Healthier holiday treat recipes, including gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb and paleo options! This Christmas dessert roundup includes everything you need for a delicious baking season!

18 healthier holiday treats collage

With holiday baking season in full swing, Natalie (from Perry’s Plate) and I thought we would bring you some delicious options.

We have all sorts of goodies that are gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, keto, dairy-free, and more!

Most of these recipes can be adapted to fit multiple dietary restrictions with some simple swaps if they don’t already meet those parameters.

From bars and brownies to cookies, cobblers, snacks, sweet breakfasts and everything in between, I trust you’ll find something here your whole family will love.

I have included more information after the recipes to help you along in your healthier holiday baking journey. For now, let’s check out some treats!

Let’s jump in!

Healthy Christmas Cookies:

5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – A fabulous celebration of three classic cookie recipes: peanut butter, chocolate chip, and oatmeal! Flourless, gluten-free, dairy-free and easy to make with one bowl. The ideal cookie for the person who loves it all!

Baked peanut butter oatmeal cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet sprinkled with sea salt and extra chocolate chips.

Special Diets: Flourless, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free with a vegan option.

Notes: In addition to regular chocolate chips, you can use butterscotch chips, cinnamon chips, or sugar-free chocolate chips. Add chopped pecans or walnuts for nutty cookies!

Chewy Gluten Free Ginger Cookies – These delicious chewy ginger molasses cookies are gluten free AND sweetened with coconut sugar! Loaded with fresh ginger, they are bold in flavor. The chocolate drizzle is optional but it makes them more festive.

Basket of gluten-free ginger cookies

Special Diets: These chewy ginger molasses cookies are gluten-free and refined sugar-free.

Notes: For a festive look, be sure to do the chocolate drizzle! I like both regular chocolate and white chocolate with some holiday sprinkles.

Cranberry Pistachio Vegan Shortbread Cookies – Grain-free vegan shortbread cookies made with just 6 basic ingredients. These light and buttery cookies are packed with flavor without being overly sugary.

Cranberry Pistachio Vegan Shortbread Cookies - paleo, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and absolutely delicious! These are the perfect Christmas cookie and are amazing when dipped in chocolate

Special Diets: Grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan shortbread cookies.

Notes: Be sure to follow the instructions to a T because the cookies are delicate. If you’re making cookies for gifts, these may not be the best option because they don’t hold up super well when travelling.

Keto Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies – Full of vibrant berry flavor and taste rich and buttery. This simple vegan sugar-free cookie recipe is perfect for holiday gifts or cookie exchanges! Make a batch for Christmas!

Special Diets: Low-carb and vegan.

Notes: Use regular sugar instead of sugar-free sweetener if you don’t follow a low-carb or keto diet.

Double Chocolate Gluten-Free Peppermint Cookies – Richly chocolatey Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies are soft and gooey on the inside, crispy around the edges, and a pure joy to share.

Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies are soft and gooey on the inside, crispy around the edges, and a pure joy to share.

Special Diets: Gluten-free.

Notes: This recipe includes a dairy-free and a  sugar-free option to change it up according to dietary needs.

Gluten-Free Cowboy Cookies –  Kitchen sink cookies with pecans, shredded coconut, and oats are a mouth-watering cookie recipe the whole family will love! A great family tradition, these crowd-pleasing cookies are perfectly buttery with amazing chewy texture.

baking sheet with cowboy cookies

Special Diets: Gluten-free

Notes: Follow my recipe for Keto Cowboy Cookies for a low-carb version.

Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies – If you or someone you love feels left out during pumpkin chocolate chip cookie season, I’ve got an easy gluten free pumpkin cookie recipe for you that is not only delicious, but will satisfy those who don’t need to eat gluten free! 

Healthy Holiday Brownies and Bars

Paleo Samoa Cookie Bars – These chewy, caramel-topped cookie bars are a paleo version of the famous Girl Scout Samoa cookies! They’re also nut-free.

