All muffins, all the time. That’s our new rallying cry, especially now that we’ve discovered muffins can be healthy. But did you know that your muffin pan is secretly a multitasking tool? Yes really. Think beyond blueberry muffins and vanilla cupcakes, as this tin can make any number of single-serving meals and snacks, whether you’re feeling sweet or savory.
There’s so much to love here: These recipes are portable, portion-sized, and photogenic. (Instagram-worthy snacks on the go? Sign us up!) Plus so many make easy party foods and can be made ahead of time.
Photo: Average Betty
We’ve professed our love for frittatas, dubbing them “omelet’s less fussy, easy going, up-for-anything cousin.” Here the frittata gets hit with a shrink ray and the skillet gets replaced with little shredded potato nests. The result is these gorgeous little breakfast bites. Tip: To ensure the potatoes don’t stick, squeeze out as much water as possible, and oil the pan well.
In the whirl of the morning rush, finding the time to make a proper protein-packed breakfast can feel impossible. Solution: Whip up a batch of these at the beginning of the week, then reheat them in the microwave for an out-the-door boost any weekday. Like a traditional omelet, this is a great way to use up whatever veggies you have kicking around in the fridge.
Yup, this is the flipside of omelets to go. Bake up a pan of oatmeal on Sunday, and you’ll have the trifecta of perfect weekday breakfast—fast, healthy, delicious—all week long. It’s super easy to customize each cup with different toppings so you won’t get sick of this meal by the time Friday rolls around.
Here’s a reason to get happy: Bacon just got portable. Using a muffin pan to fashion bacon cups is pretty much the best thing since sliced pork itself. And don’t fear getting piggy with it: Saturated fat isn’t the nutritional monster it was once made out to be. Adding in a few eggs not only ups the protein and vitamin B, but it also brings some serious deliciousness to these lil’ cups of heaven.
Sweet and savory, nutty and fruity, granola is pretty much breakfast perfection. But alas, it also made our “dangerfood” list thanks to the fact that the store-bought stuff can be overloaded with sugar and calories. The solution is as easy as your muffin pan for pre-portioned protection. These granola cups are full of cranberries, almond butter, and flax seeds—it’s an antioxidant party! Bonus: They can hold a dollop of Greek yogurt topped with berries, adding a little protein and sheer deliciousness to your morning.
Photo: Noble Pig
Frying crabcakes can be super frustrating—the cakes often fall apart and tend to soak up way too much oil. Result: Grease stains on your cocktail napkin and a heavy belly. When you bake them in a muffin tin, however, they hold together perfectly and stay moist and light. Wild crab is also considered a safe seafood, so bring on the panko!
Hosting get-togethers can be stressful—especially once you’ve graduated from your pizza delivery days to cooking proper meals. Fortunately these polenta cups made in a mini-muffin pan couldn’t be easier. Almonds and peppers add texture to the cornmeal, and they can be made ahead, leaving you time to pull yourself together and wrestle over the playlist.
Think of this as an open-faced egg roll. Here, everyone’s favorite, greasy starter gets a “makeunder.” The deep-fryer is replaced with a muffin pan, and the volume of stir-fried veggies like bell pepper and cabbage gets increased, giving them a chance to shine and share their antioxidant, fibrous goodness. The flavor gets amped through inflammation-reducing ginger and blood-pressuring-lowering Sriracha. With the money you save on takeout, you can upgrade your produce to organic.
This blogger put it best when she described this dish as “grown-up egg salad.” The salmon-molded mini-dish looks like something Julia Child would serve. But unlike lots of starchy finger food, these are filling and protein-packed thanks to hard-boiled eggs and salmon. Plus pumpernickel gives it some stick-to-your-ribs fiber. Best of all, there’s no baking involved! Just place the ingredients in the muffin wells and chill in the fridge. It’s also the perfect party food, since it can be made up to two days in advance, giving you plenty of time to tidy up your pad.
Everyone’s favorite party dip gets a muffin-y makeover with these cakes. While the gut-busting cream and piles of cream cheese get sidelined here, this isn’t rabbit food—there’s still enough Parmesan to give that classic spinach dip flavor, along with eggs and cottage cheese for filling protein. Hey, isn’t it easier to eat your daily greens when they come in cupcake form?
Bite-Size Comfort Foods
Anything made mini automatically becomes more playful. And anything with three cheese (Parmesano-Reggiano, cheddar, and American) has our name on it! Indulge in all the cheesy goodness knowing it’s already sensibly portioned.
