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—or after cranking out a jillion loaves of banana bread in the past couple months, as the case may currently be?
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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, at least when it comes to cooking (because there’s plenty else to worry about right now).
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 literally everyone who tastes it will ask for the recipe—still, it’s equally important to pick perfectly ripe fruit (and I strongly suggest you 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. And if you’re not hosting guests this year, no worries—you’ll have no trouble finishing the whole bowl yourself in a couple days. Get the Sweet Cinnamon Fruit Dip recipe.
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These individual desserts boast a patriotic color scheme but are also good with any ripe fruit you find at the farmers’ market. Simply cube angel food cake, whip some cream (a cinch with a stand mixer), and put them together with fresh berries or stone fruit; 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.
Rice Krispie treats are easy, classic, crowd-pleasing, and infinitely adaptable (these Chocolate Peanut Butter Kit Kat Crunch Bars are a personal favorite that 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.
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You can’t really go wrong with an icebox cake, but if you’re torn between that and Key lime pie, this dessert is the perfect option. It’s rich and creamy thanks to both evaporated and condensed milk, but also bright with fresh lime juice. Use Maria cookies to keep it more like a Mexican carlota, or try graham crackers for a Florida pie vibe. Get the Lime Icebox 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.
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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.
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A semifreddo is something like a cross between ice cream and mousse, and if you have a stand mixer, this is especially easy to make. You freeze the chocolate chip-studded mixture in a loaf pan, and can scoop or slice it as you please once set. The tahini tastes fantastic (roasty and a tiny bit bitter), but you can use peanut butter if that’s all you have (or prefer). Get the Tahini Semifreddo recipe.
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 (different nuts, edible gold leaf, sprinkles…). Get our Matzo Brittle recipe.
We also have a very similar S’mores Bar recipe, but because it involves roasted marshmallow, it does require a brief bake, which makes it technically ineligible for this round-up…but still worthy of any dessert table.
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.
Banana pudding may be old-fashioned, but it was also trending on Pinterest last summer, 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. We expect to see it topping charts again this year. 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.
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.
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. And consider topping it off with the recipe below.