All muffins, all the time. That’s our new rallying cry, especially now that we’ve discovered muffins can be healthy. But did you know that your muffin pan is secretly a multitasking tool? Yes, really. Think beyond blueberry muffins and vanilla cupcakes, as this tin can make any number of single-serving meals and snacks.
There’s so much to love here: These recipes are portable, portion-size, and photogenic. (Instagram-worthy snacks on the go? Sign us up!) Plus, so many make easy party foods and can be made ahead of time.
1. Breakfast Hash Brown Cups
Here the veggie omelet gets hit with a shrink ray, and the skillet gets replaced with little hash brown nests. The result is these gorgeous little breakfast bites. Tip: To ensure the potatoes don’t stick, squeeze out as much water as possible and oil the pan well.
2. Granola Cups
Sweet and salty, nutty and fruity, granola is pretty much breakfast perfection. But it’s also made our “dangerfood” list thanks to the fact that the store-bought stuff can be overloaded with sugar and calories. The solution is as easy as using your muffin pan for pre-portioned goodness. These granola cups are full of oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, and coconut.
3. Paleo Omelet Muffins
In the whirl of the morning rush, finding the time to make a proper protein-packed breakfast can feel impossible. Solution: Whip up a batch of these at the beginning of the week, then reheat them in the microwave for an out-the-door boost any weekday. Like a traditional omelet, this is a great way to use up whatever veggies you have lying around in the fridge.
4. Lemon Coconut Baked Oatmeal Cups
Yup, this is the flip side of omelets to go. Bake up a pan of oatmeal on Sunday, and you’ll have the trifecta of a perfect weekday breakfast—fast, healthy, delicious—all week long. It’s super easy to customize each cup with different toppings so you won’t get sick of this meal by the time Friday rolls around.
5. Bacon + Egg Toast Cups
Using a muffin pan to fashion toast cups is pretty much the best thing ever. And don’t fear getting piggy with it, saturated fat isn’t the nutritional monster it was once made out to be. Adding in a few eggs not only ups the protein and vitamin B, but it also brings some serious deliciousness to these lil’ cups of heaven.
6. Crab Cake Appetizer
Frying crabcakes can be super frustrating—the cakes often fall apart and tend to soak up way too much oil. Result: grease stains on your cocktail napkin and a heavy belly. When you bake them in a muffin tin, however, they hold together perfectly and stay moist and light. Bring on the panko.
7. Southwest Veggie Won-Ton Cups
Won-ton wrappers are perfect, crispy little vessels for all things made in a muffin pan. These cups are filled with corn, beans, cheese, and topped with a creamy chipotle yogurt sauce.
8. Spicy Sriarcha Party Meatballs
These adorable meatballs are the ideal one-bite snack (although we bet you won’t stop at just one). With an amazing homemade Sriracha dressing, the meatballs pack in tons of flavor. The recipe for the sauce might look long, but you’ll be surprised at how many of the ingredients you already have on hand.
9. Mac n’ Cheese Muffins
Anything made mini automatically becomes more playful. In this recipe, a portable, lightened-up version of mac n’ cheese (childhood favorite) mixed in with greens (not a childhood favorite) makes the most perfect bite-size treat for any age. Indulge in all the cheesy goodness knowing it’s already sensibly portioned.
10. Gluten-Free Quinoa Pizza Bites
If you’re already on the mac n’ cheese bus, put the pedal to the metal by adding pepperoni and sauce. Ta-da! It’s mini pizzas. Or are they pastas? Either way, bring these to your next dinner party, and you’ll be everyone’s favorite guest.
11. Spaghetti Meatball Cups
This is more than just a pretty dish; with spaghetti squash, lean ground turkey, and cheese, these “cupcakes” are actually a filling and complete dinner. The cupcake shape also transforms pasta into the perfect party food. (Bet you can’t say that about messy, loose noodles!)
12. Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffin Muffins
World family peace is possible. You no longer have to fight to get the best pieces of stuffing—the crispy, toasty edges. With stuffins, those beautiful edges are part of every serving. You can make stuffins with almost any stuffing recipe, but this one is full of color and fall flavor.
13. Vegan Meatloaf Cupcakes
Cupcakes for dinner? Why not—especially when they’re packed with flavor. Individual vegan cupcakes are topped with a dollop of mashed potato “frosting” to create the savory antidote to every bakery window. You may be tempted to put a candle on top.
14. Mini Apple Pies
Cake batter and muffin pans are an obvious combo, but it’s worth taking the path less traveled: pie in a muffin pan. That road ends with these amazing mini tarts. If you’re a crust person, these will be particularly satisfying as the crust-to-filling-ratio is pretty much one-to-one. And while they are dessert, their miniature stature and good-for-you fillings mean they’re rich with benefits.
15. Superfood Nut Butter Cups
As a kid trading Halloween candy, did you prize Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups above all else? Well, these cups are all treat and no tricks. And the only trading involves swapping in almond butter, which beats peanut butter in total fiber, iron, and vitamin E. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt and you’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff again.
16. Cinnamon Baked Apples
Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free—these baked apples can please a crowd without bumping against common dietary restrictions. And using a muffin pan for the task is a stroke of genius: Each apple bakes in a well of its own juices, keeping the fruit soft and tender. There’s a reason “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a saying—apples are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Feel free to sub coconut sugar for the sucanat.
17. Minestrone Soup
No one can argue that soup makes a filling and healthy lunch, but transporting soup in your work tote can test the limits of your Tupperware. This blogger found a genius solution: Freeze pucks of soup to make them easy to take on the road. You can use this trick for any number of soups, but the minestrone highlighted here, with protein-packed cannellini beans, lycopene-rich tomatoes, and folate-full leeks, is a great place to start.
18. Mini Taco Salad Cups
Another appearance from those handy won-ton wrappers, the perfect, mini crispy salad bowl for these taco cups. Feel free to fill with any and all of your favorite taco salad toppings. Shredded cheese, sour cream, olives, tomatoes, onions, lettuce? Go crazy!
19. Green Smoothie Cups
It’s a battle to up your greens intake, even if you’re a smoothie veteran. And the truth is, prepping and washing greens in the a.m. isn’t the easiest way to become a morning person. Here’s a perfect work-around: Blend up these make-ahead smoothies, then freeze them in a muffin pan for ready-to-go portions. In the morning, you’ll only need to drop a couple pucks into a blender with some coconut water for a shortcut shake. (Tip: Try this technique with any smoothie recipes.)
Originally posted February 2015. Updated September 2016.