9 No-Bake Desserts Impressive Enough for the Holidays
By the time the holidays actually roll around, you probably can’t even look at your oven. You’ve baked pies for Thanksgiving, cookies for the exchange at work, and now you’re in charge of the holiday meal, too. You’ve been working overtime to get ready, and so has your oven. When it comes time to making one more dessert, don’t reach for the baking sheet. Make these no-bake recipes instead.
No-bake recipes can get a bad rap for looking like something from a second-rate potluck, but they can also be the star of the holiday dessert table. The trick is making them look fancy and delectable, without the effort of baking another ho-hum, status quo ginger snap. With so many varieties and flavor options, you can put your oven mitts down until January. Don’t believe us? Check out these holiday dessert recipes for proof. With luck, you’ll be asked to make them again next year.
1. Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites
If there were ever a season perfect for red velvet, it’s this one. When you need to serve a crowd at a holiday party, these cheesecake balls are the ticket. All you need to do is mix cream cheese with heavy cream and sweeteners, then roll the chilled mixture in red velvet cake crumbs. Delish suggests using crumbs from a box mix, but you can also crumble any store-bought red velvet baked goods for a similar effect.
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups red velvet cake crumbs
Directions: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add heavy cream and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer mixture to the freezer to firm up, 2 hours.
Using a small cookie scoop, scoop small balls of mixture and use your hands to form the mixture into balls. Roll mixture in red velvet cake crumbs, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once all cheesecake bites are rolled, transfer to the refrigerator to chill and harden, at least 1 hour.
2. Candy Cane Chocolate Swirl Fudge
If you’re not over peppermint yet but can’t make one more batch of peppermint bark, try this easy fudge recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. You’ll make a simple white chocolate fudge, swirl in peppermint extract and candy cane bits, then top with semisweet morsels. Place tiny squares on a tray, or put a few in festive boxes for the perfect hostess gifts. The best part? The fudge can be made and frozen up to three months ahead of time, then thawed overnight in the refrigerator for any occasion.
- 3 cups white chocolate morsels
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- ½ teaspoon peppermint extract (or more)
- 8 crushed candy canes
- ⅔ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Directions: Line a 8-by-8 square baking pan with parchment paper for aluminum foil, then spray lightly with cooking spray.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Stir frequently, until chips are melted and the two ingredients are fully combined. Remove from heat, then stir in peppermint extract and candy canes.
Spread mixture evenly into the baking pan, then top with chocolate chips and gently swirl them into the fudge mixture with a knife. Top with a few more crushed candy cane pieces, then chill for 3 hours. Cut into squares, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
3. Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Jelly
Panna cotta means “cooked cream” in Italian, and is a simple yet impressive dessert to make at home. When you layer homemade pomegranate gelatin on top, it’s the perfect festive dessert for your holiday meal. The blogger at Inspired Edibles serves these desserts in flute glasses, but any clear glass that shows off the layers will work well. The number of servings will depend on the size of the glasses, but the recipe makes about 2 cups of panna cotta and 1 cup of the pomegranate jelly. If you’re looking for a deep red color, the blogger suggests using even 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in addition to the bottled stuff.
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 2 teaspoons gelatin powder
For the pomegranate jelly
- 2 ounces boiling water
- 1½ teaspoons gelatin powder
- 8 ounces pomegranate juice
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, optional
- ½ pomegranate, seeded for garnish
Directions: Add fresh lemon juice to a small dish and mix in gelatin powder.
Meanwhile in a small saucepan, combine honey and coconut milk over medium-low heat until the mixture becomes hot to the touch, but not boiling. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, then spoon in lemon gelatin mixture and whisk together.
Add Greek yogurt, grated lemon zest, and vanilla to the bowl. Stir well to combine. To make the pomegranate jelly: Place boiling water in a small bowl and stir in gelatin to dissolve. In a separate bowl, pour pomegranate juice and maple syrup together. Add the gelatin mixture to the juice, combining completely.
To assemble dessert: You can make as many layers as you choose, but each one needs to solidify completely before adding the next layer. Time is really the only factor here. On average, the blogger notes you’ll need to refrigerate each layer 1-2 hours to solidify before pouring the next layer. Garnish the tops with pomegranate seeds or a dollop of yogurt, as desired.
4. Gooey Chocolate Caramel Tart
A combination of caramel and chocolate is always a good idea, and it becomes impressive when its packaged in the form of a tart. It gives the impression of spending several hours in the kitchen, when in it really only took 30 minutes. Real Simple makes it easy to serve up this Instagram-worthy confection in no time.
- 2 cups crushed chocolate wafer cookies
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
- Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
Directions: Prepare the crust. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, cookie crumbs, and the salt. Press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch fluted tart pan, using a straight-sided dry measuring cup to help. Refrigerate the crust until firm.
Prepare the filling. In a small pot or microwave-safe bowl, heat the cream and butter together until melted. In a medium saucepan heat the sugar, syrup, and ¼ cup water over medium-high heat until the sugar turns deep amber, swirling the pan to caramelize the sugar evenly, 6 to 8 minutes. Working gently, remove the sugar from the heat and add the cream mixture. Be careful: this will bubble up and sputter.
