The best summer dessert may be up for debate (ice cream has to have a huge lead), but in general, they tend to be lighter, easier, and often no-bake, because who wants to turn on their oven when it’s already hot out? From classic creamy banana pudding and icebox cake to easy Rice Krispies treats and healthy fruit pizza, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite no-bake desserts to ensure you have a sweet, stress-free summer.
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I have to put this one first because it might be both the easiest and most popular dessert I’ve ever made. It truly could not be more simple to put together, but people will lose their s#%& over it, I promise—if you make sure to pick perfectly ripe fruit and don’t forgo the cookies. Just whisk together mascarpone cheese with a few other ingredients (go easy on the almond extract to start and adjust to taste, or swap in vanilla, and feel free to use any liquid sweetener you prefer), then put it in a bowl and surround it with the best of your farmers market fruit crop, plus store-bought shortbread cookies, and prepare for a flurry of compliments, requests for the recipe, and zero leftovers. Get the Sweet Cinnamon Fruit Dip recipe.
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Want to serve individual desserts that still combine a patriotic color scheme and very low effort? These charming trifles are just the thing. Simply cube angel food cake, whip some cream (a cinch with a stand mixer), and put them together with fresh strawberries and blueberries; you can knock the components out ahead of time, but wait to assemble them until you’re ready to serve. And feel free to skip the strawberry stars, but they are a superb finishing touch. Get the Red, White, and Blue Trifle recipe.
24-Piece Mini Cookie Cutter Set, $8.99 on Amazon
Great for making bento, decorating desserts, and more.
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Rice Krispie treats are easy, classic, crowd-pleasing, and infinitely adaptable—for the 4th, try a red-white-and-blue version, or if you can’t quit cacao, try these Chocolate Peanut Butter Kit Kat Crunch Bars (yes, they are as amazing as they look/sound). But since it is summer and that means eating as much ice cream as possible, why not combine the two desserts into an easy yet impressive ice cream cake? Genius, and the flavor combo possibilities are vast. Get our Chocolate Rice Krispies Ice Cream Cake recipe.
S’mores themselves are a perfectly pleasant no-bake dessert, but if you’re looking for something you can make ahead for a group and that is cold and creamy, this terrine layers vanilla ice cream, fudge sauce, graham crackers, and toasted marshmallows for a frozen take on a summer staple. Get the S’mores Icebox Cake recipe.
Stuffed Puffs Chocolate Filled Marshmallows, $3.98 at Walmart
In case you'd like even more chocolate.
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No, we’re not done with ice cream yet. If you’re looking for the easiest possible option, this might be it—just buy (or make) as many flavors of ice cream as you want and layer them with brownies, cake, or cookies (in the immortal words of Ina, store bought is fine!), plus fresh berries, chocolate and caramel sauces, and/or whipped cream—set it all up in the form of a sundae bar and everyone can customize. They’ll be too delighted to realize you’re making them make their own dessert! Get our Brownie Ice Cream Parfait recipe.
6. Matzo Crack
Who says this dynamite no-bake dessert is only for Passover? (Or that its Saltine-based Christmas crack equivalent is only for Santa?) Break it out again all summer, because it’s super easy and incredibly delicious, and you can switch up the toppings if you want—try red, white, and blue sprinkles (or M&Ms) instead of almonds and call it Flag Crack or Patriot Brittle (or just call it awesome). Get our Matzo Crack recipe.
Another great summer option? No-bake cookies. They’re fab on their own, but as you might imagine, they’re also perfect paired with…yes, ice cream. Set out several different options and let people build their own ice cream sandwiches. If you want to up the ante, include shallow plates or bowls with sprinkles, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, and/or crushed cookies or chips for rolling the edges in. Get our No-Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies recipe.
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If you have a more Martha Stewart vibe going, this elegant English-inspired pudding is a worthy centerpiece, and not anywhere near as daunting as it might look. Just soak fresh summer fruit in sugar and Grand Marnier, and meanwhile, line a large bowl with slices of store-bought brioche, then dump the macerated fruit in, seal it up with more fluffy bread, and weigh it down overnight before unmolding to oohs and ahhs the next day. The more red berries in your mix, the brighter the bread will be from the juices. Get our Summer Pudding recipe.
This foolproof fudge is for Nutella lovers, lazy people, those averse to using candy thermometers, and anyone who is some combination of the above. It’s really just chocolate ganache stabilized with a heaping 2 cups of Nutella and chilled until firm. Chopped toasted hazelnuts (salted, please) scattered on top make it look fancy and add extra flavor and texture. Get our Easy Hazelnut Truffle Fudge recipe.
10. Banana Pudding
Banana pudding may be old-fashioned, but it’s also trending on Pinterest right now, and no wonder—it’s creamy, comforting, no-fuss, and gives the illusion of being kind of good for you since it has actual fruit in it. Get our Banana Pudding recipe.
In a similar vein, this deconstructed strawberry shortcake is full of ripe summer fruit, plus cool vanilla custard and buttery shortbread cookies. If you want to take it even easier, just replace the custard layers with whipped cream. Get our Strawberry Shortcake Parfait recipe.
12. Watermelon Pizza
If you want to pile on all the fruit you can, fruit pizza is a good option, but the crust does require baking—unless you use slices of watermelon as your base. Bonus: no carbs, if you care about that sort of thing (depending on what else you add, though, it may or may not still be keto). For the sauce, you can go with cream cheese icing, cashew or coconut cream, Greek yogurt (or coconut yogurt, sweetened or not), or even a simple chocolate or balsamic glaze. And for the toppings, use whatever fruit is looking and tasting best at the moment. Get the Watermelon Pizza recipe.
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If you really want to offer something baked but really don’t want to turn on your oven, try this slow cooker peach crumble that’s made entirely in your Crock-Pot. It hits that warm, sweet spot of any fruit crumble, crisp, cobbler, or buckle, but won’t make you break a sweat. Get our Slow Cooker Peach Crumble recipe.
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What’s your favorite no-bake summer dessert to make? Let us know in the comments!
Header image courtesy of Shelly Westerhausen