This Store-Bought Ingredient Makes My Recipes Fancier Every Time

Five reasons to stock your freezer with it.

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I don’t usually condone buying premade products to save time in the kitchen, but I always make an exception for store-bought frozen puff pastry. Basically, it’s many, many, many layers of butter and dough molded together at ice-cold temperatures, then rapidly cooked into light, airy, delectable layers that pair well with sweet and savory fillings alike—and it is a beast to make from scratch. In fact, if you’re not an advanced baker, it’s basically impossible.

That’s not a problem, though: Store-bought pastry is often just as good as what a professional baker would make, but it’s ready to cook as soon as you buy it, with no elbow grease required. Not to mention, there are so many great ways to put it to work: Use it to whip up a quick tomato tart with goat cheese for dinner or even a stylish appetizer for cocktail hour—whatever you were planning on eating will be that much fancier with the addition of this ingredient. Just follow these five food and entertaining experts’ advice and you’ll start swearing by store-bought, too.

Prebake Puff Pastry Cups for a DIY Pastry Bar

Michiel Perry, founder of Black Southern Belle, is a big fan of prebaking puff pastry for parties so her guests can doctor them however they like. Simply cut a sheet of pastry into even squares, then place them in a muffin tin and bake to create cups that can easily be filled with just about anything. Set out ingredients for your guests to work with before they arrive and relax while they serve themselves. “From savory to sweet toppings, this is a perfect way to make every guest happy,” she says.

Make Gourmet Appetizers on the Fly

There are so many easy (yet fancy) appetizers you can make with puff pastry in no time at all. According to Andrea Correale, founder and president of caterer Elegant Affairs, it’s the main ingredient in one of the most popular hors d’oeuvres her company offers—Kobe beef frank pops. “We take the most delicious Kobe beef franks and wrap them with puff pastry and cheese,” she says. “It’s so popular that we sell about 2 million pieces per year.”

Your puff pastry appetizers definitely don’t have to be that fancy, though. Perry keeps it simple. “A fun way to use extra filling from deviled eggs is to bake puff pastry cups and fill them with it,” she explains. “They are a great way to stretch a budget and also save on prep time.” 

Erin Clarke, founder and CEO of Well Plated, also uses store-bought puff pastry to make everything from ham and cheese pinwheels to spinach puffs. “No matter which option you choose, your guests will adore it,” she says. 

Throw Together a Quick Veggie Tart 

A tart for dinner definitely sounds complicated, but with some help from frozen puff pastry, it doesn’t have to be. Clarke likes to take a sheet of pastry and top it with whichever vegetables are in season, as well as cheese, spices, salt, and olive oil. Just stick it in the oven, bake, and dig in. Time to put that farmers’ market bounty to good use.

Turn It Into a Stunning Feast, Like Chicken Pot Pie or Beef Wellington

Puff pastry definitely isn’t just for appetizers—you can totally use it in a main course, too. Clarke recommends starting with something relatively simple, like chicken pot pie. All you have to do is throw the pastry on top of the filling right before you place it in the oven.

If you feel like cranking it up a notch, though, Correale recommends attempting a Wellington, a classic British roast covered in pastry. “Whether you’re using lamb, beef, or any other protein, puff pastry is a key ingredient,” she says. “It makes for a classic presentation and a very elegant dish.” 

Of course, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, there is a puff pastry main out there for you, too. Alex Koones, founder of Babetown, a Brooklyn-based queer supper club, loves to make a vegan version of beef Wellington with carrots and butter-free puff pastry, which can be found premade in the freezer section at health food stores like Whole Foods. 

Use It in Dessert

When in doubt, use your frozen puff pastry to whip up a quick dessert, recommends Gemma Stafford, author of the recently released cookbook Bigger Bolder Baking. You can keep it super-simple by making a fruit tart, or go the extra mile with elegant pastries, like a caramelized banana tart tatin or homemade cherry hand pies. 

Stock your freezer and you can enjoy flaky, buttery goodness pretty much anytime—without having to shell out serious cash or spend tons of time in the kitchen.

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