Paleo Samoa Cookie Bars cut into squares and one with a bite taken out.

Special Diets: Grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free

Healthy Sweet Potato Brownies – This moist and rich fudge brownie recipe is made with wholesome ingredients for everyday eating and special events alike!

Stack of sweet potato brownies sprinkled with sea salt.

Special Diets: Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. Paleo brownies!

Notes: These are a MUST MAKE if you love brownies! This is one of my most popular dessert recipes. Add 1 cup of chopped raw walnuts or pecans if you love nutty brownies.

Healthy Pear Oatmeal Crumb Bars – With a perfect shortbread crust, rich and gooey cinnamon spiced pears and an amazing crispy crumble topping this pear dessert is the perfect bite!

Spoon drizzling glaze over the crumb bars.

Special Diets: These pear bars are gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. I have included instructions on how to make paleo friendly using almond flour.

Notes: Follow the instructions in the post for a grain-free version. You can also use apples instead of pears here!

Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies – These delicious peanut butter brownies include only 5 ingredients! They’re like a peanut butter cookie and a brownie had a brookie baby.

Flourless peanut butter brownies

Special Diets: These flourless brownies are gluten-free and grain-free. Can be made dairy-free with coconut oil instead of butter.

Notes: Use almond butter in place of peanut butter if you’d prefer.

Keto Pumpkin Pie Bars – These yummy sugar-free pumpkin pie bars taste just like regular pumpkin pie, but are low-carb, dairy-free, and grain-free. Easier to make than traditional pumpkin pie, this simple yet fun and festive dessert recipe is amazing for holidays.

Close up shot of a slice of keto pumpkin pie on a plate, ready to be eaten

Special Diets: This bar version of classic pumpkin pie is sugar-free, grain-free, and dairy-free, and keto.

Notes: If you aren’t keto, make my Paleo Pumpkin Pie Bars.

Vegan Cranberry Crumb Bars – Use your leftover homemade cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving or prepare the easy cranberry filling provided in this recipe.

Top down photo of cranberry crumb bars sliced on a cutting board

Special Diets: These delicious cranberry crumble bars are grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and vegan.

Notes: If you make my Maple Bourbon Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Sauce with Ginger or Maple, they’re both great in these bars if you have leftovers!

6-Ingredient Oatmeal Apple Pumpkin Bars – Made with healthy ingredients for a celebration of fall flavors! Whip up these easy pumpkin oatmeal bars to make the most out of apple and pumpkin season!

Apple pumpkin oatmeal bars on a sheet of parchment paper, cut into individual squares.

Special Diets: These delicious pumpkin apple bars are gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free, and vegan.

Notes: If you have leftover pumpkin puree from a different recipe, use the rest in this recipe!

Healthy Holiday Crumbles and Cobblers

Berry Cobbler with Snickerdoodle Topping – Frozen berries make this berry cobbler SO easy — year round! The topping is my favorite, though. It’s a buttery cross between a biscuit and a cookie with the signature cracked cinnamon-clove topping of a snickerdoodle. The best part? It’s gluten-free and naturally sweetened!

Berry cobbler with snickerdoodle topping

Special Diets: Gluten-free, refined sugar-free.

Gluten-Free Cranberry Crumble – The perfect festive fruity dessert for holiday entertaining, this cranberry crumble is perfectly sweet with bright tangy cranberry flavor.

Two white bowls with fruit crip and vanilla ice cream on top.

Special Diets: This fruit crumble is gluten-free, refined sugar-free and dairy-free.

Notes: Follow my instructions in the recipe for a grain-free version that uses almond flour.

Cardamom-Spiced Pear Crumble – Warmly-spiced paleo pear crumble made with almond flour, pure maple syrup, cardamom, and cinnamon for a cozy fall and winter healthy dessert.

Cardamom-Spiced Pear Crumble - this grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free dessert is paleo and healthy!

Special Diets: Grain-free, dairy-free, paleo, refined sugar-free, vegan.

Notes: Use apples instead of pears if you’d prefer.

Keto Blueberry Crumble – Easy sugar-free 6-Ingredient Keto Blueberry Crumble comes together lightning fast and is a marvelous dessert to share with guests. This simple yet delicious low-carb dessert recipe is wildly fresh and flavorful yet healthful to boot. No eggs, dairy, or grains!

Keto Blueberry Cobbler made with only 6 ingredients! Grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, light and refreshing!

Special Diets: Low-carb, keto, and vegan

Notes: Make my Gluten-Free Blueberry Crumble if you don’t follow a sugar-free diet.

Holiday Snacks

Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Popcorn – This white chocolate popcorn is studded with sweet dried cranberries, salty pretzels, sea salt flakes, and a surprising hint of orange zest! It’s the perfect last-minute gluten-free holiday treat.

Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Popcorn

Special Diets: Gluten free as is with gluten-free pretzels.

Notes: Use Lily’s stevia-sweetened white chocolate to reduce the sugar content.

Easy Maple Candied Pecans – Made with a few basic ingredients in 5 minutes or less! Enjoy them as a little treat with just the right amount of sweetness, or chop them up and add them to salads or sprinkle them on top of baked goods.

White bowl of candied pecans with raw pecans all around.

Special Diets: Refined sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan, and paleo.

Notes: Use raw walnuts instead of pecans.

Loaded Chai Spiced Caramel Popcorn – Chai Spice gives this Chai Caramel Popcorn an interesting twist! PLUS you’ll love the shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and chewy bits of dried apple.

Loaded Chai Caramel Popcorn

Special Diets: Gluten free, dairy free, and naturally sweetened.

Notes: Swap out the dried apples and nuts for other things like gluten free pretzels and other types of nuts if you like. Use store-bought chai spice or make your own Homemade Chai Spice.

10-Minute Candied Pecans with Cocoa & Chili – This is a super easy stovetop recipe that will give you sweet, chocolatey pecans with a little hint of cayenne. (Or a big hint of cayenne, if you like.)

Cocoa Chili Candied Pecans

Keto Chocolate Nuggets – Are you in love with those Keto Nuggets from Costco, too? I’ve hacked them into a much simpler recipe you can make at home with any type of chocolate or sweetener you like! Make some of these keto chocolate treats — they’re super easy.

Holiday Breakfast

Paleo Gingerbread Muffins – Grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free paleo gingerbread muffins. These moist, warmly-spiced muffins are an epic holiday treat that happens to be healthy enough for breakfast.

Wooden block with finished gingerbread muffins on top.

Special Diets: Grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free.

The Best Gluten-Free Coffee Cake – This delicious classic coffee cake recipe is made with a secret ingredient to make it extra delicious. Bake it for a sweet breakfast, brunch, or even dessert.

White plate with a single slice of coffee cake with a golden fork to the side and a plate of coffee cake slices in the background.

Special Diets: Gluten-free.

Notes: For a grain-free option, make my paleo Almond Flour Coffee Cake.

Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls – This no-knead cinnamon roll recipe is a fun baking project and is loved by even those who eat gluten and dairy.

Maple Pecan Vegan Cinnamon Rolls - gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cinnamon roll recipe that is loaded with delicious flavors!

Special Diets: These cinnamon rolls are gluten-free and dairy-free.

Notes: For a vegan version, make my Maple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls.

Holiday Candy

Homemade Peppermint Bark – This dark chocolate homemade peppermint bark recipe is easy to make, and I included an option to make it keto and dairy-free, too!

Homemade chocolate peppermint bark broken up on a white backdrop.

Special Diets: Can be paleo friendly depending on what chocolate you use.

Notes: Use Lily’s stevia-sweetened chocolate to make this low carb/keto friendly. The crushed candy canes add a minimal amount of sugar, but you can omit those, too, or find some that are sugar free.

How to Make Chocolate Bark – This combination might sound weird, but chocolate, bacon, and blackberries are a stellar combination! These are also low-carb/keto friendly if you use Stevia-sweetened chocolate!

How to make chocolate bark

3-Ingredient Chocolate Truffles – Easy chocolate truffles made with three basic ingredients: Medjool dates, cocoa powder, and coconut oil. This quick and easy truffle recipe is naturally sweetened with dates, vegan, and dairy-free.

White bowl full of vegan chocolate truffles with a golden napkin to the side. Ready to eat!

Special Diets: Vegan, Paleo.

Paleo Salted Caramel Sauce – This dairy-free caramel sauce is not only the easiest caramel sauce you’ll ever make, it’s also naturally sweetened! Only THREE ingredients, too!

Paleo Salted Caramel Sauce

Special Diets: Paleo friendly salted caramel.

Notes: Drizzle over cheesecakes, ice cream, or any dessert begging for caramel sauce.

What Desserts Are Considered Healthy?:

While the term “healthy” is highly subjective, generally desserts that are lower in sugar and free of highly processed ingredients are considered healthier.

Because processed sugar, gluten, and dairy all cause inflammation, desserts that are gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free can cause less stress to the immune system.

That is not to say a dessert that is gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free is inherently good for you. Over eating any one macro (protein, carbs, or fats) or calories can cause dietary imbalances, which means the whole diet must be taken into account.

For this reason, keeping a whole day’s worth of nutrition in mind is best when determining whether or not a treat is suitable for your health.

All of that said, desserts that are fruit sweetened, like my 4-Ingredient Banana Oatmeal Bars, Vegan Chocolate Truffles, or my Healthy 6-Ingredient Apple Oatmeal Cookies are generally considered healthy options for those who don’t follow a low-carb diet.

For those watching their blood sugar for health reasons, sugar-free desserts made with minimally processed ingredients like my Low-Carb Blueberry Crumb Bars or my Keto Pecan Shortbread Cookies are a great way of enjoying a sweet treat without the spike in blood sugar.

What Would Be A Healthy Swap For Desserts:

In general, most dessert recipes can be made healthier by using basic ingredient swaps. For instance, any dessert made with regular all-purpose flour can be substituted with gluten-free all-purpose flour.

In many cases, coconut oil or avocado oil can be used in place of butter. Full-fat coconut milk or any non-dairy milk can often be used to replace cream or milk.

In addition, unrefined sugars like maple sugar or coconut sugar can be used to replace cane sugar. To make a dessert lower in sugar, simply use a sugar-free sweetener like monk fruit sweetener.

To make a standard dessert recipe grain-free by using almond flour, coconut flour, cassava flour, etc., you may also need to make other changes to the liquid and fat in the recipe. For this reason, I don’t recommend swapping regular AP flour for any grain-free flour unless the recipe specifically says it is okay to do so.

What is a Good Dessert for Dieters?:

Trying to enjoy a sweet treat while also dieting? I’ve got you.

Desserts that are lower in calories per serving and don’t contain both a high amount of fat and sugar are great choices when dieting. Combining both fat and carbs in high amounts can make your brain circuitry go catty wompus and inevitably make you feel hungrier.

I’ve found my 3-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies, Healthy Apple Crisp, Cranberry Orange Protein Balls or Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Protein Balls are all great when following a low calorie diet.

While I typically don’t endorse dieting during the holidays, I fully understand the importance of setting and maintaining goals.

For this reason, whipping up sweet treats that feel like an indulgence that still fit within your macros can ensure you enjoy the holidays without going overboard.


Julia Mueller
Meet the Author

Julia Mueller

Julia Mueller is a recipe developer, cookbook author, and founder of The Roasted Root. She has authored three bestselling cookbooks, – Paleo Power Powers, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook. Her recipes have been featured in several national publications such as BuzzFeed, Self, Tasty, Country Living,, etc.

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