nuts, and syrup or honey. In this version, creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread adds rich, decadent flavor to this nutty, crowd-pleasing pastry.
Summer Berry Medley with Limoncello and Mint
Limoncello (lee-mon-CHAY-low) is a lemon-flavored liqueur from Italy's Amalfi coast. It's often savored after a meal. Store it in the freezer, and serve over ice. If you have trouble finding it, substitute an orange-flavored liqueur such as Grand Marnier. This recipe earned our Test Kitchens' highest rating.
Coffee-Drenched Ice Cream with Banana and Nuts
This quick treat is a coffee-lover's dream. We used espresso, however feel free to substitute strong brewed coffee, or use instant coffee/espresso granules to make the coffee. A vegetable peeler is a great tool to make chocolate curls from a bar of chocolate.
Ice Cream Treasures
Use any combination of cereals you like. This frozen dessert would also be delicious with chocolate ice cream and chopped walnuts instead of almonds.
A little rum added to the melted chocolate puts this creamy, chocolaty cheesecake over the edge.
Meringue-Topped Cranberry Curd Tart
This amazing tart is definitely a show stopper. Serve in a beautiful pie dish for a winning dessert.
Try this in a cocktail glass with a shot of chilled dark rum spooned over the top. FYI: Make sure you buy ripe fruit. Papayas yellow as they ripen: Look for full, yellowish skin with slightly soft flesh for the best musky melon flavor. The base of a pineapple should be red-orange in color. Smell it and check for a sweet aroma.
Piña Colada Sorbet
Three kinds of coconut products—coconut water, coconut milk, and cream of coconut—offer the best flavor and texture. Look for coconut water by the fruit juices. For an adult treat, drizzle rum over your serving.
Watermelon-Jalapeño Ice Pops
The ice pop gets a decidedly grown-up spin: It’s made from fresh melon, chile, and lime—both juice and rind. A bit of pectin helps keep all the ingredients incorporated evenly; without it, they tend to separate.
Peach, Plum, and Apricot Crisp
Stone fruits work their magic with this dessert. Serve warm with vanilla low-fat ice cream.
Spiced Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Vegetable shortening gives this piecrust—which we've deemed our best ever—a delicious, flaky texture. Be sure to read the nutrition labels and buy a brand with no trans fats though.
Vanilla Bean Shortbread
Use pantry staples and a flavorful vanilla bean to create these delicate cookies. Make them up to five days in advance, and store in an airtight container.
Tangy Ice Cream with Cashew Brittle
This brittle is a delicious counterpoint to our Tangy Ice Cream. But, we can assure you, the ice cream is delicious on its own too.