Return the saucepan to the stove. Cook the sugar-cream mixture over medium-high heat until it forms a caramel that is thick and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the cinnamon and salt and pour the caramel into the prepared crust. Refrigerate the tart until firm, at least 8 hours.
Remove tart from the refrigerator 10 minutes before serving and transfer it to a serving plate. Drizzle tart with melted chocolate and sprinkle with salt. Immediately slice the tart into slices and transfer to plates. Let stand a few minutes at room temperature before serving.
5. Limoncello Freeze
If you’d prefer a lighter dessert without the heavy flavors of winter, you can go in a refreshing direction with this limoncello dessert from Cooking Light, made from four simple ingredients. Lemon curd is available year-round (near the jams and jellies in your grocery store) but will add a punch of fresh flavors to counteract all the richness of the holidays.
- ¼ cup lemon curd
- 2½ tablespoons Limoncello
- 2 cups vanilla low-fat ice cream
- 4 vanilla meringue cookies, crushed
Directions: Combine curd and liqueur in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk to blend. Add ice cream to curd mixture; stir to blend. Spoon ½ cup ice cream mixture into each of four bowls; top each with 1 crushed meringue cookie.
6. Chocolate Parfaits
Chocolate can be indulgent without feeling heavy. The editors at Southern Living created this healthier parfait recipe that layers chocolate pudding with crumbled chocolate graham crackers and whipped topping. Surprisingly enough, the recipe creators preferred the taste of the fat-free, sugar-free pudding mix over the sweetened version.
- 1 (1.4-ounce) package fat-free, sugar-free chocolate instant pudding mix
- 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
- ½ cup light sour cream
- 1 (8-ounce) container fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
- ¾ cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated chocolate
Directions: Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a bowl until blended and smooth. Fold in 1 ½ cups whipped topping.
Spoon 1 tablespoon crumbs into each of 6 (4-ounce) glasses, and top with ⅓ cup pudding mixture. Repeat layers with remaining crumbs and pudding mixture. Top each parfait evenly with remaining whipped topping and grated chocolate. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
7. White Chocolate-Cranberry Cheesecake
You could go through the hassle and fretting of baking a cheesecake, but these cheesecake parfaits are much easier and just as delicious. Good Housekeeping says you can make these individual desserts up to two days in advance, so it’s perfect for those times when you can’t handle more last-minute preparations. All you have to do is make the cranberry mixture ahead of time, but wait to top off the cheesecakes until just before serving.
- 1 pound cranberries, fresh or frozen
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 25 gingersnap cookies
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened
- 3 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Directions: Put the cranberries and a ½ cup of sugar in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 4 minutes or until syrupy, stirring halfway through. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until cool.
Meanwhile, pulse the gingersnap cookies and butter in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment until finely ground. Set aside. Beat the cream cheese, white chocolate, heavy cream, and remaining ¼ cup of sugar until smooth.
For each parfait, layer crumbs, cheesecake filling, and cooled cranberries in a jar or dessert cup. Keep cool until ready to serve.
8. Oreo Truffles
Chocolate truffles continue to be a quick and easy way to serve your guests a delicious bite of indulgence. Parents provides a no-fail recipe for classic Oreo truffles, sure to be a crowd-pleaser at any gathering you attend. This recipe has you top each truffle with reserved cookie crumbs, although you can also use holiday sprinkles or sugar crystals for a festive touch.
- 1 (16-ounce) package chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos
- 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Directions: Pulse 8 cookies in a food processor. Place the cookie crumbs in a bowl and set aside. Place the remaining cookies in the food processor, along with the cream cheese. Process until smooth and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll into 1-inch balls and set on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Using two forks, dip the cookie balls in the melted chocolate, turning to remove excess and lay the truffles on wax paper. Immediately sprinkle with the reserved crumbs. Allow to set for at least 30 minutes.
9. Copycat Musketeer Bars
If you have serious candy bar fans in the family, these chocolate bars offer a simple way to replicate the flavors of a 3 Musketeers without hitting up the candy aisle. Better Homes and Gardens has you use chocolate, wafers, and marshmallow creme to make these extra delectable bars.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 (11.5-ounce) package milk chocolate pieces
- 18 to 21 chocolate wafer cookies
- 1 (13-ounce) jar chocolate spread
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
- 2 (7-ounce) jars marshmallow creme
Directions: Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Lightly coat foil with cooking spray. In a small bowl microwave half of the chocolate pieces 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Spread evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange chocolate wafer cookies in a single layer on top of the chocolate layer, breaking cookies as needed to fit. Chill 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine chocolate spread, butter, and malted milk powder. Stir in marshmallow creme. Microwave 30 seconds, stirring after 15 seconds. Stir until fully combined. With lightly greased hands or a lightly greased rubber spatula, pat mixture evenly over the cookie layer in pan.
In a small bowl microwave the remaining chocolate pieces 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Immediately spread melted chocolate evenly over marshmallow layer. Chill 30 minutes or until topping is firm. Use edges of foil to lift uncut bars out of pan. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars.