Traditional Halloween celebrations may not, this year, be subject to quite as stringent Covid-world considerations as last. And yet, if you don’t quite feel ready to knock on the doors of strangers – mask or no mask – why not instead cook up a Halloween feast at home? Staying within the four walls of your hovel or gingerbread house will undoubtedly be made the more appealing to little witches and warlocks if they have all the food groups to fuel up on (think eyeballs, monster mouths, ghostly pizza et cetera). Luckily, the spooky side of the worldwide spider web dredges up suggestions a-plenty for filling frightful little tummies with terrible treats to see them through the night of horrors ahead (otherwise known as family viewings of The Addams Family). Here is our pick of the most gruesome yet scarily scrumptious of them all.
Terrifying yet strangely cute, dig your fangs into these vampire cookies this All Hallows’ Eve, which are easy to make and endless fun. Simply sandwich together chocolate chip cookies with icing and marshmallow for the perfect treat to make with tiny ghouls in tow, since it is more a matter of assembly than cooking. Great, too, for handing out to trick of treaters.
Eerie Eyeball Pops
BBC Good Food
What could be more ghastly than gobbling down an eyeball whole? The idea becomes somewhat more palatable, however, when said peeper is, in fact, made of madeira cake, Oreo cookies and chocolate, then dipped in melted white chocolate, and adorned with Smartie and icing pens (the latter, naturally, for drawing on the all-important veins). Heads up: you’ll need 10 wooden skewers and a pumpkin – what else? – for standing the pops in. Even better, it uses ready-made Madeira cake – after all, what child could possibly stand to wait longer than necessary for these wonderfully grim treats? The recipe comes courtesy of BBC Good Food; they are a little fiddly, so will need a fair amount of input from the family’s grown–up trolls, ogres and sorceresses.
Halloween Italian Shortbread Cookies
The Petite Cook
Andrea Soranidis, a Sicilian ex-pat who now lives in London, is The Petite Cook. Her peripatetic life has seen her gad across Europe, with spells living in the Middle East and Japan, but now that she has relinquished a high-flying career in the City, she instead prefers her kitchen, where she distils the culinary influences of her travels with her Sicilian heritage. We’re suckers for an Italian sweet treat (anything Italian, really), so these grimacing pumpkins shortbread biscuits were bound to make us grin. Andrea says that you can doctor the shortbread with any flavour, though in this instance, we feel that pumpkin spice is really the only way to go. Beautifully aromatic and crumbly, we could eat them all year round (and probably will).
Black Velvet Ghostly Cupcakes
Is Halloween even Halloween if you don’t encounter a ghost? Barring our home –made efforts with old sheets featuring holes cut out for the eyes, these frankly deliciously spooky cakes are probably as close as we’re going to get to encountering an apparition on the 31st. They are super easy to make, and although the black food dye is listed as optional, we say it’s compulsory. Plus, marshmallow icing – what self-respecting Halloween hell-raiser could resist? Spooktacular.
Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Preferably for grown-ups as these cookies certainly don't look frightful, more drop-dead delicious and they include pumpkin, which after making Halloween lanterns, you'll have plenty of flesh lying around. The recipe calls for tinned pumpkin but providing you finely puree the flesh, after all you don't want to waste good food, the cookies should turn out just fine. The delicate spices enrich the cookies which have a soft centre and crisp edges. We say you'll be baking these on repeat.
We love this one for its utter simplicity, and for that fact that, unlike the overwhelming majority of Halloween recipes, it’s not likely to send your child into a sugar coma. This pasta dish features black spaghetti (we’re on board with Nigella’s refusal to tell her children that the Halloween-appropriate colour is, in fact, thanks to squid ink) and doubles, neatly and naturally, as witch’s hair. As for sauce, a simple garlic butter will do, meaning that this is a dish that takes no more than ten minutes to prepare. The perfect way to fuel up in the most gruesome of ways.
Spice Pumpkin and Golden Linseed Cake
This cake sounds virtuous enough but it packs a spooky punch thanks to the Oreo creepy crawlies scuttling across the top (which make an excellent task for the kids at the decoration stage of the bake). Be warned, there are a lot of ingredients involved in this one – it’s not a casual store cupboard kind of affair – but it is a showstopper for those who undertake the task. Nadiya has three kids of her own, so we love that her cakes are reliably a hit with our younger Addams family wannabes.
Poison Toffee Apples
What is Halloween without a toffee apple or two to sink your teeth into (and hopefully out of again, without breaking one?) Plus, they may be covered in sugar, but there is a healthy Granny Smith apple lurking under there, so it all balances out (well, kind of). We love how few drops of food dye make the classic both that little bit more sinister, and actually pretty pleasing on a table full of dark sorcerers’ treats. We like the simple instructional video here, and the accompanying spooky music. And if the black food dye transfers on your lips, well, all the better for your ghoulish cred.
Spooky Sausage Rolls
We don’t care how old we get: sausage rolls will never not be a treat. Sure, they’re not sophisticated, but to us, they will forever spell the beginning of party season. And who needs or wants sophistication on Halloween anyway? This recipe is super simple – think ready made puff pastry – and to get the ghostly effect, all you have to do is snip each roll a little at the bottom and prod in two little pinprick eyes with a skewer. Slightly older children can manage this one with minimal help from the grown-ups. And who knows, we may then press them into service again to make a non-spooky version for Christmas in a few weeks time too.
For those who are truly committed to keeping their little monsters’ sugar-free and healthy, Halloween doesn’t have to be a time for sugar on sugar; there are some fun ways round the sweets-induced hyperactive rush. We’re on board with these fun monster mouths, which are made using only apples, strawberry jam (the only concession to a little sugar), almonds and sunflower seeds. Paleo, vegan, gluten-free; you name it, it ticks all the healthy boxes but still looks cute (and super scary, of course) too.
It is, we believe, only fair to spare a thought for the fully grown, tireless-in-the-kitchen undead too. To that end, we give you Zombie. True, it contains no real allusions to All Hallows’ Eve, and we think is most aptly named for the fact that it reflects our mental state by the end of the evening, but we think you deserve it. Zombie is apparently, in fact, so-called for its strength and potency, meaning this is one for after the littlest frights are tucked up in bed to sleep it all off for another year. We’ll drink – even in a stupefied state – to that.
Toffee Apple Sticky Toffee Pudding
For a showstopping finale to a Halloween meal, what could be better than this treacly twist on a classic pudding? We predict that, should you serve this up to your little monsters, it will soon become an autumn Sunday night staple by popular demand.
By Nancy Alsop
Updated October 2023