Puff Pastry in a Pinch
Frozen puff pastry recipes mean you're never far from a cozy meal or pretty dessert. Here’s to savory pies, flaky turnovers, even donuts!
Puff pastry in the freezer is like a rainy day fund in your bank account. When you keep it on hand, you can make a slew of enticing and easy recipes. And if making pie crust terrifies you, store-bought puff pastry recipes are your golden ticket to baking success. So without further ado, let’s get to it!
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Tips for how to use frozen puff pastry
First time working with puff pastry? You’re going to be a convert in no time. Here are answers to the most common questions.
Where to find puff pastry
Look in the freezer section of the grocery store. Usually it’s near the frozen pies and desserts. Pepperidge Farm is the most readily available brand; it’s made with shortening, so it’s not as flavorful as brands made with butter, but it’s definitely worth using. (It’s also vegan!) Dufour is a well-known brand made with butter, and you can taste the difference, but it’s also more expensive. Some grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods offer their own store brands of frozen puff pastry as well.
What is frozen puff pastry?
Fat puts the puff in puff pastry. Layers of fat — unsalted butter, classically — are encased in dough, then repeatedly rolled and folded to create many thin layers. Once baked, the water in the dough creates steam, which gives rise to the pastry’s dramatic puff.
How to thaw frozen puff pastry
Ideally, thaw puff pastry overnight in the fridge; on the counter for about 45 minutes works, too. Take the sheets out of the box (don’t unwrap) for quicker thawing. Be patient: the pastry will crack if you unfold it while it’s too cold.
Can you refreeze frozen puff pastry?
Yes, but you are better off if you refrigerate the thawed puff pastry, well covered in plastic wrap. I’ve had the all-shortening kind last for up to a week and still be fine.
How to use puff pastry
When frozen puff pastry is thawed and pliable, it’s easy to work with and does not stick to a counter that's been lightly floured with all-purpose flour. If possible, use a dry pastry brush to brush off excess flour from the surface of the rolled dough before baking.
If the thawed sheets crack when you unfold them, don’t freak: press the sheets back together with your fingertips a bit once they are fully thawed.
If the dough gets too soft to work with, pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so, or in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
How to make puff pastry
You can make puff pastry from scratch if you are ambitious. Traditional homemade puff pastry recipes and simplified rough puff pastry recipes yield dough you can use just like the store-bought. When I make my own, I freeze it and note the weight on the wrapping.
What to make with puff pastry
Pot pies, turnovers, and handheld pies — savory or sweet — are all perfect ways to get started with puff pastry. Generally, pre-made puff pastry works best as a top crust, rather than a bottom layer, because it tends to get soggy under lots of filling.
Accordingly, go easy when topping pizzas and tarts, or opt for mini tarts and quiches versus full-size ones. I’ve chosen easy recipes with puff pastry that have the perfect ratio of filling (or topping) to pastry, so you can optimize your puff.
Breakfast puff pastry recipes
Puff pastry mimics the flakiness of croissants and Danish pastries. It’s a luxurious way to start the day.
Apple turnovers are often the first recipe cooks learn to make with puff pastry, and this one delivers everything you’d expect in the classic, with cinnamon and brown sugar in the filling and a little extra sugar on top for crunch. Yes, they're reminiscent of apple pie, but have the breakfast and brunch stamp of approval! Bonus: If the pastry is thawed, you can have breakfast ready in under 30 minutes total time.
Traditionally, cinnamon rolls are baked from a sweet, yeasted dough. The smart cheat of puff pastry means you can bang out flaky, melt-in-your-mouth breakfast treats at a whim (as long as you remember to thaw the pastry!).
A sheet of puff pastry is almost like a kit for donuts. Just cut out circles and fry them, and you’ll have airy, cronut-like delights at nearly a whim. It’s super-cool to see the pastry billow in the frying oil, expanding like an accordion in mere seconds.
Puff pastry appetizers
You don’t need to throw a party to make apps! Served with a big green salad, small bites make a fun dinner.
Grown-up pigs in a blanket, right? Use whatever tasty sausage you like — this calls for cheddar bratwurst — and wrap them with an apple piece tucked in for extra flavor. This recipe includes a mayo-based dipping sauce, but you could also stick with the ketchup and mustard already in your pantry.
Puff pastry crusts holds up so much better in this tiny format than in a full-sized quiche. You can freeze the unbaked mini quiches in mini muffin tins and then transfer them to a freezer bag to store for up to a month. To bake, return the frozen quiches to the tins and bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cheesy and mushroomy spirals — here with Parmesan as well as mozzarella — are eminently munchable. Make sure the mushroom mixture has cooled completely before spreading it on the dough so your puff pastry pinwheels are as flaky as possible. You can assemble the rolls a day before baking them off. Serve the pinwheels warm, or at room temperature.