If you’re already on the mac and cheese bus, put the pedal to the metal by adding pepperoni and sauce. Tada! It’s mini pizzas. Or are they pastas? Either way, bring these to your next dinner party, and you’ll be everyone’s favorite guest.
This is more than just a pretty dish; with whole-wheat spaghetti, lean beef, and cheese, these “cupcakes” are actually a filling and complete dinner. The cupcake shape also transforms pasta into the perfect party food. (Which you can’t say about messy loose noodles!) Extra bonus: It makes pasta super easy to portion out.
World family peace is possible: You no longer have to fight to get the best pieces of stuffing—the crispy, toasty edges. With stuffins, those beautiful edges are part of every serving. You can make stuffins with almost any stuffing recipe, but this one is a classic with perfect consistency and flavor. Go ahead and use that trendy bone broth here.
Cupcakes for dinner? Why not—especially when they’re savory meat “cupcakes.” Individual turkey meatloaves are topped with a dollop of mashed potato “frosting” to create the savory antidote to every bakery window. You may be tempted to put a candle on top.
Photo: Serious Eats
16. Mini Pies
Cake batter and muffin pans are an obvious combo, but it’s worth taking the path less traveled: pie in a muffin pan. That road ends with these amazing mini tarts. If you’re a crust person, these will be particularly satisfying as the crust-to-filling-ratio is pretty much one-to-one. And while they are dessert (#treatyoself), their miniature stature and good-for-you fillings (cranberries, pecans, and apples) mean they’re indulgent with benefits.
As a kid trading Halloween candy, did you prize Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups above all else? Well, these cups are all treat and no tricks. And the only trading involves swapping in almond butter, which beats peanut butter in total fiber, iron, and vitamin E. Maple syrup is used as an all-natural sugar substitute, but feel free to sub in your preferred sweetener.
Our advice for store-bought granola bars: Look for a short, pronounceable ingredients list. The same can apply when going homemade, and it doesn’t get any shorter than this: dates, almonds, and cocoa powder. Sweet, nutty, and chocolate-y, these bars hit all the pleasure points for a dessert but with loads of nutritional bonuses. The simple sugars in dates can be used as running fuel, and they bring beneficial potassium. Almonds offer up fiber and protein. And cocoa is a clear superfood (and, um, it’s chocolate!). Using a muffin tin to shape these means there’s no need to measure and cut out bars. Hey, that’s one less step till dessert time.
Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free—these baked apples can please a crowd without bumping against common dietary restrictions. And using a muffin pan for the task is a stroke of genius: Each apple bakes in a well of its own juices, keeping the fruit soft and tender. There’s a reason “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a saying—apples are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. (Tip: Be sure to pick a tart-sweet, firm variety—we particularly like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Crispins for baking.)
Photo: Supergolden Bakes
20. Minestrone Soup
No one can argue that soup makes a filling and healthy lunch, but transporting soup in your work tote or satchel can test the limits of your Tupperware. (And it’s pretty tough to explain to the folks at the Apple Genius Bar how chicken noodle ended up in your laptop keyboard.) This blogger found a genius solution: Freeze pucks of soup to make them easy to take on the road. You can use this trick for any number of soups, but the minestrone highlighted here, with protein-packed cannellini beans, lycopene-rich tomatoes, and folate-full leeks is a great place to start. Tip: Frozen soup will keep fresh longer, so you don’t have to eat soup every day for a week in fear it’ll spoil.
21. Mini Taco Bowl
Missy Elliott probably wasn’t singing about a muffin pan when she said, “put your thing down, flip it, and reverse it.” But that’s pretty much the only step involved with making these. By flipping your pan upside down and tucking a tortilla between the muffin wells, you can make mini baked taco bowls—perfect for tiny taco salads, small chili bowls, or even a crispy mini vessel for hummus. The mini food possibilities are endless.
It’s a battle to up your greens intake, even if you’re a smoothie veteran. And the truth is, prepping and washing greens in the a.m. isn’t the easiest way to become a morning person. Here’s a perfect work-around: Blend up these make-ahead smoothies, then freeze them in a muffin pan for ready-to-go portions. In the morning, you’ll only need to drop a couple “pucks” into a blender with some coconut water for a shortcut shake. (Tip: Try this technique with any number of other smoothie recipes!)