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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.