The Unexpected Freezer Find I Always Keep on Hand for My Family

published Mar 14, 2022
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Phyllo shells in a wrapped box on a kitchen counter

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There is one unique item you will always find in my freezer — a box of mini phyllo shells. These fully baked pastry cups are made with light, flaky layers of dough and can be used in a wide variety of sweet or savory preparations. You have to look closely when browsing your grocer’s freezer section for these little gems. They are usually nestled on one of the upper shelves somewhere near the frozen puff pastry and pie crusts. Once you spot the box of shells and use them a few times, they will soon find their way into your weekly grocery haul as well.

While they can be found in the freezer section, they can also be stored at room temperature. However, for optimal freshness I recommend keeping them in your freezer until you are ready to use. They can be enjoyed with hot or cold fillings and can be served at room temperature or warmed in the oven. Here are four of my go-to ways to use and serve these mini phyllo shells. I also encourage you to pick up a box and start finding your own fun and creative ways to enjoy them!

Kid-friendly Mini Burgers 

Use the shells to make mini cheeseburger bites. All you have to do is place a small piece of cheese in the bottom of the shell, squeeze in a little ketchup or mustard and top with a cooked meatball that has been sliced in half. Warm in the oven until perfectly crispy and melty. Kids love to pop them in their mouth! (Hint: buy two boxes; these disappear quickly.)

Ready for an Impromptu Cocktail Party

For an effortless appetizer, fill the mini phyllo shells with brie cheese, chopped pistachios, and dried cranberries. Warm in the oven for 5 minutes and serve with your favorite cocktail (or a sparkly juice for the kids). They taste like a cheese board in a cup! I love making these during the holidays or even as a small bite to enjoy at a backyard barbecue while the food is on the grill.

Easy One-bite Dessert

Try filling the shells with mascarpone cheese, top with a dollop of lemon curd and garnish with a fresh raspberry. This dessert can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve. They look so elegant, no one will guess they were so easy to make.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Andie McMahon

Use Them as a Pre-cooked Topping

While the shells are adorable, they don’t always have to be filled and served. Years ago, my mom came up with a genius shortcut idea for making a baklava-inspired cookie. Instead of the traditional layer after layer of classic phyllo dough along with nuts and honey, she gently crushed these mini phyllo shells with her hands and used them as a topping for an easy bar cookie filled with walnuts, cinnamon, and honey. They were so incredibly delicious, the recipe went on to be an award-winner in a Betty Crocker contest in the early 2000s. Since the shells are already fully cooked and ready to eat, they can be crushed like this and used as a crisp topping for a variety of dishes. Go ahead, break the rules and think outside the box of mini phyllo shells to see what ideas you can come up with!