16 easy dessert recipes with 5 ingredients or less

Low effort, big reward!

Published May 12, 2022 1:29PM (EDT)

 (Julia Gartland / Food52)
(Julia Gartland / Food52)

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When it comes to dessert recipes, it's all too easy for ingredient lists to become very long, very fast. Most of the time, they can't help themselves. Take this yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting for instance. There are a dozen ingredients — and most of those are non-negotiable: flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, vanilla . . .

But not every dessert is like this.

From two-ingredient nut brittle to three-ingredient Oreo balls, our site is full of low-effort, big-reward sweets. These have been the biggest inspiration since starting Big Little Recipes — my weekly column all about big-flavored recipes with teeny-tiny ingredient lists. Something sweet doesn't haveto mean something complicated. Here are five of my fave Big Little desserts to prove it:

Easy desserts with so few ingredients

1. Totally Homemade, Ridiculously Easy Hot Fudge Sundae

When I say three-ingredient hot fudge sundae, you probably think ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream. And you're right — but only sort of. Here, we're actually using three ingredients to make ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream, all from scratch: sweetened condensed milk, unsweetened chocolate, and heavy cream. No ice cream machine required.

2. Butter Pecan Cookies

These cookies need no leavener, no electric mixer, no fuss. I took a classic Mexican wedding cookie template and made a few Big Little adjustments: browning the butter for increased coziness and increasing the amount of nuts for As Much Pecan Flavor As Possible (AMPFAP). Just don't hold back on the confectioners' sugar coating.

3. Croissant Brittle

I went to Seattle for the oysters, but ended up finding this cookie game-changer from Sea Wolf Bakery: croissant brittle. While more-classic nut brittle involves sugar boiling, candy thermometers, and a giant mess, this rendition couldn't be simpler. Just dunk croissant slices in a creamy sugar syrup and bake until crispy. (Last minute holiday gift? You know it.)

4. Lime Posset with Graham Cracker Streusel

If you like pudding, you'll love posset. This custard is egg-free and citrus-thickened, which means all you have to do is heat up cream and sugar, add lime juice, and wait. (Yep, no gelatin, no cornstarch.) I'd be happy with that and a spoon, but this recipe adds a bonus: graham cracker streusel. Think of it like Key Lime Pie in a bowl.

5. Brown-Sugared Apples and Cream

Can we even call this a recipe? You'll read it once, then never look at it again — and good! Here's the cheat sheet: Toss sliced apples with brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour lots of cream on top. That's it. Repeat from now until springtime.

6. Salty Chocolate Cheesecake

Even no-bake cheesecakes often called for nearly a dozen ingredients. This recipe is not only a no-bake cheesecake, but also a four-ingredient one (two for the crust and two for the filling).

7. Salted Matzo Toffee

To offset the sweetness of the toffee, I use salted matzo, bittersweet chocolate, and flaky sea salt. And because this is a Big Little recipe, that's about all there is to it! Keep it super simple, or add a few toppings, like nuts or dried fruit, if you'd like.

8. Easier Chocolate Truffles

All chocolate truffles are easy, but these are easier. There's no butter or shortening or vanilla. There's no rolling by hand either. In fact, all you need is crème fraîche and bittersweet chocolate.

9. Flourless Walnut Brownies

For brownies that taste practically like fudge, skip the flour altogether. Thanks to the walnuts' buttery fat and zero gluten, the result is rich, crackly, and halfway to chocolate ganache.

10. No-Churn Butter Pecan Ice Cream

You don't need any equipment at all to make this old-fashioned ice cream flavor. For the best nutty flavor, roast the pecans in advance, which brings out their sweet, slightly caramel flavor.

11. 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

PB&J for dessert? Yes please. These easy cookies (dare I say easiest ever?) are made with unsweetened peanut butter, eggs, and your favorite type of jam. Which type would you choose? Let us know in the comments.

12. 3-Ingredient Buckwheat Brownies

Another easy dessert with very few ingredients. Here, buckwheat flour adds a dark, earthy flavor, which offsets the sweetness of Nutella.

13. Baked Feta with Honeyed Strawberries

Baked feta pasta was wildly popular during the early days of TikTok (and the pandemic). I came up with a sweeter version of the viral dish using a block of feta and a pound of fresh strawberries.

14. Cookies and Cream Frozen Yogurt

A more sophisticated version of cookies and cream ice cream, but just as delicious. Make this shortcut frozen yogurt by churning together whole-milk yogurt, sugar, and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies.

15. Salted Almond Butter Cookies

Just like your favorite peanut butter cookies. Except I ditched the peanut butter — and most other ingredients, for that matter — in favor of almond butter, plus granulated sugar and an egg.

16. Chocolate Granita

If you like the idea of homemade ice cream or frozen yogurt but are intimidated by the churning process (or just don't have an ice cream machine), make granita. This chocolatey dessert is totally dairy-free and equipment-free — a large, shallow dish and fork are all you need.

By Emma Laperruque

MORE FROM Emma Laperruque

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