There’s a lot to be said for slow food, and even for truly labor-intensive food, but sometimes you just need a shortcut in the kitchen, like Bisquick or boxed cake mix—or crescent roll dough. It stars in all sorts of dishes, from appetizers and breakfasts to dinners and desserts, and is a worthy secret weapon to keep on hand, especially during hectic holidays.
The dough bakes up tender and flaky with a crisp golden-brown crust no matter what form you use it in, so you can stuff it, braid it, use it as a crust or topping, take it sweet or savory, fry it, even give it a little baking soda bath to make it more like a pretzel (more on that below).
While many crescent roll dough recipes use butter, Pillsbury—the original refrigerated crescent roll brand, first marketed in the 1960s—actually uses palm oil, so their product is vegan. If you object to palm oil, though, just check the label of whatever brands you find in your store; organic ones usually use butter. In any case, the dough is fairly elastic and easy to roll out or simply stretch into shape if you need a single large sheet, and if it does tear, you can just gently pinch the edges back together with your fingertips.
The hardest part of any of these recipes, really, is working up the nerve to actually pop open the tube. (Seriously, does anyone else flinch uncontrollably before the edge of a spoon even touches the cardboard to break the pressurized seal?) Of course, while it defeats the purpose of quick convenience, you can absolutely make your own homemade crescent roll dough too if you prefer! Your options are practically endless.
When using the whole sheet of crescent roll dough, just gently press the perforated seams together to seal them up, then wrap the dough around a wheel of gouda (or any other meltable cheese), with the condiments of your choice on the inside too. Here, there’s pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, but grainy mustard and toasted walnuts work well too, with or without some dried fruit or even jam. Get our Baked Gouda with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto recipe.
Crescent roll dough makes a great quick crust for miniature tarts made in a muffin pan, and each triangle is perfectly portioned for a single cup (if you don’t mind irregular edges; if you do, press all the seams together as above, then cut neat squares from the sheet). You can fill the flaky crusts with whatever you like, from raspberry jam to feta and caramelized onions—but these call to mind mini quiches with their bacon, egg, and cheese middles. Get our Bacon Quiche Tarts recipe.
Of course, you can also simply stuff each triangle for individual appetizers, whether you want to roll each one up in the shape of mini calzones, or tuck them into muffin tins with the ends folded over top for petite parcels. Chicken Bacon Ranch Crescents, Sloppy Joe Stuffed Crescent Rolls, and Garlic Butter Cheesy Crescent Rolls are all great choices, but in the interest of eating as much pizza as possible, try tomato sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni (or sausage) wrapped in flaky dough with a sprinkle of Italian herbs over top. Get the Pepperoni Cheese Bombs recipe.
If you can arrange triangles in the shape of a sun, you can pull this crescent roll ring off with ease. You can also definitely make this into dessert (à la this Nutella Crescent Ring, which uses a slightly different technique), or dinner (think Taco Crescent Ring), but if you need to impress some brunch guests, this pastry wreath full of scrambled eggs, bacon, and plenty of cheese will do the trick. Get the Crescent Bacon Breakfast Ring recipe.
Get two tubes of crescent dough if you need a top and bottom crust for a casserole, like this easy chicken pot pie for a crowd. It uses cream of chicken soup for a fast filling too, but our Creamed Chicken recipe isn’t that much more involved if you want to make at least some part of dinner from scratch. Get the Chicken Pot Pie Casserole recipe.
For something a little fancier, braid your crescent roll sheet around your chosen filling—here’s a good visual reference for the easy mechanics of making the braid if you need more guidance. Turkey, cranberry, and brie are a great fall and winter filling option, but it can be virtually anything you like, including sweet ingredients like cream cheese, fruit, or chocolate. It’s also a great way to dress up leftovers, so now you know what to do with the soon-to-be-leftover-ham! Get the Turkey, Cranberry, and Brie Crescent Braid recipe.
Regular crescent roll pigs in blankets are sure to please your tailgating crew or holiday party guests—but here’s a neat trick: If you briefly dunk the dough-wrapped sausages or hot dogs in boiling water with baking soda before you pop them in the oven, they’ll bake up dark brown and taste more like soft pretzels, especially with a sprinkle of coarse salt. Get the Pretzel Pigs in a Blanket recipe.
Shifting to the sweet end of the spectrum, easy cinnamon rolls are a classic use for crescent roll dough—but you can use the same fill, roll, and slice technique to make savory snacks too, like Baked Ham and Cheese Crescent Rollups. This autumnal twist includes pumpkin puree and pumpkin spices in addition to the classic cinnamon and brown sugar, and a caramel glaze in addition to the usual vanilla drizzle, but try adding an eggnog frosting for Christmas breakfast. (And for a larger holiday brunch spread, keep in mind that crescent roll dough also makes great Danish!) Get the Crescent Roll Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls recipe.
Crescent Roll Cronuts (or Doughnuts)
While baked crescent roll dough is plenty flaky and crisp, if you fry it—as is true of so many things—it’s even better. These easy glazed cronuts are dangerously simple to make at home, and would be equally great rolled in cinnamon and sugar, or dipped in chocolate. And you can just call them doughnuts if “cronuts” makes you twitchy. Get the Crescent Roll Cronuts recipe.
Give Saltine-based Christmas crack a bit of competition with this sweet-salty treat that lacquers crisp bacon to flaky dough with an easy maple caramel. Is it dessert? An appetizer? Maybe even breakfast? You’re just four ingredients away from deciding for yourself. Get the Maple Caramel Bacon Crack recipe.
Mini Crescent Roll Pumpkin Pies (or Chocolate Pudding Pies)
Just as crescent roll dough makes great mini savory tart shells, it’s perfect for tiny, two-bite pies; see this Mini Crescent Roll Pumpkin Pies recipe for the general instructions. But if you’re done with pumpkin until next year? Fill them with creamy chocolate pudding instead! Either way, make easy homemade whipped cream while they’re baking and top them off at the table.
This three ingredient dessert (well, five when you count the cinnamon and sugar for the coating) may just be the perfect bite, and it’s a great way to use your homemade Nutella—or a perfect excuse to make a batch in the first place (not that we would say no to a jar of Nutella from the store either). Get the Nutella and Banana Stuffed Crescent Rolls recipe.
More cinnamon and sugar on crisp crescent roll dough, but this time it’s sandwiching a creamy cheesecake filling. Try an apple pie variation to showcase any fruit you may have on hand. Any way you slice it, this is delicious—and incredibly easy to make. Get the Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars recipe.