Ideally, picnic fare is easily portable, not overly messy, and able to be eaten without utensils. Pressed picnic sandwiches definitely fit the bill, as does fried chicken, but if you prefer more of a graze-able spread of smaller bites, add savory muffins to your picnic basket along with other nibbles. They’re a fun and convenient alternative to a loaf of bread, since there’s no slicing required once you reach your spot, and you can mix anything you like into the muffins, from vegetables to meat and cheese.
You can also use your muffin tin to make lots more marvelous things, like mac and cheese bites and mini meatloaves, but for now, let’s stick to slightly more traditional baked goods, with a savory twist. Just as with savory cheesecakes and savory shortcakes, there’s a lot of room to play around with the general format.
Whether you base your savory muffins on flour (regular, whole wheat, or gluten free) or cornmeal, feel free to get creative with the add-ins; you can use any given recipe as a guide and switch out the types of cheese, spices, herbs, veggies, or meat called for. Try prosciutto instead of bacon, or smoked gouda instead of cheddar. Mix in sauteed mushrooms, or chopped black olives, even apples for a little sweet with your savory. Add fresh herbs with abandon. Most of these savory muffins don’t need anything in the way of spreads, but a little butter almost never hurts, and you can make it a flavored compound butter if you want to intensify or complement your baked goods’ flavor profile. Just soften a half or whole stick of regular butter, then mix in whatever you like (garlic, herbs, cracked pepper, cheese…); if you want to be fancy, you can form the butter into a disc or log in a piece of plastic wrap, but keeping it in a small bowl is also fine.
To transport your muffins, if you think you can keep them safely nestled on top of everything else, just transfer them to a plate or small basket and wrap it well—but if you’re concerned they might shift and get smashed, you can use a heavy-duty cupcake carrier to protect them. (Some cupcake pans even come with snap-on lids complete with carrying handles; I have one and it’s fantastic.) And to cut down on paper waste, you can get reusable silicone baking cups to make all your muffins and cupcakes in, over and over again.
Start looking and you’ll find tons of savory muffin recipes to make, or to use as starting points. Here’s one batch of examples.
Salty feta, fresh basil, and sweet roasted red peppers stud these buttermilk muffins with bursts of flavor. Like any savory muffin, these are just as good alongside a weeknight dinner as they are packed on a picnic. Get the recipe.
A whole wheat and white flour blend is enriched with a little Greek yogurt, plus cheddar cheese, chopped broccoli, and Canadian bacon, with a bite from black pepper. Get the recipe.
Pesto and spinach make for a lovely green muffin (if you want it meatier, try spinach with feta and ham), that’s hiding a little mozzarella and has a healthy dose of olive oil in the dough too. These would go well with sun-dried tomato butter. Get the recipe.
Crumbled bacon makes a great muffin mix-in, paired with all sort of other flavors (like blue cheese), but these amplify the bacon flavor with smoked cheese, with rich ribbons of sweetness in the form of caramelized onions. Cubing some of the cheese means you get pleasantly chewy pockets to contrast the crisp bacon on top. Get the recipe.
If you really love cheese, these include grated cheddar in the batter (along with diced jalapeños), and a cream cheese stuffed center. Take a cue from these spicy cornbread muffins and try mixing in a little cooked, crumbled, and well-drained chorizo too. Get the recipe.
Who says you can’t have pizza on a picnic? It’s easy to do when you turn it into pepperoni-flecked muffins. If you can’t realistically transport pizza sauce with you for dipping, try mixing some chopped sun-dried tomatoes right into the batter. Get the recipe.
There are a lot of breakfast muffins that skew savory—see salmon dill muffins (spread with a little cream cheese for a bagel-and-lox kind of bite) or sausage pancake muffins—but these are particularly impressive, what with whole hard boiled eggs baked into the middle of each muffin. You can also make them runnier if you prefer. Either way, these would be great for a make-ahead camping breakfast or morning hike. Get the recipe.
Onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, and black pepper punch up these tender sour cream zucchini muffins, which are a great way to use up summer squash when it’s abundant. Get the recipe.
Sauteed leeks and Parmesan make for simple savory muffins that are perfect as-is, but easy to add to as well; try mixing in a small amount of chopped prosciutto and/or herbs like basil or rosemary for starters. Get the recipe.
Related Video: How to Make 3 Savory Muffin Tin Recipes
Header image courtesy of Recipe Tin Eats.