If you love Pop-Tarts but not all the preservatives (or love the idea of Pop-Tarts but not the artificial flavors), you’ll be happy to know you can make your own Pop-Tarts at home. Basically, they’re rectangular hand pies, but we were definitely channeling the quintessential ‘90s breakfast when we came up with these five Pop-Tart recipes.
A brief history of Pop-Tarts
It was the breakfast version of the VHS vs. Betamax wars: In 1964, cereal company Post announced a ready-to-eat filled pastry called Country Squares. According to people there at the time, it was a pretty good product. But “[t]hey kept fooling around with it in our labs,” said Stan Reesman, a retired Post food technician, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Before Post could get the pastry to market, Kellogg swooped in with the (allegedly inferior) Pop-Tarts. So Country Squares went the way of Betamax, and Pop-Tarts became the industry standard.
In the beginning, they were not frosted, but by 1967, toaster-safe frosting was a reality and the hard sugary shell (which we all vividly remember crunching through on the way to the soft pastry and thin line of scorching-hot filling, right?) was added. Also, the original flavor line-up was quaint in comparison to the variety available today; the four founding Pop-Tart flavors were strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon, and apple-currant.
Over 50 years later, they’re still going strong, but it’s way past time for a format change, so going back to that VHS/Betamax analogy, consider these recipes the Blu-ray of toaster pastries. We took everything we like about the idea of Pop-Tarts—delicious filling in flaky pastry with icing on top—and upgraded it to modern standards.
We’re not trying to kid you into thinking these are nutritious—they are basically personal-size pies—but they certainly do taste great. (And if you want gold star parent status, they’re a great thing to make just in time for back-to-school season.)
How to make homemade Pop-Tarts
You have a few options when it comes to the project at hand. If you want to work completely from scratch, you’ll be making pie dough for sure, and possibly your own filling (i.e., whatever fruit jam you fancy, or maybe homemade Nutella). If you want a shortcut, you can use store-bought pastry, but you’ll still have to roll it out, cut it, and assemble your tarts by hand.
You can make the dough a day in advance if you like and then finish the rest later. Once you’ve filled, sealed, and crimped your Pop-Tarts, you’ll bake them for around 25 minutes before letting them cool (one of the hardest parts, honestly!) and then glazing them. If you prefer, you can use your air fryer to make Pop-Tarts too.
The best part is, you can change these up however you like:
- Fill them with whatever jelly, jam, or preserves you have, or try sauteed bananas or roasted peaches (just make sure the filling isn’t too wet); try different types of chocolate ganache (milk, white, bittersweet); add other spices to the standard cinnamon-sugar mix (like cardamom, cloves, or anise). In the fall, try a little pumpkin puree with pie filling flavors mixed in.
- Mix up the suggested glazes by adding freshly grated citrus zest or spices—or go with a caramel drizzle instead.
- Sprinkle flaky sea salt on to finish, or add a scattering of rainbow sprinkles.
- You can even spice up the dough itself if you like.
- And if you wanted, it would be easy enough to take these in a savory direction too… (Scrambled eggs, tiny bacon flecks, and cheese for a homemade Toaster Strudel, anyone?)
These won’t last anywhere near as long as store-bought Pop-Tarts, in the sense that they’re definitely more perishable and best eaten fresh, but they’re so delicious, finishing the batch in a flash will not be a problem.
You’ll need a rolling pin (unless you prefer to use a wine bottle), plus at least two baking sheets, and parchment paper to line them. You can freehand the cutting, but if eyeballing isn’t your forte, you’ll find it helpful to have a ruler to measure precisely. A pizza cutter or pastry wheel is handy for cutting the rectangles out, but a knife also works. An offset spatula ensures easy transferal of the pastry pieces from countertop to pan to cooling racks, and a pastry brush is also needed for brushing on the egg wash, but a fork takes care of the crimping and drizzling the glaze.
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An angled spatula with a wide blade is helpful for moving these hand pies (and lots of other things in the kitchen).
Homemade Pop-Tart recipes
If you can’t decide where to start as far as flavor combos go, check out these five homemade Pop-Tart recipes and pick your favorite; they each detail the general method too, so use them as-is or as a template to guide you while you experiment in the kitchen.
A classic flavor combo, but use whatever fruit jam you fancy (Trader Joe’s Peach Bellini Jam is a favorite). You could even go savory: cut the sugar in the dough, fill the pastry with hot pepper jelly, and top it off with melted cheese… Get our Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts recipe.
No fake fruit here: the filling is made from fresh apples sauteed with cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice (add a little brandy if you’re not serving these to kids), and the glaze incorporates some of the leftover apple-sauteing pan juices for beautifully concentrated fall flavor. Get our Apple-Cinnamon Pop Tarts recipe.
S’mores are fantastic in any form, toaster pastries (and hand pies) included. The flaky bites are filled with marshmallow cream and glazed with rich milk chocolate, but you couldn’t go wrong adding a teensy bit more chopped chocolate to the inside too… Get our S’mores Pop Tarts recipe.
Related Reading: Our S’mores Bar Recipe Is Basically Summertime Christmas Crack
Simple and comforting, brown-sugar cinnamon will take you back—and make your house smell fantastic. There’s cinnamon in the glaze too, so things don’t get too sweet. Get our Brown Sugar–Cinnamon Pop Tarts recipe.
Add a little cocoa powder to the dough and double up on the chocolate in the filling. Since you use chopped chocolate, you can get as creative as you want with your chocolate bar of choice. A chocolate glaze is an obvious choice to make it a triple threat, but we like a plain vanilla topping too. Add some cinnamon and cayenne to the filling or the dough for a Mexican chocolate twist. Get our Double Chocolate Pop Tarts recipe.
What’s your favorite Pop-Tart flavor (homemade or otherwise)? Let us know in the comments!