These will impress everyone, yourself included. Make them for snacking before an occasion to bring smiles to everyone around. These taste best the day they are made, but you can bake them a few hours in advance.
Much-loved, always impressive, and super-easy to pull off, baked brie is a perennial favorite. This recipe gives you the option to keep things simple or change things up with jam, cranberry sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and other variations. Some toasted pecans would be excellent, too.
Savory puff pastry recipes
Tarts, turnovers, pizza, Wellingtons, and chicken pot pie with puff pastry are just the beginning here!
Addictive and intense, caramelized onions are packed with flavor and won’t seep moisture onto the pastry because it’s been cooked off. (Another tip: Puff pastry tarts can easily get bogged down and soggy, so choose recipes like this one that go light on the toppings.) A little crème fraîche adds just the right amount of richness.
Puff pastry pizza? Yes, it’s a thing. This sheet pan puff pastry pizza is cook-friendly as well as kid-friendly, and goes together in just 30 minutes. Instead of cooked chicken, mozzarella, and barbecue sauce, you could easily top it with other ingredients on hand like roasted vegetables, wilted greens, or sauteed mushrooms.
Empanadas might be the best-known of the many kinds of savory puff pastry turnovers. You can find empanadas in most any country once colonized by the Spanish: not just in Central and South America, but even the Philippines. The filling here is a picadillo, sort of a kicked-up, drier Sloppy Joe with spices. You can freeze these unbaked for up to 3 months and bake them when needed directly from the freezer.
Bourekas are savory turnovers found throughout the Middle East. This version offers a cheese filling such as feta, but spinach or ground meat fillings are common, too. They make a tasty snack or light meal.
Is this your year to make a classic holiday Wellington? This quick and easy version will take you by the hand. You’ll sear a small beef tenderloin and smear it with Dijon mustard. Then set it on a sheet of puff pastry that’s topped with prosciutto and a sauteed mushroom duxelles; wrap up the works into a beautiful package; and bake.
Looking for a showstopping vegan centerpiece? This is it. It’s a play on beef wellington, using earthy roasted beets accentuated with sauteed mushrooms and spinach for the filling. Make the components ahead of time to break up the steps.
Using puff pastry as a pot pie crust instead of pie dough eliminates a step, which means all you need to do is cook the filling — making this a weeknight-friendly recipe! Individual ramekins cut way down on the baking time, too. This recipe calls for 7 ounces of homemade puff pastry, but you can use 1 sheet of readily available store-bought dough.
In classical French cuisine, round puff pastry cups are called vol-au-vents, for “puff of wind.” Mushroom vol-au-vents are a puff pastry favorite, contrasting the rich filling with the crisp and flaky pastry. Just cut out rounds, bake those, and hollow them out slightly so you can pile the creamy cooked mushrooms inside.
Puff pastry cookies and puff pastry desserts
Puff pastry desserts are just the thing for inexperienced bakers, and for making impressive sweets without multiple complex steps.
Here’s a pastry-cookie hybrid with only four ingredients. You can play around and use white or butterscotch chips instead of milk chocolate chips, add chopped nuts, or sprinkle in dried fruit. Lining the baking sheet with parchment paper saves on clean-up.
These are a quick homemade version of pain au chocolat, the luscious chocolate croissants you see in French bakeries. Use the chocolate of your choice, and imagine yourself in a Parisian cafe.
While imagining ourselves in France we can’t forget palmiers, the little pastries shaped like palm branches. Making them couldn’t be simpler when you start with pre-made puff pastry. Use a rolling pin to roll out the puff pastry dough onto some sugar, roll, cut, add more sugar, and bake until crispy and golden brown.
Another much-loved puff dessert, traditional strudel is a labor of love created by hand-stretching dough until it’s paper-thin. Sub in thawed puff pastry, and it’s a wrap-and-go affair.
Remember a few years ago, when everyone was sharing apple puff pastry roses on Instagram? This might be even prettier, and is definitely easier. Spread puff pastry rectangles with apricot jam, top with cinnamon, and then apple slices. If you use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, it’s even vegan!
Here’s another technique for making crisp layers: prick the puff pastry sheet all over with a fork and cover it with a weighted baking sheet as it cooks. This keeps it from puffing up, giving you a different look and texture. The filling here is homemade vanilla pudding, but you can use a mix.
Authentic Mexican churros are made from choux paste, a dough that can be tricky. The puff pastry shortcut gives you flakier, more foolproof results that still have all the cinnamon sugar goodness of the churro experience.
More baking for beginners
Baking is an art, say some, but even the most accomplished bakers started at the beginning. The tips, tricks, and easy recipes in these next articles will help you whatever your skill level.