Don’t let the twee name fool you. A great muffin pan is a hardcore, multi-purpose piece of cooking gear that can be used in ways that go far beyond dainty fruit muffins. It’s an excellent vessel for creating perfect, single-serving sizes for brunch buffets and appetizers (g’bye ugly casserole dishes!). And when you’re serving rich, decadent foods, muffin pans offer an added bonus of built-in portion control. This collection of recipes showcases the sheer range and versatility of muffin pan cooking–from savory miniature meatloaf and baked eggs to cute-as-a-button pies and tarts for dessert.
1. Muffin Pan Popovers
Popover pan? Psssh. The multi-tasking muffin pan gets the job done. If your popovers tend to fall flat, readers who loved this recipe stress the importance of using room temperature milk and starting with a hot-hot muffin pan to get these fluffy, flaky popovers to puff. Get our Muffin Pan Popovers recipe.
2. Mini Tamale Pies
This crispy, cheesy, two-bite party snack bears no resemblance to abuelita-approved steamed tamales, which can be a time-consuming, messy affair. If you want to make these into one-bite poppers, use a mini muffin pan, decrease the oven temperature to 325*F, and cut the cooking time to approximately 15 minutes total. If you’re new to handling masa dough, be sure your dough is slightly wet and sticky, and holds together when you squeeze it in your hand. If the dough is too dense and dry, the cooked pie “crusts” will be tough. Get our Mini Tamale Pies recipe.
3. Prosciutto-Wrapped Macaroni and Cheese Cups
Fact: standard muffin pan cups are perfect for portion control, which you’ll need for this decadent side dish. The crispy, cured ham delivers the perfect crunch. But what do we love more? Eating mac ‘n’ cheese…with your hands. Get our Prosciutto-Wrapped Macaroni and Cheese Cups recipe.
4. Onion, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Mini Frittatas
If you think of frittatas as strictly brunch-for-a-crowd territory, toss a platter of these minis on the appetizer buffet at your next dinner party and stand back. Get our Onion, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Mini Frittatas recipe.
5. Gingered Pears in Phyllo Cups
It only looks like a dessert you bought at a swanky bakery–this sweet single-serving dessert is a cinch, particularly if you make the phyllo cups ahead of time. (The baked cups can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.) Once you master the recipe, consider swapping the ginger-pear combo for your favorite fruit pie flavor or a savory appetizer filling. Get our Gingered Pears in Phyllo Cups recipe.
6. Pineapple Coconut Tartlets
Take everything you know about a rustic, traditional tarte Tatin, then rethink it with exotic ingredients (pineapple, coconut, ginger) and the very non-traditional muffin pan. There’s nothing not to love about this upside-down bite-size dessert. Get our Pineapple Coconut Tartlets recipe.
7. Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins
Once you get past the phrase “meatloaf muffin,” you’ll embrace the sheer genius of individual meatloaves. The best part? The ratio of muffin pan surface to meat means more crusty, savory exterior in every bite (think: all edges brownie pan). Get our Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins recipe.
8. Baked Eggs in Stuffing Cups
If you’re among the rare birds of people who actually have any stuffing leftover after a holiday meal, this is–hands-down–the best way to re-enjoy it for breakfast or brunch. Take note of the reader/commenter who used cornbread dressing in place of traditional bread stuffing. If you go the cornbread route, skip the food processor step. Get our Baked Eggs in Stuffing Cups recipe.
9. Chocolate Pudding Mini Pies
This is not your instant pudding recipe-on-the-box dessert for pseudo cooks. This is a pastry chef caliber dessert–from scratch flaky pie dough to homemade dark chocolate pudding. If homemade pudding feels a bit too 2nd-grade snack for your guests, substitute with this amazing Basic Chocolate Mousse. Get our Chocolate Pudding Mini Pies recipe.
Original story by Christine Gallary, updated by Colleen Rush